Is studying for a MCSD certification worth it?

This week, I passed the last exam I needed to make me a MCSD (Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer). But was spending all this time and money worth it? Since I haven’t yet started looking for a job, I don’t know if it will pay off in that regard. From what I’ve read, companies generally don’t value a certification by itself very high. For me the main advantage of doing a certification is working towards a goal and staying up-to-date on the latest technology.

Actually, Microsoft writes that these certifications are for people who want to validate their experience. I have worked with C# and ASP.NET many years ago, but studying for the exam was more a case of refreshing my knowledge and learning about new features that Microsoft added since I last worked with it (lots had happened!). In order to get at least some experience, I created the project TimeTrackerPlanner. I decided to also learn some React in the process. Even though I’m finished with the exam preparation, I plan to continue working on that project for a while.

I’m going to list some of the things I learned thanks to passing the various exams (I took the Web Application path).

Exam 70-480: Programming in HTML5 with JavaScript and CSS3

This one was the easiest for me as I’ve spent many years doing front-end stuff and never took a break from it… Nevertheless, I learned a lot. I noticed that I hadn’t payed enough attention to some of the developments like HTML 5 and CSS 3. Learning about Grid and Flexbox was especially useful. I also learned about SVG graphics and Canvas. Preparing for the exam also forced me getting a better understanding of JavaScript.

Exam 70-483: Programming in C#

C# had experienced a lot of additions too, my favorite one is LINQ. This exam was actually optional (one could decide to take 70-480 or this one), but it made sense to refresh my knowledge before moving on to 70-486.

Exam 70-486: Developing ASP.NET MVC Web Applications

Almost everything was new for me here, as I used to create programs with ASP.NET web forms… I should mention, that one of the motivations for taking the exams has been, that thanks to ASP.NET Core, I was able to practice on my Mac. Some questions were Windows related, but on the whole, using a Mac for practice purposes worked fairly well. I was also motivated by the fact that ASP.NET Core was influenced by frameworks like Ruby on Rails. Did you know that the creator of PHP framework Laravel, Taylor Otwell, is a .NET developer? So Laravel is somewhat influenced by .NET… Therefore it was good to learn things like dependency injection, as it makes learning other technologies easier.

Exam 70-487: Developing Microsoft Azure and Web Services

This exam was helpful for getting a better understanding of how to work with APIs. This one (and to a certain extent also 70-486) gave me a good overview of how one can make use of Azure as a developer.

Only the first two exams had books that are specific for exam preparation. The last two had books, but they were outdated. So I just googled the exam objectives. What I don’t like about the exams is that a lot of questions ask things one normally would google and not memorize. I used Anki for spaced repetition to help me remember how specific code has to be written.

So in conclusion, the exam has helped me get up-to-date with Microsoft’s modern programming environment and a lot of things that I learned are helpful even when using other programming technologies.

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