The Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP) credential is usually the first Microsoft title earned by certification seekers- but it's not for everybody. Here's what you need to know:
MCP Is the Easiest Microsoft Credential to Obtain
The MCP title only requires passing a single test, normally an operating system test like Windows XP or Windows Vista. That means it takes the least amount of time and money to get.
That does not mean, however, that it's a breeze. Microsoft tests a lot of knowledge, and it will be difficult to pass the exam without some time in a helpdesk or network environment.
The MCP Is for Those Who Want to Work on Windows Networks
There are other Microsoft certifications for those who want to work in other areas of IT: for example, databases (Microsoft Certified Database Administrator - MCDBA), software development (Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer - MCSD) or high-level infrastructure design (Microsoft Certified Architect - MCA).
If your goal is to work with Windows servers, Windows-based PCs, end users and other aspects of a Windows network, this is the place to start.
Gateway to Higher-Level Certifications
The MCP is often the first stop on the road to the Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator (MCSA) or Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE) credentials. But it does not have to be. Plenty of folks are happy to get the single certification and have no need, or desire, to move up. But the upgrade path to the MCSA and MCSE is easy, since the test you have to pass will count toward the other titles.
Since the MCSA requires passing four tests, and the MCSE takes seven, getting the MCP will a) Get you that much closer to your goal and b) Help you decide if this type of certification, and career, is for you.
It Leads Most Often to an Entry-Level Job
Hiring managers often look for MCPs to work on a corporate helpdesk. MCPs also find jobs in call centers, or as first-tier support technicians. In other words, it's a foot in the door to a good IT career. Don't expect IBM to hire you as a system administrator after waving your MCP paper in someone's face.
Especially in a tough economy, IT jobs can be scarce. But having a Microsoft certification on your resume can help give you an edge over non-certified candidates. A prospective employer knows you have a base level of knowledge, and the drive to gain knowledge of your prospective, or current, field.
The Average Pay Is High
According to the latest salary survey by respected website mcpmag.com, an MCP can expect a salary of around $70,000. That's not bad at all for a single-test certification.
Keep in mind that those figures take many factors into account, including years of experience, geographic location and other certifications. If you're a career-changer and getting your first job in IT, your salary will quite likely be substantially less than that.
Consider all these factors when deciding whether or not to go for the MCP title. MCPs are well-respected in IT shops, and have skills that can help them on their way to lucrative, satisfying careers.