When you have to compete for jobs against hundreds of other applicants, how do you stand out from the crowd— especially at midlife? Earning a Microsoft Office Specialist certification, is one way of getting your resume to the top of the pile.
According to a study of the top 20 skills employers require across all occupations in the United States, proficiency in Microsoft Office ranked #3 on the list. (When adjusted for the skills required by the highest wage-paying and growth industries, Microsoft Office moved into the #2 position1) so no matter what occupation you’re looking to enter, proficiency in Microsoft Office products is an in-demand skill that will make you more marketable and valuable to employers.
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What is a Microsoft Office Specialist Certification?
Microsoft gives certification exams in their Word, Excel, PowerPoint, SharePoint, OneNote, Access, and Outlook office products. Each exam is offered in a variety of versions so you may choose the one that is the most familiar to you such as Microsoft Office PowerPoint 2010 or Microsoft Office Excel 2013, or choose the one that’s most sought after by employers in your industry.
Exams are each taken individually so you can choose to certify in one or more areas, depending upon your level of proficiency in each. During the exams, you’ll be asked to perform tasks or complete projects that demonstrate your knowledge of the software. For instance, you may be asked to balance newspaper column lengths in Word, or manipulate data cells in Excel. You are scored on the steps you take to complete the assigned tasks, and the help menu is not available during the exams. When you pass an exam you become a designated Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS) in that software product.
What Are the Benefits of Becoming a Microsoft Office Specialist?
With MOS certifications, you can enhance your resume with marketable skills and earn higher salaries in many industries. According to the Microsoft website, an entry-level business employee can earn as much as $16,000 more in yearly wages than an uncertified employee1, and 91% of hiring managers considered certification to be part of their hiring criteria in a 2012 study2. If you glance quickly through any Internet job site, you will see numerous listings that ask for “demonstrated ability,” “strong skills,” and “intermediate” experience in Microsoft Office products. From data entry to administrative specialists to human resources and more, employers consider an MOS certification to be proof that you possess the high-level skills they are looking for in their top candidates.
How Can I Prepare to Pass a Microsoft Office Exam?
There are many resources to help you hone your skills for the MOS exams. Although books are available, there is nothing like working on a computer for improving your software skills, so consider taking an online prep course and/or practice exams to achieve the best results. Here are some of your options:
- Microsoft Office Word 2013
- Microsoft Office Word Expert, Part 1 & 2
- Microsoft Office Excel 2010
- Microsoft Office PowerPoint 2013
- Microsoft Office Excel 2010 Expert
- Microsoft Office Word 2010 Expert
- Microsoft Office Outlook 2010
- Microsoft Office Word 2010
- Microsoft Office Excel 2013
- Microsoft Office PowerPoint 2010
- Microsoft Office Excel Expert 2013
- Microsoft Office Access 2010
How Far Can I Go?
Microsft Office Specialist is the entry-level certification for any Microsoft Office product. If you’re ready to move up the ladder, or need to stay relevant in the workplace, you can further enhance your skills by earning Microsoft Office Expert certifications in Word and Excel as well as a Microsoft Office Master certification by passing the exams in Word Expert, Excel Expert and PowerPoint in addition to one other elective MOS exam.
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1 – IDC 2011 study, ‘Benefits and Productivity Gains Realized Through IT Certification’
2 – Microsoft, Microsoft Certification Program Satisfaction Study, April 2012