Understanding the Azure Certification Path

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If you are new to Azure — or experienced with Azure and trying to get your talents recognized — it can be confusing to understand what it takes to become certified. Here’s what you need to know. Microsoft has just released role-based certifications that are structured and aligned by Job Task Analysis. Each of these certifications follow specific tracks and exams as follows:

Microsoft Certified: Azure Administrator Associate

AZ-103 Azure Administrator Associate Track  

Microsoft Certified: Azure Developer Associate

AZ-203 Azure Administrator Associate Track

Microsoft Certified: Azure Solutions Architect Expert
You must complete theses course certification tracks and pass these exams:

Certification Track
AZ-300: Azure Architect Technologies Certification

Courses Included:
AZ-300T01:  Deploying and Configuring Infrastructure
AZ-300T02:  Implementing Workloads and Security
AZ-300T03:  Understanding Cloud Architect Technology Solutions
AZ-300T04:  Creating and Deploying Apps
AZ-300T05:  Implementing Authentication and Secure Data
AZ-300T06:  Developing for the Cloud
AZ-300: Microsoft Azure Architect Technologies

Certification Track
AZ-301: Azure Architect Design Certification

Courses Included:
AZ-301T01-A: Designing for Identity and Security
AZ-301T02-A: Designing a Data Platform Solution
AZ-301T03-A: Designing for Deployment, Migration, and Integration
AZ-301T04-A: Designing an Infrastructure Strategy
AZ-301: Microsoft Azure Architect Design
AZ-302: Microsoft Azure Solutions Architect Certification Transition (transition exam for people who passed Exam 70-535)

Aside from the new Microsoft Role-based certifications there are numerous Azure exams which test you expertise in Azure. If you’re considering getting certified to become a Cloud Platform Certified, a Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP), a Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate: Cloud Platform (MCSA), or a Microsoft Certified Trainer MCT, then you will probably will want to focus on “the big three” certification exams: 70-532, 70-533, and 70-535. As you pass the exams, you will be working towards becoming Cloud Platform Certified. The process itself is very straightforward, and you can take the tests in any order. When you pass the first exam, you automatically become a Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP). With this distinction comes a number of benefits, including discounts on books from Microsoft Press and special offers on both products and additional exams. At the moment, there’s also a promotion which reduces the cost of the tests as you take additional exams.

After passing the second test, you automatically are promoted to a Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate: Cloud Platform, or MCSA. This level is considered the foundation of the Microsoft Azure certification.  If you enjoy teaching — and have an adequate proof of your skills in that area — you become eligible to apply to become a Microsoft Certified Trainer (MCT). As an MCT, you can provide official Microsoft training based on the competencies you’ve earned from passing Microsoft exams. The range of classes you can teach expands as you continue to pass additional exams

Finally, completing all three exams and you become a Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert: Cloud Platform and Infrastructure, or MCSE. Having an MCSE is demonstrates a knowledge of cloud key concepts and a baseline ability to apply that knowledge. It’s important to know that this means you have a baseline expertise in the technology, but true mastery of Azure comes from years of practical experience gained from applying those skills. Individuals with the exam and the experience tend to find themselves in high demand!

The exams themselves are designed to test your knowledge of Azure. While you have your choice of several Azure exams (and the list keeps growing!), the following three are the most common.

  • 70-532: Developing Microsoft Azure Solutions This exam validates your ability to program and implement solutions on Azure. The questions cover the Azure .NET SDK code (C#), Powershell, and Azure CLI. Review the complete set of skills.
  • 70-533: Implementing Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Solutions
    This exam validates your ability to implement and monitor cloud and hybrid infrastructure. The questions cover Azure infrastructure, including PaaS offerings, virtual machines, storage, and networking. Review the complete set of skills. You can also reference my recent post on Mastering Azure Network Addresses.
  • 70-535: Architecting Microsoft Azure Solutions
    This exam validates your ability to define appropriate technologies and Azure resources for Azure solutions. The questions cover understanding the range of services available on Azure and understanding when to use them. Review the complete set of skills.

If you’ve never taken a Microsoft exam, the experience begins by visiting https://learning.microsoft.com. From there, you can sign up to take the exams either at a local testing center or at home on your own machine. Be aware that taking the tests at home requires you to have a computer with a camera and a clean environment where you will not be disturbed; if anyone else enters the testing area, the test is automatically ended. The overall process is very easy to understand and the systems do a decent job of guiding you. If you’re testing at home, be sure to test your machine early for compatibility. If you have any outstanding Windows updates, ensure you’ve applied those AND re-tested your machine. There are situations in which having updates that are pending will prevent you from starting the test, so it’s best to handle that before it’s a problem!

If you’re serious about learning, considering joining a study group. It is helpful to review the study materials (such as the Microsoft Press Exam Ref series), but it is significantly more valuable to make sure you’ve spent adequate time working with Azure and familiarizing yourself with the concepts hands-on. Microsoft provides free labs here and here to help you get started.

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