Certification gives you the tools
A certificate ratifies that you have achieved competence in knowing your tools.
A lot of people get confused about the difference between having the tools to do the job (certified) and the ability to use the tools effectively do the job.
The latter requires experience.
Experience gives you the ability to use those tools
The two concepts go hand in hand, and this will ring true of degrees as well (C.S., Soft Eng, etc). The degree/certification gives you the tools to become a developer.
However there is SO much more to being a professional developer than can be taught at university or in a certification. The best they can achieve is to ensure they've given you the tools to do the job.
Certification or a degree is not necessary to be a great developer
I personally know several great senior developers who never completed university and don't have any certifications. However picked up equivalent or better skills in the field, always learning and applying their knowledge.
The antithesis to this is that the above statement is very rare. It takes a determined individual to become great without first being given the tools do do the job.
Employers will look hard at anyone without qualifications and realise that they'll be taking a risk to employ that candidate.
Employers often don't understand that a degree in C.S. / Soft Eng, or a certificate doesn't instantly make a candidate a master in their field. And a lot of times a candidate will get hired for thier degree / certificate alone and placed in a senior position which quickly turns sour.
The employers that do understand this, will be trying to determine your ability to gain from experience.
- How well can this candidate use the tools that he/she has been given?
- How quickly can they pick up new tools?
Benefits to being Microsoft Certified
A secondary benefit to being microsoft certified (especially to businessess) is the Microsoft Silver/Gold partnership.
Microsoft Partner Website
In very real terms a lot of businesses gain a direct benefit to having one or more Microsoft Certified Developers which can provide cheaper and even free development tools directly from microsoft. Which is a huge cost savings.
And so there's another incentive to achieve a Microsoft Certification, businesses need to keep a certain number of staff on hand with the correct qualification to maintain their partnership status.
Often busineses will only be looking for candidates who have a certification, so theres a second opportunity to get your foot in the door for an interview.
The best advice that I can give is that gaining experience is worth more in real development terms than achieving a certificate with no experience.
Gaining a certificate after a few years of experience is best, and if you're serious about making a career as a software developer (finish your degree as well). You may find that you will hit a wall when you start going for Mid to Senior level positions (employers wont take the risk to employ a candidate without a degree).