A Guide to the MCSE: Productivity Certification

Christine McKenzie
January 18, 2019 by
Christine McKenzie

Note: The MCSE certification was retired on January 31, 2021. Browse current IT and security certifications.

In the competitive and rapidly-changing world of technology, having a prestigious certification can mark you as a cut above your competition. The Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP) credentials are widely-recognized in the industry for their high degree of rigor and expertise. If your goal is to pursue a job related to network and computer systems administration, earning the Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE): Productivity is an excellent way to lay the groundwork for your career.

By earning the credential, you’ll have the skills to:

  • Improve your company’s data security
  • Reduce your company’s data loss
  • Move your company to the cloud
  • Increase user productivity and flexibility

If that sounds like you, continue reading to learn more about what you can do with the certification and how you can obtain it.

Who Is the MCSE: Productivity For?

This certification is geared towards professionals who work in roles where the primary responsibilities include network and computer systems administration, Microsoft virtualization and cloud computing. In terms of specific tools, exam takers should have experience working hands-on with Microsoft products like Windows Server 2012/2016 and Office 365.

Since this is an expert-level credential, it’s not geared towards entry-level professionals. Instead, Microsoft recommends exam takers have three or more years of related professional experience before pursuing their MCSE. You will also be required to have your MCSA prior to pursuing the MCSE.

If you don’t yet have your MCSA but are interested in earning the MCSE: Productivity, be sure to look into the MCSA: Server 2012 and MCSA: Server 2016; both are excellent pathways to the MCSE: Productivity credential.

What Are the Possible Career Paths?

The certification will prepare you for roles related to network and computer systems administration, including:

  • Computer Systems Administrator
  • Computer Systems Analyst
  • Senior Systems Engineer
  • Infrastructure Service Engineer
  • Information Technology Manager
  • Information Technology Director

Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected a faster-than-average growth rate for positions in this field between 2014-2024, meaning this certification will you put on a path for long-term career growth.

Earning your MCSE will also go a long way towards giving you access to expert-level positions and higher salaries. According to Microsoft, certified professionals earn up to 15% more than their non-certified colleagues. As of May 2017, the BLS reported the median salary for Computer Systems Administrators as $81,100 per year; Computer Systems Analysts were at $88,270 and Information Technology Managers at $139,220.

Obtaining Your MCSE

There are three main steps to earning and maintaining your MCSE: Productivity certification:

  1. Obtain your MCSA as a prerequisite
  2. Pass an exam in the MCSE: Productivity elective pool
  3. Keep your certification current with continuing education

Earn the MCSA First

The first step towards earning your MCSE is earning your MCSA. To qualify for the MCSE: Productivity, learners should earn one of the following: MCSA: Office 365, MCSA: Windows Server 2012 or MCSA: Windows Server 2016. This will provide you with the foundational knowledge necessary to pursue your expert-level certification. Earning your MCSA will also unlock new opportunities and a higher pay scale while you build up the three years of work experience recommended by Microsoft before pursuing the MCSE.

Pass an MCSE exam

After completing your MCSA, you’ll be eligible to pursue MCSE certification by passing an additional exam. Microsoft wants learners to get the most out of their certifications, so they allow learners to choose from a pool of eight elective exams based on whichever exam aligns best with your skills and career.

Currently, the exam pool consists of:

  1. Designing and Deploying Microsoft Exchange Server 2016 (exam 70-345)
  2. Managing Microsoft Sharepoint Server 2016 (exam 70-339)
  3. Deploying Enterprise Voice with Skype for Business 2015 (exam 70-333)
  4. Core Solutions of Microsoft Skype for Business 2015 (exam 70-334)
  5. Core Solutions of Microsoft Sharepoint Server 2013 (exam 70-331)
  6. Advanced Solutions of Microsoft Sharepoint Server 2013 (exam 70-332)
  7. Core Solutions of Microsoft Exchange Server 2013 (exam 70-341)
  8. Advanced Solutions of Microsoft Exchange Server 2013 (exam 70-342)

Exams are between 40-60 questions and require a passing score of 700 or above, which roughly equates to answering 70% or more of the questions correctly. Each exam costs $165 and will take about two hours to complete. Microsoft exams can be extremely challenging; if you don’t pass the first time, Microsoft offers an Exam Replay, so you retake it at a lower cost.

Continuing Education

Unlike some of the similar credentials offered by other vendors in the field, Microsoft certifications do not expire and are not required to be renewed in order to keep them active. Instead, you have the option to “renew” it each year by taking an additional exam from the elective pool. This is essentially to keep up with updates and changes that Microsoft introduces each year. Each time you pass a new exam, it will appear on your transcript along with the year you earned it.

If this sounds a bit confusing, think of it this way: If you wanted to hire someone today, how would you react if their most recent certification was earned back in 2015 and never renewed? Would you be confident they possessed the most cutting-edge knowledge? You would likely opt to hire someone who renewed every year or so instead. For this reason, it’s beneficial to continue renewing your certification despite it not being required by Microsoft.

Your MCSE will remain active until Microsoft eventually phases out the credential as the core technology ages. At this point, it will convert to “legacy” status on your transcript.

In contrast to your MCSE, smaller certifications like your MCSA certifications do not need to be renewed.

Exam Success with InfoSec

Microsoft’s MCP exams have a reputation for being challenging to successfully pass. To give yourself the best shot at succeeding, you should consider enrolling in a preparatory course like InfoSec Institute’s MCSE Productivity Solutions Expert Boot Camp. InfoSec Institute’s boot camp has a 93% exam pass rate and is driven by over 20 years of award-winning training in the information security field.


  1. Occupational Outlook Handbook, Bureau of Labor Statistics
  2. Certification Benefits, Microsoft
  3. MCSE Productivity Solutions Expert, Microsoft
  4. Certification, Build Azure
  5. Roadmap to Success: MCSE: Productivity, CBT Nuggets
Christine McKenzie
Christine McKenzie

Christine McKenzie is a professional writer with a Master of Science in International Relations. She enjoys writing about career and professional development topics in the Information Security discipline. She has also produced academic research about the influence of disruptive Information and Communication Technologies on human rights in China. Previously, she was a university Career Advisor where she worked extensively with students in the Information Technology and Computer Programming fields.