The MTA Certificate is for people who are looking to enter the IT industry; if you already have industry experience you can skip it, and if you don’t know what a cursor is then it’s too advanced. Once you’ve chosen the exam you want to take, it’s as simple as registering and paying: pass one exam, get one certificate.
See also: How to Get an Internship with Microsoft
1. MTA or MCSA?
Becoming a Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA) shows that you have knowledge of the fundamentals. Originally offered only as a one-semester academic course for college students, it’s your introduction to jobs in IT and your chance to see if it’s the right career for you.
If you already have experience in the industry, you can go directly to becoming a Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA) in order to help your job prospects. The MTA is not a prerequisite for other certificates, but you do need an MCSA before you can move on to the Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert certificate.
2. Which branch?
Once you’ve decided to take the MTA and found it on the Microsoft website, you have three different areas to choose from; you only need to take one exam from one branch to get your MTA, but you can take as many as you like. On clicking each of the three branches, you’ll find a description and list of exams:
Branch 1: IT Infrastructure
This is for people interested in desktop infrastructure, server infrastructure or private cloud computing. Within this branch there are six exams to choose from:
- Windows Operating System Fundamentals
- Windows Server Administration Fundamentals
- Networking Fundamentals
- Security Fundamentals
- Mobility and Device Fundamentals
- Cloud Fundamentals
Branch 2: Database
Interested in a career in data platform administration or business intelligence? Then you’ll choose the Database Fundamentals exam.
Branch 3: Developer
Budding software developers can gain hands-on training and go on to get Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer (MCSD) certification by starting with Software Development Fundamentals and then choosing any additional topics of interest, including:
- Web Development Fundamentals
- .NET Fundamentals
- Gaming Development Fundamentals
- HTML5 App Development Fundamentals
- Software Testing Fundamentals
3. To train or not to train
Once you’ve chosen and clicked on the branch you want, you’re given a list of the exams and two options for each one: "optional training" or "exam." If you’ve already done your training and feel you’re ready, go to the next step; if you need training, keep reading.
This directs you only to in-person centres near you, so if you’re looking to certify from home you might prefer one of the following options.
You can use the Study Group part of the Microsoft website for free. There you’ll find each exam along with links to:
- A discussion forum; if you have any experience with forums, you’ll know that the quality varies depending on the helpfulness of the people.
- An exam prep wiki; this is more official and more helpful.
- St Cloud State (free)
- Are you Certifiable? A gameshow-type game to test your knowledge.
- Study Guides: Clicking this will take you to a page with study aids for each exam. Some have just a PDF download with questions and answers and explanations of the answers, others have a PDF and a "Self-paced training" link with videos and assessment.
Microsoft Virtual Academy (free) has several MTA courses, and following the link to each exam leads you to:
- A video explaining the exam expectations
- Videos on each part of the exam
- A slideshow overview
- An assessment
Note: The self-paced training links on St Cloud State also lead you here.
- Buy eBooks
- Take practice tests
Gain access to practice labs where you can practice your skills in a real environment.
4. Take the exam
When you click on the "exam" link you get four things:
The price for the country it, automatically, recognizes you’re in, and an option to choose a different country.
Three options on how to register:
- Schedule with Certiport if you’re a student or instructor - but first check the Exam policies and FAQ for any special academic pricing relevant to you. Clicking this will take you to the registration process.
- Schedule with Pearson VUE if you’re not in school. Clicking this will take you to the registration process.
- Online proctored delivery in some countries. Clicking this will take you to a page detailing the system requirements, participating countries, and further information and FAQs on how the system works.
- Skills Measured; a list of everything that will be covered in the exam.
- Preparation Options: the same as the "optional training" screen, as well as a (paid) practice test.
- Further information on who should take the exam, exam policies and scoring.
- You can’t take the exam more than five times in a 12-month period unless you request and are granted permission to do so.
- You can’t retake it if you pass.
- You have to wait 24 hours before a second attempt.
- You have to wait 7 days before a third, fourth or fifth attempt.
Once you’ve taken and passed your first exam, you have your MTA certificate, which doesn’t expire; college students should check if they can get college credit for it. If you’ve now decided IT is for you, you may choose to look for jobs, continue with another MTA exam or use the foundation to progress to the MCSA exams.
See also: Avoiding Microsoft Job Scams
Why are you interested in taking the MTA? Are you an industry professional who has taken these exams and found them to be useful to your career? Let us know in the comments section below.