MOS certification led to a full ride scholarship and continuing education

Eric M. Dillon is currently a postgraduate student pursuing a Master of Philosophy in Digital Humanities at the University of Cambridge in Cambridge, UK. Originally from Williamson, West Virginia, USA, Eric reflects on his Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS) certification journey and shares how it led to a full scholarship for college, boosted confidence, and guided him towards a clear career path.

What inspired you to earn a MOS certification?

During high school, I enrolled in a business computer applications course where the MOS exams were mandatory components of our grading system. I obtained various certifications, including Microsoft Office Word, Word Expert, Excel, Excel Expert, PowerPoint, Outlook, Access, and Microsoft Office Master certifications.

I was excited about obtaining the certifications but discovering that I had achieved first place in West Virginia for the 2017 MOS U.S. National Championship in Microsoft Office Word truly ignited my dedication to pursuing further certifications.

What was your experience like at the MOS U.S. National Championships?

I competed in the MOS U.S. National Championships from 2017 to 2019. In 2017, I secured second place in Microsoft Office Word. The following year, I earned fourth place in Microsoft Office Excel, and in 2019, I competed in Microsoft Office PowerPoint.

The student competitions are still some of my favorite memories from high school! There's something exciting about racing against the clock to get your documents in order. I met other competitors, learned more about Certiport and Microsoft, and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

How has MOS certification impacted your education and career aspirations?

At the time I earned my certifications, I wasn’t sure about what I wanted to do. I knew I was interested in video games, but I wasn’t sure how I wanted to pursue them. Additionally, growing up in southern West Virginia, there weren’t many opportunities for me to learn—much less prove my competence in—different kinds of technical skills. The MOS certifications were really the first time I had formal, recognized training on computer skills that I still use today in my studies and work.

Earning my certifications and participating in the MOS U.S. National Championships helped me receive a full-ride scholarship. When I was applying to college for the first time, I interviewed for the Society of Yeager Scholars, Marshall University’s most prestigious scholarship program. A lot of my interview questions ended up being based around my participation in the competition.

I earned my Bachelor of Science in Computer Science and a Bachelor of Arts in English with a minor in Digital Humanities from Marshall University in West Virginia.

How have your MOS certifications continued to benefit you today?

Today, I’m completing a Master of Philosophy in Digital Humanities at the University of Cambridge in Cambridge, UK, where my research includes game narratives, archival and digitization, and internet aesthetics. 

Although it’s been several years since I earned my certifications, the skills I learned during this time have stuck with me ever since. Even as Microsoft Office changes and improves, I am still just as proficient now as I was then. The certifications not only give you the ability to use the software, but also to learn how to adapt to new changes in the software and even how to learn entirely different software suites as well.

Reflecting on your journey, what advice would you give to your past self?

I would reassure myself that I was on the right path! At the time of pursuing the MOS certifications, I worried that perhaps it would just be another line on my resume that wouldn’t pay off—but the benefits of participating in the Championships, receiving scholarships largely due to these events, and gaining an advantage in my research abilities have been invaluable.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about pursuing MOS certification?

MOS certification is important because it provides concrete evidence of software proficiency crucial in today’s workplace and can unlock countless academic and professional opportunities.

It also can lead to participating in the MOS Championships! Competing in the MOS U.S. National Championships was a deeply rewarding experience. I could spend all day discussing the practical side of it, but the events truly boosted my confidence not only in my skills but also in my ability to learn and compete.

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