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The Road to Microsoft Office Certification

written by: KateG•edited by: Christian Cawley•updated: 6/30/2009

If you are looking to take the MOS exam, this guide can help you to understand the basics of what that entails.

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    Becoming an MS Office Specialist

    A Microsoft Office Specialist, sometimes referred to as an MOS, is a certification that signals to employers (or potential employers) that you have an expertise in both using Microsoft Office, and in integrating it with other programs. It is worth noting that there are actually several different types of MOS certifications that one can obtain.

    How do I get certified?

    You can become a Microsoft Office specialist by passing examinations at specific user levels of application expertise, and some of the certifications that fall under the MOS umbrella require you to take multiple exams.

    What are the different types of MOS certifications?

    The MOS exams are split up into 3 levels. The first level is called Specialist. At the Specialist level you only have to pass one exam. However, there is a Specialist level exam for each of the programs in the Microsoft Office Suite. This means that you can be a specialist in Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access or Outlook. You may take multiple specialist level exams if you like.

    The next level is called Expert. There are only two Expert level exams. To hold the title Expert you have to pass either the Word Expert or the Excel Expert exam.

    The final level is known as Master. There are no separate exams for the Master level. In order to obtain a Masters level certification you must have passed all of the following lower level exams.

    • Word Expert
    • Excel Expert
    • PowerPoint (Specialist level)
    • Either the Access or Outlook (Specialist level)

    In some ways this system is advantageous because you can build on previously earned certifications. The downside is that you can not become a master in just one program. You must have a well rounded knowledge of the Office suite.

    How should I study for the MOS exam?

    How you study for the exam is a matter of personal preference. Some people choose to take exam preparation courses. If your schedule, or your wallet do not allow for courses then you can study on your own.

    Where can I get self study materials?

    While many sites offer you study books and practice exams, it is best to go to the source, certainly for reputable and industry standard accreditation. Microsoft maintains a list of resources to help you study for the MOS exam.

    How am I going to pay for this?

    Paying for certification exams, especially multiple exams, can become costly. Most, if not all, tuition reimbursement programs and federal student loan programs will not pay for certification exams. You may be able to get a training loan. One piece of good news is that certification exams are covered by the GI bill. Thus, if you are current or former military, you should check your eligibility before you register for an exam.

    Where can I take the exam?

    You can find a list of testing centers and setup an appointment here.

    Best of luck with your exams.