What is an MTA certificate?

The Microsoft credential could give your IT career a boost

Woman and man in a server room

If you’re starting your career working with Microsoft products, then having a Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA) certification adds value to your resume.

According to Microsoft, an MTA certificate is the entry-level certification for anybody who wants to start a career in the IT industry or is thinking about changing their career to one in the IT industry. It’s geared toward beginners, IT generalists, and students who lack technical experience or specialization and want to build a career in desktop or server infrastructure or private cloud computing.

It’s an online certification program that allows people to demonstrate the skills they’ve gained by devoting time and effort to learn something new. MTA certification mainly centers on beginners to boost career progression. 

The exams offer the fundamentals for Databases (MSSQL Server), Development (Visual Studio), and IT Infrastructure (Windows, Windows Server).

MTA exams and certification are part of the Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP) program. These exams are the first step to attaining advanced certifications such as the Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA), Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE), and Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer (MCSD).

Rather than merely asserting your understanding on your resume, having an MTA certification emphasizes your abilities. There’s no need for an employer to figure out if you fully understand everything you claim to. 

Having an MTA certification can be enormously helpful when changing career paths or trying a new specialism. As a beginner in IT, it’s essential to show potential employers how you differ from other qualified candidates – if another candidate has similar experience, having an MTA certificate could set you apart from the competition.

How to get an MTA certificate

There are a few MTA certifications to choose from, but many target those that help with specialization. To get MTA certified, a person must pass at least one of 12 exams in the MTA program.

Microsoft provides three recommended tracks of exams classified by the career the learner wants to follow.

There are five exams in the MTA IT infrastructure track, which is for those building a career in desktop or server infrastructure or private cloud computing. These are Mobility and Device Fundamentals, Security Fundamentals, Networking Fundamentals, Windows Server Administration Fundamentals, and Windows Operating System Fundamentals. 

The MTA development track is aimed at students building a career as a software developer. This track helps prepare for hands-on product training and Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer (MCSD) certification. Students can start with MTA Software Development Fundamentals and then select the additional topics in this track to help with developing a career.

The other exams in this track are Introduction to Programming Using Java, Introduction to Programming Using HTML and CSS, Introduction to Programming Using JavaScript, and Introduction to Programming Using Python.

For those targeting a career in data platform administration or business intelligence, the MTA database track has one exam, Database Fundamentals. This exam is for those seeking to prove introductory knowledge and skills with databases, including relational databases such as Microsoft SQL Server or Windows Azure SQL Database.

Students can combine this exam with the IT infrastructure exams to prepare for Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA) training and certification.

Where to get an MTA certificate

To get MTA certified, a student must take and pass one or more exams in the MTA program. MTA certificate exams cost around $127 (prices may vary in other countries). The exams assume the student has some hands-on experience but don’t assume they’ve had experience in a technology role.

Students can prepare for an exam through a free online learning tool provided by Microsoft or a paid, tutor-led course. 

In light of COVID-19, learning online seems to be the safest way of getting a certificate.

One place where potential learners can prepare themselves for an MTA certificate is Microsoft Learn. This replaces the Microsoft Virtual Academy and provides students with a free, interactive, hands-on training platform to develop in-demand technical skills related to widely used Microsoft products and services.

The platform combines short step-by-step training, browser-based interactive coding and scripting environments, and task-based achievements to help students learn skills and prepare for Microsoft certifications.

Whereas Microsoft Virtual Academy facilitated learning primarily through recorded training videos organized into learning paths for specific topic areas, Microsoft Learn features learning plans consisting of written content with embedded hands-on labs. Training content is organized into learning paths, modules, and units. 

Students must go through an online portal to schedule and set up a certification exam. For example, on the Pearson VUE website, candidates can schedule an exam in person at an authorized test center or online. Candidates must create a Microsoft Certification profile by signing into Microsoft Learning with a Microsoft Account and completing the form.

Before an exam can be scheduled or accessed, students must log into their Microsoft certification dashboard using the email associated with their Microsoft Certification profile.

Does having an MTA certificate boost your career?

There is a high demand for Microsoft Certified Professionals (MCPs) in many companies and organizations, and many MCPs started their journey as MTAs.

Having an MTA helps candidates stand out to recruiters, and students who pass it could even increase their GPAs, further strengthening their appeal. Passing such an exam demonstrates an aspiring IT professional grasps the fundamental ideas in IT.

No matter what point you are in your career, all Microsoft certifications are advantageous within the IT industry. An MTA is the ideal starting point for anyone interested in a tech career, and it’s the ideal route to Microsoft’s Certified Professional exams, such as MCSD. 

Keep in mind that Microsoft retired its MCSA certification in June 2020 and is moving toward more "role-based certifications" around Azure, Microsoft 365, Dynamics 365, and Data and AI.

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