Everything you need to know about Microsoft certs

Certification guru Patrick Regan explains the new Microsoft certs and reveals which Cisco, project management and security certs are worthwhile.

Moderator-Julie: Moderator-Julie: Welcome and thank you for coming. Our guest today is certification guru Patrick Regan. Patrick has penned over a dozen books, written the study guides for the A+ certification exams for Cisco Press and is currently writing an Exam Cram on Windows Server 2008. When not writing books, Patrick is a senior network engineer at Pacific Coast Companies supporting a large enterprise network and a celebrity blogger for Microsoft Subnet. We are giving away 15 free copies of Patrick's latest book, too. Go to the contest page for details. Now onto the chat.

Patrick_Regan: Hi all.

Moderator-Keith: PRE-SUBMITTED QUESTION: Hi Patrick, I am completing a Masters of Information Technology Degree in March. However, I have limited work experience in IT. What certifications do you recommend to enhance my chances of employment in this field?

Patrick_Regan: You need to figure out where you want to focus. You need to choose at least one major vendor certification. Then you might consider some other certifications that will supplement that certification. For example, you can go for the MCSE (or MCITP for Windows Server 2008), then include the smaller certs on Exchange, SQL, CRM or SharePoint. You can also follow up with non-Microsoft certifications such as Cisco's CCNA, CompTIA's Security+ or (ICS)2's CISSP. Other certifications to consider would be the Red Hat Certified Engineer (RHCE) and Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP). Ones that I am not as familiar with, but that you might want to consider, are the Oracle database certifications and SAP certifications. One last one to mention, which requires a technical background but not necessarily deep technical knowledge, would be the PMI Project Management Professional. It is often difficult for employers to find a good experienced project manager of IT projects.

Rocky: Hi, I'm 59 years old with an BS in computing technology. I graduated in June 2007. I have two associate degrees in engineering. I want to get my first job in IT and it has been hard. I am concerned that my age and the fact that I'm entry-level in the field is causing me difficulties getting a job. Any suggestions?

Patrick_Regan: Getting your foot is in the door is one of the hardest things. After you get in, it is much easier. I don't think that a person's age is as big a factor as it used to be. Microsoft MCSE and other certs will help you get interviews and then your knowledge will be what carries you though the interview. Since you don't have much experience, you need to focus on reading blogs and other forums to learn what problems are encountered and how to deal with those problems. You can then razzle-dazzle them with your knowledge and that will go a long way.

DaveM: Is it worth the bother for an enterprise IT person to get certified in Vista? What kinds of things can you learn through that certification program that you can't learn easily any other way?

Patrick_Regan: If you are already certified in Windows XP, you don't necessarily need to get certified in Windows Vista unless you are going for the MCITP Enterprise certification. If you are upgrading from the MCSE to the MCITP, you will not have to take the Windows Vista exam. But nonetheless, you still need to learn Windows Vista. You will find that Windows Vista offers new technology that was not available in Windows XP. For example, IPv6 is going to become much more popular during the next few years, so you are going to have to deal with the new DHCP servers that will be handing out IPv4 and IPv6 addresses. You will also need to understand how the NTFS file structure and permissions differ so that you know what changes need to be done on login scripts and group policies. Since more emphasis is being put on mobile computers, you need to learn the options Windows Vista has for file and data synchronization with mobile computers. Lastly, don't forget that you may need to learn how to deal with User Access Control, those dreaded pop-ups that come up asking if you should do something on Windows Vista.

DaveM: For brand new computer engineering graduates, what kinds of certifications do you recommend?

Patrick_Regan: As a computer engineer, I think of the programming and development. training that Microsoft offers. Multiple certifications are aimed at software development. Much like the network certifications such as the MCSE program, you need to realize that software development changes often. However, if you can stay current or semi-current, you will find that you will be in high-demand. Currently, Microsoft offers two developer certifications. The Microsoft Certified Application Developer (MCAD) credential provides industry recognition for professional developers who build powerful applications using Microsoft Visual Studio .NET and Web services on the Microsoft .NET Framework 1.0 and Microsoft .NET Framework 1.1. Developers who use the Microsoft .NET Framework 2.0 and Microsoft Visual Studio 2005 should consider the new Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS) and Microsoft Certified Professional Developer (MCPD) credentials. While some may not consider this as "real programming: of the type that you might find in Delphi, C++ or C##, you will find it more then challenging since you are trying to tie into the Windows operating system with the same look and feel as other Windows applications. You also may be called to interface with a SQL database or interface with other applications.

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