Last year, Microsoft introduced specializations in messaging for MCSA and MCSE credentials, which are now available if you want certification on Windows 2000 or Windows Server 2003.
Microsoft sent a clear message that Exchange and messaging technologies warrant special notice. Given that, what are the job prospects for people who want to pursue these specializations?
I like to look at two traditional ways to estimate employment opportunities within a specific market niche. One looks at the overall market size, while the other analyzes such elements as surveys, job postings and classified ads. In this case, useful information is available by measuring the availability of Microsoft messaging-related jobs for IT professionals.
From the market size perspective, things look pretty good. According to Marcel Nienhuis, a market analyst at The Radicati Group, the current market size for Exchange/Outlook mailboxes is surprisingly large, both in North America and worldwide. For the purposes of sizing the worldwide market, Nienhuis (a contributor to a recent report entitled, "Microsoft Exchange and Outlook Analysis, 2003-2006") distinguishes between "insourced" mailboxes (those purchased directly from Microsoft) and "outsourced" mailboxes (those purchased through a third party).
His analysis indicates that at the end of 2003, there were 96.5 million insourced mailboxes and another 12 million outsourced mailboxes, for a worldwide total of 108.5 million mailboxes. Of that total, approximately 46%, or 49.9 million, are in North America and the remaining 58.6 million are distributed elsewhere around the world. Please note also that the report counted only "active mailboxes," which are defined as those mailboxes that are accessed at least once every three months, if not more frequently.
Given that a typical Exchange server generally handles anywhere from 100 to 25,000 mailboxes, this translates into a large number of servers worldwide and in North America. Based purely on the number of mailboxes alone, it's not outrageous to suppose that there are at least 2,000 potential positions out there if you figure one job for every 25,000 users in North America. Using the same ratio, that translates into more than 4,300 jobs worldwide. But while this tells us about numbers of positions possible, it says nothing about positions available.
For that, let's turn to job postings and classified advertisements. What I'm seeing is a typical 5 to 10% of total population coming up for jobs at any given time. This indicates a reasonably healthy job market for those who specialize in messaging certifications.
Likewise, my conversations with consultants and industry watchers who specialize in Microsoft messaging indicate that demand for qualified specialists is on an upward trend.
Since the number of mailboxes keeps increasing steadily at 10% per year or higher, positions available should keep pace. It's not exactly setting the world on fire, but it's one of a few areas in high tech enjoying steady, ongoing growth and demand.
Ed Tittel edits the Exam Cram 2 series, Que Publishing's award-winning cert prep books, and is a contributing editor to Certification magazine. Ed also writes regularly for numerous TechTarget Web sites, and covers certification for InformIT.com. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.