One of the greatest challenges an IT professional faces is keeping up with the rapid and constant changes in the technological landscape. There's no question that the constant motion is part of what makes life in IT so interesting and exciting -- especially to those of us who are gadget-inclined (or gadget-addicted). But it also makes for a difficult balance: how to continue to do all that is necessary for your job as it exists today, while also preparing for what's to come.
One of the more valuable resources available as we face that challenge is the industry-certification process. The benefits are really two-fold. First is the learning process that preparing for a certification offers. After all, the aim of any certification is to arm you with all the information necessary to tackle the subject at hand, and studying for the exams you'll need to take to earn your certification will help you do just that. Second is the professional value that a certification provides. Proof of your familiarity with specific products and technologies can often be what makes the difference between getting that interview you're after, or even getting the job.
So with many already planning deployments of Windows 7, it may be time to bring your Microsoft certifications up-to-date. For more information on getting started with certification, check out the Microsoft Learning FAQ page.
The first certification available for Windows 7 is the Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS). Earning an MCTS certification in Windows 7 requires passing one exam: 70-680 - Windows 7, Configuration. This exam covers the following topics:
As you can see, getting that MCTS gains you all the fundamental information needed to begin managing Windows 7 in an enterprise environment. If you want to go further, consider pursuing the Microsoft Certified IT Professional (MCITP) certification.
The MCITP certification for Windows 7 requires both the 70-680 exam (the exam you'd take for your MCTS certification) as well as Exam 70-686: Windows 7 Desktop Administration (available by the end of 2009). Whereas the MCTS certification is intended to provide the fundamentals necessary to configure and deploy Windows 7, the MCITP is intended for advanced IT professionals who are likely to address a broader range of Windows Client issues.
Exam 70-685: TS: Windows 7, Enterprise Desktop Support (available late 2009)
Exam 70-686: PRO: Windows 7, Desktop Administration (available late 2009)
6292A: Installing and Configuring Windows 7 Client
Course 6294A: Planning and Managing Windows 7 Desktop Deployments and Environments
Everyone has his or her own style when it comes to studying for a test. Some might prefer the solo method (you know it: cram the night before the exam). I don't necessarily recommend that particular approach, but if you'd like to go it alone, perhaps the MCTS Self-Paced Training Kit (Exam 70-680): Configuring Windows 7 is best for you. It includes all the material needed to prepare for the exam, along with examples and sample questions that you can push through at your own speed.
Others might prefer in-person classroom training; in that case, the instructor-led course, Windows 7, Configuring Technology Specialist Course (Course 50321A), might be the ideal fit for you. The opportunity to move through the curriculum at a steady pace along with other colleagues allows for asking questions, discussing examples and preparing for the exam as a group, which can be helpful. For more information, options and advice on the exam process, go to the Microsoft Learning Preparing for and Taking an Exam FAQ page.
There are dozens of additional resources in the Microsoft Learning Catalog, including e-Learning courses, free articles and more. The Microsoft Learning site also has a number of special offers on training materials and resources. And of course, resources such as the TechNet forums, TechNet Magazine and the experience of your colleagues, can be invaluable as you prepare for the exams.
Once you're ready to go, head over to the exam registration site. Exams are administered by Prometric, an independent testing organization with more than 3,000 locations. The cost is typically $125 per exam.
Good luck pursuing your Windows 7 certification. Certifications like the MCTS and the MCITP not only help you get up to speed on the latest technology, they're also valuable credentials to help you stand out in the workforce.
One final note before you register: Microsoft often provides special offers and discounts on exam fees. Be sure to check out the special offers section of its Web site. If you're going to take the exam anyway, you might as well save a few bucks!
Joshua Hoffmanis the former editor in chief of TechNet Magazine. He is currently a partner at HearSay Marketing, a consultancy dedicated to helping organizations understand their customers and engage their audience through a variety of traditional and social media channels. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.