As was foretold, we've added advertisements to the forums! If you have questions, or if you encounter any bugs, please visit this thread:

Allright, I'll just ask. What exactly does an MCSE do?

The LandoStanderThe LandoStander Registered User regular
edited February 2012 in Help / Advice Forum
I'm considering getting into an MCSE training program at the local career 'university' here in Louisville because my Psych degree isn't really weathering the recession/job market since I graduated and such. A friend from college (the only one of my group of college friends who wasn't in the Psych program) who's been employed since graduating with his BS in Comp Sci recommended picking up an MCSE rather than something like an A+ cert or Network+.

So far as I understand it jobs that would want an MCSE would be fairly low on the totem pole but a 4 year degree isn't something I can knock out in my current position. Still, any sort of google for MCSE info really just provides a list of online classes and colleges and such and not a clear idea of the sort of day to day stuff that someone who's an MCSE has to deal with. I'm sure things vary between positions but I'm sure there's a lot more to "managing systems" or "administering networks" than just a couple of words. Honestly it's my intention to try and get a cert like this so I can try and be the office's next IT guy, we seem to go through them fairly regularly.

Maybe someday, they'll see a hero's just a man. Who knows he's free.
The LandoStander on


  • Options
    WildEEPWildEEP Registered User regular
    edited February 2012
    An MCSE just means you understand the Microsoft server product line. How to setup and maintain servers using Windows Server 2000, 2003, 2008, etc.
    It’s a certification that to most businesses means, "I know how to make computers do stuff".

    It’s a lot like your Psych degree in the IT world...what are your daily duties as a Psych graduate?

    Yeah, its kind of like that.

    It isn’t going to land you a job just because you have it - those days have passed.

    However, if you don't have a damn clue how to use Windows server, then studying that course work would at least get you started. It certainly doesn't hurt that you've got that kind of certification if you're looking for a Systems Administrator job, or even something like IT Consultant, or Help Desk Assistant.

    But if you're looking to get started in the world of IT, it’s worth pursuing, and continuing. There are a lot more certifications now than an MCSE - specifically the new one, MCITP - which gets you versed in everything post Windows Server 2008 - Windows 7, SQL Server, Exchange, SharePoint, etc.

    You might want to head over to

    There a lot of info there on what you should get based on what you want to learn. If you are still lost, try this: Go find a job you want, look at its certificate requirements, and then go learn those topics and get the cert for yourself.

    WildEEP on
  • Options
    DjeetDjeet Registered User regular
    Spoilered for wall of text.
    About 11-12 years ago as I was graduating college I found myself in a similar boat as you (B.A. Econ) so I pursued a continuing education class through my university (which peered with a local private education provider to do the actual training) to do MCSE (also CNA, A+, and a few other certs).

    You got some certificate from the university just for completing the classes, but completing the classes in no way guaranteed you would pass any certification exams (though I found the A+, CNA, and Windows desktop O.S. exams pretty easy). A good program will provide vouchers to cover some or all of the tests with single fail guarantees (fail once and you can retake the test within some time period).

    I would not have been able to pass most of the more advanced certification exams (designing an DNS infrastructure, designing an AD infrastructure, and the case studies piece) had I not spent a lot of time setting up my own lab to test out configurations and other supplemental work not specified by the program. The classroom portion largely consisted of an instructor leading you through the Microsoft Official courseware (binders of lesson plans and some eval versions of the software) and answering questions. The problem with this is if you don't know anything you don't know what kind of questions to ask to get the instructor to pass on any insight that would give you a greater understanding of the material. I probably got more out of socializing a bit with the few students who had some experience in IT and just engaging them in shop talk.

    At the time, even if you memorized the courseware you wouldn't pass the design tests as passing those required you to apply the things you've learned. I don't know if the Microsoft official training materials have gotten any better, they do seem to have gotten thicker.

    The modern equivalent of the certification I got (MCSE: Windows 2000) would be the "MCITP: Enterprise Administrator on Windows Server 2008". And 2k8 really is that much better than 2k3 that I would probably take that route, though it's very likely a lot of those hiring would greatly value real world experience in 2K3 administration.

    You'll have to learn about how to design a Windows Server infrastructure from the ground up (DNS, AD, VPN, Group Policy, disaster recovery, and newer technologies like the Powershell and Branchcache) and administer it (e.g. come up with policies and actions to deal with events that crop up) as this is what the certification program purports to certify you can do.

    Though in practice it's unlikely you'll be designing and building systems much and your day to day work will consist of maintenance and administration, dealing with usability issues, user training and documentation. At least that's been my experience working IT at a small company. You may have to school yourself on basic IT knowledge (e.g. stuff you'd need to know to work with networks even outside of a Microsoft environment, like subnetting, DNS, the network stack, wiring) as some of that came up on my testing experience.

    Being paper-certified (MSCE with no experience) would probably get you the nod vs someone with no experience and no certs, especially if you already work for the place you intend to do IT at. But I'd take someone with experience in Powershell administration in a production environment over a paper-cert.

    Let me know if you have any questions.

  • Options
    The LandoStanderThe LandoStander Registered User regular
    Thanks for the pointers and suggestions. The impression I have gotten, as I have sort of debated the IT route even while I was in school for my Master's, is that it's a weird combination of already knowing what you're doing and learning how to do it and of course having something to demonstrate to those who don't know what it is you're doing that you can in fact do it.

    I'm pretty well aware that the ideal situation is an actual Comp Sci degree but that's not something that's workable for me at the moment. So really I just have to get started somewhere towards the lower levels of things and consider climbing up after that.

    My current experience isn't far beyond building/fixing PCs, getting Windows to function the way it ought to and a smattering of programming for the not so universal matlab program. I've read up on constructing small time servers and such but I still need to build up the resources to have a little test kitchen of sorts in which to play around. I know just enough to get into trouble I suppose, taking some classes just seems like the most organized way of doing so!

    Maybe someday, they'll see a hero's just a man. Who knows he's free.
  • Options
    FeralFeral MEMETICHARIZARD interior crocodile alligator ⇔ ǝɹʇɐǝɥʇ ǝᴉʌoɯ ʇǝloɹʌǝɥɔ ɐ ǝʌᴉɹp ᴉRegistered User regular
    As has been mentioned, the MCSE certification has been retired. People who already have them can benefit from them, but new certifications follow the new track.

    Most MCSEs did some combination of server or network administration, often dealing with Windows Active Directory server, Exchange server, Sharepoint, Windows-based file servers, or Windows SQL server. These individual roles have been split into their own certifications under the MCITP program, and the different certs are described here:

    Just to reinforce what the others have said, what you really want is experience. Certs are fine, but a cert with no experience is almost a complete waste of money. I've been doing server & network administration for over 10 years now, and I don't have a single certification. I'm an outlier, though, and things would be easier for me if I just buckled down and got an MCITP cert (which I may do if I go looking for a new job.)

    The best way to get some experience is to take some college classes and, like you said, build your own test environment at home. Then go looking for an entry-level job.

    every person who doesn't like an acquired taste always seems to think everyone who likes it is faking it. it should be an official fallacy.

    the "no true scotch man" fallacy.
  • Options
    MadpoetMadpoet Registered User regular
    Route I'd take: Get an A+. This will get you in the door for an entry level IT-ish job (workstation repair/cleanup). While on that job, get whatever the new MCSA is. This will get you in the door for a low level sysadmin spot. From there find out what you want to specialize in and go towards it. Cisco certs and internet technology experience are what I saw most often last time I was on the job market.

    If I were hiring for a Microsoft shop, a CS degree would count for bupkes compared to an MCSE and experience. CS students learn theory and UNIX, and generally are conditioned to hate MS products.

  • Options
    The LandoStanderThe LandoStander Registered User regular
    I noticed in looking at MCSE stuff there was mention of it being split and turned into multiple certs. Perhaps the local community college is behind in updating their offerings. Ironically enough I actually work at Hewlett Packard, just not doing anything that you would normally think has anything to do with HP. They have degree assistance but certs aren't degrees and the assistance isn't much considering the cost of classes, particularly at places that offer classes at times someone with a full time, 1st shift job can actually attend.

    As I understand it the A+ is a lot more rote than actual hands on stuff. Granted knowing the different pin counts for old Intel L2 processors isn't really a concern anymore but it's stuff like that which seems to come up in a lot of the test prep questions I've looked at for it. It was actually in the course of discussing an A+ cert that my friend mentioned MCSE stuff. On the upside I'm also given to understand that the A+ is something that doesn't really require taking classes, just a good amount of will power to sit down and memorize stuff for the exam. So the $200 or so that it costs to take the exam is a lot less than most any single course that might be offered for any sort of IT cert.

    I'm inclined to get something in the way of a certification even as I try to scrape together experience on my own, it's a little hard to figure out just where to jump in given that experience is much more valued than certs but it can be difficult to get experience without either prior experience or something like a cert to just get a foot in the door.

    Maybe someday, they'll see a hero's just a man. Who knows he's free.
  • Options
    StraygatsbyStraygatsby Registered User regular
    edited February 2012
    Not the op, but I wanted to thank you folks for chiming in on this thread. I just passed my A+ in December and have started working on Network+ (I'm just self-teaching via the Sybex books). I've been the one man IT army for a large bookstore for the last few years, but I was really hoping to look into getting into a more professional (and larger) environment one of these days, possibly with the MCITP training.

    Straygatsby on
  • Options
    Giggles_FunsworthGiggles_Funsworth Blight on Discourse Bay Area SprawlRegistered User regular
    Not the op, but I wanted to thank you folks for chiming in on this thread. I just passed my A+ in December and have started working on Network+ (I'm just self-teaching via the Sybex books). I've been the one man IT army for a large bookstore for the last few years, but I was really hoping to look into getting into a more professional (and larger) environment one of these days, possibly with the MCITP training.

    What this guy said. I picked up my A+ and Network+ while I was going to school. And now that I have some experience they're largely useless. But you can pick them up faster than just about anything else, Network+ demonstrates that you're not completely fucking retarded while not going as in depth as a CCNA or a Microsoft cert. They helped to differentiate me quite a bit back when I was trying to get into entry level positions and working for recruiting companies.

Sign In or Register to comment.