Phillip Burton

In this article, I want to talk about the value of Microsoft Office certifications and how to get certified. 

Microsoft Office is one of the top two most used office suites and includes Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and Access. 

Microsoft offers certification in each of these programs. But why would you want to be certified? Well, there are two main reasons: 

  1. to gain additional skills that you didn’t already have, and
  2. to gain recognition for those skills, perhaps in connection with a job search or a possible promotion in your current job. 

Let’s have a look at each of these in turn.

Microsoft apps on phone

Improving your Microsoft Office skills

New skills will expand Microsoft Office capabilities or allow you to do things you are already doing faster. But why is this relevant to certifications? 

To gain these new skills, you have to know what they actually are. Unfortunately, you don’t know what you don’t know — so how can you work out what you need to know? Microsoft Office certifications can help, as they have a detailed list of individual skills that you need to learn for the exams. Essentially, they are the skills that Microsoft wants you to know. 

A certification route will give you an excellent syllabus to follow, and you can be sure that the skills you are learning are relevant to that program.

MO-100 Word, MO-200 Excel, MO-300 PowerPoint certifications

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According to a recent Pearson report, which looked at all 29,000 candidates who completed IT certifications, 73% of candidates pursued their certifications to upskill and obtain necessary skills for their current or future work. 91% of candidates said that it gave them increased confidence.

If you are an employer, when your employees have these additional skills, they will be more effective in their jobs. Global Knowledge’s IT Skills and Salary Report estimated that the Return on Investment (ROI) is an extra US$10,000 per credentialed employee.

Public recognition

But what about if you are looking for a new job or a possible promotion? Let’s say you are already a really good Microsoft Word or Excel user, and you go to a new employer. Which of these two statements sounds better? 

  1. I am a really good Microsoft Excel user — I say so myself, or
  2. Microsoft says that I’m a really good user of Excel. 

Everyone says the first statement, regardless of how true it is. For you to say the second statement, somebody has had to verify your skills independently.

According to Pearson, after obtaining their certifications:

My experience

How has being certified affected me? A few years ago, I applied for a job in education data analysis. I have no previous work experience in education but plenty of experience in data analysis. My potential employers looked at my CV/resume and saw the complete lack of educational data analysis background, but also that I was a Microsoft Office Expert. I was not just saying this, but I was certified by Microsoft. I found out later that based on these certifications, they took a chance and called me for an interview. After the interview and skills demonstration, I got the job.

When you apply for a new job, it is vitally important that you can present yourself in the best possible light. You could demonstrate your skills by saying that I have been with a previous employer for X years and have done these tasks. However, in addition to that, you can also say that I have taken these certification exams, and Microsoft says I am now an Associate or Expert.

What are the Microsoft Office certifications? 

There are seven different exams for the Microsoft Office programs. These exams fall into two different levels of difficulty — Associate and Expert. 

First, the Associate exams are for Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook. They are:

If you pass any individual exam, you will get an official Microsoft certification for that subject, such as “Microsoft Office Specialist: Word Associate (Word and Word 2019).“ In addition, if you pass any three of these four exams, you will be certified as a Microsoft Office Specialist: Associate (Office 365 and Office 2019)

There are three additional Microsoft Office Specialist Expert certifications. They are: 

If you already have the Microsoft Office Specialist: Associate certification and pass two of these Expert exams, you can then call yourself a Microsoft Office Specialist: Expert (Office 365 and Office 2019).

In addition to these exams for Office 2019, previous versions of the exams are available for Office 2016 and Office 2013. All of these are based on Microsoft Office as used on a Windows PC as opposed to a Mac.

What skills do I need for certification? 

On each of the homepages for the Microsoft certifications (hyperlinked above), if you scroll down, you will see a list of “skills measured.” 

Skills measured, Microsoft certifications

If we take, as an example, the MO-100 Microsoft Word exam, you will see that there are five main categories. The exam covers the following topics, each of which is worth between 5% and 25% of the marks in the exam:

These are very broad topics, and it would be unclear what exactly Microsoft is looking for. However, within each of these topics, you can drill down to the detailed individual requirements to ensure that you are familiar with each of them. The “Insert and format graphic elements” topic, for example, includes the following criteria:

To find these requirements, click on the above hyperlinks to take you to the exam page and click on the “Download exam skills outline” button.

How can I take these exams? 

CertiPort offers these exams, and there are links on the above web pages for this. The cost is around US$100 per exam.

You will earn a Microsoft Office Specialist certification if you pass an exam. You could then download this from the Microsoft Certification Dashboard. Passing multiple exams can lead to a Microsoft Office Specialist Associate certification or an Expert certification.

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How can I learn these materials? 

You could learn this information by attending a traditional, in-person, or instructor-led course. Unfortunately, you have to travel to the venue on a particular day and time, and you would have to pay around US$300 per certification.

A better way to learn these skills would be through a study course like those offered on Udemy. For example, my course on MO-100 Word, MO-200 Excel, and MO-300 PowerPoint certifications allows you to study for all of these Associate exams. This course has many practice activities and quizzes to ensure continual learning. After taking this course, and with some additional practice, you should be able to take and pass the Associate certifications.

Over to you

I do hope you decide to go for the official Microsoft certifications — wouldn’t they look good on your CV or resume? You can use them on LinkedIn and other social media, and also for your next job application. One or more of these certifications may also give you more opportunities within your current company, such as a promotion or pay raise. 

For more information about the Microsoft Word certifications, please click here.

For more information about the Microsoft Excel certifications, please click here.

Thank you very much for reading this article, and keep learning.

Page Last Updated: April 2022