For IT professionals with broad technical expertise, differentiating yourself to potential customers and employers can be tricky. Especially if the person sitting across from you doesn’t have the slightest inkling of what you do.

How do you set yourself apart from the ever-growing pack of “IT professionals”?

For those with extensive knowledge of Microsoft server products, one option is to complete the Microsoft Master Certification program: three weeks of intensive classroom and lab training in Redmond, Washington. Those who successfully pass the final exam get to proudly display the Microsoft Certified Master (MCM) logo besides their name.

And more importantly, they get to show that they are among an elite few in the world with such a high level of expertise on a given Microsoft product.

But there’s a catch: Becoming a Microsoft Master is not easy. Or cheap. Read on…

Why Become a Microsoft Certified Master (MCM)?

According to Microsoft, becoming a Microsoft Certified Master (MCM) is a career-boosting move that “validates the deepest level of product expertise, as well as the ability to design and build the most innovative solutions for complex on-premises, off-premises, and hybrid enterprise environments using Microsoft technologies.”

In other words, you go from being a Microsoft Jedi Knight to a Microsoft Jedi Master. That’s right: Yoda.

Available MCM Certifications

• Microsoft Certified Master: Microsoft Exchange Server 2010
• Microsoft Certified Master: Microsoft Lync Server 2010
• Microsoft Certified Master: Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010
• Microsoft Certified Master: Microsoft SQL Server 2008
• Microsoft Certified Master: Windows Server 2008 R2: Directory


To be accepted, candidates must first submit a resume, which is reviewed to determine whether or not they are eligible. Depending on the certification, Microsoft will require you to have two to five years’ experience, although most accepted candidates have over 10 years of hand-on experience with the technology.


The bad news: $18,500 (US).
The more bad news: You also have to pay for your trip to Redmond, all meals and a hotel room for the three weeks.
Good news: This cost includes the lab test and a re-take of the test if you don’t pass (ouch).
Ray of hope: If you’re an IT employee, you might be able to convince your boss to foot the bill. After all, companies that have an MCM on staff have a clear advantage over the competition. Microsoft even includes a handy “form answer” in its FAQs that you can use to justify the ROI of getting the certification.

By this point, you’re probably wondering about the:

Pass Rate

Paying for the program does not guarantee you a certification. You have to earn it the old-fashioned way. Microsoft says approximately 70 percent of candidates pass the written, in-class exams and 60 percent of candidates pass the final, lab-based exam, on their first attempt.

Certification Process

When Microsoft says intensive, it’s not exaggerating. First it sends all MCM candidates a “recommended reading list” just to help them prepare. Once in Redmond, you’ll go through three gruelling weeks of training, with up to three tests, followed by a final lab test at the end. In other words, you’ll want to clear your calendar for the “rotation” as Microsoft calls it.

Our Take on Why the MCM is Worth the Effort

One of our in-house Exchange specialists is as a Microsoft Certified Master for Exchange Server 2010, which places him among a very exclusive group: Only 6 people in Canada, 50 people in North America and 105 people around the world hold this Microsoft Exchange certification.

Internally it helps our organization because our Microsoft Master can share his deep knowledge of Exchange to the rest of our team. And for our Hosted Exchange customers, it means they benefit from round-the-clock access to a level of Exchange expertise that’s found virtually nowhere else.

As a long-time and trusted provider of Hosted Exchange for businesses in over 100 countries, are we satisfied with the ROI from this certification?

You bet.

Get more from Hosted Exchange. Our affordable plans come with expert, personalized support 24/7/365. We’ll even take care of migration.

Written by Rhonda Sherwood Employee @ SherWeb

With nearly 20 years of business experience, Rhonda Sherwood has seen far too many SMBs work hard, but not necessarily all that smart. Her goal is to write articles that will be accessible to all IT decision makers, regardless of their level of technical knowledge.