Microsoft ends top Masters certification exams for IT pros

The Masters level certification exams will be retired by Oct. 1

Microsoft plans to retire its Masters level certification exams by Oct. 1 this year, generating strong protests on blogs and community forums from IT professionals.

The Redmond, Washington, software company, however, defended the move, with an executive stating that the Masters program reaches only "a tiny proportion of the overall community," and only a few hundred professionals had bagged the certification in the last few years. The certification was designed so that professionals could aspire to it as the peak of the Microsoft certified program.

The company said in an email to IT professionals that Microsoft will no longer offer Masters and Architect level training rotations and will be retiring the Masters level certification exams as of Oct. 1.

"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," Microsoft said in an email, reproduced in a blog post on TechNet by Neil Johnson, a Microsoft senior consultant.

The certifications that will be ended are Microsoft Certified Master, Microsoft Certified Solutions Master and Microsoft Certified Architect. These are top certifications for IT professionals working on Microsoft's products.

"As a Microsoft Certified Master, Microsoft Certified Solutions Master, or Microsoft Certified Architect, you have earned one of the highest certifications available through the Microsoft Certification program," Microsoft said in the mail. "Although individuals will no longer be able to earn these certifications, you will continue to hold the credential and you will not be required to recertify your credential in the future."

The criticism from professionals came fast and strong over the weekend. "It is a clear sign of how Microsoft values the skills of on-premises administrators of all its products (because all the MCSM certifications are going away, not just the one for Exchange)," wrote IT professional and author Paul Robichaux in his blog. "If all your messaging, directory, communications, and database services come from the cloud (or so I imagine the thinking goes), you don't need to spend money on advanced certifications for your administrators who work on those technologies," he wrote.

The decision to end the Masters program was a painful one, wrote Tim Sneath, senior director of Microsoft learning at Microsoft. The cost of running the program did not allow scaling further, and the US$20,000 program was limited to English and the U.S., creating non-technical barriers to entry, he wrote. Microsoft has decided to take a pause from offering the program, and see if there is a better way to have a new pinnacle certification, Sneath added.

Microsoft could not be immediately reached for further comment.

John Ribeiro covers outsourcing and general technology breaking news from India for The IDG News Service. Follow John on Twitter at @Johnribeiro. John's e-mail address is john_ribeiro@idg.com

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