Learn about the different Microsoft certification paths, the three levels of certifications, and possible Microsoft certification career paths.
Cloud computing is arguably one of the most rapidly growing technologies in the modern age. For job seekers, this is excellent news because jobs created to handle and manage technology on the cloud will continue growing and gaining prominence. Companies such as Amazon, Google, and IBM, have all created cloud services products to try and capture the growing market. Still, Microsoft Azure is the current market leader accounting for 29 percent of the application workload of the cloud market .
Given that statistic, it’s not surprising that there’s also a growing demand for IT professionals certified in Microsoft Azure. As more companies adopt Microsoft Azure for their cloud services needs, the market for professionals who are certified experts at Azure will only continue increasing. Certifications in Azure will ultimately allow you to reach the senior role and higher potential salary since these credentials offer concrete proof of your expertise. Understanding the correct Azure Certification path for your professional wants and needs is the best place to start your journey.
Read more: What Is a Cloud Engineer? Building and Maintaining the Cloud
Microsoft Azure Certification validates your technical skills relating to various job positions that use Azure and tests your level of expertise. You can pursue three certification levels: fundamental, associate, and expert.
Microsoft Azure Certification also offers Speciality Certifications tailored to one cloud domain topic. Overall, there are twenty-five different Microsoft Azure Certifications that you can attain by passing associated exams to prove your knowledge. The cost of Microsoft Azure Certification ranges from $99 to $165, depending upon the level of certification .
Read more: What's the Difference Between AWS vs. Azure vs. Google Cloud?
Certifications in Microsoft Azure allow you to pursue many job opportunities in this space. Around 95 percent of Fortune 500 companies are using Microsoft Azure in some capacity , so jobs for professionals certified in Microsoft Azure have consistently increased each year.
By attaining Microsoft certifications, you give employers and potential employers concrete evidence that you have the proper knowledge and expertise to be a valuable asset. In turn, it may help you gain new job opportunities, attain higher pay, and advance your career consistently. Adding certifications to your resume can strengthen your chances of receiving an interview and increase your chances of standing out against other candidates applying for the same role.
Microsoft certification courses typically start by teaching you the fundamentals, including the basics of cloud services and how they are conducted explicitly on Azure. The main topics included in this learning are fundamental cloud concepts, Azure services, security, pricing, and privacy.
The certifications are role-based and designed to allow you to learn the appropriate skills you need to use in an actual job. The fundamental certification is built to encompass all the skills you would learn in your first year of working in the cloud domain. The intermediate certification includes skills acquired in three to five years, and the expert certification includes skills typical for five to seven years of work .
Depending upon your chosen certification, you may need to renew your Microsoft certification every year. It’s essential to understand the requirements for maintaining your credential. For example, you may need to complete a certain amount of continuing education and take a renewal exam to qualify.
You can pursue three levels of certifications: Fundamentals, associate, and expert. You’ll need to pass certification exams at each level to gain full certification and, in some cases, to have the ability to advance to the next level of certification. Once you achieve the fundamentals-level certification, you may opt to advance to associate-level or expert-level certifications, as the associate-level tests are not a prerequisite for the expert-level.
Another level of certification offered by Microsoft falls under “Specialty Certifications.” This certification category allows you to specialize in a particular topic or domain that will be highly applicable to a job that you are pursuing.
You’ll need to pass one exam to earn your fundamental-level certification. Microsoft currently offers four exams that you can choose from, including:
Azure AI Fundamentals
Microsoft Security, Compliance, and Identity Fundamentals Azure
Azure Data Fundamentals
You need to pass two associate-level exams to earn an associate-level certification. Microsoft offers a total of thirteen different exams to choose from, including:
Azure AI Engineer Associate
Security Operations Analyst Associate
Azure Administrator Associate
Identity and Access Administrator Associate
Azure Developer Associate
Azure Enterprise Data Analyst Associate
Azure Database Administrator Associate
Windows Server Hybrid Administrator Associate
Azure Security Engineer Associate
Azure Stack Hub Operator Associate
Azure Network Engineer Associate
Azure Data Engineer Associate
Azure Data Scientist Associate
At the expert level, you’ll need to pass two expert-level exams to earn your credential. Microsoft offers three exams to choose from, including:
Cybersecurity Architect Expert
Azure Solutions Architect Expert
DevOps Engineer Expert
You also have another option. In addition to the three main Azure certifications, Microsoft also offers five specialty options, including:
Azure Support Engineer for Connectivity Specialty
Azure IoT Developer Specialty
Cosmos DB Specialty
Azure Virtual Desktop Specialty
Azure for SAP Workloads Specialty
To get ready to pursue Microsoft Azure Certifications, you should review the list of skills you’ll be tested on to ensure you’re seeking the proper certification based on your skill set and knowledge base. You can study self-paced content available on Microsoft’s website to brush up on critical subjects on your own time. You may also opt to attend an instructor-led training event to review fundamentals.
Additionally, Microsoft offers practice exams that you can take to gauge your knowledge and preparedness for the certification process. Once you feel like you’re ready, sign up for a trial subscription on Microsoft’s website to explore the available content and practice for the exam. This can confirm that you’re poised to pass the exam and gain your certification, or it could tell you that you need to do a little more studying.
As Microsoft Azure gains more clients and continues its dominance of the cloud industry, the demand for certified Azure professionals will consistently grow. If working in the cloud piques your interest, following an Azure Certification path will likely open up the most job opportunities for you, including senior-level and high-paying roles.
Microsoft intentionally created their certifications to be role-based and built around the skills needed to succeed in common IT positions that use Azure. The company is mindful of aligning the certifications with the latest industry trends and works to make them industry-centric. The top ten core jobs in the cloud domain that Microsoft tailors to in their Azure Certifications, with their US average annual salary, are as follows:
AI Engineer: $127,616 
Cloud Administrator: $88,777 
Cloud Developer: $115,211 
Cloud Solutions Architect: $138,692
Data Engineer: $117,868 
Data Scientist:$120,559 
DevOps Engineer: $120,431 
Functional Consultant: $104,378 
Security Engineer: $118,887 
Solutions Architect: $141,711 
Microsoft Azure Certifications can lead to higher-paying job opportunities and increase your chance of receiving a promotion. You might find specific senior roles that could also become available to you as you work to become certified in your desired areas of the cloud domain. A few senior positions to highlight are:
As a cloud sales and purchase manager, you will be crucial to an organization's advancing technology's creative role. You can work alongside cloud architects and software developers to adapt your company to benefit from Microsoft Azure. The average annual salary for this position in the US is $126,805 .
In this role, you will work to design and implement big data services that can derive meaningful insights that are useful for your company. Attaining the Microsoft Azure Big Data Services Certification can help you to become a desirable candidate for this position. The certification will ensure that you have the technical knowledge in architecture and big data services, explicitly dealing with Azure. The average annual salary for this position is $106,991.
In this role, you will oversee customer accounts and guide them in their purchase decisions. Your primary focus will be on increasing market penetration and revenue for your company while managing the cloud storage and products sales account. The average annual salary for this position is $97,072.
Whether you are entirely new to Microsoft Azure or a seasoned veteran ready to become a certified expert, it helps to prepare ahead of certification exams. Consider taking an exam prep course, such as Azure Fundamentals Exam Prep. If you feel you’ve mastered the basics, you might consider enrolling in a Professional Certificate course for any of the three levels discussed or specialty certification. Professional certificates such as Azure Data Engineering Associate, Azure Developer Associate, and many more are available on Coursera. These options help you prepare for certification and provide a career credential you can add to your resume.
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This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.