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Certifications are one way IT pros tout their expertise to employers, particularly in hot fields such as cloud computing. Microsoft recently shook up its Azure certification path to make it correlate to job functions in the workplace and help IT workers market themselves.
In a company blog in July 2018, Microsoft said the previous Azure certification path was too wide-ranging and covered topics such as designing and implementing cloud data platform solutions or developing Azure web services that only applied to a very narrow section of administrators. The new Microsoft Azure certification path emphasizes the cloud skills needed for specific roles in real-world scenarios.
"We want to offer and update our exams that will help people to get jobs. We want to make it clear to prospective employers who is qualified," said Geoffrey Hirsch, senior director of Microsoft's Learning Partner Channel, in a webinar entitled "What's Next For Your Azure Certification Journey" with learning partner Global Knowledge.
Microsoft retired its Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert cloud platform and infrastructure certification on Dec. 31, 2018, along with its corresponding exams, 70-532 (Developing Microsoft Azure solutions), 70-533 (Implementing Azure infrastructure solutions) and 70-535 (Architecting Azure solutions). The webinar, presented along with Tom Tuttle, Global Knowledge product marketing manager, covered the new Azure certifications and how they affect people who have the retired certifications, and those who are on their way to gain Azure cloud certification.
Breaking down the Azure certification path
The revamped Azure certifications feature three levels, from fundamentals to associate to expert. IT pros must pass one optional exam to reach the fundamentals level and two for the associate level. For expert certifications, they must pass two expert-level exams or earn an associate-level certification and then pass one expert-level exam. Lower level exams do not necessarily precede a higher level certification.
"Microsoft conducted a ton of research in terms of the skills needed in the market, and we evaluated how our prior curriculum and certification push aligned to meet market needs and demands," Hirsch said. "One of the more immediate conclusions for us was that we needed to evolve our approach to better align with specific jobs in the market both from a training and recognition standpoint."
The webinar detailed three new roles with their corresponding tier in the Azure certification path: Azure Administrator Associate, Azure Developer Associate and Azure Solutions Architect Expert.
- Azure Administrator Associate. Associates must prove expertise on managing Azure services throughout the IT lifecycle and how to work with infrastructure services, applications and environment requests. Administrators must pass the AZ-100 exam (Microsoft Azure Infrastructure and Deployment) and then the AZ-101 exam (Microsoft Azure Integration and Security) for this certification.
- Azure Developer Associate. IT pros need to pass AZ-203 (Developing Solutions for Microsoft Azure) for this certification. Microsoft retired the AZ-200 and AZ-201 beta exams for an Azure Developer Associate certificate after receiving testers' feedback. Exam takers need to show proficiency in developing apps and services with Azure tools and have experience developing scalable software solutions. They must also know one cloud-supported programming language.
- Azure Solutions Architect Experts. Experts need advanced experience in how decisions affect a system and multiple areas of IT, including security, data management and virtualization. They should be able to accomplish tasks in administration, development and DevOps. IT pros must pass AZ-300 (Microsoft Azure Architect Technologies) and then AZ-301 (Microsoft Azure Architect Design).
IT pros can take the Azure fundamentals AZ-900 exam as the first step toward associate-level and expert-level certifications. The optional exam tests IT pros on the basics of cloud concepts and Azure services, such as the differences between cloud and service models and understand best practices for security, privacy, compliance and trust.
"[With these certifications] we focused on apps and infrastructure. We're going to be taking a much deeper dive now into data and AI. … In the future you're going to hear more about role-based learning and certifications and our other solution areas like modern workspace and business applications," Hirsch said.
How to upgrade to new certifications
For IT pros with older certifications or who were on the retired certification path, Microsoft has a few options.
Users who did not finish the legacy exam training should stop and switch to the new courses.
If IT pros finished the training but still needed to take the exam, they should study the new exam content and take both the AZ-100 and AZ-101 exams for the Azure Administrator Associate certification.
Certificate holders have a short amount of time to take advantage of the transition exams and migrate to the new certifications.
- Administrators who passed the 70-533 exam must take the AZ-102 exam (Microsoft Azure Administrator Certification Transition) to get their Azure Administrator Associate certification before June 30.
- IT pros with a 70-532 certification must pass AZ-202 (Microsoft Developer Certification Transition) before March 31 to get the Azure Developer Associate certification.
- IT pros who passed the 70-535 exam must take the AZ-302 exam before June 30 for a Microsoft Azure Solutions Architect certification.
The Microsoft Learn site offers three levels of role-based training to help IT workers develop their skills online or in person. Administrators can begin with foundational role-based training. Advanced role-based training helps IT master their Azure skills and prepare for certifications and advanced workload-based training goes further into Azure workloads with workshops.