The $10,000 Cert

  • This slightly stuns me. The Microsoft Certified Architect (MCA) certification costs US$10,000. If you're qualified, who pays for it?

    That's quite an investment. I mean my friend who just got his CCIE had to shell out $1500 for his exams on top of some money for books and other resources, something I still can't believe. An MCITPRO: SQL Server 2005 could be had for $375 + materials. The MCA costs $10,000 and that's not with classes, materials, or anything.

    There are a lot of things I like about this program. It's limited with only 250 applications being accepted per year and less than that being certified (maybe because of the cost in some cases). The applicants are questioned by a real live board of 4 people on a presentation they prepare and need to demonstrate their competency as an architect. And they will need to be recertified, although that recertification FAQ doesn't have details about how often this will be.

    But a $200 fee to apply, paying for phone interviews and application screening, and then $10,000 to move forward. That's pretty steep, especially with no guarentee of success. You get one retake, but that's it. And you have to go for your review within 12 months of being accepted. Add in that the "benefits" are not yet available (due in fall 2006 according to the FAQ and I start to wonder why anyone would go for this. Maybe if you're a hot shot and your company does consulting it makes sense from a marketing perspective, but I'd think then your past successful projects might be worth it.

    This is a new program with the 63 already certified architects getting in free by developing the program. But it's not one that I see being very successful. It's just too strangely structured and unfortunately like so many things Microsoft does, it's been announced and is selling before it's completely done.

    Steve Jones

  • In order for the MCA qualification to be worth having it must have a good ROI.  This means that prospective clients or employers need to understand its value.  If the ROI is there, the cost is less relevant.

    If the MCA is properly accredited by an academic or suitable professional body so that MCA holders can show they have the equivalent of a degree, then understanding its value becomes easier.  If a MCA is percieved as no more than a MCP with bling, then poor ROI wll not make the effort of getting the MCA worthwhile.

    Original author: 1-click install and best practice configuration of SQL Server 2019, 2017 2016, 2014, 2012, 2008 R2, 2008 and 2005.

    When I give food to the poor they call me a saint. When I ask why they are poor they call me a communist - Archbishop Hélder Câmara

  • I don't mean to sound negative, but IN MY OPINION, this will not fly... 

    I would pony up the 10K tomorrow if it would really add to my bottom line.  But in my area of the USA, I doubt if one in 1000 people involved in the hiring process would know what it's about.  Most here don't have any interview skills, much less the technical background to value such a certification

  • What is MS thinking?

    They should be interested in getting as many qualified people certified on their products, not fewer. The more qualified experts, the more product they will sell.




    -- FORTRAN manual for Xerox Computers --

  • Sounds a lot like the Software Engineering Institute's Capability Maturity Model; something that no one really cares about unless they need an excuse to offshore.

    [font="Tahoma"]Bryant E. Byrd, BSSE MCDBA MCAD[/font]
    Business Intelligence Administrator
    MSBI Administration Blog

  • ????? $$$$$ ?????

    I am presenting YV-Cert. This certification will reflect how well the person can save money for himself and his company. I will post full requirements and prices when they will be completed but the overview of the process is:

    - Save when and where you can with the requirement that you achieve the same result as if you spend a lot.

    - submit at least 3 documented cases that include both saving personally and for the company.

    - write a check to me for about $10 (ten dollars) plus how much it will cost for shipping, handling and printing of the certificate

    - I will send you your certificate that will be very appreciated.


    Regards,Yelena Varsha

  • Two things will give this value:

    1. A study is done showing that software projects involving/led by a MCA are x% more likely to succeed than those not involving an MCA

    2. Companies buying third-party products or solutions require involving an MCA in the RFP/RFQ specs

    Imagine the uptake when major consulting companies comes out with stories like, "We hired Company X to build our solution because they had an MCA leading the project and it paid off". And then Company X starts getting more business.


  • It appears that MS Education has not learned from MS Software what is needs to ... i.e. Spec, develop & test, then you can market it !

    RegardsRudy KomacsarSenior Database Administrator"Ave Caesar! - Morituri te salutamus."

  • I think that in future, scenario 2 mentioned by Chuck is likely and even if an MCA on the project is not a requirement for the RFP, you can bet that the sales people will find an angle to use it, particularly if they consult to write the RFP .


    Steve, it is my understanding that the recertification of MCA’s will not require a review board, after all architecture skills don’t become outdated very quickly (if at all).  It seems that in order to remain certified, that an MCA will have to help out with the reviews – by sitting on a review board, mentoring or doing telephone screening.  Due to the fact that candidates are reviewed every step of the way by existing MCA’s, the bottleneck in certifying new MCA’s depends on the number of existing MCA’s in the programme – hence a need for active participation.  I believe that this is what is required to remain certified.


    There are currently 148 certified architects, check out Miha’s MCA blog on the breakdown.  Admittedly not enough yet for critical mass.


    Personally I believe that the MCA programme will fly – there is definitely a need in the market for some stake in the ground to acknowledge architectural abilities.  Microsoft has a big marketing machine, which once it kicks into gear will create awareness around the certification.  Don’t forget large organizations such as IBM have been marketing certification (although on their own technologies) into enterprises for a long time so enterprises are used to having a need for certification on big projects.



  • Hi Steve,

    When I first got the link for this cert from Dob's magazine it was $125 fee so how did it baloon to $10,000?  Certifications seldom pay off quickly so this is one to leave to the employer education account.


    Kind regards,
    Gift Peddie

  • "after all architecture skills don’t become outdated very quickly (if at all)" -

    Simon,  this is not true. Each generation of the products brings its own new architecture. I passed  both 70-100 and 70-300, the methodology changed. The databse landscape changed, recommendations changed. new technologies came up like .NET, XML etc and everything changed. Now the new Windows with .NET 3.0 comes out and I do know that Web Services will be changed a lot. Authentication recommendations change every year, you name it.

    Regards,Yelena Varsha

  • A bit is a bit, and a byte has been 8 bits since sometime in the late 1970s when they did away with 10-bit, 12-bit, and other strange byte sizes (Anyone else remember "12-bit computers"?  Hope I'm not dating myself here...) From my perspective, the vast majority of the "methodology changes" involve creating new layers of abstraction over the same old machine language instructions. You can even move this model over to other processors, since they all operate in pretty much the same fashion (though the mechanics might be different, and the number of instructions differ.)

    The major "paradigm shift" over the years has been an upward stacking of abstraction over the same old machine language instructions. IMHO if you understand the lowest-level details and know how the layers of abstraction are built up from there on top of one another, your skillset will adapt a lot more quickly to the changing marketplace.

    As for this certification...  I see absolutely no value in it at this point.  Thinking like a businessman, there's no well-defined ROI.  There's not even a hint of *ANY* ROI.  For the average person $10K in one shot is a hefty investment.  For now I'll stick with certifications that H.R. people and IT managers recognize and understand. I'll save this thing-a-ma-jig for when the price drops or the benefits are better defined and clearly worth the investment.

  • Glad to see people are interested in the program, regardless of what their stance is on cost and value. The cost is high, but the cost of administering the program is high. I was surprised at the cost of having 4-6 architect travel to a city for a week to interview 13 candidates and host interviews in a hotel (or othe site).

    We're gathering evidence that the MCA is more likely to have a successful solution than non-MCAs, but with projects tat go for 9 months to 3 years, sometimes the evidence is slow to come. I can tell you that each one of these architects is top-notch and will be successful on any project. I did not believe this level of person existed until I actually met them.

    This program is not for everyone and is more likely to be used by corporations and cusulting companies. The price for individuals is significant. That said, for prople at this level the cost is not a significant deterrant and the cost of a certification on a multi-million dollar project is not that great.

    There will likely be a program targeted towards this community at some point, but access to it will be limited as well. We are working on othe programs that will provide value and have lower price points. Stay tuned...

  • By "this community" is it safe to assume that you're talking about:

    - All these developers who use SQL Server, .NET, Windows, and nearly every other product Microsoft puts out.  The old pros who mentor newly inducted .NET and SQL Server developers on their own time and their own dime?  The early adopters who spend countless hours installing, testing, uninstalling, and reformatting in Beta-ville?

    - The throngs of Database Administrators who plan, configure, install, maintain, and upgrade SQL Server installations.  The self-same DBA's who spend countless hours guiding newly minted admins in the finer points of server, database, and network configuration and design?

    - Let's not forget all the writers and bloggers who spend their own time testing the technology and sharing that info with the community, helping to keep MSDN high in Google's search results...

    Yes, it would probably be a good idea to not let "this community" slip under the radar.  The ROI is demonstrably high; possibly much higher than 250 Microsoft-certified project managers @ $10K a pop.

    But then again it's thinking like this that's held me back from getting a job in a marketing department somewhere...

  • I need to choose my words more carefully; didn't mean to sound condesending or minimize the people that frequent this site. The MCA certification isn't for project managers, security experts, .NET designers, .NET developers, J2E developers, tech leads, or many, many other jobs in the IT space. It is for IT archtects.  

    To my mind, an IT architect is a person that is presented a business problem that can be solved using IT, envisions and shepherds a project through the IT lifecycle, and cna quantify project suvvess by determining the business value (to the company) of the project and how return will be described. They can (and do) intergrate multiple technologies in a complex environment, then select the products that best fit the situation. To do that they must have technical chops, but also have to be able to speak the language of architects and the language if business.

    In speaking with a ton of self-titled architects over the last few years about what an architect is, the common theme (regardless or type of IT architect) is the ability to bridge business and technology and to have a broad enough knowledge of existing (and future) technologies (and the products in those technology spaces) to be able to make the best decision in any given instance.


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