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How Long Does IT Take to Get My MCSE Certification?

The time it takes to become a Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE) varies. Keep reading to learn how a certification candidate's professional experience and training needs can determine how long it takes to earn an MCSE credential.

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Path to Becoming an MCSE

The Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE) credential is available to IT professionals who would like to demonstrate their proficiency with Microsoft servers. Certification requires passing scores on five exams and is available in eight specialty areas: desktop infrastructure, server infrastructure, SharePoint, business intelligence, communication, private cloud, data platform and messaging.

While there is no set time limit to prepare for these exams, it isn't typically something that can be done in a short period of time. It may take months or even years to prepare for all five MCSE certification examinations, depending upon the individual's learning pace and professional experience.

For example, an individual who has completed a 2- or 4-year degree program in such areas as computer science, information technology or networking and earned years of on-the-job experience might find that he or she doesn't need to spend as much time studying as someone with limited training. Generally, Microsoft recommends that individuals have at least two years of experience configuring, installing, designing and troubleshooting networks, operating systems and servers before attempting to sit for certification exams.

Preparing for Exams

Many study resources are available to individuals interested in earning MCSE certification, including practice tests and instructional videos available through Microsoft. These resources allow students to prepare for exams at their own pace.

Microsoft also offers instructor-led classes that can typically be completed in five days. These are commonly available through computer training schools or colleges' continuing education departments.

Students looking for more extensive training can also find MCSE courses offered as part of for-credit certificate and associate degree programs designed for current or prospective IT professionals. Classes offered in this format can last anywhere from eight weeks to an entire semester.

Completing Exams

Certification candidates will need to pass three core exams assessing their ability to work with Windows Server 2012 or Microsoft SQL Server 2012. The remaining two exams focus on candidates' specialty area and require them to demonstrate their skill at performing such tasks as monitoring a private cloud, designing business intelligence solutions, managing application environments or implementing data models.

Test times vary depending upon the exam, but generally don't last more than four hours. Test-takers receive their results within minutes of finishing the exam. If a candidate fails a test on the first try, he or she may retake it within 24 hours. All subsequent retakes require a 14-day waiting period.

Career and Salary Info

According to Microsoft, the following positions are among those available to applicants with an MCSE designation. They are accompanied by their average salaries, as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in May 2012:

  • Computer support specialist - $53,230
  • Information security analyst - $89,290
  • Network and computer systems administrator - $76,320
  • Database administrator - $79,120
  • Computer systems analyst - $83,800

Job opportunities in these fields were projected to experience average to faster-than-average job growth through the 2010-2020 decade, according to the BLS. Computer support specialists, for example, could see an 18% growth in new job opportunities, while database administrators could experience the best employment prospects. Jobs in this field were forecasted to grow 31% over this 10-year period.

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