Why Microsoft Retired the Windows 10 MCSA
Why Microsoft Retired the Windows 10 MCSA
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Why Microsoft Retired the Windows 10 MCSA

Windows is still a behemoth and the preferred OS of enterprise organizations. In fact, Windows 10 is the most popular OS in the world, holding nearly 40 percent of the desktop OS market share. So, why is Microsoft retiring its MCSA: Windows 10 certification later this month?

Yes, you can blame it partly on the cloud, which is seemingly driving most change in technology and IT. But Microsoft’s decision is rooted in addressing the gap between the knowledge needed to earn IT certifications and the skills needed to thrive on the job.

That’s why soon Windows 10 will be rolled into a new role-based certification that covers skills desktop admins need to to be successful. Let’s take a deeper look at why Microsoft is retiring MCSA: Windows 10, what’s replacing it, and what it means for you.

Shifting from Product to Skills

Do certifications really prepare IT pros for real-world situations? Most IT professionals acknowledge a gap exists, but the real source of concern is the width of that gap. Enter role-based certifications — Microsoft’s response to the relevance of technology-centric certifications.

In an effort to bridge the gap between product and job, Microsoft created role-based certs to better prepare IT professionals for success on the job. In the past, Microsoft certs validated whether IT pros knew a Microsoft product. Role-based certifications, however, align with skills. Not necessarily just product knowledge. Cisco has been doing this for years with their certification program. Note that Cisco doesn’t have a cert called “Cisco IOS Essentials” or “Cisco DNA Expert”. They validate skills based on role. That’s where Microsoft is heading. 

Let’s be honest, the shift to role-based certifications is undoubtedly driven by Microsoft’s desire to fill the cloud skills gap. In recent years, Microsoft has changed gears and put a great emphasis on Azure, its cloud platform. We’re now seeing that creep into their certifications, too.

The first wave of role-based certifications in December replaced Microsoft’s MCSA: Azure certifications. Providing IT professionals with the skills they need to leverage Azure is a win-win for both sides. Organizations need consistency across development environments, operating models, and technology stacks. Azure can provide that as long as the professionals who manage that environment know their stuff. Importantly, the “stuff” required to operate a cloud environment expands beyond product knowledge. It’s an entire skill set, and that’s why role-based certifications make sense. We always knew that. Now, it’s how the certs are structured, too.

You can read more about the new AZ-series certs here

The “New Windows” Cert

MCSA: Windows 10 is being replaced by the Microsoft 365 Certified: Modern Desktop Administrator Associate certification. True to its name, this cert validates desktop admins skills including deploying and maintaining Windows and managing devices and data.  

You might be wondering what’s up with the “Microsoft 365 Certified” bit. It reflects the fact that Microsoft 365 subscription includes access to Office 365, Enterprise Mobility + Security and, you guessed it, Windows 10.

As a result, Microsoft is rolling Windows 10 knowledge skills into its new Office 365 certification. But as we pointed out above, there’s a heavy emphasis on Windows within the new cert. With the OS’s popularity among the enterprise, Windows isn’t fading away any time soon.

Because role-based certifications better measure an IT pro’s ability to perform specific job roles and tasks, it shouldn’t take long for employers to see the value of these certs. According to a  2018 Deloitte survey of middle-market private companies, employers view talent as a differentiator. Companies want to leverage IT talent to capitalize on technology — and it’s not just about product knowledge, but skills.

Whether you’re a newbie or seasoned pro, this is good news for you. Earning the modern Desktop Administrator Associate certification could increase the demand for your skills. But first, you have to pass a couple of exams.

Breaking Down the Modern Desktop Administrator (MD) Exams

With the new cert comes new exams. Candidates for the Microsoft 365 Certified: Modern Desktop Administrator Associate Certification must pass two exams: MD-100: Windows 10 and MD-101: Managing Modern Desktops.

Here’s a quick overview of the two exams, which CBT Nuggets trainer Anthony Sequeira is in the process of creating training for.

MD-100: Windows 10

The new MD-100 exam measures your ability to perform the following administrative tasks:

  • Deploying Windows: Deploying Windows 10 and performing post-installation configuration,
  • Managing Devices and Data: Managing local users, local groups, and devices, configuring data access and protection, configure devices using local policies, and manage Windows security,
  • Configuring Connectivity: Configuring networking and remote connectivity, and
  • Maintaining Windows: Configuring system and data recovery, managing updates, and monitoring and managing Windows.

MD-101: Managing Modern Desktops

The MD-101 exam builds on the basic OS-oriented admin tasks covered by MD-100. It addresses the more general areas of planning, managing and securing Windows, applications, and data:

  • Deploying and Updating Operating Systems: Planning and implementing Windows 10 by using dynamic deployment as well as by using Windows Autopilot, upgrading devices to Windows 10, managing updates, and managing device authentication,
  • Managing Policies and Profiles: Planning and implementing co-management, implementing conditional access and compliance policies for devices, configuring device profiles, and managing user profiles,
  • Managing and Protecting Devices: Managing Windows Defender, managing Intune device enrollment and inventory, and monitoring devices, and
  • Managing Apps and Data: Deploying and updating applications and implementing Mobile Application Management (MAM).

Transitioning from MCSA: Windows 10

What if you have earned (or are close to earning) MCSA: Windows 10 certification?

Good news! Your MCSA: Windows 10 certification will not expire and has value until Windows 10 reaches end-of-life. Even then, it will remain on your Microsoft transcript under “Legacy” certifications — long after the cert retires March 31, 2019.  

Microsoft also has made it easier for MCSA: Windows 10 cert holders to upgrade to the Microsoft 365 Certified: Modern Desktop Administrator Associate. They only have to pass the MD-101 exam.

Likewise, if you were on the MCSA track and have passed the 70-968 exam, you only need to pass the MD-101 exam to obtain the Microsoft 365 Certified: MDAA certification.

The Modern Desktop Administrator certification sets learners up nicely to earn Microsoft 365 Certified: Enterprise Administrator Expert certification, which will validate their Windows 10 skills.

Wrapping Up

Microsoft’s decision to retire MCSA: Windows 10 may have seemed a strange move. But it was for good reason: To address very real concerns about the availability of relevant IT skills — especially for cloud implementations. The move to role-based training and certification should help bridge that gap with better-prepared admin professionals.

To become a new and improved MDAA, you’ll still need to be an expert in Windows 10, along with its bells and whistles. You’ll also need to learn the totality of what is expected of a desktop administrator. Windows 10 isn’t going anywhere. Like we pointed out, it’s still the most popular OS out there.

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