Once you’ve achieved the highest level, where do you go from there?
That’s the question Merrillville High School (MHS) senior Kameron Priest ponders after attaining the Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS) Master level within the first two weeks of his informatics class.
“I just kept going and going and going,” Kameron said. “Why not get them now while I can get them for free?”
“I know of no one else personally who has achieved this very difficult level,” said MHS Business Educator Sharon Row.
According to John Syljebeck, territory manager for Certiport, certification exam provider for MHS, Kameron is a member of a very elite club.
“Just over 1,300 students earned MOS Master in 2019,” Mr. Syljebeck said.
A more interesting statistic he provided was only 0.3% of candidates earned it worldwide.
With those numbers, Ms. Row estimates that only about 30 to 32 students across Indiana earned the Master certification in 2019.
In her Tier III informatics class, students are exposed to all areas in computer science and earn an IC3 GS5 industry certification. They must pass three separate tests to earn the IC3.
This year, Ms. Row incorporated Excel 2016 into the curriculum, and all of her students rose to the challenge and accomplished the dual certification.
But Kameron took it further. He earned his first certification, Microsoft Office Specialist in Access, last spring with Ms. Row in her database management class and realized "certifications create opportunities" and "they were fun."
In two weeks' time this semester, he added Specialist certifications in Word and Powerpoint, then raised the bar successfully testing for the Expert level in both Excel and Word, qualifying him for MOS Master.
Under a pilot program for MOS 2019/365 in Ms. Row's classroom, he did them all over again with the new, enhanced software. He has earned 14 certifications to date and upon completion of his IC3 next month, he will have 17 industry certifications.
She said each certification level propels a student further on the path to greater achievements and advancement.
“Having certifications is like having professional licenses,” Ms. Row said. “With these certs behind you, you don't have to go to college to get a great paying job. And you don't have to go to college to get certs and pay the tuition, books and fees, because we offer them here at MHS to our students totally free.”
Ms. Row said a Microsoft Office Specialist certification commands a mastery of the Microsoft Office software application, i.e., Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Access, OneNote, etc.
“Becoming a Specialist is good,” she said. “Becoming an Expert is better. And becoming a Master is best.
“The Expert level takes it beyond mastery and demands students apply their mastery to unusual, difficult and challenging scenarios,” Ms. Row said. “Microsoft projected that in 2020, more than 90% of all technology jobs in the world will require a MOS certification, particularly in Excel.
“The students I have had who have applied for jobs during and after high school have all told me without exception that when they showed the prospective employer their certifications, they were immediately hired on the spot,” she said.
“One of my students last year went to the mall for a sales position,” she added. “The manager saw his certifications and told him he wanted him to work in the back office doing reports on the computer at $15 an hour and not sell shoes.”
As for Kameron, his recent achievement created a drive to conquer more.
“My aunt works in IT, and she said every company recognizes A+ certification,” he said. “Might be my next step.”
Kameron said he’s been interested in computers since he was much younger and is currently planning a future career programming computer games.