3's a Charm. Understanding and Preparing for Azure Certifications

In late 2018, Microsoft began a shift in their certification program as it pertained to cloud. The change moved the cloud certifications from the traditional Microsoft MCP, MCSA, and MCSE paths into their own “role based” paths. https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/learning/certification-overview.aspx

Three’s a charm when coordinating these certifications. There are three key areas of focus: Azure, Microsoft 365, and Dynamics 365. Within these areas of focus, there are three certification levels: Fundamentals, Associate, and Expert. The complete list can be found here and filtered based on your chosen direction. https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/learning/browse-all-certifications.aspx?certificationtype=role-based

Fundamentals Certifications

Once you have selected a path, what should you do next? My recommendation to everyone, no matter what role, is to start with the Fundamentals certification. You will note when determining a path to take, that each of the Fundamentals certifications are noted as “optional”. (https://query.prod.cms.rt.microsoft.com/cms/api/am/binary/RE2PjDI ). Though none of the Fundamentals exams are required, having and proving this base knowledge is important as you continue through your chosen role. Whether you are in a sales, architect, engineer, account manager, or support position, these exams are broad and build the foundation for the technology. Fundamental certifications do not currently expire.

Associate Certifications

Associate level certifications take you to the next step and are focused on a particular area of focus, such as Security, Development, AI, Data Science, Data Engineering, and Administration. Most of these certifications can be obtained through Microsoft by passing a single exam, with the only exception being the Data Engineer Associate at the time of this writing. These exams have been evolving and changing throughout the year. For example, at the beginning of the year, the Azure Administrator Associate WAS two exams. This changed in May 2019, combining 100 and 101 into 103, and those that passed both exams to obtain the certification were given a voucher to use toward any other exam. Currently, Microsoft has the AZ-104 exam in beta for Administrator and AZ-204 for Developer. As of the time of this writing, only the Developer and Administrator Associate exams are steps to an Expert certification, but as this program evolves, I wouldn’t be surprised if there are additional Expert certifications built off of some of these Associate certifications. Microsoft currently has placed expire/re-certification dates on some, but not all, of these Associate certifications. The Security Engineer Associate initially did not have an expiration date, but one was added in August. So, I would recommend that you expect these to expire in two years, as the Administrator, Developer, and Security certifications currently do.