Microsoft Certified Professional Careers: Salary & Job Descriptions

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What are the pros and cons of a career as a Microsoft Certified Professional? Get real job descriptions, career outlook and salary information to see if becoming a Microsoft Certified Professional is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Career as a Microsoft Certified Professional

Microsoft Certified Professionals include a variety of different computer and technology-related careers, such as information technology (IT) management or software development. Read on to learn about the pros and cons of a career in Microsoft Certified fields to see if they are right for you.

Pros of a Microsoft Certified Professional Career
Average growth is expected in hiring of network and computer systems administration - a subset of information technology management (12% growth is expected between 2012 and 2022)*
A variety of career opportunities exist (From operating system software or application software development or computer system management)*
High growth in hiring of software developers is expected in the decade between 2012 and 2022 (23% projected for applications software development)*
In software development, there may be an element of creativity as you design applications and programs for others to use*

Cons of a Microsoft Certified Professional Career
These professionals primarily work in indoor offices*
These fields are constantly evolving and professionals will need to keep up with frequent technological advances*
Certification programs may take a year to obtain after the bachelor's degree*
Both fields can be stressful for those who run their own businesses (You'll have to work hard to find and keep clients)*

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics*

Career Information

Job Description

What you do on a daily basis will depend on the profession you choose. If you go into software development, you'll use your knowledge of programming and data structures to create system and application software for home and commercial use. If you choose IT management, you'll use your knowledge of network construction and how networks work to ensure that those networks and systems function properly. A software developer can specialize in operating systems or on specific programs. They'll write code for programs and fix problems in the programs during testing and development. IT managers look at a bigger picture to determine how a computer network can run more efficiently.

Job Outlook

After a substantial growth pace that doubled that of all occupations in the earlier portion of the decade, the BLS predicts hiring of network and system administrators will taper off to an average rate of growth (12%) through 2022. While investment as technology changes is expected to drive the increase and prospects are best for those with bachelor's degrees in computer science, the introduction of cloud computing has made the industry more efficient and reduced the need for administrators.

For software developers, the job outlook is much faster - an increase of 23% increase in hiring for applications developers and 20% for systems software developers is projected through 2022. As smartphone technology becomes more ubiquitous over the next decades, the BLS projects that the need for software applications will increase in turn.

Salary Information

There were 382,400 systems software developers working in the United States in May 2014. Many of those reported a median wage of $102,880. Those working in software publishing reported earnings of $106,210, while the highest paying industry, petroleum and coal products, paid an annual mean wage of $155,210 in the same time frame. Professionals in California reported earnings of $124,070 annually.

There were 686,470 application software developers employed nationwide in May 2014. These individuals reported a median annual salary of $95,510 in that same period. Again, computer system design was the highest-employing industry for application developers (35%), while software publishing was second (10%), according to the BLS. Location also plays a role in the wages of software developers; application developers in California reported earnings of $106,660 annually.

There were 365,430 network and system administrators working in the U.S. in May 2014. These individuals reported a median annual salary of $75,790, and most worked in the computer system design industry (17%), although the BLS notes that management of companies and enterprises had the second-highest level of employment of developers (6.5%). Location had an effect on one's salary-- those in California reported an annual mean wage of $88,470.

What Are the Requirements?

Education and Training Requirements

Depending on the field you choose, you'll need a bachelor's degree in computer information science or software engineering. For an aspiring IT professional, computer information science is a common choice for a bachelor's degree. You'll study database management, information systems, and information management. Project management, hardware and software for information systems, enterprise development, and application development are also required courses. You may have the option to complete internships to gain experience prior to graduation. In a software engineering program, you can expect to take multiple courses in software engineering principles, software architecture, verification, and evaluation. Other required classes include ethics in software engineering, project management, and programming languages.

To obtain the Microsoft Certified IT Professional (MCITP) credential, you'll have to determine which credential you want - for a Windows server, client certification or another of the five available server certifications. Each requires that a candidate pass at least two, and sometimes more, exams. The certifications are valid until Microsoft has released two successive versions of the technology, according to Microsoft (www.microsoft.com).

The Microsoft Certified Professional Developer (MCPD) credential requires 2-3 years of relevant work experience. Microsoft offers multiple MCPD credentials for six different platforms - including Microsoft Visual Studio 2010, Windows phones, and Silverlight 4. Each of the platforms may have experience requirements to qualify, in addition to successfully completing a number of exams. For example, an individual pursuing MCDP certification for Silverlight must have 2-3 years experience.

What Are Employers Looking For?

Employers tend to seek software developers and IT managers who have experience. A bachelor's degree in computer science or software development is a common requirement. A variety of job listings available in April 2012 revealed that employers are looking for applicants who can work as part of a team, who have experience in router and server administration as well as experience in a variety of programming languages. Here is a sampling of jobs available in April 2012:

  • A Texas company seeks a software developer to help in refactoring databases, profiling applications to optimize performance and to work on other projects as needed.
  • A Pennsylvania company seeks a software developer to help in creation of new programs, updating of existing programs and assisting with design documentation. This individual must have a bachelor's degree and should have 3-7 years experience working with Microsoft Silverlight, Visual Studio and programming languages, like CSS and HTML.
  • A Colorado-based company seeks a software developer to plan, design and develop Internet-based applications and systems. This individual should be able to work collaboratively as they create documentation to describe every step of the software development process and work with others to solve problems in software programs. This person should have at least seven years of related work experience, five years working with Microsoft SQL servers and have a bachelor's degree in computer science.

How to Stand Out

To stand out from the crowd, you have several options - you can earn further professional certification or build your skills by earning a graduate certificate. You may also consider internships to gain experience, as many employers require several years' experience.

Gain Further Professional Certification

Some employers seek network administrators with professional certification specific to security, like the Check Point Certified Security Administrator (CCSA) credential. The CCSA credential requires knowledge of Internet protocols, networking, and servers. The required exam covers topics like deployment platforms and security, user management, software authentication, and traffic monitoring.

Gain Further Education

If you don't want to go back to school for two years to earn a master's degree, you can consider a graduate certificate in software development or IT administration. Graduate certificates in software development include the study of enterprise software systems, object-oriented design, and software architecture. Graduate certificates in IT administration include study of Internet protocols, wireless network security, and operating systems. These certificates can be completed in as little as a year.

Alternative Career Possibilities

If you're interested in network administration but want to work with computer systems instead of networks, consider a career as a database administrator. You'd be responsible for organizing data, consolidating old and new databases, creating backups to guard against data loss, and making changes to databases when needed. You'll need a bachelor's degree in a computer related field, and you may have to work your way up from a position as a data analyst. The BLS notes that in May 2011, there were 108,500 database administrators working nationwide. Many of those professionals reported earning between $42,360-$116,870 annually, as of May 2011.

You could consider a career as a computer systems analyst as well. You would work with company officials to determine the most efficient use of IT systems, to develop new systems and train other staff members. You may also be required to write user manuals. There are several types of analysts, including systems architects, systems analysts, and software quality analysts.

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