Microsoft Certifications – Worth It?

Last week I took and passed Microsoft certification exam 70-565, “Pro: Designing and Developing Enterprise Applications Using the Microsoft .NET Framework 3.5”.  This makes the sixth Microsoft certification exam that I’ve completed since May 2006.  My primary driver for working towards this exam was meeting some of the new competency requirements of the Microsoft Partner Network, of which my employer is a member.  However, it is the new concepts learned as part of preparing for this exam that turned out to be a valuable additional benefit.

In the time leading up to the exam, I had several conversations with people about why I was taking the exam.  Many argued against the value in the exams and the MCP program/status earned as part of passing an exam.  The main point centered around the perceived market value of the exams, and if passing the exam enhanced your career (made more employable, earned more money, promotions, etc.).  Honestly, I can see that point-of-view.  I’ve met many developers who claim to have passed many Microsoft certifications exams, yet were horrible developers.  And, I’ve met many developers who haven’t taken any exams and are probably some of the brightest guys I know.  That said, my point here isn’t to get into a debate on the if being an MCP makes one a better developer or if there is demonstrable evidence that it helps in career advancement.

Instead I would like to relate what I perceive to be the value gained from the exam process.  As mentioned earlier, the primary motivation for taking this exam was completing a requirement of the Microsoft Partner Network.  An added personal benefit is the new skills, concepts, and ideas I learned as part of the process of preparing for this exam.  Sure, my professional experience helped a lot in preparing for the exam – much of the material I knew well from my day-to-day work.  But, there was also a good portion of material that was very new to me (some things I had not even heard of before).  I learned something new!  Fantastic!  Would I have learned this info eventually?  Probably.  Maybe.  In my opinion, having knowledge in advance of when it is needed is always positive.

In some ways, it is the knowledge gained as part of the exam prep process that may end up being the most valuable part of the exam.  I’m sure it is this knowledge gained that will prove to be beneficial to my career for years to come.  So, are Microsoft certification exams worth it?  Without a doubt, I say yes!