As a Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP), you increase your value as an employee, improve your marketability in a job hunt, and command a higher salary. Jeff Zwier, technical recruiting professional with Wujcik and Associates in Chicago, Illinois, knows the value of an MCP. "I can regularly arrange a preliminary interview for a Microsoft Certified System Engineer (MCSE) with two years of experience--not so for those without certification," he says. "Certified system administrators and developers receive offers up to $5000 above comparable noncertified professionals."

Although the advantages of certification are clear, the process of becoming certified can be intimidating. Before you commit to the effort, you'll want to know what to expect and what approach to take. Often, the best way to get reliable information is to ask someone who's been there. To give you that perspective, here are four MCSEs who made the grade, sharing their experiences and tips for passing a Microsoft certification exam.

Please see Sidebar "How I Got My MCSE"