Microsoft shipped the enterprise release of Office 2010 in mid-May, followed by the consumer release of the business productivity applications suite in mid-June.
However, with so many new capabilities in the updated suite, it's important that support staff clearly understand how Office 2010 has changed from Office 2007 or even earlier versions and be able to jump in when users need help.
This week, Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) began rolling out three new certifications for IT professionals, as well as students, looking to advance their careers by improving their skills on the latest version of Office.
Called Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS), the three levels of certifications are specialist, expert, and master. They are the only official certifications for Microsoft Office 2010 products and, in a statement, the company said it expects as many as a million people will take and pass the exams over the next year, earning one or more of the certifications.
Among the target audience for the MOS certifications, Microsoft said, are not only clerical and office workers, consultants, and managers, but also help desk staff, software trainers, and developers.
"The MOS certification program helps individuals gain mastery of all Microsoft Office applications including Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, Access, Outlook, SharePoint Server, and Project," the statement added.
Under Microsoft's certification system, a commercial testing service named Certiport administers the examinations.
The first two of those tests for Office 2010 cover Word 2010 Core and Excel 2010 Core at the specialist level and are available now. Others will become available in coming months.
Microsoft's preliminary plans are to have exams for Project 2010 available in September, followed by PowerPoint 2010 in October, and Outlook 2010 and Access 2010 in November, with the caveat that dates may change.
The company is also targeting SharePoint 2010 exams for spring 2011. The first two second-tier, or expert, exams are targeted for Word 2010 and Excel 2010 in January.
Microsoft has offered the MOS certifications for the past ten years, according to company statements. The company also offers exams for earlier versions of Office, as well as for other Microsoft products and technologies, including Windows, servers, developer tools, and the Dynamics ERP and CRM applications.
Microsoft has also donated vouchers for certifications through its Elevate America program to help out-of-work or underemployed American workers who need to upgrade their software skills get up to speed.