Microsoft has taken the decision to cease its Masters and Architect level training rotations for its advanced certifications and to retire the certification exams. It isn't unusual for Microsoft to evolve its certification program for IT professionals - but this decision has come out of the blue and is unwelcome news for the elite community concerned.
On August 30, the last working day before the US Labor Day holiday, Microsoft emailed all those already enrolled in the Microsoft Certified Master, Microsoft Certified Solutions Master, and Microsoft Certified Architect program to inform them that the Masters level certification exams are being retired on October 1st.
For anybody who was still preparing to take one of these exams, which cost $2,500 and demanded a great deal of commitment in terms of time, giving just one month's notice of this withdrawal came as a huge shock and provoked an angry outcry.
Those who had already earned these credentials are also expressing disappointment and bitterness about this decision which devalues their achievements, even though they get to keep them without the need to re-certify.
The email has been made public on the TechNet blog by Neil Johnson, one of the individuals to whom it was sent. It explains:
As technology changes so do Microsoft certifications and as such, we are continuing to evolve the Microsoft certification program. Microsoft will no longer offer Masters and Architect level training rotations and will be retiring the Masters level certification exams as of October 1, 2013. The IT industry is changing rapidly and we will continue to evaluate the certification and training needs of the industry to determine if there's a different certification needed for the pinnacle of our program.
The changes affect the top two rungs of the certification ladder for a specific range of technologies. To become a Microsoft Certified Architect Program you have to successfully pass the MCA Board exam, which includes a portfolio submission, multiple presentations, and an intensive Q&A with a panel of Microsoft Certified Architects on the MCA Review Board. During the MCA Board exam, which can last up to six hours the candidate
"must definitively display the six competencies of business acumen and technological proficiency".
To even start this process candidates have to hold either the MCM (Microsoft Certified Master) of which there are five covering specific technologies:
- Microsoft Exchange Server 2010
- Microsoft Lync Server 2010
- Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010
- Microsoft SQL Server 2008
- Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2: Directory
or its successor MCSM (Microsoft Certified Solutions Master), similarly available in five variants:
- Data Platform
- Directory Services
Until recently gaining these qualifications meant attending instructor-led training in Redmond but since July 1st training was no longer required. Perhaps the writing was already on the wall but even so, to judge from the response of those affected, the MCM/MCSM community was taken unawares.
Back in 2010, the penultimate occasion on which Microsoft Developer Certifications were revised, it discontinued the highest level developer certification that had been available for Visual Studio 2008. It too was Microsoft Certified Architect and was intended for those with five or more years of "architectural experience", but rather than pull the plug with no alternative the International Association of Software Architects (IASA) filled the breach with its Certified IT Architect (CITA-P), the fourth and final level of a certification program specifically for Software Architects.
A comment from Alessio Giombini on Neil Johnson's post sums up the mood of bewilderment currently felt by the Masters community:
Hugely, heartily disappointing, and a frightening sense of MS having lost the track.
while another from Mike Crowley links this blow to one suffered by Microsoft IT Pros just ago:
Dismantling of TechNet subscriptions, and now the crown of Microsoft's certification program? Hard times ahead for Microsoft consultants.