If you’re looking for a job that requires knowledge of Microsoft Office, you can make yourself more competitive by getting certified. A Microsoft Office Certification verifies your expertise and proficiency of core Office suite programs.
Microsoft Office is widely used by a variety of organizations. This certification could increase your worth with employers, especially if you’re seeking a raise or a new job.
The Microsoft Office Certification covers its core products: Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and/or Access (PC only). During the exam, you must complete certain tasks in the application within a specific time frame and number of clicks. The goal is to make sure you know the software well enough so that you’re not hunting around the menus and toolbars to perform a task.
Microsoft offers certifications in Office 365, Office 2019, Office 2016 and Office 2013, as well as in single applications, such as Word or Excel. A certification in the latest Office 365/2019 versions will carry you forward the longest, experts say.
“You will always have your certification designation to put on a resume or show an employer, but at some point, the version will look out of date. So for the most longevity, I recommend the newer version,” says Andrea Procak, business-development coordinator for ONLC Training Centers.
There are different levels of certifications available for Microsoft Office. For Office 365 and 2019, Microsoft offers two levels: Associate and Expert. For Office 2016 and 2013, Microsoft has a Master level as well. You can also get certified as a Microsoft Office Specialist, or MOS, in a single application, such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook or Access.
Microsoft Office Specialist Associate for Office 365/2019
You must pass three of these four exams:
Microsoft Office Specialist Expert for Office 365/2019
The Microsoft Office Specialist Expert certification covers Word, Excel and Access. The Microsoft Office Specialist Associate certification is a prerequisite for this certification.
You must pass two of these three exams:
Microsoft Office Specialist 2016 Master
You must also pass one of these two:
Microsoft Office Specialist 2013 Master
The Microsoft Office Specialist 2013 Master certification covers Word and Excel, and potentially PowerPoint, Outlook, Access or OneNote. This level offers three pathways to earn the certification. Visit Microsoft’s website for more information.
People typically get certified in Microsoft Office to make themselves more competitive in the job market. This is true whether you’re looking for a new job or want to increase your value with your current employer. The Office certification covers your skills at using Office, not at administering or managing Office in a support capacity. It can also benefit teachers, trainers or Help Desk professionals who instruct others on Office.
“Once you’ve certified as a Microsoft Office Specialist, the bullet point on your resume that reads ‘proficient in Microsoft Excel’ isn’t just a bullet point but becomes a statement of experience and expertise in the given application that is backed by Microsoft,” says Udemy instructor and Microsoft Certified Trainer Kyle Pew. “‘Certified as a Microsoft Office Specialist’ becomes a distinction that separates those that are certified from the casual Office user in a competitive job market.”
A Microsoft Office certification can be advantageous to someone who uses Office as a core part of their job. If you use Office sporadically or don’t need the expertise in your career, then it’s likely not worth your time and money.
Prep time for the exams depends on your current understanding of Office and how quickly you can learn new features. For each application and exam, Microsoft recommends around 150 hours of instruction and hands-on experience. MOS exams take 50 minutes.
“Depending on your ability to comprehend and utilize the software, this can be done relatively quickly,” Procak says. “We had a student take each of the specialist exams within the span of about four weeks. Some people focus on one at a time, and that could be done as quickly as one week to one month depending on the time available to practice and study.”
Normally, you would take the exams at an authorized certification center such as Certiport, the leading provider of certification services. You can find the nearest center at Certiport’s Locator site. Due to precautions for the coronavirus, you can now take the exams online. Certiport is offering its Exams from Home program through June 30, 2021.
Each product, such as Word, Excel or PowerPoint, requires a separate exam. The cost of a voucher for each individual exam is $100. A Specialist voucher with the option to retake the exam costs $120. You can purchase vouchers directly at Certiport’s Office Specialist Exam Vouchers page.
Step 1 – Study, Training and Tutorials
Before you attempt to take an exam, you should go through training for each program. Even if you’re already skilled with the program, the right training can better prepare you by covering material that will be on the exam.
Get hands-on training by working with Office programs on your computer. You can study on your own through books, tutorial software and training websites. Also consider instructor-led online courses, which might be more expensive.
- Microsoft 365 Training. Microsoft offers free videos and step-by-step instructions for using the key features in each Office program.
- LinkedIn courses. LinkedIn offers tutorial videos and exercise files for general Office training and certification preparation. A subscription to LinkedIn Learning starts at $19.99 per month after a free trial.
- Microsoft Press Study Guides. Available as printed books and ebooks, these guides cover the topics on the exams. Ebooks start at $7.99.
- Certiport Certification guidebooks and online courses. Certiport sells both ebooks ($32.99) and online courses ($135-$225) to prepare you for an Office certification exam.
- ONLC self-study and instructor-led classes. ONLC offers self-study and instructor-led classes for Office, with specific classes for certification preparation, from $175.
Step 2 – Take a Practice Test
Next, consider taking a practice test that simulates the actual certification exam. The practice tests are available through Certiport’s GMetrix Practice Tests. A full suite costs around $75. A single application practice test costs $40.
Each test has two modes. A training mode allows you to work at your own pace as you receive feedback and step-by-step instructions for each question. A testing mode lets you experience the actual certification exams with timed practice scenarios.
Step 3 – Enroll and Take the Test
After you purchase and redeem the voucher for a test, the exam administrator sets the date and time of the test. You’ll receive a link and session details from Certiport the day prior to your scheduled at-home exam. Before your exam, review the following resources:
Try to redeem the voucher while the practice tests and training are still fresh in your mind. After you’ve completed the exam, you’ll receive an email that says whether you passed. You can also check by signing into your Microsoft Certification dashboard, which shows your current and past certifications and can help you register for additional exams.