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Become Certified in Microsoft Office: Options and Requirements

Read about Microsoft Office certifications. See information pertaining to required examinations and employment outlook statistics for IT professionals.

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Essential Information

Certification in Microsoft Office, called the Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS) certification, demonstrates proficiency and expertise in using the software. An MOS certification applies to a specific version of Microsoft Office and an associated software program (e.g., MOS in Word 2010 is distinct from certification in Outlook 2007). The three levels of certification include the basic MOS, the MOS Expert and the MOS Master. Certification candidates must successfully pass computerized examinations that take up to an hour and a half to complete.

Prerequisites

There are no formal prerequisites for taking the certification exam; however, Microsoft generally advises that candidates have experience using Office and spend at least 20 hours studying for it. Microsoft provides information on exam preparation resources at www.microsoft.com.

Required Examinations

For basic certification, candidates must choose a version of Microsoft Office and take a core exam in an associated software program as follows:

  • Microsoft Office 2010 (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, Access or SharePoint 2010)
  • Microsoft Office 2007 and Windows Vista (Vista for Business Workers, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook or Access 2007)
  • Microsoft Office 2003 (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access or Outlook 2003)
  • Microsoft Office XP (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access or Outlook 2002)
  • Microsoft Office 2000 (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access or Outlook 2000)

For MOS Expert certification, candidates must pass an expert exam in Word or Excel. For MOS Master certification in all but Office 2007, candidates take expert exams in Word and Excel, a core exam in PowerPoint and a core exam in either Access or Outlook. For Master certification in Office 2007, candidates take core exams in Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook.

Exams are taken on computers to simulate actual tasks and typically must be completed in 90 minutes. A directory of testing centers is available from Certiport at www.certiport.com.

Employment Outlook

Microsoft Office is widely used by businesses and organizations to perform technological tasks such as managing email, storing and accessing data, performing financial analyses and creating presentations. At businesses and organizations using Office, most employees will work with at least one of its programs.

Applicants and employees with expertise in Microsoft Office typically require less training and use its software with greater efficiency than those without it. While such an advantage does not guarantee employment or career success, MOS certification can differentiate a candidate competing for a job or promotion. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, administrative assistants were projected to see a 12% increase in employment opportunities from 2010-2020. The mean annual wages for administrative assistants and secretaries, except medical, legal and executive were $33,560 in May 2012. In addition, the International Association of Administrative Professionals' partner Office Team reported in its Office Team 2013 Salary Guide that salaries for administrative professionals who held an MOS certification could be 8-10% higher than for those without it (www.iaap-hq.org).

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