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Microsoft Certified
Luis Aguiar

Microsoft Azure Certifications Path for 2021

Become Microsoft Certified in 2021 by diving into Azure certifications that will help you get ahead in your professional life as well as benefit your company. Or, for employers, learn where your team members can upskill for added value within your organisation.

We’ve put together a how-to guide on the available Microsoft Azure Certifications across administration, development, and operations.

Why Get Microsoft Certified?

As an IT professional, obtaining various certifications can help you to gain a deeper understanding and practical, working knowledge of products or services used in the industry. More importantly, for many, it is something that looks great on your CV: helping you to land better jobs, move up the pay scale, or simply stand out from other people who are in the same field.

Microsoft Azure certifications help showcase your proficiency in various IT streams working with Azure services. If your organisation works with Microsoft Azure, or you plan on working in Azure environments, then gaining this recognition from Microsoft itself will give you - and your employer - a professional boost.

  • 23% of Microsoft certified professionals attained up to a 20% salary boost after certification
  • 36.9% of IT professionals thought certification helped their confidence in performing complex tasks

(via Pearson VUE 2017 Value of IT Certification Survey)

  • 93% of decision-makers believe an IT certified team member adds value past the cost of the certification
  • 63% of IT decision-makers said the dollar value of a certified team member over a non-certified team member exceeds $10,000 annually

(via Global Knowledge 2019 IT Skills and Salary Report)

Getting certified has benefits for both you, as well as your employer - which is why it is a good idea to ask for sponsorship within your organisation if you intend on going for one of these Azure certifications.

Azure Certification Costs

The cost of certification depends on the country in which you are taking the exam. Currently, due to the impact of COVID-19, some exams are available at a reduced rate - so take advantage of it while you can. We list the exam costs for US applicants under every course covered here.

Azure Certification Path

There are various different Microsoft certification paths for Azure that you can take, depending on what role you play within your organisation, or where your future interests lie.

Training for any of these Microsoft Azure courses can be done in-person via instructor lead training, or self-paced via modules online. There are also external resources which you can access to help gain a greater understanding of the course content and to prep for your exams.

Azure Fundamentals

The Fundamentals courses allow you to gain a basic understanding of some key areas of Azure: core services and functionality, how data works, and AI workloads.

Microsoft Certified: Azure Fundamentals

  • Best for: Administrators and those looking for an Azure intro
  • Exams: AZ-900 (Microsoft Azure Fundamentals)
  • Cost: $99USD
  • Prerequisite courses: None
  • Recommended study guide: Documentation at Microsoft Learn

Azure Fundamentals is the very first course to undertake if you are interested in working with Azure - although it's not absolutely necessary, depending on your intentions. The course covers cloud services fundamentals and then how they are implemented within Azure, providing a general overview of how Azure comes together and integrates various services as a platform.

Basic knowledge of storage, networking, compute, app development and support, and networking is required before you embark on this course: the fundamentals of computer science.

The course not only covers cloud fundamentals and management, but security and privacy in Azure, and the basics of identity management, governance, and compliance. It also goes through costing for services.

Microsoft Certified: Azure Data Fundamentals

Working with data in Azure may be slightly different from the way that you’ve worked with data previously. The Azure Data Fundamentals course covers the basics of how data is handled in Azure, including the concepts behind relational and non-relational databases, plus big data and analytics.

This course is a must for data professionals who will be working with or managing databases and/or big data who do not have experience with Azure.

Microsoft Certified: Azure AI Fundamentals

Cloud services are perfect for running AI and Machine Learning workloads that would be impossible to achieve with on-prem resources. This course covers the basics of how that happens with concepts and configurations in Azure.

Azure AI Fundamentals runs through no-code predictive models in Azure ML, computer vision, Natural Language Processing, and conversational AI to give you a jump-off point for exploring AI in Azure in more depth.

Associate Certification Courses

Associate certifications are applicable to people who want to showcase proficiency in Azure within a particular role.

Microsoft Certified: Azure Data Engineer Associate

Already ticked off the boxes of what is covered in Azure Data Fundamentals? The Azure Data Engineer Associate course takes you further into putting data to work under specific Azure services with practical applications. If you plan on dealing with all sorts of data on a regular basis in Azure, then this is the course to take, covering management, security, and monitoring.

It covers storing data, working with relational data, and then dives into the specifics of some core Azure data services: Azure Cosmos DB (for NoSQL databases), Azure Data Lake Storage Gen2 (big data), Azure Streaming Analytics (streaming data), Azure Synapse Analytics (data warehousing), and Azure Databricks (data engineering).

Microsoft Certified: Azure Database Administrator Associate

  • Best for: Database Administrators
  • Exams: DP-300 (Administering Relational Databases on Microsoft Azure)
  • Cost: $165USD
  • Prerequisite courses: Azure Data Fundamentals (optional)
  • Recommended study guide: Documentation at Microsoft

For those working with SQL database administration under Microsoft SQL Server, the Azure Database Administrator Associate course is the course that will ensure you know (almost) all you need to know about how to be a DBA in Azure.

The course covers resource planning and implementation in Azure, security, monitoring and optimisation of resources, query optimisation, automation, plus high availability and disaster recovery.

Microsoft Certified: Azure Data Scientist Associate

As opposed to Azure AI Fundamentals, the Azure Data Scientist Associate track is about the concentrated application of machine learning on Azure, and in particular, with the Azure Machine Learning Service.

Learning modules include creating machine learning models, creating no-code predictive models, and building AI solutions.

Microsoft Certified: Azure Administrator Associate

If you are serious about becoming a better Azure admin, and have at least 6 months’ experience under your belt already, then this may be the certification you need to put you ahead of the competition. The Azure Administrator Associate course involves practical application of skills in resource management, plus identity, security, and governance across your Azure infrastructure.

This course covers fundamentals (such as PowerShell automation, network security, and data storage approaches), identity management and governance, storage management, compute resource management, virtual networks, and monitoring and backup of Azure resources.

Microsoft Certified: Azure Security Engineer Associate

Already a security professional looking to gain a deeper understanding and practice of security in Azure? The Azure Security Engineer Associate certification allows you to flex your expertise and demonstrate your capabilities.

The course will allow you to put into practice security across: cloud applications, resource management, networking, VMs, Azure AD, and security operations.

Microsoft Certified: Azure AI Engineer Associate

  • Best for: AI Engineers
  • Exams: AI-100 (Designing and Implementing an Azure AI Solution)
  • Cost: $165USD
  • Prerequisite courses: Azure AI Fundamentals (optional)
  • Recommended study guide: Documentation at Microsoft Learn

Doing AI with Azure requires deep knowledge of the suite of services dedicated to this practice, as well as associated data storage techniques. For AI Engineers, the Azure AI Engineer Associate certification allows you to demonstrate your practical knowledge of AI across Azure.

Learning modules within the certification include text evaluation using Azure Cognitive Language Services, processing and translating speech with Azure Cognitive Speech Services, and creating intelligent bots using the Azure Bot Service.

Microsoft Certified: Azure Developer Associate

Developers who specialise in working with Azure with 1+ years’ experience utilising the platform can consider adding the Azure Developer Associate certification to their list of accomplishments. This is the track for Azure for developers and the course may also help those in a DevOps role with development experience.

Within this course, you will learn how to make serverless apps, connect Azure services, store and secure cloud data, deploy websites with VMs as well as the Azure App Service, and track resource management.

Expert Certification Courses

Expert certification courses require a working knowledge of both Azure as well as the area of interest defined in the course. These certifications are designed to demonstrate a deep, practical understanding of the subject matter in Azure; that you are an SME.

Microsoft Certified: Azure Solutions Architect Expert

  • Best for: Azure Solutions Architects
  • Exams: AZ-303 (Microsoft Azure Architect Technologies), AZ-304 (Microsoft Azure Architect Design)
  • Cost: $165USD (AZ-303), $165USD (AZ-304)
  • Prerequisite courses: Azure Fundamentals (optional)
  • Recommended study guide: Documentation at Microsoft Learn

Creating full Azure architectures, migration planning, and operational designs requires an advanced administrative knowledge of Azure services, interactions, management, and security and governance. To demonstrate this working knowledge, professionals can undertake the Azure Solutions Architect Expert certification. Since this is an Expert certification, it requires considering how decision-making impacts stakeholders downline and how to mitigate potential problem areas.

This intensive course covers the architecture of networks, storage, compute, infrastructure ops, data platforms, serverless apps, modern apps, API integration, migration, uptime assurance, and disaster recovery.

Microsoft Certified: DevOps Engineer Expert

DevOps Engineers serious about running DevOps organisation-wide on Azure should consider undertaking the DevOps Engineer Expert course. This course has a prerequisite to complete first: either the Administrator Associate certification or the Developer Associate certification.

The course covers areas such as developing a monitoring and telemetry environment, site reliability, security and compliance, source control management, facilitation of communication and collaboration, and design and implement continuous integration activities and services.

Specialty Certification Courses

Specialty certification courses are designed for niche job role areas that may not be covered in-depth enough in Associate certificate courses.

Microsoft Certified: Azure IoT Developer Specialty

  • Best for: IoT Developers
  • Exams: AZ-220 (Microsoft Azure IoT Developer)
  • Cost: $165USD
  • Prerequisite courses: Azure AI Fundamentals (optional)
  • Recommended study guide: Documentation at Microsoft Learn

IoT development is no longer a super niche dev area to get into, with the IoT device landscape exploding in recent years. The Azure IoT Developer certification allows devs to really show their experience in developing for IoT across Azure services and requires a cloud and IoT background in one of the following languages: C#, Node, C, or Python.

Within this course, you will practice securely connecting devices to Azure, edge development with Azure IoT Edge, and solutions dev with Azure IoT Central.

Microsoft Certified: Azure for SAP Workloads Specialty

  • Best for: Administrators and Solutions Architects
  • Exams: AZ-120 (Planning and Administering Microsoft Azure for SAP Workloads)
  • Cost: $165USD
  • Prerequisite courses: Azure Fundamentals (optional)
  • Recommended study guide: Documentation at Microsoft Learn

The SAP Workloads Specialty course is designed specifically for people who work with SAP administration, and want to continue working in this area within the Azure ecosystem. To achieve this certification it’s recommended that you have completed the Administrator Associate or Solutions Architect Expert certifications prior - as well as have SAP and Linux certifications or relevant experience.

The courseware includes learning about the various Azure services that are SAP-integrated and then planning and running your SAP workloads.

Microsoft Azure Certification Guides

There are plenty of other resources available that will help you to study up for your certification exams, the Microsoft provided learning materials aren’t the be-all and end-all when it comes to learning materials.

Here are some resources to get you started:

Tailor your studies to your favourite type of learning, whether it’s text-based, lectures, or in-person.

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