Is it better for an MCSA/MCSE on Windows 2000 to complete a Windows 2003 certification first, then upgrade to 2008? or forget 2003 and start on the 2008 certifications?

Short answer:

  • If you work with 2008, start on that directly. It's the shortest path. 
  • If you're interested in showing skills on multiple platforms, you could earn an MCSA 2003 en route to 2008. It only adds one exam to your overall path.
  • If you work with 2003 and will for a while yet, earn an MCSA or MCSE 2003.

Long answer, with visual aid:

If you want to certify on 2008, the fasted path is to skip 2003 and start on MCTS/MCITP directly. In the new format, you earn a 2008 cert after your first exam (any of the three MCTS certs), which is kind of nice...

If you (or your boss) are looking for validated skills on Windows Server 2003, then do a 2003 cert first. You can still "upgrade" to 2003, even though the upgrade exams (292 and 296) just retired. You just need to complete the 2003 core exams.

  • From MCSA 2000 to MCSA 2003, you've got two core requirements to complete.
  • From MCSE to MCSE, you've got four. So, an MCSE might consider earning an MCSA on 2003 and following the 2008 upgrade via 648, rather than completing the MCSE 2003....  

Nothing wrong with finishing your 2003 certification. As we've said before, those certifications aren't expiring or retiring and they're valuable as long as organizations are looking for people skilled on 2003! In any case, the 2003-->2008 upgrade paths will be available for a good long while, so you can take advantage of that whenever you start working with 2008.

Here is a little table I just made. I think it is right. Please point out anything that's not.

If you are

MCSA 2000 earning 2003 then 2008

MCSE 2000 earning 2003 then 2008

Skipping 2003 and going right to 2008

Take core 2003 exams

291 + 290

290 + 291 + 293 + 294


To earn

MCSA 2003*

MCSE 2003**


Then take



640, 642

To earn




Then complete MCITP: Server Admin requirements

(4 exams total)

(6 exams total)


(3 exams total)

Or complete MCITP: Enterprise Administrator requirements

643 + 647 + 620***
(6 exams total)

647 + 620***
(7 exams total)

643 + 647 + 620***
(5 exams total)

*you have already completed the client requirement and elective via your 2000 cert
**you already have client, design, and elective requirements via your 2000 cert
***or 624 or 621