The ultimate Azure certifications FAQ [23 questions answered]

23 things you need to know about the new Azure certifications

Microsoft MVP Tim Warner answers the top questions about the new Azure certifications."

Author: Tim Warner

Microsoft Worldwide Learning (WWL) reviews their Azure certifications every year, and the exams every two to three months. Because the Microsoft certification landscape changes almost as frequently as the Azure platform itself, we’ve compiled the top questions with answers from Pluralsight author and Microsoft MVP Tim Warner2

1. How much real-world, hands-on experience is required for the role-based Microsoft Azure certifications?

The Microsoft Learning exam pages list what Microsoft considers to be prerequisite experience under the “Who should take this exam?” section. For example, take a look at the Exam AZ-104: Microsoft Azure Administrator page. Microsoft doesn’t list the information in terms of months and years but in terms of skill set. And note thatt hese are not hard prerequisites, but recommendations.

2. Do you have to have completed the associate level exams to take the expert level exams?

Most but not all Microsoft expert-level certifications have prerequisite requirements. For example, to earn the Azure Solutions Architect Expert credential, you must pass not only Exam AZ-305: Designing Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Solutions, but you must also clear Exam AZ-104: Microsoft Azure Administrator.

Note that you can pass these two exams in any order. However, you won’t receive your Azure Solutions Architect Expert badge until you’ve fulfilled the prerequisite exam.

3. When the role-based certifications expire, do they disappear from my Microsoft transcript as well?

The Fundamentals role-based certifications (like Azure Fundamentals) have a lifetime certification validity. By contrast, the Associate, Expert, and Specialty role-based certifications expire in one year. Renewal involves your passing a 20-25question free online assessment at Microsoft Learn. The renewal extends your active certification for another 365 from your original achievement date. Read more about certification renewal at Microsoft Docs. Your certification will always appear on your official Microsoft transcript but will be listed in a separate section from your active certifications should you choose not to renew by the expiration date.

4. How much C#, Python, or JavaScript programming experience should you have for the Azure role-based developer exams?

Microsoft provides only basic guidance on their exam pages. For instance, on the Exam AZ-204: Developing Solutions for Microsoft Azure exam page, the introductory text states candidates must be skilled in at least one cloud-supported programming language. However, no specific languages are mentioned. The Azure Cosmos DB Developer Specialty certification landing page says exam candidates “They should be able to interpret JSON, read C# or Java code, and use PowerShell.” In summary, the best guidance is to read carefully every word on these exam/cert pages at Microsoft Docs because they are your canonical source of authority concerning the skills/technologies covered on the exams.

5. If you’re new to Azure, is it possible to go from Azure Fundamentals to Azure Solutions Architect Expert without doing Associate-levels certs as an intermediary step?

If you are new to Azure, then I recommend you study for and pass the Microsoft Azure Fundamentals (AZ-900) exam to get your grounding.

6. I’m a technology architect and want to certify on Azure solutions architecture. Should I directly go for the solution architect certification, or should I first earn the Azure Developer badge?

It depends on how much of a “completist” you are. The Azure Solutions Architect certification has no prerequisite for AZ-204 but rather for AZ-104.

7. As a developer, I feel that understanding Azure infrastructure is important. Do you think Exam AZ-104: Microsoft Azure Administrator would be beneficial for developers as well?

I agree with you. I believe that Azure administrators should know a thing or two about development. Accordingly, I’d recommend exam AZ-104 for developers andAZ-204 for admins. What’s cool about the Azure Developer Associate certification is that it focuses largely on implementing REST APIs in Azure, which is somethingAzure administrators wind up dealing with to a larger or smaller degree anyway.

8. I have experience in Azure AD and Microsoft Intune. Which role-based certification is best for me?

I suggest you look at the Security, Compliance, and Identity Fundamentals certification. Another great reference for any current or potential Microsoft certification candidate is Microsoft’s global index of all their role-based certifications.

9. What is available in terms of role-based certification for the Microsoft Dynamics 365 platform?

Microsoft published a number of role-based credentials centered on Microsoft Dynamics 365. Check out the MB-* exams and related certifications.

10. I’m a data scientist. Do the new Microsoft Azure role-based certifications apply to me? What certifications should I care about?

Certainly, consider the DP-* exams and certs, which include titles like Microsoft Certified Data Scientist Associate, Microsoft Certified Data Engineer Associate, and Microsoft Certified Customer Data Platform Specialist.

Yes, several! Two popular Associate-level certs are Azure Security EngineerAssociate, Microsoft 365 Security Engineer Associate, and Microsoft Identity and Access Administrator Associate.

12. Does Microsoft plan a role-based certification for SQL database specialists?

You’ll want to look up the Azure Database Administrator Associate badge. Despite the title, the content deals with SQL Server in addition to the Azure SQL products.

13. Is there any Azure exam for not-so-technical project managers?

I recommend the Microsoft Azure Fundamentals (AZ-900) exam. This is a good overview of the Azure ecosystem.

14. Will Microsoft publish any Azure developer certifications focused on Java?

The Azure Developer exams used to target C# and now are language agnostic with a focus on REST API development and use. However, this is subject to change, like everything else in the Microsoft certification portfolio.

15. How many total exams are required to become a Microsoft MVP?

The Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) is an award and not a certification. Microsoft grants it to IT professionals who make a significant positive impact on the Microsoft technical community.

16. Should I start my certification journey with the AZ-900 exam?

If you are non-technical and/or new to Azure, then yes, the Microsoft AzureFundamentals exam is a great place to start. By contrast, if you’re an admin, developer or architect, then you’re free to focus directly on those paths. After all, this is why Microsoft created these job role-based credentials in the first place!

17. Do the AZ exams include performance-based labs?

Originally many of the Associate and Expert Azure exams included performance-based lab items that required to complete a number of tasks in a live environment—it was not a simulation, so the items truly tested that you know what you’re talking about with Azure.

However, Microsoft Worldwide Learning removed the performance-based labs from all exams in 2020, so you will instead see several innovative interactive item types that validate your hands-on expertise with Microsoft products and technologies.

18. Do the AZ exams require you know both the Azure portal and Azure PowerShell? How about Azure CLI or Kusto?

The guidance I normally give to students is to spend about 60 percent of your time working in the Azure portal, 20 percent with PowerShell, and then 10 percent each with CLI and Kusto.

19. Are the Pluralsight courses on Azure enough to pass the Microsoft role-based certification exams?

I like to say that in order to pass Microsoft exams you need:

  • Subject matter knowledge, which Pluralsight and the Microsoft Docs give you
  • Hands-on experience, which Pluralsight/A Cloud Guru cloud labs provide
  • Practice exam drilling (I suggest MeasureUp, Microsoft’s long-standing official practice test provider)

20. Does Pluralsight have specific training for these Azure role-based certification tracks?

Yes, check out the Microsoft certification skill paths on the Pluralsight website.

21. Does Microsoft Docs have almost all the content in these exams?

Besides the Pluralsight library, the Azure documentation at Microsoft Docs should be your first reference site for Azure subject matter knowledge. However, be aware that the docs are not focused specifically on any certification exams.

22. Where can I find practice exams for the Azure role-based certifications?

I recommend Microsoft’s official practice exam vendor MeasureUp because they have the most up-to-date practice exams. Their exam simulations also include all the current-generation item types, including interactive and case study items.

23. How can I integrate Microsoft Learn into my certification preparation?

I suggest you rely on Microsoft Learn for the hands-on labs. These lab experiences will give you practical Azure experience without incurring costs from your own paid Azure subscriptions.

Related tags:

cloud   azure   certifications  
About the author

Tim Warner is a full-time author with the Pluralsight IT Ops division. He’s worked with Windows Server since NT 4.0, and is totally in love with Windows PowerShell.

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