MCSA vs. MCSE: 11 Major Comparisons


Microsoft offers several certifications and training to those who intend to develop their skills to advance their IT careers. MCSA and MCSE are technical courses that equip IT professionals with the caliber and ability to manage Microsoft systems. This article explains the role of Microsoft’s MCSA and MCSE certifications in opening new career paths to their learners, and the critical differentiation between the two credentials.

Microsoft offers several certifications and training to those who intend to develop their skills to advance their careers in the IT domain. MCSA and MCSE are technical courses that equip IT professionals with the caliber and ability to manage Microsoft systems.

Microsoft’s certifications are designed to up-skill individuals by focusing on specific skills such as app development, mobility, data management & analytics, and productivity. These courses typically revolve around technologies such as Microsoft Azure and SQL server.

The certifications are broadly divided into multiple levels for different pathways. For example, Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA) is the most fundamental-level certification for most paths. Similarly, Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA) is an intermediate-level course, while Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE) is the advanced level of certification available.

What Are MCSA Certifications?

Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate is a Microsoft certification that lands you in an administrative role. An administrator, in this case, is responsible for maintaining an already set-up network or system. MCSA is typically an entry-level certification that tests and validates the technical skill set of professionals intending to kick-start their IT careers. This means that those with minimal IT experience can opt for MCSA.

MCSA certification programs allow aspirants to learn about servers, web applications, and operating systems. The program is a foundational course for individuals who wish to pursue MCSE or any other advanced version of Microsoft’s certification.

See More: Data Analytics Career Path: Degree, Training, Jobs, and Salary in 2022

What Are MCSE Certifications?

Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert is a Microsoft certification that turns a mid-level IT professional into an expert in the domain by imparting various engineering-related skills. The individual is trained to design, develop, and run new networks from scratch based on the client’s requirements, thereby imparting the skills of a system engineer.

MCSE certification programs offer high-level skills essential for executing highly efficient networks, modern data centers, identity management, systems management, virtualization, and storage from the ground up. Thus, MCSE requires individuals to have deep knowledge of server infrastructure, data platforms, business intelligence, and private cloud computing.

The MCSE credential typically allows professionals to specialize in Microsoft server technologies. Moreover, MCSE certification holders are proficient in designing, implementing, and administering business solutions. MCSE is an expert-level certification where you must clear seven exams to attain the required expertise.

See More: AWS Certified Solutions Architect: Role, Jobs, and Salary in 2022

MCSA vs. MCSE:11 Key Comparisons

Microsoft is a well-known server software provider for a variety of services, including public servers as well as the internal servers it uses for the business operations of the company. Despite being a leader in the server software market, it no longer looks after the server’s installation and maintenance. It is the responsibility of businesses to hire qualified professionals to manage and maintain their server setups.

Hence, Microsoft introduced the MCSA and MCSE certifications that equip individuals with the ability and skills to deal with servers. These certificates act as a metric that employers use to determine whether applicants are technically capable and sound in handling their server infrastructure.

Let’s understand the main differences between the two key Microsoft certifications, MCSA and MCSE.


Comparison Parameter



1 Certification Name Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert
2 Course Level MCSA is an entry-level certification course for individuals starting their IT careers. MCSA is an expert-level certification course that comes after MCSA.
3 Training The MCSA course trains professionals to become system administrators. MCSE trains individuals to become system engineers.
4 Objective/Skill With the MCSA certification, you can manage the already running networks or networks that are already set up. You can design, develop, execute, and maintain new networks after completing the MCSE certification.
5 Foundational Knowledge MCSA imparts knowledge of servers, web applications, and operating systems. MCSE imparts knowledge of server infrastructure, data platform skills, business intelligence, and private cloud computing.
6 Prerequisite  MCSA is an easier-level course that requires aspirants to have basic knowledge of server technologies, operating systems, etc. MCSE is an advanced-level course that is more difficult than MCSA and is designed for experienced IT professionals. MCSA lays the foundation for next-level MCSE courses.
7 Certification Exams MCSA requires individuals to take around four exams to crack the certification. MCSE requires aspirants to go through approximately seven examinations to complete the certification.
8 Courses Offered 


Some of the critical courses offered by the MCSA certification include:

MCSA: Windows Server 2012

This course imparts knowledge of servers, databases, and networking technologies operational under the Windows 2012 operating system.


MCSA: Windows Server 2008

The program focuses on skills essential to install & configure, administer, and manage Windows Server 2008.


MCSA: Windows 10

The course deals with the configuration and management of the Windows 10 operating system.


MCSA: Windows 8

The program deals with managing the Windows 8 operating system. It develops the skills necessary to install, maintain, and support Windows 8 deployments in a business context.


MCSA: SQL Server 2012

This course is specifically designed for the management of SQL (Structured Query Language) server-related services, databases, and security features.


MCSA: Office 365

The program helps in the management of cloud-hosted business applications. It also teaches essential skills to transition business solutions to the cloud.


MCSA: Linux on Azure

The coursework is instrumental in guiding the design of cloud-based Linux solutions. It also develops the skill set necessary for the administration of Linux systems.


Some of the vital MCSE courses include:

MCSE: Server Infrastructure

This course imparts knowledge of identity, network, and systems management in a server setup.


MCSE: Private Cloud

The program teaches and develops an understanding of the management of private cloud computing systems.


MSCE: Enterprise Devices and App

The course is suited for Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) enterprises as it focuses on managing devices in the BYOD setup.


MCSE: Data Platform

The program develops skills essential to build and administer enterprise-level data solutions for both on-premise and cloud environments. 


With this data platform, learners can implement database and programming objects; troubleshoot queries; design optimized solutions for troubleshooting; and design databases, database objects, and security features.


MCSE: Business Intelligence

The course helps develop and employ SQL server-based business intelligence applications in an enterprise.


MCSE: Messaging

This program prepares individuals for managing and administering Office 365 and Microsoft Exchange Server. It focuses on the security and management of data.


MCSE: Communication

The course develops skills related to Office 365, client and end-user device management, managing cloud identities, implementing networks and security, and so on. 


It also deals with the skill set essential for managing Microsoft Lync Server 2013 infrastructure.


MCSE: SharePoint

The program helps develop skills necessary for safe and systematic data transfer between companies. The skill set helps enterprises collaborate and share information efficiently.


9 Job Offers


Upon receiving an MCSA certification, aspirants can apply for the following jobs:

  • Database Developer
  • Computer Support Specialist
  • Support Specialist
  • Technical Support Engineer
  • Desktop Support Analyst
  • Computer Network Specialist
  • Systems Engineer
  • IT Support Analyst
  • Linux System Administrator
  • IT Cloud Solutions Consultant
On completing an MCSE certification, learners can apply for the following jobs in the IT industry:


  • Information Security Analyst
  • Systems Programmer
  • Network Manager
  • Enterprise Manager
  • Database Designer
  • Reporting Engineer
  • Server Administrator
  • Database Analyst
  • Business Intelligence Engineer
  • Network Administrator
10 Certification Preparation


Aspirants can prepare for MCSA certification exams by opting for one of the two available options: self-study and instructor-led training.

If you choose the self-study approach, you can avail resources such as e-books, YouTube videos, video lectures, and even opt for specific vendors who offer sample exams.

Under the instructor-led training category, Microsoft-authorized experts provide course-specific training via different online platforms that deliver live sessions. Unlike self-study, this training model is designed per certification exams.

One can do MCSE certification exam preparation best by referring to the Microsoft website, which outlines the topics covered under a specific MCSE course and also lays out who can benefit from it. It also reveals the exams that an individual should take to complete the certification course.

Moreover, Microsoft’s website recommends MCSE courses for individuals with at least one year of experience in networking systems. Although this is not mandatory, a professional without hands-on experience may find it challenging to clear the course exams.

Microsoft provides a preparation guide for different MCSE courses on its website. It also offers a list of resources that one can avail to study for the certification exams. This includes books and manuals that can be purchased or borrowed based on the aspirant’s choice.


11 Certification Cost MCSA certification costs differ from course to course. Several of its exams are priced at around $165. However, most MCSA courses require clearing two to four exams to complete one certification. 

In this context, if one exam costs $165, two such exams would amount to $330; subsequently, three would cost $495. Here, only the certification exam cost is covered, not any study-related costs.

Although Microsoft provides discounts and offers for MCSE certification exams, its exams are typically priced at around $165. Since MCSE is an advanced-level program, it requires an individual to take the exam multiple times if it is not cleared in one or two attempts. 

As Microsoft is aware of this situation, it provides an ‘Exam Replay’ facility where aspirants can retake exams more than once at a minimal cost.

Let’s consider an example here. Assume that you pay $165 for an MCSE certification exam. If you fail on the first attempt, you must pay another $165 to take the exam a second time. 

However, for the second attempt, if you choose the Exam Replay alternative, you would need to pay only $65 to retake the exam. As a result, with this option, you would end up paying $230 instead of $330 in total, thereby allowing you to save $100.

However, to avail of this facility, one has to check if the Exam Replay option is available for the opted MCSE course at that time, as the same is not always available for every exam.


According to Microsoft’s website, both Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA) and Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE) certifications were retired on January 31, 2021. These certifications have been replaced by role-based training and certifications essential to nurturing skills catering to advanced cloud-based environments.

Microsoft announced in September 2018 that it would focus more on new role-based certifications. Following the announcement, Microsoft added 34 such courses to platforms such as Azure, Modern Workplace, and Business Applications. One must note here that individuals who have cleared MCSA and MCSE certifications are allowed to keep the same as these certifications will continue to appear on their transcript for around two years from the time the certification expires. Moreover, the training content for these certifications may still be available even if the exams retire.

Microsoft’s new certifications are specific to roles such as Administrator, Business User, and Solutions Architect. These newly introduced certifications bring together task-specific or product-specific exams. This implies that the certifications are aligned with the skills necessary to manage products such as Office, Windows Server, Microsoft Azure, Excel, Visual Studio, and other Microsoft products.

Hence, if you currently possess an MCSA or MCSE certification, you can upgrade your profile by taking up one of the role-based certifications relevant to your interests and needs. As Microsoft continues to evolve its certifications, the courses seem to better align with the latest industry trends, allowing you to stay up to date with today’s business and technology needs.

These role-based certifications are revealed in the image below: 

Source: a new window

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For an individual aspiring to build a career in the IT field, it is important to choose a course that rightly aligns with one’s aptitude and allows the individual to excel and thrive. Both MCSA and MCSE are fundamental certification courses offered by Microsoft and bestow learners with the technical skills essential for the seamless management of Microsoft systems.

MCSA is an entry-level course that is a prerequisite to an expert-level certification program of MCSE. MSCA opens your pathway to a system administrator’s position, while MCSE trains you to become a system engineer. Both these certifications are key checkpoints for an individual who intends to shine in the IT industry.

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