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MOS Education Requirements and Career Information

A Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS) is a person who has received a Microsoft Business Certification in one or several of the company's Office applications. Company-sponsored, specialized certification such as this may lead to better job prospects, higher pay and increased professional satisfaction.

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Educational Requirements

Formal training isn't required to qualify for Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS) certification. However, applicants are recommended to make use of study guides and online resources in preparation for the exam. Classroom instruction is also available.

Exam Preparation

Through the Microsoft Learning website, those interested in MOS certification can find approved preparation guides in all Microsoft Office applications, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access and Outlook. Materials may be available in the form of books, computer-based training, multimedia or online learning. Using the guides, applicants prepare alone or in classes conducted independently of the company. They get ready to take a test in at least one application and may complete company-approved pretests.

Testing and Certification

Once they've mastered the skills they need, applicants choose an approved testing location. The 90-minute exams take place in a simulated workplace environment where they are asked to perform a series of tasks that demonstrate their skills. Those who successfully pass the test are directed to a private website that provides printed transcripts and certificates as well as access to a certification logo that they can use on their resumes. Separate certification is available for each Office product at the Specialist level, and additional certification at the Expert level is available for Word and Excel.

Career Information

An MOS certification is useful in finding various kinds of office and technical jobs. It may be a competitive advantage in a job search, and it is a requirement for some computer-support and help-desk employees.

Computer Support Workers

Computer support workers are trained to provide assistance to a company's computer users. They may respond to requests for computer help over the phone or through e-mail.

Computer support is a fast-growing field, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov). Employment of computer-support specialists is expected to grow by 14% during the decade ending in 2018. As of May 2008, the average annual pay for these workers was $46,370.

Secretaries and Administrative Assistants

It is common for secretaries and administrative assistants to get more advanced skills by taking training in word processing and spreadsheet applications offered by software vendors, the BLS notes. Secretaries and administrative assistants comprise one of the largest occupational groups in the country with 4.3 million jobs in 2008. Secretaries, except those in specialized fields such as legal or medical, earned $29,990 annually on average in May 2008.

Medical Transcriptionists

These are workers who listen to information dictated by physicians and other medical professionals regarding patient histories. In addition to word processing skills, the job requires detailed knowledge of medical terminology, abbreviations, anatomy, physiology and pharmacology. While MOS certification alone is not a sufficient qualification for getting a job in this field, it may provide a competitive edge. The BLS reports job prospects for such workers are expected to be good in the decade ending in 2018, and mean annual earnings as of May 2008 were $32,960.

Desktop Publishers

Often combining artistic and writing skills with an eye for detail, desktop publishers create documents such as newsletters, books, magazines, newspaper pages and catalogs which are then created on printers or sent to professional printing companies. They may also design and edit websites.

Word processing skills are often important for these workers. The BLS finds that demand for desktop publishers is falling as print publishers move to Internet publication, but the Bureau also notes that such workers will see better opportunities if they hold certifications in the software programs they need to use. BLS survey data shows that average annual earnings for desktop publishers were $38,740 in May 2008.

Word Processors

Word processors are workers who use word processing software programs, such as Microsoft Word, to create documents. They must know the fine points of these programs, such as creating tables and charts, in great detail and they must be fast and accurate typists.

As the duties of word processing workers have been rolled into other jobs, demand for these employees has fallen. But they will find improved job prospects if they're willing to upgrade their skills, the Bureau notes. Mean annual wages for this position were $32,710 in May 2008.

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