What are, in your opinion, the best resources to use in becoming certified as an MCSD?
Cool! I can discuss two questions with one answer. First off, I'm not sure of exactly what Microsoft endorsed certifications are available now for Visual Studio .NET.
What I really want to discuss is that as someone who has been hiring engineers for quite a while, I've never found any of the certifications to be worth anything and have never required them for any of my positions. It's far more important that you can solve problems instead of passing some sort of basic test. I always ask for code samples before I do a face to face interview. These code samples need to be the sole ownership of the individual (i.e., nothing they have written at work). That way I immediately determine who's passionate about programming and who's doing it merely as a job. I only want to work with people who are passionate, don't you? Absolutely nothing is worse than working with people who are simply punching a clock.
The best piece of advice I can offer is just to code like mad and COMPLETE realistic coding task on your own. Real code you've done on your own speaks a million times louder than anything else.
As far as education is concerned, I like people that have at least graduated college. That simply shows they can hit a long term goal. As far as their major, I'm not really concerned. I have a BS in Computer Science and it was worthless as far as preparing me for the software industry. I started out as a philosophy major and those classes have been far more valuable to me. They made me write a ton of papers so I learned to string sentences together. That's very important because 90% of real programming is writing e-mails and documents about what you're doing. Additionally, those philosophy classes taught me how to think logically and solve problems. My great regret in life is that I switched over to Computer Science instead of staying with philosophy.
The best prepared developers I've seen are those that have a college degree in something other than computer science and have attended a program such as Boston University's Certificate of Programming. It's a six month intensive course that really makes you solve problems and learn the technology. Other universities offer similar programs so look in your area for one.
Additionally, many of them offer evening sessions. At one company I worked at we basically were ready to take the 20% of students out of the BU program. I hired many of them as junior developers and a short four or five years later they are the top developers at that company.
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