MCSD worthwhile?

Marcus asked how useful my MCSD has been. (Microsoft Certified Solution Developer)

Well, first off I have 2, the old one in VB5 and 6, and the newer one in .net (C#).

With the first one the VB stuff was very useful for learning how MS think you should use the product. I’d say I know more of the products nooks and crannies for doing the learning. And some of these are useful.

The first one also had a section on Windows architecture, I found that hard going (all about named pipes, memory mapped files etc) and a little bit irrelevant. Over time though I have come to value that level of understanding of whats going on under the covers.

The second one in .net I haven’t yet used that much. The language is developing so fast much of the C# I learnt could probably be better written using the latest constructs.

The second one had more about the process of developing software using the MS frameworks. That would be of use to some people, much of it was a bit fluffy for me.

I found this one to be far away from the stuff I do to earn a living, probably too far to move over without having the start at the bottom and work up. VB6 is/was an easier transition I reckon.

So the direct benefits are mainly around knowledge. And that is really background knowledge for an Excel/VBA dev.

In terms of employability, status, or whatever, I don’t think the MCSD carries much weight at all. Most clients have never heard of it, those that have heard of it don’t take it seriously. I can’t remember when I got the first one, but I don’t believe my MCSD ever got me a job that I wouldn’t have got otherwise.

I would say its useful if you have limited experience, or if you have limited knowledge of development methods/processes (sys dev lifecycle for example).

I think they are now using the qualifications as a marketing tool forcing devs to keep training in the latest tools in the hope that will drive sales somewhere. I won’t be renewing my qualifications as MS are now so out of touch with the real world. And I don’t think I could recommend them for an Excel/VBA dev.

Bottom line, in ROI terms, I’m not convinced. I think I may have been better spending that time/money/effort with family and friends or on a hobby!

Has anyone else done it?, or something similar? Anyone got any better recommendations?



11 Responses to “MCSD worthwhile?”

  1. Dennis Wallentin Says:


    In my opinion all kind of educations are good. As for certifications I fully agree that the business usefulness is very limited.

    With all the respect to titles/badges the main question most customers ask is:

    Can You get the job done?

    Kind regards,

  2. MikeC Says:

    Speaking from a slightly different perspective….

    I appreciate that for people in your situations – running your own development companies which offer tailored solutions to clients – these qualifications are less important because you’re established in your field, and don’t need to “prove” you can deliver – your track record does that. For you, knowing how to do the job is the most important thing, and Microsoft Certifications are window-dressing only. Your clients aren’t (generally) likely to start asking questions about your certification, as, as Dennis says, they’re more interested in can you do the job, and how much will it cost! The fact that you’re running a successful development company is the proof you need.

    For someone who’s employed, and/or is looking for permanent employment, these sort of qualifications are our “proof” that we have the knowledge which you guys can demonstrate much more easily.

    For us, we need to get through a paper-sift – where the more qualifications you have, and the more impressive they are, the better chance you have of not having your CV thrown in the bin. That’s followed by an interview process where we might have a half-hour to an hour to prove we can do a job, without being able to demonstrate it. In these situations, (a) qualification(s) like this puts us immediately ahead of the game – it “proves” we have the knowledge, and (more often than not) we’re committed to our own development, as most people with these accreditations have paid for it themselves, and done it in their own time. They make people stand out from the crowd. These are attractive to a potential employer, and often offer a much better ROI than they would for devs such as yourselves.

    Having not taken an MCSD, I can’t comment about that one in particular. I can say that I’ve got my current job on the strength of an IT qualification, even though I don’t actually use the software I have it in (go figure…!)

    On your note about better ways to spend time – I still have time to train extensively in martial arts, have relationships and an active social life, and generally enjoy my life on top of the studying and a full-time job. Pro Plus is a wonderful thing….!

  3. Steve Hansen Says:

    Hi Simon,
    You wrote:

    “The first one also had a section on Windows architecture, I found that hard going (all about named pipes, memory mapped files etc) and a little bit irrelevant. Over time though I have come to value that level of understanding of whats going on under the covers.”

    My experience exactly. At the time I was focused purely on Excel/VBA/financial modeling. Though I found some of the WOSA stuff interesting, while I was studying I thought “what the heck do I need this for?” Over time, this knowledge has proven beneficial time and time again.


  4. Marcus Says:

    Hi MikeC,

    I appreciate what you’re saying but I can’t see that employers are calling for certification credentials in large enough numbers to justify the effort. Here’s a quick summary of today’s job market. The Sydney and Melbourne (where I am) figures come from The London figures com from Employers calling for MCSD certification is derisory compared to .Net or even VBA skills.

    VBA .Net MCSD
    Melbourne 48 425 13
    Sydney 145 1173 36
    London 429 2143 45

    Anecdotally, a quick scan of the rates doesn’t seem to show any material differences between the certified and non-certified. I also value education (I studied Economics & Marketing at Uni) but want to see a tangible return on the time and effort expended. Nowadays I typically buy a few books on an area I’m interested in learning – provided I’m sound on the concepts, I’m happy to lookup the details if and when needed.

    I’m also hesitant about the assumption that having more qualifications naturally makes you a better or more attractive candidate for several reasons:

    First is that the qualifications need to suit the role. Many IT people I deal with have qualifications in areas other than IT such as mechanical engineering. One IT BA I know has a degree in English Literature.

    Submitting a faceless CV for a job is not the most common way to get employed – many roles are not even advertised. You’re just as likely to get a job through your contacts (who you know) which makes relationship building an important skill.

    Recruiters don’t plough through a mountain of CV’s to find the ‘right’ candidates for a role. When you submit a CV in Word format, the recruiters software scans the document for key words and logs them in a database. A recruiter looks for candidates based on the keywords appropriate for the role. The more times a key word appears in your CV, the higher in the list you’ll appear. I’ve had two recruiters confess this to me. I have each key word (VBA, ADO etc.) repeated 10 times each in 6 point, white font in my CV. :P

    Interestingly, many client’s have a clause in our contract which says that the contractor possess the ‘skills and experience’ to do the job – nothing about qualifications.

    Kind Regards – Marcus

  5. Marcus Says:

    Sorry guys, the table above looks a bit difficult to read. Here it is again:

    VBA .Net MCSD
    Melbourne 48 425 13
    Sydney 145 1,173 36
    London 429 2,143 45

    Cheers – Marcus

  6. Marcus Says:

    Hmmm… well that wasn’t what I was expecting. Sorry :(

  7. Simon Says:

    Marcus – I think we get the idea :-) (The MCSD has a better showing than I would expect)
    MikeC – I hear what you are saying, and if you can get decent support for the training go for it.

    One thing from the MCSE world though, that qualification is often seen as a negative. It seems most people doing it don’t have much experience, those with experience don’t bother. Hence having an MCSE is seen by some recruiters as saying ‘Hi, I’m a beginner with no real world experience’. It might be worth a google around. I don’t think the MCSD has ever been popular enough to get discredited the same way.

    I think the knowledge gained is excellent, but I’d be very cautious about putting a value on the piece of paper, just because I have not personally seen that value.
    Also as a matter of interest I think C# rates are better than

  8. MikeC Says:

    Morning Marcus –
    quite get what you mean about scanning apps, and this certainly applies to E-applications…. however – at least in the UK – a huge number of employers still require paper application forms to be completed and returned, which nullifies the neat little trick with the white font (though I do plan to steal that for my own CV, if you don’t mind!!!).

    Additionally, and I am still speaking about the UK here (this is where I live, so I can only speak from experience, and HR-types I know here!) – the initial paper sift is frequently done by HR-types rather than specialists who know what the different certifications actually mean! Technical, especially MS-based qualifications, stand out from the apps where someone has high-school education (which means next to nothing here) with a vague assertion that the “I can do the job”, which is generally located within the “free text” sections such as Work History (often not even looked at in the initial sift).
    Obviously the qualifications have to match (at least vaguely) what is being looked for – my VB6 certification wouldn’t help me if I was applying for a DBA role! But the HR types will generally scan the initial “qualification area” first, if there are any vaguely matching types, save for later. If not, bin it. Note that I’m not talking about specialist software companies etc here, but normal companies that are recruiting for someone to BI/IT etc, and have a central, non-IT-specialised HR Department. What this means, though, is that if you have one or more qualifications, you’re more likely to have your app/CV passed to a technical type who has more time to look at things like experience and ability demonstrated throughout the rest of the piece of paper in front of him.

    I agree wholeheartedly that “faceless” CVs (like the term..!) are not the best way, especially when responding to an advertised role. But they are still more effective than crossing one’s fingers and hoping! =;-)

    With most topics (e.g. Excel and SQL Server) I apply a similar logic to yourself – I buy books recommended by (or written by!) people I respect which cover the skill sets I require, in lieu of “proper” training. I work through these in my free time, and they often cover enough to be able to do many of the tasks that I will need.

    The point Simon raises about the MCSE is, I have a sneaky feeling, going to get worse as the MCTS “set” of certifications get more popular. These seem to be designed to get beginners to the entire thing “qualified” as quickly and cheaply as possible, which I can see leading to a deluge of “qualified” devs who have no background or experience, just a shiny certificate, and have invested less in achieving it. Any thoughts on the impact of this?

    Thanks for your thoughts – as I’m currently looking at pursuing a further qualification, this is particularly useful to me right now!

  9. Dennis Wallentin Says:

    ‘Shiney certificates’ will kill the value of all kind of certifications…

    For 5-7 years ago there was a huge lack of knowledgeable and skilled technical networkers and at the same time a larger group of unemployed people existed here in Sweden.

    The “solution” was to let people get some of the certifications on Windows Server enabling them to apply for the jobs.

    It quickly turned out to be a major backslash because they totally lacked any practical experience. The company was very disappointed as well as the people.

    From my point of view we can do the following ranking:
    #1 Practical experience
    #2 References from existing / previously customers
    #3 Who the person is
    #4 Relevant certifications

    Kind regards,

  10. boikie Says:

    is the a price that you have to pay in order to have a mcsd certificate and how much is it ?

  11. MikeC Says:

    You pay for the course material, software, and exams. The price depends on where you go to get it.

    Going by quotes I’m getting at at the moment, an MCSD in .NET is generally being quoted between £4-5K, including everything, and will take 12-18 months to complete. Note that this is through a “distance learning” company, assuming you can put in 10-15 hours a week study, and for an average-ability student. You also need to attend one of their centres for “classroom days” and exams.

    There are intensive “boot camp” courses available for MS certifications as well, where you can go from start to certficated in a few weeks living “on site”, but these are naturally much more expensive, and are generally intended for people who work within the industry and require a certification asap. They’re not really recommended for “beginners” as they are, by their very nature, VERY intensive.

    Certs are expensive, and most of these courses do assume you have a reasonable level of IT literacy beforehand. Alternatively, you can get hold of MCSD “primers” from a good bookshop (or Amazon) for less than £50 to get a taste of it to make sure it’s what you want to do before you go handing over 5 grand – useful if you’re not sure. I also recommend “shopping around” the companies who offer the training in your area to find the best deal for your situation, as the services offered, and price, can vary quite a lot. Book appointments with a few, refuse to sign anything immediately, get the best quote from each, and then put them side-by-side to decide which is the best for you.

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