Guide to Microsoft Certification Path: Jobs, Levels, Options

Written by Coursera • Updated on

Learn about the different Microsoft certification paths, the three levels of certifications, and possible Microsoft certification career paths.

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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 [1]. 

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

What exactly is Microsoft Azure certification?

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 [2].

Read more: What's the Difference Between AWS vs. Azure vs. Google Cloud?

Benefits of Microsoft Azure certification

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 [2], 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. 

What will you learn in Microsoft certification courses?

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 [3].

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.

Categories of Certification

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. 

Fundamentals-level certifications

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 Fundamentals  

  • Azure AI Fundamentals 

  • Microsoft Security, Compliance, and Identity Fundamentals Azure 

  • Azure Data Fundamentals  

Associate-level certifications

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  

Expert-level certifications

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 

Specialty certifications

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 

What should you do to get ready for new Microsoft Azure certifications?

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.  

What are career prospects for Microsoft Azure certified IT professionals?

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. 

Career paths related to Microsoft certifications

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 [4]

  • Cloud Administrator: $88,777 [5]

  • Cloud Developer: $115,211 [6]

  • Cloud Solutions Architect: $138,692[7]

  • Data Engineer: $117,868 [8]

  • Data Scientist:$120,559 [9]

  • DevOps Engineer: $120,431 [10]

  • Functional Consultant: $104,378 [11]

  • Security Engineer: $118,887 [12]

  • Solutions Architect: $141,711 [13]

What senior roles does certification open up?

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:

Cloud sales and purchase manager

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 [14].

Azure big data specialist

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[15].

Cloud account manager

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[16]. 

What's next?

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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Microsoft Azure Developer Associate (AZ-204)

Launch Your Career in Data Science. Learn how to create end-to-end solutions in Microsoft Azure

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Skills you'll build:

Develop for Azure storage, Develop Azure compute solutions, Connect to and consume Azure services and third-party services, Implement Azure security, Monitor and troubleshoot Azure solutions, Develop an Azure Function, Deploy an Azure Function, Evaluate Azure services for integration and process automation scenarios, Test an Azure Function, Implement the publish-subscribe pattern in the cloud using Azure Queue storage, Use Azure Service Bus topics and queues in a distributed architecture to ensure reliable communications, Connect sending and receiving applications with Event Hubs so you can handle extremely high loads without losing data, Choose the right messaging technology in Azure for each communication task in a distributed application, Analytics, Continuous Function, Combination, Measurement, Create and manage a vitual machine, Work with Windows virtual machines in Azure, Build and run a web application with the MEAN stack, Create and manage a Linux vitual machine, Install Azure PowerShell locally and use it to manage Azure resources, Plan and manage your Azure costs, Install the Azure CLI locally and use it to manage Azure resources, Organize resources in Microsoft Azure, Use deployment slots to streamline deployment and roll back a web app in Azure App Service, Implement and deploy a web app to App Service, Use the publishing features of Visual Studio 2019 to deploy and manage an ASP.NET Core web application hosted on Azure, Deploy and run a containerized web app with Azure App Service, Use Azure RBAC to manage access to resources in Azure, Use access keys to secure networks, Set up policies to protect cloud-based data, Secure web applications on Azure, Outline the key points covered in the Developing Solutions for Microsoft Azure course, Describe best practices for preparing for the Exam AZ-204: Developing Solutions for Microsoft Azure, Demonstrate proficiency in the skills measured in the Exam AZ-204: Developing Solutions for Microsoft Azure

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Article sources

1. Cloud Academy. “The 12 Microsoft Azure Certifications: Which is Right for You and Your Team?, https://cloudacademy.com/blog/microsoft-azure-certifications-which-is-right-for-you-and-your-team/.” Accessed July 6, 2022.

2. Intellipaat. “Microsoft Azure Certification Path & Training Guide, https://intellipaat.com/blog/microsoft-azure-certification/.” Accessed July 6, 2022.

3. Indeed. “A Guide to Microsoft Certifications: Types and Paths, https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/career-development/microsoft-certifications.” Accessed July 6, 2022.

4. Glassdoor. “How much does an AI Engineer make?, https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/us-ai-engineer-salary-SRCH_IL.0,2_IN1_KO3,14.htm?clickSource=searchBtn.” Accessed July 6, 2022.

5. Glassdoor. “How much does a Cloud Administrator make?, https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/us-cloud-administrator-salary-SRCH_IL.0,2_IN1_KO3,22.htm?clickSource=searchBtn.” Accessed July 6, 2022.

6. Glassdoor. “How much does a Cloud Developer make?, https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/us-cloud-developer-salary-SRCH_IL.0,2_IN1_KO3,18.htm?clickSource=searchBtn.” Accessed July 6, 2022.

7. Glassdoor. “How much does a Cloud Solutions Architect make?, https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/us-cloud-solutions-architect-salary-SRCH_IL.0,2_IN1_KO3,28.htm?clickSource=searchBtn.” Accessed July 6, 2022.

8. Glassdoor. “How much does a Data Engineer make?, https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/us-data-engineer-salary-SRCH_IL.0,2_IN1_KO3,16.htm?clickSource=searchBtn.” Accessed July 6, 2022.

9. Glassdoor. “How much does a Data Scientist make?, https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/us-data-scientist-salary-SRCH_IL.0,2_IN1_KO3,17.htm?clickSource=searchBtn.” Accessed July 6, 2022.

10. Glassdoor. “How much does a DevOps Engineer make?, https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/us-devops-engineer-salary-SRCH_IL.0,2_IN1_KO3,18.htm?clickSource=searchBtn.” Accessed July 6, 2022.

11. Glassdoor. “How much does a Functional Consultant make?, https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/us-functional-consultant-salary-SRCH_IL.0,2_IN1_KO3,24.htm?clickSource=searchBtn.” Accessed July 6, 2022.

12. Glassdoor. “How much does a Security Engineer make?, https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/us-security-engineer-salary-SRCH_IL.0,2_IN1_KO3,20.htm?clickSource=searchBtn.” Accessed July 6, 2022.

13. Glassdoor. “How much does a Solutions Architect make?, https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/us-solutions-architect-salary-SRCH_IL.0,2_IN1_KO3,22.htm?clickSource=searchBtn.” Accessed July 6, 2022.

14. Glassdoor. “How much does a Cloud Sales make?, https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/cloud-sales-salary-SRCH_KO0,11.htm.” Accessed July 6, 2022.

15. Glassdoor. “How much does a Big Data Specialist make?, https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/us-big-data-specialist-azure-salary-SRCH_IL.0,2_IN1_KO3,22_KE23,28.htm?clickSource=searchBtn.” Accessed July 6, 2022.

16. Glassdoor. “How much does a Key Account Manager make?, https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/us-key-account-manager-cloud-salary-SRCH_IL.0,2_IN1_KO3,22_KE23,28.htm?clickSource=searchBtn

Written by Coursera • Updated on

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