These days all progressive IT firms recognized that many technically gifted people have no desire to enter the management chain. As an individual contributors they are more valuable, more motivated and often better paid than management. Don’t get me wrong – management roles are vital positions in organizations, they are just different positions than engineering and therefore require different talents.

So, what happens to an engineer who outgrows his position and wants more complex work, new title and more money? The most common title these days is [prefix] architect. (prefixes: senior, principal, lead, chief, enterprise, or strategy). But how will the employer get an independent proof that a person is indeed on an architect level, not a mere turbo-charged engineer with inflated ego?

In the management world, the best distinction is the magic MBA qualification. Now I don’t want to get off on a rant here but there are so many MBA-offering institutions out there pumping so many new MBA graduates to the market every semester that the title lost a most of its initial shine and value. The mere fact that there are lots and lots (and lots) of MBA graduates saturates the management market and lowers the value of the credential.

In my personal (and highly subjective) opinion something similar happened to the MCSE credential. Being a MCSE used to mean something, used to be rare and used to be prestigious. But nowdays it isn’t good distinguishing credential anymore for the ‘higher echelon of technorati’ who want to be top individual contributors in top technology organization, for people who want to shape the IT strategy and want to influence others with their insights and inspiration.

Here is where the value of MCA certification becomes clear and obvious: Employers can set the MCA certification as one of the prerequisites before engineer can be inaugurated to the higher echelon of leaders. De-facto architects can get an independent assessment and proof of their skills, abilities and maturity. Wannabe architects can get a clear target of prerequisites before they will be recognized by their peers as true architects. Customers can start distinguishing between pompous hollow titles (Principal architectural engineering lead) and titles that have some weight. And IT architecture as the profession can get some more distinctive shapes of what it takes to be called an IT architect.

All in all, if you have the prerequisite experience to pursue the MCA certification, I would deeply recommend that you embark on the mission. In contrast with other exams/certifications it is not a quick cramming affair and you should set a realistic target of 8-10 months (or even longer) to fulfill the requirements, satisfy the allocated mentor and pass the MCA review board. It is a long path and success is not guaranteed, but at the end you’ll feel such a tremendous sense of accomplishment and pride that you’ll be able to wear your underwear on the outside – just to show how good you really are in the IT profession.

Good luck to all candidates who decided to pursue the certification in this round!