A Guide to Becoming Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer (MCSD)

MCSD stands for Microsoft Certified Solution Developer. It is the globally recognized standard for developer excellence. All Microsoft Certified Master (MCM), Microsoft Certified Architect (MCA) and Microsoft Certified Solutions Master (MCSM) certification exams were withdrawn on 1 January 2014. Hence MCSD, which was a level down to MCM,MCA and MCSM,  has been standardized as the top certification offering from Microsoft .

MCSD

Microsoft offers various roadmaps/paths (as Microsoft calls it) to achieve MCSD status depending upon the technology of your choice. Currently MCSD paths have been defined for the below technologies:

  • Windows Store Apps
  • Web Applications
  • SharePoint Applications
  • Azure Solutions Architect
  • Application Lifecycle management
  • Universal Windows Platform

In order to achieve MCSD status in any of these roadmaps you are supposed to pass 3-4 exams depending on the chosen technology.

Perks of getting certified as a MCSD

Benefits for the employee

  • Highlights your resume during the hiring process: You are no longer considered as a brick in the wall. Being a MCSD you get a competitive edge over other candidates as it evidently shows that you are technically certified by the apex authority: Microsoft. Though MCSD doesn’t guarantee that a resource is technically qualified, at worst, it guarantees that the candidate has the drive and determination to learn and pursue the certification path which is not so common among developers.

  • You get a certificate and get the privilege to use the MCSD Logo in public forums and blogs,

    Logo

    This is the logo I get to use for completing the SharePoint Certification Path. Similarly, depending on the technology of your choice you get a separate logo.

  • Better Pay and Promotions

    Now being an MCSD doesn’t guarantee a better pay and promotion. Depending on your experience and your performance in interview/project you get to negotiate your terms with your recruiter/supervisor by highlighting your MCSD credential. During promotion cycles, when you are competing with an equally strong opponent, MCSD status and other certification completions helps you gain the leading edge. Moreover whether you get a better pay or not varies with geography. In the US, MCSD is highly valued and you get better pay based on the certifications you hold.

  • Better Visibility at the work place

    Becoming an MCSD helps you gain visibility and attention within you workplace and makes you stand out of the normal crowd. It also helps you to highlight it as an achievement during appraisal cycles.
Now the most important benefit that MCSD gives the employee is, I believe, the experience he/she gathers during the journey of becoming an MCSD. The road to becoming an MCSD is long and needs you to clear a couple of exams. Now these exams are highly competent and check your knowledge about the latest technology. You will be forced to prepare right from the basics up to designing and implementing the proper architecture for a solution. You will come to realize what the recommended best practice is and how to follow the defined process. These days, developers Google a specific requirement and implement a code fragment without realizing its internal implementation. Thus we would be using only a subset of the technology features. Journey towards MCSD helps you structure your knowledge, fill the knowledge gap and brings you closer to the framework and technology you are working on. This is by far the most important benefit you gain by achieving an MCSD.

Benefit for the employer:

  • Helps to become a Microsoft Partner 

    There are three different levels of Microsoft partner: Registered, Certified and Certified Gold. Depending on the number of MCSD, MCP professionals within the organization can request for the appropriate Partner Level. Each of these comes with lot of privileges that the employer is entitled to.

    Partner

  • Better success rate in project bidding

    You get to highlight the Microsoft Partner credential along with the number of certified professionals you have as part of the organization in front of the client. This will help you gain a winning edge over other project bidders.

  • Helps cut software costs

    Employer gets free licences for Microsoft software to use within the organization once they become a Microsoft Partner. This drastically cuts down the software costs which they otherwise would have encountered. In addition to that the employer also gets free MSDN subscriptions.

  • Ensures the quality of deliverable

    Having MCSD professionals ensures that the organization follows the best practices and architecture while implementing and delivering the product. This is by far the most important benefit the employer gets while employing MCSD professionals. Due to these facts MCSD professionals get weightage during recruitments.

Certification Overview

Depending upon the technology chosen for achieving MCSD, the candidate will have to pass 3-4 exams. Each exam can have a number of questions (Multiple choice check boxes, True/False, Drag and Drop,Radio Button choice) ranging from 60-100 (depending on the technology). You are required to score a minimum of 80 percent to achieve a pass in the exam.

  • Windows Store Apps

    You are required to pass three exams for achieving the Windows Store Apps MCSD status. These exams have an equivalent C# exam. You have to either pass the JavaScript/C# exams. For more details check here.

    Windows Store Apps

  • Web Applications

    You are required to pass 3 exams to achieve MCSD in Web Applications. For more details check here.

     Web Applications

  • SharePoint Applications

    You are required to pass 4 exams to MCSD in SharePoint. Since SharePoint 2016 was made available recently, these certification paths will be replaced soon with new SharePoint 2016 exams. For more details check here.

     SharePoint Applications:

  • Azure Solutions Architect

    You are required to complete the below three certifications for achieving MCSD as Azure Solutions Architect. For more details check here.

    Azure Solutions Architect:

  • Application Lifecycle Management

    You are required to complete the below three certifications for achieving MCSD in Application Lifecycle management. For more details check here.

    Application Lifecycle Management

  • Universal Windows Platform

    You are required to complete the below three certifications for achieving MCSD in Universal Windows Platform. For more details check here.

    Universal Windows Platform

Certification Registration

If we go to the respective certification pages link as given in the above section, we will be able to see the exams lists,

Registration

Click on Take exam. It will take us to the page from where we can schedule the exam.

exam

Booster Packs

Microsoft offers various packages which includes retry options at subsidized rates. Check here.

Booster Packs

Prepare for MCSD

As we have already discussed - the benefit of getting certified as an MCSD is all about the journey in getting there. Make sure you do not cheat and take short cuts by relying on dumps offered by third party vendors. It might help you clear the exam in a short time but the real benefit of knowledge exposure would be literally zero.

There are various options to get started with the training:

  1. Microsoft Learning Partners

    Click on Take Course button from the respective certification page as shown in previous section.

    Partners

    You can select a training partner at a cost to enroll for the course. The Course Details tab will show the detailed areas that the exam will focus on.

    Course

  2. Study Guides and Self Study

    Once you expand the course details tab, we will get an idea about the areas that will be tested in the exam, based on which we can do an in-depth study.

    Guides

    You can also get reference guides from online stores like the one shown below.

    guides

  3. Microsoft Virtual Academy

    There are a lot of free courses provided by Microsoft Virtual Academy . You can search for the courses based on the exams from this site to get a jump start for your preparation.

    Virtual Academy

  4. Pluralsight

    Pluralsight provides highly informative videos specifically tailored for MCSD Exams. Though it comes at a price it is worth it.

    Pluralsight

    These are just a basic list of resource materials. You can also search for study guide blogs that are specific to a particular exam like the one here which will help you in the preparation.

Recertification

MCSD certification requires you to show continued ability to perform in your chosen technology by completing a recertification exam every two years. The reason for this is because the change rate at which existing technologies evolve is exponential. So Microsoft has made it a mandate to recertify every two years so that the professionals are updated with the latest technology offerings.

Once you complete the journey and reach the milestone you would be awarded with a MCSD certificate signed by Satya Nadella like the one shown below. The journey towards MCSD was more of a personal goal setting for me. The knowledge we gain along the way is highly exponential and the whole effort gets paid off in the end.

MCSD

Hope you have got an overall idea about the MCSD certification path. This article should help you give a kick-start in the certification journey.

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