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MCSA (Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate)

MCSA (Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate) is a certification program intended for people who seek entry-level jobs in an information technology (IT) environment. This certification, which is being retired on Jan. 31, 2021, is a prerequisite for more advanced Microsoft certifications. The MCSA credential currently supplants the defunct Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator certification.

Types of MCSA certifications

Microsoft certification programs have historically evolved to reflect changes in technology. Hence MCSA certifications tied to older Microsoft products, such as Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008, have been retired. The MCSA certifications that Microsoft is currently offering include the following:

  • MCSA: BI Reporting
  • MCSA: Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Operations
  • MCSA: SQL 2016 BI Development
  • MCSA: SQL 2016 Database Administration
  • MCSA: SQL 2016 Database Development
  • MCSA: SQL Server 2012/2014
  • MCSA: Universal Windows Platform
  • MCSA: Web Applications
  • MCSA: Windows Server 2012
  • MCSA: Windows Server 2016

Getting MCSA certified

A list of the certifications can be found on the Microsoft website. For each of the MCSA certifications, there is a list of exams that must be passed, all available on the site. Numerous Microsoft and third-party study resources are available, along with tips and advice for testing preparation.

MCSA certification training

There are two basic options for preparing for MCSA certification exams. The first option is self-study. A wide variety of resources exist for those who choose the self-study approach. For instance, there are books, video courseware and independent resources, such as YouTube videos. There are also vendors who offer practice exams.

The other option is instructor-led training. Microsoft-authorized training centers offer live and online courses for most of the MCSA exams. These are Microsoft-authorized courses that align directly with the exam material.

MCSA certification costs

The cost of an MCSA certification varies by certification. Most of the certification exams are priced at $165. However, the number of certification exams that must be passed varies from one certification to the next. Most MCSA certifications require passing either two or three exams. At $165 per exam, a two-exam certification would cost $330, and a three-exam certification would cost $495. These costs pertain only to taking the certification exams and do not include study-related costs.

MCSA certification retirement

Microsoft has announced that it will be retiring its MCSA certification path and replacing it with role-based certifications. The certification program is set to end on Jan. 31, 2021. Other certifications Microsoft is retiring include Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE) and Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer (MCSD).

Those who already have an MCSA certification will be allowed to keep it. The certification will remain on a holder's transcript for two years from the time that it expires. Those who have not yet completed an MCSA certification can still receive the certification so long as they complete the required exams before the certification's expiration date.

Microsoft's new approach to certifications will be based on job roles. These roles align with job titles such as Administrator, Business User or Solutions Architect. These role-based certifications pull together task- or product-specific exams for things like Office, Windows Server, Microsoft Azure, Excel, Visual Studio and other Microsoft products.

This was last updated in November 2020

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