In general MCSAs manage Microsoft networks on a per-department or per-site basis, whereas MCSEs also plan, design, and troubleshoot Microsoft networks (including more complex, multi-site configurations). MCSDs, on the other hand, develop software for the Microsoft environment (and in case you didn't know, there's a credential called the Microsoft Certified Application Developer, or MCAD) that has the same relationship to the MCSD that the MCSA has to the MCSE.
In general there are a lot more MCSEs (around 265,000) and MCSAs (around 135,000) than there are MCSDs (around 46,000 pre-.NET, nearly 9,500 for .NET) and MCADs (over 20,000; all numbers as of 9/9/2004). Jobs are increasingly hard to come by for networking types (MCSA and MCSE), but remain rather more plentiful for developer types (MCAD and MCSD). My advice: pick the general area (networking or software development) that appeals to you most, and don't just get certified -- do your best to learn your subject matter inside out and backwards. That will greatly up your odds of finding (and keeping) a good job, especially if you can communicate your interest and passion to prospective employers.
MCSDs need to understand general Microsoft development tools, environments, APIs and software architecture. They need to master Visual
Basic.NET or Visual C#.NET, understand Web applications, Windows applications, and XML Web services, plus take an elective exam on SQL
Server, BizTalk, or Commerce Server. See the requirements at http://www.microsoft.com/traincert/mcp/mcsd/requirementsdotnet.asp for more information.
This was first published in November 2003