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Hey, students! Although the term is just getting started, it is time to start planning ahead for your school break. In additional to rest and relaxation there are a few creative ways to earn Microsoft Certifications—and college credit—over summer or winter break. Certifications not only help you demonstrate your technical skills and open doors to careers, but they can also count as credit toward your college degree. In this post, you’ll meet Sam Jones and Jason Powell, who saved money and completed their degrees faster with college credits they earned as a result of their Microsoft Certifications. They were focused on getting a good education and on using certifications to get ahead with their tech careers as quickly as possible. You’ll see how they did it, and we’ll show you some tools and resources you can use to do the same.
ACE Learning Evaluations
Microsoft Certifications are industry-recognized credentials that many employers look for in new hires. If your college recognizes them as valid for credits, you might be able use them to graduate faster and to save money on your education, while getting a job or advancing in your career. The American Council on Education (ACE) Learning Evaluations department has a nationally recognized process for reviewing and validating industry training. With this process, ACE has reviewed many Microsoft Certifications and has recommended them for academic credit. The ACE National Guide lists all the Microsoft Certifications that have successfully gone through this process. It also lists the many institutions of higher learning that accept the ACE-recommended training. To learn more about ACE and to follow step-by-step guidance for getting college credit for your certifications, read College credit for certification exams.
Sam Jones: Using certifications to accelerate his undergraduate degree
When Sam Jones started working in IT for the United States government at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), he didn’t have an undergraduate degree. His managers recommended that he complete a degree so he could advance his career and move into higher salary roles. One of the reasons he chose to attend the University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) was that the school accepted many industry-recognized certifications, including Microsoft Certifications, that he had earned before starting college. In fact, Sam was granted 60 academic credits, verified though ACE, for those certifications.
At UMGC, Sam studied computer networks and cybersecurity and was able to complete a four-year degree in just two years, thanks to those 60 credits. Sam considers the value of earning certifications “priceless.” He observes, “Not only are employers looking for those certifications, but you’re also getting college credit for them. You don’t have to sit through a college course or write long papers. You can study for certification, pass the exam, put that on your résumé, get a nice job. And you can get college credits.”
Sam encourages students who are interested in tech to earn certifications and get that college credit. He also has some advice for prospective students in the workforce who have been earning certifications and who are considering returning to college. He exclaims, “I wish we could yell this from the rooftops because there are a ton of people out there like me, who have a lot of certifications and want a degree—but feel like a degree would take too much time. My biggest advice is to get an assessment of your certifications with ACE and make sure none of them are out of date. Send them over to the transcript service, and send the transcript to your school. A small fee to eliminate thousands of dollars of credits is a no-brainer. Figure out where you want to go based on the credits that ACE gave you, and figure out the shortest timeline to a degree.”
Sam loves the idea of using a long break to train for and pass certification exams, especially if you want to save money and accelerate your degree process. He notes, “It took me about three months to study for a certification exam. If you’re studying over summer break, you could take the exam right before you return to school. When I tell people what I did and how I did it, people look at me like I’m a magical unicorn. But everyone should know how to do this. If you have credentials, you should be able to use them the same way I did.”
Jason Powell: Using certifications to get elective credits for his undergraduate degree
Like Sam, Jason Powell took a nontraditional path to higher education. Jason served in the United States Air Force, and then he worked in IT for a defense contractor in Iraq. Along the way, his employer encouraged him to earn Microsoft Certifications to stay on top of changing technology. He was looking for ways to advance professionally and to be more valuable to his company, so in addition, he decided to earn an undergraduate degree. He chose to attend Excelsior College, a remote learning institution that “was very friendly for transfer credits, as long as the credits applied to the degree.” He received a degree in liberal studies, with an emphasis in computer tech and a minor in history. He learned through ACE that he could use Microsoft Certifications for two elective courses.
Jason spent his time between deployments studying for certification exams or taking college classes. He was very motivated to get the degree, which would give him the opportunity to advance to a system administrator role and to reduce the chance that he’d be maintaining computers in IT “outsites.” He says that earning Microsoft Certifications “helped dramatically. Pursuing certifications sets you apart. You’re going after the practical knowledge of your craft by going after those certifications. After a while, if you continue to get certifications, the accumulation of that achievement shows when you’re on the phone for an interview.”
Jason notes, “By using Microsoft Certifications for two elective courses, it probably saved me 16 weeks of coursework and thousands of dollars. It’s a remarkable amount of money you could save.” He urges students to get Microsoft training and certification. “Simply do it. Do what you can to minimize the amount of time and money you must expend to achieve your goal. It’s about efficiency. And applying yourself in the most efficient way.”
Tips and tricks: Using your break to prepare for certification exams
These stories show that if you have the will, you can find the way! If you have a break from school or a light term and are ready to study for certification, we have a few recommendations to help you on your journey:
- Use the learning paths on Microsoft Learn to gain technical skills.
- If you’re just starting out in the tech world, consider getting a fundamentals certification. If you’re new to the workforce, having a fundamentals certification on your résumé can help set you apart. Browse Microsoft Certifications to see which roles and levels are right for you.
- Attend Microsoft Virtual Training Days to deepen your knowledge. When you register for and complete the training, you’ll be able to take the certification exam at no added cost.
- Take a certification exam.
- As noted, if you attend Microsoft Virtual Training Days, you will receive a free certification exam voucher.
- See if you qualify for a $15 discount on a Microsoft Certification exam.
- After you pass your exam, work with ACE and your college to claim academic credit for your certification. For details on how to do this, go to our article on “College credit for certification exams.”
- When you earn a certification or learn a new skill, update your LinkedIn profile. Share your achievements and help boost your career potential.
Seize the day—start working on certification now
Sam and Jason understand the value of both certifications and college degrees. They’re agile and flexible students—as well as hardworking professionals. A Pearson VUE Value of IT Certification report found that the more experience IT professionals have, the more likely it is they have multiple certifications, which indicates that acquiring IT credentials is a lifelong pursuit.
Sam and Jason both continue to make learning an essential part of their careers. Sam is in networking, finishing a master’s degree, and looking at earning the Microsoft Certified: Azure Network Engineer Associate certification “because the cloud is so hot right now.” Jason is in a cyber-technical role and working on a doctorate. Both are looking forward to a time when their Microsoft Certifications can be applied to advanced degrees, too. They encourage students in college to pursue Microsoft Certifications before they graduate. The time is now! Jason points out, “It’s important to apply your time and emphasis to whatever it is that you need to be good at for the role that you’re in. You only have so much time—everything else you can make more of. But time, you don’t get any more of that.”