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Please help. Self-learning your microsoft certification?

Discussion in 'Training & Development' started by coops, Jun 30, 2005.

  1. coops

    coops Bit Poster

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    Hi guys,

    I've had ambitions to become microsoft certified for many months now, but I still haven't taken the plunge. The reason? Finances ofcourse. I would really struggle to pay the £3000 - £5000 quoted from various 'reputable' training companies, and I cannot get a Career Development Loan because of past credit problems.

    I'm pretty flexible as to what certification to do, because ultimately I want to do as many as I can over the next few years, so that I have multiple skills thus becoming more desirable to employers. I just want to get my foot in the IT door.

    My question is this:

    Is it possible to self learn a microsoft certification? And what would be the 'easiest' or more practical certification to take first?

    The feeling I get from my own personal research and reading other peoples experiences, is the difference between self learning and paying a Computeach or NITLC, is that you get various days classroom tuition with a traing company whereas self learn, you are on your own. Is this accurate?

    If I need to give more input please let me know I will be happy to oblige.

    Thank you,

    Coops
     
  2. KeithNN

    KeithNN Byte Poster

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    You CAN self study for the MCPs - but that depends on the type of person and your experience/access to hands on. The training providers tend to be more successful because several thousands of pounds is one hell of a motivation to keep going! I'm doing the MCSA with the ICS courses - which is almost self study (you get big thick books and a Netg CD for each course) because there's very little support.

    "Easiest" cert to take first (of the Microsoft ones -A+ would probably be your best start!) is the Desktop ones - 270 for XP for example. I know there's a huge leap in difficulty between the 270 and 290 (Server 2003) which catches a lot of people out after being lulled into a false sense of security! But then again, the first one depends on the route and direction you're going...
     
    Certifications: MCSA/MCSE, MCDST, MOS Mstr, Sec+,Net+,A+
    WIP: 70-284
  3. tripwire45
    Honorary Member

    tripwire45 Zettabyte Poster

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    Well...up to a point. What would really make a difference is working in an actual Microsoft Enterprise network. You could probably get started with self-study, a handful of texts and a small home lab, but that will only get you so far. Achieving your MCSE will most likely require that you have actual real world experience working in a Microsoft network. You can only simulate just so much before you have to get your hands on the real thing. JMHO.
     
    Certifications: A+ and Network+
  4. Jellyman_4eva

    Jellyman_4eva Byte Poster

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    I agree with Tripwire here.

    I self studied for Windows XP exams primarily because I had used it for a while and had a feel for it etc..

    I am now looking to self study the MCSA/MCSE courses but it is hard, because in real life job situations you actually have tasks you need to do with the OS, whereas for self study you are just following the books labs etc which I feel will not prepare you enough for the exams.

    And unfortunately this where the cycle kicks in, you need qualifications/experience to get into the real life job situations, but you need the real life job situations to get the qualifications/experience etc.

    It is tough for newcomers I feel. I have done the MCDST exams from Microsoft, these are the lowest Microsoft go in terms of ability, but I believe they are a good first step as you can easily self study for them and should enable you to hopefully get a job in Desktop Support/Helpdesk...

    From there you can work up - You just got to get in! In my job because I have shown interest in what the more advanced guys do, they now teach me/let me do stuff with them and I think a lot of places are similar.

    Also I would recommend A+ and Network+ from Comptia as they give you vendor neutral (i.e. they are not from Microsoft, or HP or Intel or any company) qualifications which are ideal for people to get in to jobs with, and they also can be used as part of an MCSA I believe.
     
    Certifications: MCDST, MCITP-EDST/EDA/EA/SA/ MCSA 2K3/2K8, MCSE+M 2K3/2K8, ISA/TMG, VCP3/4, CCNA, Exchange, SQL, Citrix, A+, N+, L+, Sec+, Ser+, JNCIA-SSL, JNCIS-SSL
    WIP: Lots
  5. Mitzs
    Honorary Member

    Mitzs Ducktape Goddess

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    Sorry Trip but weather you realize it or not. You have several friends that are self train MCSE certified that aren't in the field. :biggrin

    However coop you will need hands on to help you understand what is going on. 2 computers will work 3 or more is better. It an investment in yourself. So is really worth it. There are some really good books out there to help you plus MS has a lot great stuff if you can find it. They even have free server software that you can use for so many months. I think it like 180 days if I remeber right. It atleast gives you time till you can save up to buy your own stuff.
     
    Certifications: Microcomputers and network specialist.
    WIP: Adobe DW, PS
  6. tripwire45
    Honorary Member

    tripwire45 Zettabyte Poster

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    That may well be true and I didn't say it was impossible to do the whole thing self-study, I just think it's better if you actually put your hands on a real, live network once in awhile. In my opinion, you'll learn more about how actual Microsoft networks operate.
     
    Certifications: A+ and Network+
  7. coops

    coops Bit Poster

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    Thanks for the advice so far guys.

    There has been some new developments. Bear with me here.....

    Over the the last few months I have tirelessly called IT Training Companies and such like, trying to get some impartial advice as to what Microsoft Certification what suit my skills and experience, and what would open up the most opportunities for me. It has been a long slog with little results to show for, hence why I am still no nearer to becoming certified. Advice given so far has simply been based around the course content and nothing more.

    That was until earlier today. By stroke of luck I found what looked to be a quality IT Training Company. I called them and spoke to a Training Advisor called Richard. I told him I wanted to get my foot in the IT door, but had no real experience to speak of. To cut a long story shory, this guy was excellent and very knowledgeable. He advised me to stay clear of the MCAD/MCSD (he explained this alone would not be enough for most potential employers because they expect developers / programmers to have past experience in the work environment and proven ability, and that most people that take the MCAD/MCSD come from a programming/developer background already). He advised me to look at the MCSA/MCSE. He explained potential employers would take that Certification at face value and that is would be an excellent first step into IT.

    His entry model into IT was this:

    1. Systems
    2. Databases
    3. Programming

    He explained this was a natural progression and that doing the MCSD would be like entering at the most difficult stage.

    Makes sense don't you think?

    Onto the self-learn query. He DID say that it could be done, and they offer such training, however he explained the many drawbacks. Let me give you an example. A 5 day training course for the first module would consist of 40 hours with a Qualified Trainer (5 days x 8 hours a day). The knowledge that can be gained in just those five days would be substantial and even spending double that self learning would not come close. And I agree.

    I think if I am going to do this, if I am investing in my future, the least I could do is give myself the best shot. Crikey, when you think Driving Instructor Schools are charging nearly £3000 to become qualified, I think I can afford a little more than that to become an MCSE.

    I'm going to take the MCSA first, at a little under £2800. I get 18 days of classroom training for that. When I achieve my MCSA, i'll pay the extra £1700 for the MCSE.

    Man I can't wait.

    Thanks for your info guys. If you want to chime in about my thoughts above feel free and I'll respond accordingly.

    Coops
     
  8. mrobinson52

    mrobinson52 Security Maven Gold Member

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    As a former trainer at a Certification Mill, I have to warn you that in all likelihood, if the school is a CTEC, they will just trot you through the exercises in the Microsoft Official Curruiculum (MOC), which is well known to be not NEARLY enough to pass any of the tests. You will need much additional self study. I am very fond of the Sybex books, since they are very careful to cover the published objectives.

    If you can afford test simulations, they do not come any better than Transcender, although these are really expensive. Beware the braindumps and the really cheap test "simulations", since they do not give you questions of the types you will get on the real deal. I also did some question writing for one of the cheaper test "simulators" (Multiple choice only).

    Good luck on your studies, and asking questions here is one of the best resources you can find! :D
     
    Certifications: A+, Network+, MCSA:Security, Security+
    WIP: CISSP
  9. The_Geek

    The_Geek Megabyte Poster

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    And to add a footnote.....

    Just as soon as you pass you first M$ exam and get your MCP number, order the Action Pack from M$.

    M$ Action Pack
     
    Certifications: CompTIA and Micro$oft
    WIP: PDI+
  10. mrobinson52

    mrobinson52 Security Maven Gold Member

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    Assuming you can afford it... :blink
     
    Certifications: A+, Network+, MCSA:Security, Security+
    WIP: CISSP
  11. The_Geek

    The_Geek Megabyte Poster

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    Yeah, I understand the price has gone up $50 from last year.
     
    Certifications: CompTIA and Micro$oft
    WIP: PDI+
  12. Mitzs
    Honorary Member

    Mitzs Ducktape Goddess

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    You have no exp at all with comps and networks coop? If that is the case, you better forget about mcse just for the moment and start with A+ and N+ by comptia.
     
    Certifications: Microcomputers and network specialist.
    WIP: Adobe DW, PS
  13. mrobinson52

    mrobinson52 Security Maven Gold Member

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    True! Your MCSE training will assume the basic knowledge tht you get with A+ and Network+. The combo of those two certs also counts as an elective towards the MCSA. You really need a good foundation before you step up to the big leagues. The problem is that A+ and Network+ are more expensive certs to get. :(
     
    Certifications: A+, Network+, MCSA:Security, Security+
    WIP: CISSP
  14. Phoenix
    Honorary Member

    Phoenix 53656e696f7220 4d6f64

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    I disagree somewhat, systems and programming are totally seperate fields of IT, why on earth would you get a mid level qualification (MCSE) in one, only to go on and change career tracks?
    If you want to be a programer, learn programming, put some time into some open source projects, write your own stuff, then you have a good few points to mark up on your CV

    If you want to get into systems, thats a whole different field, learn which aspect appeals to you and lean in that direction, an MCSE is a bit of a given requirement these days whatever path you follow into the systems realm, be it networking, security, systems, whatever

    if your comfortable with hardware dont waste your time with the A+, if you know networking inside and out skip the N+ (infact the N+ really isnt a requirement, you could just got A+ -> MCSE, and if you know hardware skip A+ all together) however if you dont plan on ever getting a CCNA (networks) then do the N+, the foundation information is invaluable to an administrator, if you DO decide to compliment an MCSE with a CCNA, dont bother with the N+
     
    Certifications: MCSE, MCITP, VCP
    WIP: > 0
  15. Sarah

    Sarah Byte Poster

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    "Onto the self-learn query. He DID say that it could be done, and they offer such training, however he explained the many drawbacks. Let me give you an example. A 5 day training course for the first module would consist of 40 hours with a Qualified Trainer (5 days x 8 hours a day). The knowledge that can be gained in just those five days would be substantial and even spending double that self learning would not come close"

    Sorry but that is the biggest load of bullsh*t I have heard for a long time - As per my company the guy you spoke to probably gets a larger commision from classroom training then from self paced learning - I know about both - so .... you really need a blended learning aproach, some self paced learning, tutor support and virtual labs ...

    Everyone is different - we all learn and take in information in different ways think about how you learn best and how you will best progress into a career.
     
  16. coops

    coops Bit Poster

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    Hi guys, thanks for the advice so far.

    mrobinson52, what is a CTEC (I believe this company is a Microsoft Partner if that makes any difference?), and how would one know if a Training Company is going to simply go through the exercises in the Microsoft Official Curruiculum (MOC)? Wouldn't it be a case of finding out on the day the classroom study begins or is there a way of finding out prior to that? Furthermore, in your opinion, what extra (that is, more than simply plodding through the standard curriculum) do you believe a training company should be offering? I agree with your point on self study. I don't believe this company was saying I should not self study, more that I should combine the two - classroom training, then self study to consolidate what has been learnt.

    Mitzs, I believe Microsoft have recently included the A+ Certification as one of the options in their MCSA qualification. As for N+ (I assume you mean Net+?), I believe this is still a seperate stand alone qualification. Thank you for bringing this to my attention. I'm wondering why the IT Training Advisor did not bring this up. He had excellent knowledge of the courses and the IT industry in general. I'm going to ask him later today and get back to you. I think Phoenix covers your comment aswell.

    Phoenix, i'm a bit of a hands on person to be perfectly honest. Programming does appeal to me but less so than the hands on benefit to Systems. Now, I have to say I do not know networking inside and out, so I'm going to put your concern to the IT Training Advisor I will be calling later. I'll get back to you on what he says.

    Thanks again guys,

    Coops
     
  17. KeithNN

    KeithNN Byte Poster

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    That option was introduced about 2 or 3 years ago if I recall correctly. Network+ (or N+ if you prefer) is a stand-alone qualification, as is the A+ or any of the other pluses from CompTIA. I'm sure you're aware, but I'll point it out just in case, that the A+ alone isn't an option for the MCSA... you need the (A+ with Network+) OR (A+ with Server+). Security+ is the other CompTIA qualification you can use as an elective (for either MCSA or MCSE!).
     
    Certifications: MCSA/MCSE, MCDST, MOS Mstr, Sec+,Net+,A+
    WIP: 70-284
  18. coops

    coops Bit Poster

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    OK, I just got off the phone to Richard, the IT Training Advisor. Normally I would not take much notice from an 'advisor' as they are usually sales people, and Richard may be just that, but he seems to have extensive knowledge of the courses and the IT industry in general and I genuinely believe he knows what he's talking about.

    I put it to him regarding A+ and N+. He advised A+ was not necessary because in his experience it is unlikely a company would expect you to act as PC maintenance, that a PC engineer would already be employed or be part of the PC warranty. He did say knowledge is power and the more knowledge you have the better (just like learning spanish would help if you were going on holiday to Spain), so if I wanted more strings to my bow, do the A+. But to achieve the MCSE, A+ was not necessary at all.

    Regarding N+, he said this course was a good generic networking course but within the MCSE, more microsoft specifc networking training was covered. That taking the N+ would simply be overlapping the info covered in MCSE, but not as specific. He did say all students are sent a pack covering the basics of networking (terminology) that must be studied before commencement of the course. But the fundamentals of networking are covered in the MCSE.

    Regarding the route into IT, I misunderstood him. He said, as a newbie, with no experience at all, if you are simply looking for a route into IT, he rates systems as the 'easiest' (perhaps more simpler is a better description) route, then databases, then programming. He was not suggesting one goes through the whole lot. He was simply putting them in order of what he felt was the easier path into IT.

    Coops
     
  19. Sarah

    Sarah Byte Poster

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    Which company Coops?
     
  20. Phoenix
    Honorary Member

    Phoenix 53656e696f7220 4d6f64

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    thanks for clearing that up Coops, it makes a bit more sense now
    however i must still advise a dedicated network cert to go with (or before) the MCSE, a solid understanding of networking in general is a godsend, and will help you immensley, you need to know more than just the microsoft way

    I find the CCNA covers this very well, perhaps the CCNA (a much shorter course than the MCSE) would be appropriate first? this knowledge will help you get through the MCSE, and may open a door or two on the way (most places use windows kit and cisco kit, so its all useful stuff)

    just an idea :)
     
    Certifications: MCSE, MCITP, VCP
    WIP: > 0

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