Whether your specialty is configuring firewalls or troubleshooting network troubles, a certification in your field is the difference-maker between a person with job familiarity and an expert. Two of the best-known names in the IT industry—Microsoft and Cisco—offer their own challenging certification courses and qualifications that offer their students an in-depth understanding of their respective product suites.
Both certifications seem similar, and many people wonder which one is the best for their respective career paths. This guide will look at Microsoft certifications versus Cisco certifications and explore the nuances between them in order to help you determine which is right for you.
Microsoft offers a wide range of different courses and qualifications for different types of IT professionals. For example, the MCSE (Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert) is aimed at certifying individuals with working experience of Microsoft Windows servers and networks. The courses for this certification test the learner’s ability to design, install, configure, and troubleshoot a Microsoft-based network.
Those who take the MCSE course will need to pass a total of five exams in order to earn the prized MCSE accreditation. The first three exams are focused on working with Windows Server and SQL Server.
Microsoft Certification Benefits
The main benefit of a Microsoft certification is that absolutely everyone will know what it means. Even if you are talking to someone who knows nothing about IT then they will understand that the Microsoft certification means that you thoroughly understand Microsoft programs and servers and can navigate your way around issues surrounding the program.
This may be helpful when applying for jobs at smaller companies where the IT department might not be as experienced as large data centers. A Microsoft certification is a great asset and fact to put on your CV, it will instantly make you stand out from the competition who don't have a professional certification.
Microsoft Certification Challenges
The MCSE certification lasts 3 years, after which you will need to re-take the exam. This time period ensures MCSE-certified professionals are knowledgeable about the newest Microsoft technologies.
Getting Microsoft certified isn’t easy; however, some believe these certifications are easier to get than the Cisco certifications. Either way, you’ll be expected to learn a lot of facts and techniques in order to pass. It’s worth noting that the exam can be tricky—sometimes two of the answers to a question might achieve the same result. However, the correct answer will be Microsoft’s best practice for that particular task or method.
Why Get a Microsoft Certification?
Microsoft certifications are, of course, focused on Microsoft technologies, so the skills you learn while training for the certification may not apply to other platforms. Even though not all networks are based on Microsoft technologies, however, employers understand that certifications demonstrate a willingness to learn and understand various platforms, so it is true that Microsoft certifications could open up new opportunities for you.
The reason that some people find studying for Microsoft certifications easier is that they are more popular. This means that there are plenty of resources online for anyone studying for the exams—you can even find even practice exams online, which can help you prepare.
Another popular certification for IT professionals is the CCNA (Cisco Certified Network Associate), designed for professionals who have experience with Cisco routers, switches, and other IT equipment.
Cisco Certification Benefits
The knowledge individuals learn while studying for Cisco certifications is useful for installing, commissioning, and configuring firewalls, routers, and servers. The certification proves an individual’s ability to design, set up, install, and maintain networks—including WAN and LAN networks.
There are some specializations within the CCNA certifications depending on your chosen area, including switching, routing, service provider, and data center. The specialty chosen will affect the number of exams you will need to take.
Cisco Certification Challenges
All CCNA certifications expire after three years. Individuals recertify by studying for and taking the current exam after their certification expires. Of course, getting any form of professional IT certification is difficult; however, it’s been suggested by former students that getting a Cisco certification is more demanding than a Microsoft certification. Some people find the wording in the Cisco exams quite difficult to understand.
Cisco exams also have many more questions on them than a Microsoft exam—meaning that finding practice questions that are similar to the actual exam can be tough.
Comparison: Microsoft vs. Cisco Certifications
|Microsoft Certification||Cisco Certification|
|Worldwide brand recognition for Microsoft||Cisco is a well-respected manufacturer of enterprise-grade IT infrastructure|
|Looks great on your resume/CV||Demonstrates experience with Cisco IT equipment|
|Demonstrates Microsoft servers and software experience||Skills can be applied to many other IT brands|
|High availability of practice questions and information online|
|More popular certification|
|Not all networks are Microsoft-based||Can be difficult to obtain|
|Only teaches the Microsoft best practice method||Expensive|
|Difficult to apply knowledge to other platforms||Cisco is a less recognized brand|
Why Not Both?
Both certifications can be used to help boost your career and land you a better paying job. While both certifications are helpful to IT professionals, the Cisco certifications are geared more toward hardware and network engineering while the Microsoft certifications focus more on server-side maintenance and software.
Simplilearn offers a wide range of Microsoft training, from individual focuses like Excel and Powerpoint to broader focuses such as Designing and Implementing MS Server Infrastructure.
Simplilearn also provides training programs and online tutorials for Cisco such as CCNA and CCNP Routing and Switching.
Depending on the path you want your career to take, one or the other may be a better fit for you. But for a variety of IT professionals, getting both certifications helped them advance into fields that required a more well-rounded skillset.