One of the most well-recognized certifications today is the Microsoft cert. A Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP) credential qualifies you to work on Windows Networks, but it’s not necessarily the easiest certification out there. It tests your knowledge of a particular operating system, usually the most recent rollout, while preparing you for higher-level certifications. Here’s how to get started and some tips that will help you succeed.
Do you want to work in the Windows environment?
The Microsoft certification is for those who want to work in a Microsoft environment. While it might seem obvious, a lot of IT professionals are moving to the Apple/mac world, or have little interest in working on PCs. If this describes you, you’re not going to get the most benefit from getting a MCP cert.
Still, regardless of the platform you want to work on, there’s still a benefit to getting your Microsoft certification as a lot of rudimentary knowledge transfers well over to other operating systems and networks. But, by and large, your certification is geared toward helping you gain competence in Microsoft networks and networking.
This means working with Windows servers, Windows-based PCs, and end-user aspects of a Windows network.
Preparing for the exam
Before you can get your certification, you need to prepare. First, you need basic computer skills. If you know next to nothing about computers, enroll in a basic computer program that will teach you the basics of computing, how to use computers, and how to use the Internet.
Next comes Microsoft-specific courses. Microsoft Office is a popular program, so you should become familiar with Office courses. Colleges and universities usually offer these types of courses under a basic, intermediate, and advanced skill level. You will learn one Office program per course – Word, Excel, Access, Outlook, or Powerpoint, for example.
When you’re done, you should have mastered the basics of the program and be competent enough to use them.
Now it’s time to choose a certification program. You can get certified in MS Office programs, but each program requires passing a separate exam. To get your MCP certification, you will want to know your way around Microsoft Office, the OS it runs on, and the networking features of the OS.
Choosing higher-level certification programs based on interest
Really, the MCP is a gateway to higher-level certification programs. So, for example, the MCP is your stepping stone to the Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator certification or the Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer credential. You can also train for a .NET certification with organizations like Simplilearn or just stay where you are.
Many people go into IT and never get past the MCP test. But, if you do decide to move up, the step between MCP and MCSA or MCSE is a shorter path, as you’ll already have a base knowledge to work from. And, moving from MCSA to MCSE is an even shorter path, since credits you earn for the MCSA count toward your MCSE certification.
Entry-level jobs you can get
When you’re first starting out, don’t expect anything but entry-level jobs. You can’t expect to land a systems administrator job with a simple MCP credential. For example, hiring managers for IT departments look for MCPs to work in a corporate helpdesk environment. But, this often requires working in a call center or as first-tier technical support. These are entry-level jobs here you either follow a preset protocol, read from a script, or follow specific technical service process steps following an SOP manual (standard operating procedure).
Average salary and benefits
The good thing about getting your certification is that you put yourself on the road to a high earning potential. MCPs, even though they are entry-level, can earn more than $70,000 annually. The more experience you have, the higher your pay. First starting out, you may only earn $20,000 to $30,000 depending on where you live in the country.
Over time, expect regular bonuses and pay raises as well as promotions. Your employer may also sponsor you and pay for additional certifications as needed.
Many IT professionals that go on to work for government organizations also receive generous benefits, including a federal pension, tax-sheltered annuity program, paid holidays, life insurance, sick leave and vacation pay.
Even in the private sector, IT professionals are treated well, earning general pay raises and, in some cases, receiving non-qualified “top hat” benefits programs, vacation pay, sick leave, generous health insurance benefits, and life insurance.
All in all, it’s a good career move, even if you decide to stay with entry-level work. And, technology and networks are only growing, so the job growth outlook is exceptional.
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