MCSE Careers: Salary Info & Job Description

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Get the truth about a Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert's salary, training requirements and career prospects. Read the job description and see the pros and cons of becoming a Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert.
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Pros and Cons of a Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert Career

Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE) is a credential that Microsoft offers to IT professionals who are skilled in the design and implementation of business solutions using a wide range of technologies. Read on to learn about the positive and negative aspects of an MCSE career.

Pros of an MCSE Career
High earning potential (about $80,000-$87,000 on average per year depending on job title)*
Faster-than-average expected job growth (12%-25% from 2012-2022 depending on position)*
Several specialties are available for computer systems analysts (system architecture, programming and software quality assurance)*
Required computer science bachelor's degree can apply to various other IT careers*

Cons of an MCSE Career
Often requires years of experience in the IT field**
Usually requires professional certification, such as the MCSE or other credentials**
Often involves overtime and unusual hours*
Computer systems analysts may need to travel to meet with clients*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **May 2012 job postings.

Career Information

Job Description

Computer systems analysts evaluate organizations' computer systems and research potential changes to those systems. They report on how to make systems better and conduct tests to ensure proper and efficient operation. Network administrators, on the other hand, focus on how computer networks, like local area networks (LANs), wide area networks (WANs) and intranets, are organized. This can involve installing and maintaining network systems, including their hardware and software components, as well as providing technical support to network users. In either of these careers, you may also train other employees to use the company's computer systems and troubleshoot to fix any problems that occur.

Salary Info and Job Outlook

As of May 2014, the roughly 528,000 computer systems analysts working nationwide reported an average salary of about $87,000, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). During the same year, there were around 365,000 network and computer systems administrators employed in the nation earning an average salary of about $80,000. A majority of both of these types of workers were employed in the computer systems design industry, which offered average salaries of about $91,000 per year for computer systems analysts and about $84,000 for network and computer systems administrators.

In addition to above-average salaries, these professionals were expected to have faster-than-average job growth in the coming years; the BLS reports that employment of computer systems analysts was projected to grow 25% from 2012-2022, while that of network and computer systems administrators was projected to grow by 12%.

Education and Training Requirements

For a career in an MCSE-related job, you'll generally need a bachelor's degree in computer science, information science or another related field. A 4-year degree in computer science, for example, prepares you for an IT career with coursework in object-oriented programming, software design, data structures and operating systems.

If you choose to augment your qualifications by earning the MCSE credential, you'll need to already be a Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA), an entry-level credential that requires passage of three exams in either Windows Server 2008 or SQL Server. You'll then have to choose one of multiple types of MCSE certification to pursue: MCSE for SQL Server 2012, which comes in either the data platform or business intelligence specializations, or MCSE for Private Cloud. Certification involves passage of two exams and must be renewed every three years by passing a recertification exam.

Essential Skills

Both computer systems analysts and network and computer systems administrators need a technology-specific skill set to apply their IT knowledge to business settings. You'll need to be an analytical thinker in order to evaluate systems, and you'll need to be a strong decision maker in order to come up with and implement solutions to problems. Communication skills are also beneficial, since you'll often work as part of teams and oversee other employees.

Job Postings from Real Employers

When searching for candidates for MCSE positions, employers often look for applicants with multiple years of experience in the IT field and the MCSE or other applicable credentials. They also look for individuals who are familiar with the tools and applications that their companies utilize. What follows is a sampling of MCSE-related jobs that were available in May 2012.

  • A Texas freight company seeks a network administrator/systems engineer who holds the MCSE credential and 3-5 years of systems administration experience. Candidates also need to be familiar with IP and networking concepts and tools, like WANs, LANs and firewalls.
  • A Nevada software development company seeks a network administrator to maintain multiple networks, provide technical support and create implementation plans. This person must have MCSE certification or the Microsoft Certified Professional credential as well as Microsoft Certified IT Professional (MCITP) and Sonic Wall certifications.
  • A Texas truck and carrier company seeks a network administrator to configure and install new and replacement workstations at remote locations. Applicants need a bachelor's degree and 1-2 years of experience.
  • An aerospace and defense technology company based in Washington, DC, seeks a senior computer systems analyst to maintain system monitoring tools, design application enhancements and troubleshoot network problems. The applicant needs active top secret clearance from the Department of Defense and a bachelor's degree.

How to Stand Out From the Crowd

Earn Additional Certifications

To stand out from the other applicants for these positions, you could earn additional professional certifications, like the MCITP credential. To earn the MCITP credential, you must choose from a range of specializations, including Lync, SharePoint and SQL servers. Candidates must pass 2-5 exams depending on the certification specialty.

Get Educated in Business

Since you'll be applying your IT expertise to companies and enterprises, you may benefit from familiarizing yourself with the business side of the profession. In fact, the BLS notes that computer systems analysts with backgrounds in business should have stronger job prospects. You can acquire this by taking business courses while earning your computer-related degree. Another option is to earn a degree that combines IT with business, such as a Bachelor of Science in Management Information Systems. In this program, you'll prepare for the career with courses in finance, marketing, systems design and administration, databases, programming and project management.

Alternative Career Options

If you're interested in working with computers, but you're not ready for the advanced duties of of a computer systems analyst or network and computer systems administrator position, consider a career as a computer programmer. In this profession, you'll write the code that comprises software programs. You'll generally need a bachelor's degree related to computer science, and this position can serve as a springboard for advancement to a computer systems analyst or other IT management position. Keep in mind that this is a lower-level position that offers lower pay and job prospects; the BLS reports that computer programmers earned a mean salary of about $76,000 as of May 2011 and that jobs in this field were expected to grow 12% from 2010-2020.

If you want a career that requires a bachelor's degree in or related to computer science, but you want better job prospects and salary potential, consider a career as a software developer. In this job, you'll specialize in either systems software or application software development. Systems software developers earned a mean salary of about $100,000 as of May 2011, while applications software developers earned a mean salary of about $92,000, according to the BLS. The BLS also reports that jobs in this field were projected to grow at a much-faster-than-average rate of 30% from 2010-2020.

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