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Microsoft Recertification: Coming To a Credential Near (and Dear) to You?

Last July (2011) Microsoft posted a link to a survey on the subject of recertification in its Born to Learn blog. At the same time, they announced that their Microsoft Certified Professional Developer (MCPD) cert for Windows Phone Developer would come with a three-year shelf-life, after which re-examination would be required to maintain that credential's currency. Since then, they've also added a re-cert requirement to the Azure Developer MCPD as well on the same three year timeline. All this naturally leads to the question of if and how recertification might propagate out into other MS credentials, such as MTA, MCTS, MCITP, MCM, and even Microsoft Certified Architect. So I asked that very question of Don Field, Microsoft's Senior Director of Certification Programs in the Microsoft Learning division .

Don posted a nice but brief summary of the recertification survey results in a Born to Learn blog last Tuesday (9/20/2011) entitled "Recertification survey: Results are in!" This occurred the day after he and I spent about half an hour on the phone discussing those results, and my follow-up questions, I having contacted MS Learning after I read about the survey to request an opportunity to discuss them when they were about to go public with the outcome.

You can read Don's coverage to get the gist of the recertification survey, but the basic elements are that both certified professionals and employers approve of the concept, think it adds value to MS certifications, and believe a 2-3 recertification interval is about right for the kinds of tools and technologies that Microsoft credentials cover. Given that this same time interval describes how most other recertification requirements are timed for Cisco, CompTIA, CISSP, and countless other programs, this comes as no big surprise to me.

What I did find interesting is that MS Learning is obviously thinking hard about extending recertification requirements to other credentials but hasn't quite figured out if, how, and when to roll these things out further into the MCPD program, or beyond into the other major certification tracks. My best guess is that they already buy into the concept, as evidenced by the old "upgrade exams" MCSA and MCSE certified professionals could take to move up their credentials from NT 4.0 to Windows Server 2000 and then onto Windows Server 2003.

But with Windows Server 2008 now in full swing, and Window Server 8 (or whatever the new server platform takes as its official name, probably Windows Server 2012) in the offing, it's time to think about how to deal with those other programs, especially MCTS, MCITP, and MCM, all of which target specific desktop and server platforms (among other elements, also often tied to server platforms such as SQL Server, SharePoint, and so forth).

I happen to think that regular recertification makes sense for these credentials, too. Going out on a limb (but not a very long or creaky one), I'm guessing that we'll either see upgrade exams or some kind of recertification requirement to permit holders of Windows Server 2008 credentials to maintain them for the next server platform, and similar offerings for desktop OS, database, and other key technology platforms as well.

Given that this needs to happen anyway, why not just impose a regular schedule or interval on this kind of thing, and say that candidates must recertify every three years or so on their anniversary dates? That's the way lots of other programs work, and it takes the guesswork out of when to recertify. I also like Microsoft's idea that re-examination is a good way to go to maintain currency. I'm not sure that continuing education credits always do the job they're supposed to, and I like the idea of examining cert holders at regular intervals to make sure they're keeping up with the new material.

What do you think? If you've got an opinion, please post a comment, or shoot me an email at ed at edtittel dot com. I'll be happy to respond to all input, especially good ideas or suggestions.