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MCSE is an initialism for Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer. The MCSE program is perhaps the best-known of a number of Microsoft training initiatives, with the intention of creating a pool of employees with skills relating partly or exclusively to Microsoft products.
Whilst the MCSE certifies familiarity with Microsoft products, it is not, as its name suggests, an engineering qualification. Use of the title engineer is rife within the certification industry and is not limited to Microsoft (For example: RHCE: Red Hat Certified Engineer). Use of the term "engineer" has lead to some consternation amongst associations of professional engineers, and allegations that the use of the MCSE name may even be illegal in some jurisdictions where the term "engineer" is regulated by law. Many critics hold the MCSE qualification in very low esteem, and cynically refer to MCSE as "Must Consult Someone Experienced", or "Minesweeper Consultant and Solitaire Expert".
To achieve an MCSE in Windows 2000, students must pass the following core exams:
- 70-210: Installing, Configuring, and Administering Microsoft Windows 2000 Professional
- 70-215: Installing, Configuring, and Administering Microsoft Windows 2000 Server
- 70-216: Implementing and Administering a Microsoft Windows 2000 Network Infrastructure
- 70-217:Implementing and Administering a Microsoft Windows 2000 Directory Services Infrastructure
To achieve an MCSE in Windows Server 2003, students must pass the following core exams:
- 70-270: Installing, Configuring, and Administering Microsoft Windows XP Professional
- 70-290: Managing and Maintaining a Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Environment
- 70-291: Implementing, Managing, and Maintaining a Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Network Infrastructure
- 70-293: Planning and Maintaining a Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Network Infrastructure
- 70-294: Planning, Implementing, and Maintaining a Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Active Directory Infrastructure
A candidate must also pass a single design exam and an elective exam for a total of seven exams. Some Windows 2000 level exams are considered applicable to the Windows Server 2003 track.
For both tracks, candidates must pass design & elective exams (for Windows 2000, one design & two electives, for Windows 2003, one of each), for a total of seven exams. The topic of these exams include network security, computer network infrastructure, Active Directory, Microsoft Exchange, Microsoft SQL Server, and other topics of both general networking interest as well as specific Microsoft products.
Each exam costs approximately US$125. Exams usually take between 2 and 3 hours to complete and consist of between 50-90 multiple choice, drag and drop and solution building questions. Microsoft has recently announced a return to simulated content within exams and students are also required to perform certain common administrative tasks appropriate for the topic at hand.
Microsoft response to criticism of the MCSE
Microsoft, realizing that the title was not held in high esteem, has begun a process of making the exams significantly more difficult. Microsoft also started taking legal action against individuals caught divulging the contents of exams, which had lead to some candidates knowing but not understanding the answers to the exams they were about to face.
Microsoft has recently released two lower tiered certifications, the Microsoft Certified Desktop Support Technician (MCDST ) and Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator (MCSA). These are aimed at helpdesk staff and administrators of small to medium sized business respectively. Since the introduction of Windows Server 2003, MCSE has been retasked towards those managing networks for medium to large sized business.
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