29 things you need to know about the new Azure certifications

Tim Warner

Microsoft Azure Certifications went through a major overhaul at the end of 2018. In our recent webinar on these new certs, the Azure community submitted 100+ questions about role-based badges, how to prep successfully and more. We’ve compiled the top questions with answers from Pluralsight author and Microsoft MVP Tim Warner.

1. How much real-world, hands-on experience is required for the new 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 AZ-100 page. Microsoft doesn't list the information in terms of months and years, but in terms of skill set. And note that these are not hard prerequisites, but recommendations.

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

No. There’s no dependency chain between the entry, associate and expert levels. Make sure to study the Microsoft Learning cert pages and not specific requirements.

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

The Azure role-based certifications expire in two years. Your certification will always appear on your official Microsoft transcript, but will be listed in a separate section from your active certifications.

4. What is the transition path for those of us who hold the MCSE Cloud Architecture title?

You have until June 30, 2019 to take advantage of the transition exams. There's a separate transition exam for the administrator, developer and architect paths. See this great Build Azure blog post for more details.

5. How much C# experience should you have for the new Azure role-based developer exams?

Microsoft doesn't give any time-based experience recommendations. Check out the "Who should take this exam?" section of the AZ-203 exam page for details. Note that the AZ-203 exam does assume C# is your development language.

6. If you’re new to Azure, is it possible to go from fundamentals to architect expert without doing associate levels as 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.

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

It depends on how much of a "completist" you are. The Azure Solution Architect certification has no prerequisites, so you can sit for AZ-300 and AZ-300 whenever you're ready.

8. As a developer, I feel that understanding Azure infrastructure is important. Do you think AZ-100 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-100 for developers and AZ-203 for admins.

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

I suggest you look at the Microsoft 365 role-based certifications.

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

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

As it happens, Microsoft just released several role-based certification titles for data scientists. Consider the Microsoft Certified Data Scientist Associate and the Microsoft Certified Data Engineer Associate.

12. Does Microsoft Learning plan for a security-related role-based certification?

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

You'll want to check the Microsoft Learning site periodically because they are rolling out new badges regularly. The first Data Scientist and Data Engineer certs are already available.

14. 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.

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

The Azure Developer exams target C#. However, this is subject to change, like everything else in the Microsoft certification portfolio.

16. 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.

17. 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 Azure Fundamentals 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!

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

Not all of them do, but that situation appears to be changing. A performance-based lab has you log into the Azure portal directly from your certification exam experience. You're required to complete a number of tasks in a live environment—it's not a simulation, so the items truly test that you know what you're talking about with Azure.

19. How long are the AZ exams valid?

The AZ exams are valid for two years. Microsoft Learning hasn't yet announced what the recertification requirements are, so keep checking the Microsoft Learning Community Blog for program updates.

20. Do the AZ exams require you know both the Azure portal and Azure PowerShell? How about Azure CLI v2.0?

I think you'll find the primary emphasis on the exams is the Azure portal with Azure PowerShell running a fairly close second.

21. Is the AZ-302 exam different in content from AZ-300 and AZ-301?

The transition exams are actually composite exams. For example, the AZ-302 gets 50 percent of its questions from AZ-300, and 50 percent from AZ-301. The benefit here is you can earn your badge with one exam registration instead of two.

22. Can I take AZ-300 without passing any of the 100- or 200-series exams?

Yes. The Azure Fundamentals exam is "stand-alone," and the associate and expert-level badges have their own exam requirements. Specifically, to earn the Azure Architect Expert badge, you must pass both of the Azure Architect exams, AZ-300 and AZ-301. You may take the exams in any order, but you don't get your certification until you've passed them both.

23. I've already passed the 70-535 exam. How does the AZ-302 transition exam fit into the Architect Badge path?

The Azure transition exams will retire on June 30, 2019, so you should act quickly if you passed 70-532, 70-533, or 70-535 and want to fast-track your way to the current role-based badges.

24. Are the Pluralsight courses on Azure enough to pass the Microsoft AZ-series certification exams?

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

• Subject matter knowledge, which Pluralsight can give you

• Hands-on experience, which following along with Pluralsight course demos can help you with

• Practice exam drilling

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

Yes, check out these Microsoft certification paths on Pluralsight. Eventually, Pluralsight will have a path created for all new Azure role-based certifications.

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

Besides the Pluralsight library, the Azure documentation should be your first reference site for Azure subject matter knowledge. For hands-on practice, check out  the Azure labs at Microsoft Learn.

27. 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-gen item types, including interactive and case study items.

28. 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 cost from your own paid Azure subscriptions.

29. Do the performance-based labs give you a choice in how you complete each task?

You should find that the performance-based labs use the Azure portal. Therefore, I recommend you focus the majority of your hands-on Azure practice in the portal.

Still have questions about these new role-based certifications work and what goes into a winning cert-prep strategy? Check out the recording of our webinar on making sense of the new Microsoft Azure certifications.

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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... See more