Aiming to give existing IT professionals a new way to further their skills and gain accreditation, Microsoft and Charles Sturt University have launched a Masters level program in Networking and System Administration.
The two-year Masters course, which includes a total of 12 subjects, will incorporate the Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE) certification program and will be delivered to students by the university via e-learning vendor partner KnowledgeNet.
All subjects will be studied online.
Derek Kerr, technical communications manager at Microsoft Australia, said the new program will allow those working in the industry who may have gained Microsoft certification or a university degree to extend their achievement with a Masters qualification.
"There's nothing really for people already in the industry," he said.
"Lots of companies can't afford training, and people become stagnant because they can't get additional training. This way they can get their certification and get a Masters component."
Kerr said there are approximately 35,000 Microsoft certified professionals in Australia, with 10,900 of these holding MCSE qualifications. Around 12,000 are working as systems engineers.
Some of the modules covered in the MCSE industry certification stream include network security, ethnic and information technology, mail server implementation and administration, and SQL server installation. The course will feature interactive content, simulations, a mentor program and practice exams.
In order to gain entry to the program, potential candidates will be reviewed by a panel of tutors from the university. Those who apply are expected to have a degree in any discipline and at least two years experience in the IT industry. Depending on the amount of industry experience, however, applicants may be admitted without having previously undertaken a university degree, Kerr said.
Geoff Pritchard, a systems engineer who attended a recent information seminar on the Masters program, said the MCSE component equates to about half of the total course material.
"So if you were already an MCSE you can claim a credit on what you've already done," he said.
Kerr said the program has been highly successful so far, with the first intake of 40 students already filled. The second intake, which begins in March, is expected to attract 200 people.
Kerr said Microsoft plans to extend the Masters program within the next six months to include a Software Developers stream, as well as offer both programs through other universities. Depending on its overall success in Australia, Microsoft will also look at launching the program worldwide, he said.
More information on the new Masters program is available here.