Microsoft Azure Certification: Overview And Career Path
The global COVID-19 pandemic has forced individuals and organizations to adopt new ways of doing daily tasks, from working to learning. It has also accelerated the journey to the cloud for many organizations; for others, it has made them more reliant on the cloud. With that move comes a demand for professionals with cloud computing skills. One of the highly demanded certifications today is the Microsoft Azure certification.
What is Microsoft Azure?
Microsoft Azure is the second-largest cloud provider in the world behind AWS. Azure is Microsoft’s cloud computing platform, with more than 100 services available in over 60 regions and 140 countries. IT professionals and developers use the platform to build, develop, deploy and manage applications in the cloud using different tools and frameworks. It is estimated that Azure is used by more than 95% of the Fortune 500 companies.
What is Microsoft Azure used for?
Microsoft Azure is a global cloud computing platform that allows you to gain access to services and resources — compute, storage, databases, web, networking — to meet your current and future business needs. Microsoft Azure offers four (4) models of services: Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and serverless. It provides a range of services which allows you to:
- Build, deploy and scale applications — web, mobile and API in the cloud with support for various languages and frameworks
- Host applications and services via its Compute services (e.g., virtual machines, Kubernetes services and container instances)
- Maintain an accessible offsite backup storage location where you can store, back up and restore data securely and cost-efficiently
- Process, store and analyze big data using services such as machine learning and artificial intelligence
- Reduce application development cost and time by using cloud infrastructures that can easily be scaled up or down
What are the Microsoft Azure certification paths?
As of July 2020, Microsoft offers a range of certifications. Deciding which certification path to follow can be a bit daunting at first. In 2018, Microsoft introduced a new approach to its certifications — a shift to role-based certification paths that is focused on building skills related to job roles and duties in the cloud.
The four (4) job roles include:
This role is focused on individuals who implement, manage and monitor cloud environments and solutions and scale technical solutions across the organization.
This role is focused on individuals who design, build and test the software and systems that make technology work, from commercial apps to enterprise cloud solutions.
This role is focused on individuals who integrate and optimize technologies across an organization tailoring solutions to meet developer and business requirements.
This role is focused on individuals who create the processes that oversee code releases along with managing the development cycle to continuously deliver business value.
What are the available Azure certifications?
The 14 distinct role-based certifications offered by Microsoft Azure are also categorized into four levels: Fundamentals, Associate, Expert and Specialty.
The Fundamentals certifications are targeted at individuals who are just starting out and have zero to six months’ experience. It validates foundational knowledge of cloud computing services and how those services are provided with Microsoft Azure.
There are three Fundamentals certifications:
Microsoft Azure Fundamentals
This certification is designed for individuals who are looking to gain an overall understanding of the Azure cloud. It validates one’s knowledge of cloud computing concepts — security, privacy, compliance and trust, core Azure services, pricing, Service-Level Agreements (“SLAs”) and life cycle.
Required exam: AZ-900: Microsoft Azure Fundamentals
Prerequisites: Fundamental knowledge of cloud concepts is required.
Microsoft Azure AI Fundamentals
This certification is designed for individuals who have a basic knowledge of artificial intelligence and machine learning and how to implement them on Azure. It validates one’s foundational knowledge of machine learning and artificial intelligence concepts and related Azure services.
Required exam: AI-900: Microsoft Azure AI Fundamentals (beta)
Prerequisites: Not mandatory, but programming hands-one experience is recommended.
Microsoft Azure Data Fundamentals
This certification is designed for individuals who are looking to gain an overall understanding of working with data in the cloud. It validates one’s knowledge of core data concepts and how they are implemented using Azure data services.
Required exam: DP-900: Microsoft Azure Data Fundamentals (beta)
Prerequisites: Not mandatory, but understanding of relational and non-relational data concepts is recommended.
The Associate certifications are targeted at individuals with some knowledge and zero to two years of Azure hands-on experience.
There are seven Associate certifications:
Microsoft Azure Data Scientist Associate
This certification is designed for individuals who implement and run machine learning workloads on Azure machine learning. It validates the individual’s knowledge and experience in setting up an Azure machine learning workspace; running experiments and training models; optimizing, managing, deploying and consuming models.
Microsoft Azure Administrator Associate
This certification is designed for individuals who implement, manage and monitor an organization’s Azure environment. It validates the individual’s knowledge and experience in implementing, managing and monitoring identity, governance, storage, compute and virtual networks in a cloud environment, plus provisioning, sizing, monitoring and adjusting resources when needed.
Required exam: AZ-104: Microsoft Azure Administrator
Prerequisites: Hands-on experience administering Azure with a strong understanding of core Azure services, Azure workloads, security and governance. In addition, experience using PowerShell, Azure CLI, Azure Portal and Azure Resource Manager templates.
Microsoft Azure Data Engineer Associate
This certification is designed for individuals who design and implement the management, monitoring, security, and privacy of data solutions using the full stack of Azure data services. It validates the individual’s knowledge and experience in implementing data storage solutions; managing and developing data processing; and monitoring and optimizing data solutions.
Cost: $165 each
Microsoft Azure Security Engineer Associate
This certification is designed for individuals who implement security controls and threat protection; manage identity and access; and protect data, applications and networks in cloud and hybrid environments as part of end-to-end infrastructure.
Required exam: AZ-500: Microsoft Azure Security Technologies
Prerequisites: Experience in scripting and automation; networking, virtualization, cloud N-tier architecture; and familiarity with cloud capabilities, products and services for Azure.
Microsoft Azure Database Administrator Associate
This certification is designed for individuals who implement and manage cloud and on-premises relational databases built on top of Microsoft SQL Server and Azure data services. It validates the individual’s knowledge and experience in planning and implementing data platform resources; implementing a secure environment; monitoring and optimizing operational resources; optimizing query performance; performing automation of tasks; planning and implementing a High Availability and Disaster Recovery (HADR) environment; and performing administration by using T-SQL.
Prerequisites: Experience in managing on-premises and cloud relational databases built on Microsoft SQL Server and Microsoft Azure data services.
Microsoft Azure AI Engineer Associate
This certification is designed for individuals who use cognitive services, machine learning and knowledge mining to architect and implement Microsoft AI solutions involving natural language processing, speech, computer vision and conversational AI. It validates the individual’s knowledge and experience in analyzing solution requirements; designing solutions; integrating AI models into solutions; and deploying and managing solutions.
Required exam: AI-100: Designing and Implementing an Azure AI Solution
Prerequisites: Not mandatory, but experience in designing and implementing AI apps and agents that use Azure Cognitive Services, Azure Bot Services, Azure Cognitive Search and data storage in Azure.
Microsoft Azure Developer Associate
This certification is designed for individuals who design, build, test and maintain cloud applications and services. It validates the individual’s knowledge and experience in developing Azure compute solutions; developing for Azure storage; implementing Azure security; monitoring, troubleshooting and optimizing Azure solutions; and connecting to and consuming Azure services and third-party services.
Required exam: AZ-204: Developing Solutions for Microsoft Azure
Prerequisites: Experience in Azure PowerShell, Azure CLI, data storage options, data connections, APIs, app authentication and authorization, compute and container deployment, debugging, performance tuning and monitoring.
The Expert certifications are targeted at individuals who are experienced IT and DevOps professionals with over two years of Azure hands-on experience.
There are two Expert-level certifications.
Microsoft Azure Solutions Architect Expert
This certification is designed for individuals who design and implement solutions that run on Azure, including areas such as compute, network, storage and security. It validates the individual’s knowledge and experience in advising stakeholders and translating business requirements into secure, scalable and reliable cloud solutions
Individuals are required to pass two individual exams before they are issued the Microsoft Azure Solutions Certified Expert certificate.
Cost: $165 each
Prerequisites: Experience and knowledge of IT operations, including networking, virtualization, identity, security, business continuity, disaster recovery, data platform, budgeting and governance.
Microsoft DevOps Engineer Expert
This certification is designed for individuals who work with people, processes and technologies to continuously deliver business value. It validates the individual’s knowledge and experience in designing and implementing strategies for collaboration, code, infrastructure, source control, security, compliance, continuous integration, testing, delivery, monitoring and feedback.
Individuals are required to have earned either the Microsoft Azure Administrator Associate or the Microsoft Azure Developer Associate certificate before they can write the qualifying exam.
The Specialty certifications are targeted at individuals who are experienced IT professionals with over two years of Azure hands-on specialized experience.
There are two Specialty-level certifications
Microsoft Azure IoT Developer Specialty
This certification is designed for individuals who develop cloud and edge components of an Azure IoT solution. It validates the individual’s knowledge and experience in implementing an IoT solution infrastructure, provision and manage devices; implement solutions on IoT Edge devices; process and manage data; monitor, troubleshoot and optimize IoT solutions; and implement security.
Required exam: AZ-220: Microsoft Azure IoT Developer
Cost: $165 USD
Microsoft Azure for SAP Workloads Specialty
This certification is designed for individuals who have extensive experience and knowledge of the SAP landscape and industry standards that are specific to the long-term operation of an SAP solution on Azure. It validates the individual’s knowledge and experience in migrating SAP Workloads to Azure; designing an Azure solution to support SAP Workloads; building and deploying Azure SAP Workloads; validating Azure infrastructure for SAP Workloads; and operationalizing Azure SAP architecture.
Cost: $165 USD
Where to take the exam
Currently, there are two ways of taking the Microsoft Azure Certification.
- Physical test center: This is the standard test-taking process where you register and take the exam in a local testing center.
- Online proctoring: You can take the exam in the comfort of your home or office using your computer. The exam delivery is monitored by a proctor via webcam and microphone. However, certain requirements must be met in order to maintain the integrity of the exam such as ensuring the room is free from disruptions and a scan of the work area by the proctor.
AWS and Microsoft Azure own over 50% of the cloud infrastructure services market and customers in various sectors and industries. Having a Microsoft Azure Certification is likely to boost your career. It is a great way to validate your skills and differentiate yourself from others. You’ll also need practical, hands-on experience and knowledge to guide you in real-life environments.
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