Microsoft Reverses Course on NT 4.0 MCSE

Microsoft Corp. on Thursday publicly backed off a plan to revoke Microsoft Certified Systems Engineers (MCSE) titles from anyone who hadn't upgraded to a Windows 2000 version of the certification by the end of this year.

In accordance with the decision, Microsoft will recognize two distinct MCSEs. Network administrators who earned the certification on Windows NT 4.0 Server will retain the title of MCSE indefinitely. Those who passed the more rigorous Windows 2000 version of the certification will carry the formal title of MCSE on Microsoft Windows 2000.

The two-track approach also applies to Microsoft Certified Professionals (MCPs). IT professionals can become MCPs by passing one exam. The MCSE title requires a candidate to pass several specific exams.

The two-track approach gives hiring managers more information directly from the certification title on an applicants resume.

Publicly, Microsoft says it historically has retired credentials on older versions of its certifications. "With the increased complexity of IT environments, however, it has become difficult for the company to accurately predict the appropriate timing for such retirements," the company said in a statement.

However, the controversial announcement two years ago that Microsoft would be retiring the MCSE certifications of those who did not upgrade their skills to Windows 2000, has been criticized in part as a heavy-handed attempt to force loyal users to adopt Windows 2000. On the other hand, the more rigorous Windows 2000 certification was a way for Microsoft to address the problem of "paper MCSEs," people who had studied and passed the certification exams but who had no real-world network experience.

In an interview with Microsoft Certified Professional Magazine Wednesday night, Microsoft officials acknowledged the number of MCSEs that had made the jump to the much more strenuous Windows 2000 certification represented a fraction of the total pool of MCSEs.

According to Microsoft, 47,000 MCSEs have been earned under the newer Windows 2000 requirement. That's about 12 percent of the approximately 400,000 MCSEs out there as of August, according to numbers furnished by Microsoft to MCP Magazine.

Had Microsoft proceeded with its original plan, it would have been faced with the prospect of decertifying -- and alienating -- more than 85 percent of its most committed network administrators at the end of this year.

Read MCP Magazine's coverage of the story.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.