MCSA 2008 vs. MCSA 2012: Which certification should you pursue?

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Greetings True Believers,

As part of the 90 Days to MCSA Challenge, in which people spend the 90 days leading up to TechEd studying for the Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate: Windows Server 2012 exams, my good friends at TrainSignal asked if I would be able to write a post for their blog from time to time. Of course I said “yes” and began to think about a topic not covered on my blog or on Microsoft's Born to Learn. And then it came to me…

Over the last couple of weeks, a number of challenge participants have asked the same question: Should I study for the MCSA: Windows Server 2008 certification or the MCSA: Windows Server 2012 certification? Well, that is a very good question and one without a definitive yes-or-no answer. Like many things in IT, it depends. It depends on how many exams you've taken so far on the Windows Server 2008 track, what environment you work in now, and a number of other factors. For those of you weighing the choices, I'll try to break down the different options.

You have no exams complete for either certification

If you are in this camp, my suggestion would be to go for 2012, since the challenge is providing resources designed for people working towards MCSA: Windows Server 2012. While much of the guidance and some resources will still be relevant for 2008, the focus of the challenge is on Windows Server 2012. Outside of the challenge, getting the 2012 certification shows that you're proactive and up to date on the most current technology.

You have one exam completed in 2008

If you are in this camp, it's a little more complex. With one exam down, you are two exams away from your MCSA: Windows Server 2008, and an additional exam (70-417) away from MCSA: Windows Server 2012. This is an absolutely viable path, though you should know that upgrade exams from one certification to another are traditionally very comprehensive and quite a challenge. I've taken upgrade exams in the past and found them very difficult to study for, as the body of knowledge is immense. Since I have not taken 417, I can't give a recommendation on this. Another thing to keep in mind is what platform you work in. If completing the 2008 track is going to help you excel at your current position, I would recommend that path.

You have two exams completed in 2008

If you are in this camp, I think the choice is simple. Take your last exam and start down the 2012 path towards passing 70-417.

Whichever path you choose, you will learn a lot AND will be moving your career forward. By earning your MCSA: Windows Server 2008, you will develop a great base of knowledge for when you wish to make the leap to Windows Server 2012, and you are only one exam away from MCSA: Windows Server 2012.

And for those of you who choose the Windows Server 2008 track, I have great news. TrainSignal has added all of the video series for the 70-640, 70-642 and 70-646 to the 90 Day Challenge portal. If you haven't signed up for 90 days of free video learning, sign up here.

For more information on Exam 70-417: Upgrading Your Skills to MCSA Windows Server 2012, click on the link here. Also, check out the jumpstart series with TrainSignal's own Ed Liberman and Microsoft's Rick Claus here (pictured above).

Good Luck!

Michael Bender

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Michael Bender

is a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional, Microsoft Certified Trainer and VMware Certified Professional with 14 years of experience in Information Technology specializing in the training, development, delivery and support of core systems in IT Infrastructure. Currently, Michael teaches at Madison Area Technical College in Madison, WI. He teaches courses in Windows Networking and VMware Virtualization technologies. Through his blog at and other venues, Michael writes about technology, certification, and Windows. You can reach Michael through his blog, and on twitter via @MichaelBender.