Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer Careers: Job Description & Salary

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Get the truth about a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer's salary, training requirements and career prospects. Read real job descriptions and see the pros and cons of becoming a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer.
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Pros and Cons of Being a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE)

Microsoft Certified Systems Engineers (MSCE) tend to work as systems engineers or administrators, network engineers or administrators and information technology (IT) managers and have expertise in Windows Server 2003 and Microsoft Windows 2000. Take a minute to learn about the pros and cons of being an MCSE.

Pros of Being an MCSE
MCSE employees were earning median salaries of $50,974 - $94,542 in Sept. 2015*
Better-than-average growth at 12% between 2012 and 2022**
The MCSE is a well-known and highly regarded credential***
Upgrade paths to newer certifications enable you to update your skills as technology changes***

Cons of Being an MCSE
Many MSCE exams and certifications have expired as Microsoft transitioned to a new program***
Certification process can be rigorous (1-2 years of experience and 7-8 exams)***
You may need to upgrade to new certifications***
Study materials and exam fees can be costly***

Source(s): *PayScale.com, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Microsoft Learning

Career Information

Job Descriptions and Duties

MCSE certification demonstrates expertise in analyzing business requirements and designing and implementing infrastructures to fit requirements compatible with Windows Server 2003 and Microsoft Windows 2000. According to PayScale.com in 2012, common job titles for those who held MCSE certification were IT manager, systems engineer, systems administrator, network engineer and network administrator. These titles are often combined into one position; for example, an employer might seek an MCSE to serve as both a systems engineer and network administrator.

Computer systems and network engineers resolve issues with applications, systems or networks by designing and implementing solutions. They understand what users need, and they're able to modify system and network requirements accordingly. Network and systems administrators install, monitor, test and support an organization's networks, including its local and wide area networks and Internet systems. They make sure the networks are secure and available to all users and that networks operate smoothly. Finally, IT managers supervise staff and activities surrounding the delivery of computer and information systems in an organization. They lead projects; ensure systems are backed up and kept secure; stay on top of user needs, requirements and problems; and meet with the managers of other departments.

Salary Info

In Sept. 2015, PayScale.com reported that systems administrators were earning median salaries of about $51,000-$95,000. This data is mirrored in U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data for professionals who are in the network and computer systems administrators field. These professionals earned an average annual wage of $79,770 in 2014 and have an expected growth rate of 12% from 2012-2022, which is as fast as the national average growth.

Know the Requirements

Education

Many MCSEs have a bachelor's degree in computer science, IT or a related field; however, there are no formal education requirements for becoming an MCSE. Not all employers require a degree; the proper certifications and equivalent experience suffice for many support positions. If you wish to advance to a high-level position, such as network administrator or IT manager, you may need a bachelor's degree, and you may want to consider earning a master's degree in management information systems or business administration.

Certification

To earn the MCSE credential, you must have 1-2 years of professional experience implementing and administering client and network operating systems. The standard certification for Windows Server 2003 requires passing seven exams: four in networking systems, one in client operating systems, one in design and one elective exam. The messaging and security specialty certifications require eight exams, with the two specialty exams taking the place of one elective exam. According to Microsoft Learning in 2012, several of the MCSE elective and specialty exams had retired, but it was still possible to earn the MSCE credential. MCSE certification does not expire.

Other

Specialization in the proper networks, systems and applications, in addition to training and experience, are the top qualifications employers seek when hiring an MCSE. They also seek candidates who are detail-oriented and self-motivated team players and who have strong communication, interpersonal and troubleshooting skills.

Job Postings from Real Employers

The following are actual jobs posted by employers from May 2012.

  • A full-service freight company in Houston was seeking an MCSE to serve as a network administrator and systems engineer. The ideal candidate would have 3-5 years of system administration experience, including experience with Active Directory, DNS zones and DHCP configuration.
  • An IT consulting firm located in a Maryland had an opening for a systems engineer with MCSE 2003 certification, a bachelor's degree and at least four years of experience working with local area networks.
  • An Internet security company just outside Denver was looking for a senior Microsoft systems engineer to support Windows 2003/2008 server systems. Requirements included MCSE or related certification and experience with Active Directory, Windows Clustering, networked and direct-attached storage technologies, as well as knowledge of other tools, protocols and components.
  • An upstate New York technology solutions provider was searching for a field systems engineer/project manager with MCSE certification and at least three years of experience in Windows and Microsoft Exchange Server administration and network architecture.

How to Stand Out

As an MCSE, you will qualify for positions that require Microsoft certification to work on Windows Server 2003. To stand out to more employers and qualify for positions requiring certification on newer technologies, you can upgrade to either the Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS) or Microsoft Certified IT Professional (MCITP) certification, both for Windows Server 2008.

MCITP certification is available for those who want to become enterprise or server administrators or both, and MCTS certification includes three specializations: Active Directory configuration, network infrastructure configuration and applications infrastructure configuration. Upgrading from an MCSE to an MCTS requires passing only one exam. Once you have an MCTS certification, you only have to complete either the enterprise or server administrator exam or both to become an MCITP.

Other Career Paths

Software Quality Assurance Engineer/Tester

If you enjoy working with Microsoft products but would rather not be responsible for the entire system or networks of an organization, you could apply your skills toward becoming a software quality assurance engineer or tester. These professionals develop and run test programs to identify problems, which they then document and report to software developers. Most quality assurance engineers/testers have a bachelor's degree. According to PayScale.com, the median salary for a quality assurance engineer/tester working in the computer hardware and software industry in 2012 was around $69,000; however, job growth in this field is expected to be slower than average, according to the BLS.

Computer Programmer

If you like the idea of working in a technology field, but you would rather not work directly with users or clients, you could become a computer programmer. Computer programmers write and test the code that makes programs and applications run. They need to be able to translate designs created by software developers into a language computers can understand, and they often choose to specialize in one or more of these programming languages. An associate's degree is sufficient for employment, although many computer programmers have a bachelor's degree. The BLS reported a median salary of about $73,000 in 2011. Jobs for computer programmers are expected to grow about as fast as average from 2010-2020.

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