Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA) certification
Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA) certification is the name of a suite of entry-level certifications offered by Microsoft that signify fundamental technology knowledge in those who earn it. According to Microsoft, earning the certificate(s) provides the core knowledge needed to begin a career in technology. The certification course consists of a number of prep resources and exams. Passing one of the exams earns one MTA credit.
MTA is a recent installment in Microsoft Learn, which is a collection of learning paths, exams and other resources that include over 240 different certifications. MTA is unique in that it is for beginners looking to enter a career in technology, whereas many of the other certifications are more specialized or role-focused. MTA is designed for IT generalists and students.
The MTA exams assume that exam-takers have some prior hands-on experience or training but does not assume that the takers have technology job experience.
The value of an MTA certification
An MTA certification is valuable because it enhances the technical credibility of those who earn it. More specifically, the MTA exams have minimal prerequisites and, therefore, gives those with limited information technology (IT) experience an opportunity to be credentialed. This can be especially valuable for high school and college students thinking about pursuing careers in IT, who may not yet have the opportunity to gain on-the-job experience but want to start building their credibility.
The MTA certification also covers a broad spectrum of IT subject matter, which can lay the foundation for many different IT career paths.
How to get Microsoft Technology Associate certified
In order to become MTA certified, an individual must take and pass one of, or a collection of, exams in the MTA program. There are several learning paths for specific MTA certifications, which are categorized by the career the individual wants to pursue.
The exams and learning paths are listed below.
Certification paths and exams
The MTA exams offered are as follows:
Exam 98-349: Windows Operating System Fundamentals
This covers fundamental concepts in the Windows 10 environment, including managing applications such as Microsoft Office, file management, device management and operating system (OS) maintenance.
Exam 98-361: Software Development Fundamentals
This covers core development skills, object-oriented programming, web applications, desktop applications and databases. Some experience with C# or Microsoft Visual Basic .NET is required.
Exam 98-364: Database Fundamentals
This covers introductory database knowledge, specifically including relational databases like Microsoft SQL Server.
Exam 98-365: Windows Server Administration Fundamentals
This covers technology related to Windows Server Administration and requires some hands-on experience with Active Directory, account management, system recovery tools and Windows-based networking.
Exam 98-366: Networking Fundamentals
This covers general networking concepts. It requires some hands-on experience with Windows Server, Windows-based networking, domain name system (DNS), Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) and network protocols, as well as a few other technologies and concepts.
Exam 98-367: Security Fundamentals
This covers fundamental security knowledge and skills. With hands-on experience with Windows Server, Active Directory, antimalware and Windows-based networking.
Exam 98-368: Mobility and Devices Fundamentals
This covers fundamental knowledge of Windows devices. Individuals should have some hands-on experience with antimalware products, firewalls, network topology, network ports, Windows devices and Active Directory.
Exam 98-375: HTML5 Application Development Fundamentals
Exam 98-381: Introduction to Programming Using Python
This covers reading and writing Python code, recognizing data types supported by Python, and application of Python code to practical logic problems.
Exam 98-383: Introduction to Programming Using HTML and CSS
This covers reading and writing HTML and CSS, structuring data using HTML elements, and creating/applying styles using CSS.
Exam 98-388: Introduction to Programming Using Java
This covers reading and writing Java 6 SE or later, and candidates may include entry-level developers or secondary/post-secondary-level software development students.
To prepare for exams involving development (361, 364, some others), students can take relevant training courses in MSDN (Microsoft Developer Network) or work through tutorials in MSDN and Visual Studio.
The specific MTA learning paths are listed below:
- IT infrastructure. This certification is for individuals looking to build a career in server infrastructure, private cloud computing or desktop infrastructure. The exams an individual must pass to earn this certification are:
- Database. This certification is for individuals seeking to begin a career in business intelligence (BI) or database administration (DBA). The exam required for earning this certification is:
- Developer. This certification is for those looking to start a career in software development. The only exam necessary for this path is 361, but Microsoft recommends that individuals take other exams, as they relate to more specific development career goals. The other recommended exams include:
For example, if an individual takes exam 98-368, they will earn a Mobility and Devices Fundamentals certification. However, the person would need to take this exam in conjunction with exam 98-361 to earn the broader "Developer" certification through the learning path.
Taking the exam
Exams are offered in several languages, including, but not limited to, English, Chinese, French, Russian, Spanish, Japanese and Portuguese.
Each exam costs $127 if taken in the United States. Prices vary depending on which country the exam provider is in. Students can register for a discount on the exams, except for students in China or India. Certification candidates may also purchase an additional test retake and practice test with the exam replay resource.
Non-students schedule their exam with Pearson VUE, and students schedule it using Certiport. These are exam provisioning services.
Testers can prepare for tests in one of two ways: through a free online learning path provided by Microsoft or through a paid, instructor-led program. As of this writing, these preparation resources only come with some of the exams, while others state "no current courses [are] available for this exam." Instructor-led courses for the MTA often cover material for more than one of the exams.
Beyond exam-specific prep-resources, Microsoft offers more general resources to help test-takers, including:
- The training and certification guide, which includes a detailed layout of all Microsoft learning paths and certifications offered through Microsoft Learn.
- The exam replay offer.
- The Certification dashboard, where learners can view their scheduled appointments, certificates and transcripts.
- Customer support.
Microsoft Technology Associate job roles
An MTA certification provides core knowledge that students can use to launch a variety of different technology careers. Some of these include:
- Network Architect
- Business Intelligence
- Help Desk Technician
- Software Engineer
- Systems Analyst
- Mobile Application Developer
- Network Administrator
- Database Administrator
- Security Specialist
- Website Developer
MTA vs. MCSA
It should be noted that the Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA) certification no longer exists. It was retired in June 2020 as Microsoft declared a shift to "role-based certifications," with focuses on Azure, Microsoft 365, Dynamics 365, and Data and AI.
Regardless, the MCSA certification and the role-based certifications that have replaced it are different from the MTA certification in that they have a more specific focus and are more likely to require the exam-taker to have hands-on job experience with the subject matter. The MTA, by contrast, requires only some hands-on experience to pass the exams. In this way, the MTA is considered more academic than the role-based certifications. The MTA is designed to fit into high school and college curricula so that students may learn basic IT knowledge and be exposed to Microsoft technologies commonly used in the tech industry.