Showing Off Your C# Skills
Let’s start off by saying that getting a certification is not typically the best way to show a potential employer that you are a good candidate. There are a lot of better ways to do that. The problem with certifications is that people study for the test instead of actually learning how to do the work. Microsoft has worked to make the tests more real-world focused, which does make them better but nothing replaces experience.
With that being said, being certified does differentiate you from your peers so if you have the money and the time to get certified, it can be a good option for improving your chances at getting a job.
In the C# space specifically, there aren’t a ton of great options. The one main option to work towards is the MCSD certification. The great thing is that it is not a huge mountain to climb and there are certifications along the way.
The first thing you need to choose is which path you want to take. You can either get your MCSA (a smaller but still significant certification) in either Universal Windows Platform (UWP) or Web Applications. My personal recommendation is the Web Applications because you can actually get certified by Microsoft for topics that are not Microsoft-specific.
Let’s assume you are going to go that way. That means you need to follow this MCSA path: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/learning/mcsa-web-applications-certification.aspx. In here you have to take two exams. You must take the 70-486 exam, which covers ASP.NET MVC Web Applications. Then you have an option on which second exam to take, either the HTML5 exam or the C# exam. If you are looking to impress employers with your C# knowledge, 70-483 is the way to go. If you are looking to be more universal, exam 70-480 covers web knowledge independent of Microsoft tools or technologies.
That’s all it takes to get your MCSA certification – passing two exams. This also gives you the MCP certification (Microsoft Certified Professional), which you get whenever you pass any of their certifications. Bonus!
Now, let’s get back to the MCSD certification. Now that you have your MCSA, you need to pass just one more exam out of a list of certifications. I would probably lean towards 70-532 (Developing Microsoft Azure Solutions) because it is the most web-based and relevant for developers.
Once you pass that last exam, you will have your MCSD. Now you can show it off to potential employers. As you have seen, the MCSD certification might take you out of your narrow focus you were hoping for. That is a good thing. It opens you up to a larger picture of the development world. It also allows you to shape a picture for a potential employer. You aren’t “just” a C# developer, you are a C# developer who can build apps for the desktop, the web, or the cloud and who can write scalable applications that take advantage of the power of Azure. See how that differentiates you?
One thing to note, and this is important to understand, is that certifications do not last forever. They expire. That especially makes sense in the developer world, where the technologies we are dealing with today are not the same as they were even a year ago. That also means certifications will continually lag behind the curve. If you do get a newer certification, you will be tested on more relevant and newer information but that also means there will be less resources to help you study. This is the trade-off you make for getting certifications that will last a bit longer.
That brings up one thing I need to stress emphatically – DO NOT BUY EXAM QUESTIONS! First of all, this is cheating and it will burn you in the end when an employer figures out you don’t know what you claim you know. Second of all, Microsoft is really good at catching cheaters. While I have no first-hand knowledge of how they do it, my guess is that they are instrumental in releasing some of these test questions. If you answer the way the questions say, you will get certain questions wrong. If you follow a certain pattern of that, they will know you used stolen test questions. However they do it, if they suspect you are trying to cheat, they will cancel your results and ban you from future certifications.
In summary, you do not need to get a certification but if you feel that it will help you or if you want to differentiate yourself in the job market, the MCSD certification is a great certification to set as a goal.