Certifications, offered by various vendors are a good way for IT professionals to seek validation for their skills. In today’s arena, there are lots of vendors offering specialization in particular domains. Professionals often get confused about which certification to go for as some of them have as little as hair thin difference between them. It is best to first identify your job role, the knowledge and skills required and accordingly select to take a particular certification to ensure career success.

Let us in this article try and get some clarity between two major certifications of Microsoft i.e. MCSE and MCSA which are often confused upon.


For a MCSE ( candidate, it is preferable that he should have at least two years of experience in implementing and administering desktop and network operating systems, and designing a network infrastructure in the typically complex computing environment of medium-to-large organizations. The candidate should also have at least one year of experience administering Exchange Server environments involving multiple physical locations, mixed connection protocols, and Internet messaging.

MCSE has two tracks Microsoft Windows 2000 and Microsoft Windows 2003. The 2003 track requires 6 Core Exams, 1 Elective Exam and 2 Upgrade Exams to be cleared.

Core Exam include:

Group I: 70-290, 70-291, 70-293;

Group II: 70-270, 70-210; Group III: 70-297, 70-298.

Elective Exams include:

70-086, 70-227, 70-228, 70-229, 70-232, 70-281, 70-282, 70-284, 70-285, 70-297, 70-298, 70-299, and 70-301.

Upgrade Exams include

70-292 or 70-296.

Either CompTIA Security+ or Unisys UNO-101 can be substituted in place of the elective exams.


The need for qualified system administrators is very real in today’s business market and the excitement for MCSA ( is growing daily. A candidate for MCSA should have at least one year of experience working with a desktop operating system, a network operating system, and an existing network infrastructure. As soon as candidates pass their first qualifying exam for the MCSA program, they achieve a Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP) certification.

MCSA also has two tracks Microsoft Windows 2000 track and Microsoft Windows 2003 track. MCSA 2003 requires 3 Core Exams, 1 Elective exam and 1 Upgrade exam to be cleared.

Core Exams include:

Group I: 70-290, 70-291

Group II: 70-270, 70-210

Elective Exams include

70-086, 70-227, 70-228, 70-284, and 70-299

Upgrade Exams include


What’s the difference between MCSE & MCSA?

Let us look at a few major differences between the two certifications which will help you get a clearer idea about them:

MCSA ( when compared to MCSE ( is a basic level certification. As an MCSA you must know every thing about implementing, managing, and troubleshooting the existing network and system environments based on the Microsoft Windows Operating Systems. However, you will not be responsible to set up new networks and systems as a part of your job function. But as a MCSE knowledge about designing and deploying new networks and systems is necessary.

Being an MCSA professional means that you will be able to implement, manage, and maintain the typically complex computing environment of medium-to large-sized companies. On the other hand, being an MCSE professional you will be able to plan, design, and implement Microsoft Windows server solutions and architectures in medium-to large-sized companies.

The experience that is required for both these certifications is also different. MCSA requires 6–12 months of experience of administering client and network operating systems while MCSE requires at least one year of experience in implementing and administering network operating systems and desktop operating systems.

Jobs for an MCSA include systems administrator, network administrator, information systems administrator, network operations analyst, network technician, or technical support specialist. For an MCSE jobs include systems engineer, network engineer, systems analyst, network analyst, or technical consultant.

MCSA provides you with a credential that represents a set of skills which will be advantageous if you plan to pursue MCSE Certification. Therefore, earning an MCSA will qualify you with the option to use these credentials and acquire MCSE through Upgrade path to MCSE.

If you look carefully, both these exams although similar to each other specialize in different domains. A clear understanding of both the certifications is necessary before you decide which one to opt for. So make the right choice and get going!!


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