That said, employers and recruiters will all tell you without skipping a beat that most of them prefer to deal with (and hire) candidates with experience who don't have certification rather than hire candidates with certification who have no experience. Thus, one can only conclude that the combination is worth more than the MCSE by itself, which apparently is worth less than two or more years of relevant experience as an absolute point of comparison.
While you're working on your MCSE you can do some things to boost your experience levels, however. I'd urge you to put a home practice laboratory together and learn how to install, configure and maintain all the important pieces and parts of a normal Windows server-based network: desktops, servers, Active Directory, DHCP, DNS and so forth (SQL Server as well, obviously, once you begin chasing the MCDBA). Keep a list of everything you do, the kinds of problems you solve and skills you learn. Also, look for opportunities to volunteer at schools, charities or your place of worship to help with network or system installations or migrations, or other kinds of tasks where you can put what you're learning into practice, and then later claim some experience as a result..
Best of luck with your studies and your certifications. With time, effort, and persistence you should indeed be able to find work..
This was first published in June 2005