Microsoft Certification Path Guide: How to Create a Roadmap

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Learn about the different Microsoft certification paths, levels, and career opportunities.

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What are Microsoft certifications?

Microsoft certifications are exams that you can take to earn credentials that demonstrate your competence in a specialized area of expertise. Many Microsoft certifications are role-based, meaning they're designed to teach you the appropriate skills you need to use in an actual job. You can also browse Microsoft certifications by platform to focus on specific physical devices, security tools, or concepts. 

Overview of 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 10 core jobs in the cloud domain that Microsoft tailors to in their Azure Certifications are as follows:

  • AI Engineer

  • Cloud Administrator

  • Cloud Developer

  • Cloud Solutions Architect

  • Data Engineer

  • Data Scientist

  • DevOps Engineer

  • Functional Consultant

  • Security Engineer

  • Solutions Architect

What senior roles can certifications lead to?

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 support an organization's adoption of crucial cloud technologies. You can work alongside cloud architects and software developers to adapt your company to benefit from Microsoft Azure.

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.

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.

What will you learn in Microsoft certification courses?

Microsoft certification courses typically start by teaching you the fundamentals before moving into specialized services, platforms, and concepts. Fundamental certifications are built to encompass all the skills you would learn in your first year of working in the cloud domain. Intermediate certifications include skills acquired in three to five years, and expert certifications include skills typical for five to seven years of work [1].

Certification categories

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.

“Specialty Certifications” are another category of certification offered by Microsoft. 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.

Do Microsoft certifications expire?

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.

How to select a Microsoft certification path

On the Microsoft website, you can by checking and unchecking the boxes on the left side of the screen to filter results. However, Microsoft offers many certifications. It can be overwhelming to sift through them without a plan. In the sections below, we've compiled a few popular options from each expertise level. Consider your career goals and use these lists to customize your own learning path. 

3 popular Microsoft Fundamentals Certifications (beginner level)

1. Microsoft Certified: Azure Fundamentals

Cloud computing is arguably one of the most rapidly growing technologies in the modern age, and Microsoft Azure is the second largest cloud vendor [2].

Content overview: This certification exam covers foundational knowledge in private, public, and hybrid cloud computing concepts. You'll demonstrate expertise in software as a service (SaaS), platform as a service (PaaS), and infrastructure as a service (IaaS). 

Recommended experience: Familiarity with basic storage, networking, and app development and support concepts. 

Relevant job titles:

Read more:

2. Microsoft Certified: Power Platform Fundamentals

Microsoft Power Platform is a collection of low-code tools and software applications for business intelligence (BI), application development, and application connectivity. 

Content overview: This certification focuses on core data concepts and building solutions with the Microsoft Power Platform. You'll demonstrate competencies in automating basic business processes, performing data analysis, and building chatbots. 

Recommended experience: Familiarity with data analytics and analytics solutions, cloud computing, the internet, and computer technology. 

Relevant job titles:

3. Microsoft 365 Certified: Fundamentals

A Microsoft 365 certification can demonstrate to employers that you have a firm grasp on the basics of a Software as a Service (SaaS) cloud model and the benefits of adopting and implementing Microsoft 365 cloud services.  

Content overview: In this certification program, you'll demonstrate fluency in SaaS solutions and learn about standard cloud service practices. 

Recommended experience: Familiarity with common information technology (IT) concepts like support plans and enterprise license management. 

Relevant job titles:

3 popular Microsoft Associate Certifications (intermediate level)

1. Microsoft Certified: Azure AI Engineer Associate

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 [3], so jobs for professionals certified in Microsoft Azure have consistently increased each year.

Content overview: This certification is an excellent choice for those who want to learn to build, deploy, and manage AI solutions and machine learning workloads with Azure Cognitive Services and Azure.

Recommended experience: Familiarity with software development, programming languages, and artificial intelligence/machine learning principles and solutions.

Relevant job titles:

  • Azure AI Engineers

  • Azure Architect/Developers

Read more:

2. Exam DP-500: Designing and Implementing Enterprise-Scale Analytics Solutions Using Microsoft Azure and Microsoft Power BI

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.

Content overview: Through this exam, you'll demonstrate your abilities to clean and transform data, design and build enterprise data models, and integrate solutions with IT infrastructure. 

Recommended experience: Experience with designing, creating, and deploying big data analytics solutions. Strong Power BI skills, including knowledge of data storage options, data storage management, and processing on-premises and in the cloud. 

Relevant job titles: 

  • Data Analyst Associates

  • Azure Administrator

  • Azure Data Engineers

  • Azure Data Scientists

3. Microsoft Certified: Dynamics 365 Sales Functional Consultant Associate

This associate-level program is suitable for anyone working with Microsoft Dynamics 365 Sales, from functional consultants to developers who want to build their consulting skills. 

Content overview: The exam focuses on using Dynamics 365 Sales to drive your sales force and market your projects more efficiently.

Recommended experience: Familiarity with data-modeling principles and configuring Microsoft Power Platform and Dynamics 365 applications.

Relevant job titles:

3 popular Microsoft Expert Certifications (advanced level)

1. Exam AZ-400: Designing and Implementing Microsoft DevOps Solutions

DevOps is the union between the development and operations teams in an organization. It is a process, a culture, and a set of principles that enables organizations to deliver products quickly and continuously.

Read more: What is DevOps? A Guide to the Basics

Content overview: In this exam, you'll demonstrate your experience in working with people to develop processes and products through DevOps principles. Specifically, you'll focus on administration and development in Azure DevOps using GitHub.

Recommended experience: Experience with Azure administration and development, security, app authentication, threat protection, compliance, and continuous integration and delivery (CI/CD). 

Relevant job titles: 

2. Microsoft Certified: Dynamics 365 Supply Chain Management Functional Consultant Expert

This multi-purpose exam can help demonstrate an advanced skill set for functional consultants, senior IT professionals, and developers. 

Content overview: This exam showcases your expertise in the configuration and implementation of advanced Dynamics 365 Supply Chain Management to meet business goals and customer needs. 

Recommended experience: Deep understanding of supply chain management, logistics, and asset management. 

Relevant job titles:

  • Functional Consultant

3. Exam MS-102: Microsoft 365 Administrator

Microsoft 365 administrators manage analytics workloads by serving as an integration hub. They work with architects and other admins to orchestrate infrastructure, compliance, and cybersecurity. 

Content overview: This exam measures your abilities in deploying and managing a Microsoft 365 tenant. You'll demonstrate capabilities in implementing identity and access management to mitigate security threats. 

Recommended experience: Strong, functional experience with Azure Active Directory (AD) and all Microsoft 365 workloads. Understanding of server administration, networking, and PowerShell. 

Relevant job titles:

  • Enterprise Administrator

How to prepare to take Microsoft certification exams

To get ready to pursue Microsoft 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.

Start preparing to become Microsoft certified today

Consider ensuring your success by 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 program to earn additional credentials. Examples to consider include the Azure Data Engineering Associate and the Azure Developer Associate on Coursera.

Article sources


Indeed. “A Guide to Microsoft Certifications: Types and Paths,” Accessed June 8, 2023.

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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.