What is MTA certification?

The Microsoft credential could give your IT career a boost

Woman and man in a server room

Getting yourself a Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA) certification will bring a lot of value to your resume, especially if you're beginning your career working with Microsoft products.

As stated by the tech giant, an MTA certification is the entry-level certification for anyone who is looking to begin a career in the IT sector or is thinking about changing their career to one in this industry. It has been made with IT generalists, beginners and students in mind who may lack technical specialization or experience and are seeking to create a career in private cloud computing or desktop or server infrastructure.

This online certification program allows you to highlight the skills you've gained by allocating time and effort to learn new things. MTA certification usually focuses on beginners to help them boost their career progression.

There are a number of exams to take and they offer IT Infrastructure (Windows, Windows Server), Databases (MSSQL Server) and Development (Visual Studio).

The certification and exams for the MTA are part of the Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP) program. Passing these exams are the first stage in acquiring advanced certifications like the Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer (MCSD), Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA) or Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE).

Instead of only including your understanding and experience on your resume, having a MTA certification will underline your abilities. It basically means your potential employer doesn't need to try and fully understand what you're capable of doing if you have this certification.

Possessing the MTA certification can be extremely useful when you are looking at changing career paths or trying out a new specialism. If you're a beginner in the IT world, it is essential to demonstrate to potential employers what exactly makes you stand out from the crowd and differentiates you from other candidates. For example, if another candidate has similar experience to you, having the MTA certification 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.

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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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