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Michael Taschler

Cloud Certifications: Microsoft 365 Messaging Administrator Associate

Michael Taschler

  • Sep 4, 2020
  • 11 Min read
  • Sep 4, 2020
  • 11 Min read
Cloud Platforms
Cloud Platforms


While email isn't necessarily the cool kid on the block anymore, there is no doubt that it still is essential to the vast majority of organizations. Many use their messaging platforms as their primary communication and collaboration tool, both internally and when dealing with external parties. Some also use it for file storage (there might be better ways of dealing with this, but let's leave that to the individual users and admins to decide).

In this guide, you will learn about the Microsoft 365 Messaging Administrator Associate certification and the exam you can take to achieve it. The certification will provide you with up-to-date knowledge to perform well in this area.

Microsoft Certified Associate Badge Image

The Microsoft 365 Messaging Administrator Associate certification follows Microsoft's departure from broader certifications like the Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator (MCSA) or its older sibling, the Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE). Nowadays the focus is on specific roles.

Target Audience

The ideal candidate for this exam aspires to build solutions to simplify, automate, and transform tasks and processes for themselves and their teams where they have deep expertise in the solution domain. They are skilled in key technical business analyst tasks, such as data modeling, basic UX design, requirements analysis, process analysis, etc.

They create and enforce business processes, structure digital collection of information, improve the efficiency of repeatable tasks, and automate business processes.

They use the maker tools of Power Platform to solve business problems. They may have experience with Visual Basic for Applications, Excel pivot tables, Teams, and other tools. Those taking the exam should have a basic understanding of data models, user interface, and processes, and should be aware of the capabilities and limitations of available tools and understand how to apply them.

Candidates for this certification are self-directed and solution-focused. They may not have formal IT training, but they are comfortable using technology to solve business problems with a personal growth mindset. They understand the operational need and have a vision of the desired outcome. They approach problems with phased and iterative strategies.

Applicable Exams

A single exam, the MS-203, is required to gain the Microsoft 365 Messaging Administrator Associate certification. It is important to understand that Microsoft has taken up the practice of retiring and replacing exams at a much faster pace than in the past. Since the cloud is ever-changing, Microsoft updates live exams frequently. Please note that this exam is currently in beta.

The price for the exam is US$165/€165. Microsoft offers a student discount if you verify your academic status when booking the exam by using one of the following: a school email account, a school account, an International Student Identity Card, a verification code, or other documentation proving your eligibility for the student discount.


While there are no specific prerequisites to taking the MS-203 exam, it is worth noting that experience with the required skills is key to a successful experience.

Learning Path for Microsoft 365 Messaging Administrator Associate

Ensure that you possess sufficient experience and invest the time to go through the relevant Pluralsight courses and other resources.

Skills Measured

Your skills will be measured in the following four categories:

  • Manage Organizational Settings and Resources (30-35%)
  • Plan and Manage the Mail Architecture (20-25%)
  • Plan and Implement a Hybrid Configuration and Migration (20-25%)
  • Secure the Messaging Environment (20-25%)

These categories are broken down into details as follows, according to the exam skills outline:

Manage Organizational Settings and Resources

Plan and manage organizational settings

  • Manage Global Address List (GAL)
  • Manage Offline Address Book (OAB)
  • Manage address book policies
  • Manage email address policies
  • Configure organizational sharing
  • Manage add-ins

Plan and manage client access

  • Plan namespaces
  • Configure virtual directories and URLs
  • Configure global Outlook Web App (OWA) policies
  • Configure Autodiscover
  • Troubleshoot client access connectivity problems
  • Manage Exchange certificates lifecycle

Manage recipient resources

  • Manage archive mailboxes
  • Manage resource mailboxes
  • Manage groups (Distribution, Security, and Office 365)
  • Manage mailboxes
  • Manage mailbox permissions
  • Configure mailbox policies
  • Manage shared mailboxes
  • Evaluate license options
  • Manage mail users

Manage mobile devices

  • Configure mobile device mailbox policies
  • Configure mobile authentication methods
  • Configure and manage Outlook mobile
  • Manage mobile device access
  • Configure and manage ActiveSync

Plan and Manage the Mail Architecture

Plan and configure transport architecture

  • Plan connectors
  • Create and configure connectors
  • Configure connectors between tenants

Manage mail flow

  • Manage transport rules
  • Manage domains
  • Manage hybrid mail flow

Troubleshoot mail flow

  • Validate inbound and outbound mail flow
  • Trace a message
  • Analyze a message trace
  • Analyze message headers
  • Analyze Non-Deliverable Reports (NDRs)
  • Investigate transport logs
  • Nonitor Mail Flow

Plan and Implement a Hybrid Configuration and Migration

Plan and implement a hybrid environment

  • Evaluate and configure hybrid free/busy access (NOT: ADFS, WAP and Not Azure AD Connect, IdFix because they belong to the Modern Desktop Admin)
  • Decide between Exchange Classic Hybrid and Exchange Modern Hybrid
  • Manage the Edge server role
  • Configure Organization Configuration Transfer (OCT)
  • Plan and configure the environment by using the Hybrid Configuration Wizard (HCW)
  • Deploy the Exchange Hybrid Agent

Plan and implement migration

  • Evaluate migration methods, including cutover, staged, PST Imports, IMAP, G-Suite
  • Configure migration endpoints in Microsoft 365, including tenant-to-tenant
  • Manage mailbox migration request batches
  • Migrating from non-Microsoft messaging systems (NOT: not on-prem solutions)
  • Troubleshoot mailbox migration

Manage public folders

  • Move content between public folder mailboxes
  • Create additional public folder mailboxes
  • Implement public folder Top Level Hierarchy (TLH)
  • Implement mail-enabled public folders
  • Plan and configure public folders
  • Manage hold and discovery for public folders
  • plan a public folder migration to Microsoft 365

Secure the Messaging Environment

Manage role-based permissions

  • Manage role groups
  • Assign user accounts to admin roles
  • Manage user roles
  • Manage a delegated Role-based Access Control (RBAC) setup
  • Plan RBAC roles for eDiscovery

Manage message hygiene using Exchange Online and Office 365 Advanced Threat Protection (ATP)

  • Plan for message hygiene
  • Manage connection filters
  • Configure malware filters
  • Configure spam filters
  • Monitor quarantined items
  • Manage protection for phishing
  • Plan and configure Spam Confidence Levels (SCL)
  • Configure and manage ATP safe attachments
  • Configure and manage ATP safe links
  • Configure and manage ATP anti-phishing

Manage compliance

  • Configure retention policies
  • Configure data loss prevention policies
  • Configure and analyze audit logs
  • Manage journal rules
  • Manage content search
  • Manage litigation, in-place, and retention holds

Pluralsight Courses

The following Pluralsight learning path and courses will help you prepare for the exam:

Make sure you also check out Pluralsight's Microsoft 365 Fundamentals (MS-900) learning path, which currently contains three courses.

Make sure you also regularly check the Pluralsight website for updates.

Other Resources

Utilizing the Microsoft Exchange Documentation and navigating to the relevant topics will also enable you to prepare for this exam.

Compensation and Employment Outlook

The cloud business has been booming in the last several years. Microsoft is a leader in this area and keeps growing. While COVID-19 has affected everyone in some way, it certainly doesn't seem to have had a negative impact on Microsoft's cloud growth.

Gaining an up-to-date certification like the Microsoft 365 Messaging Administrator Associate certification from a household name like Microsoft should make you much more attractive to both current and future employers, especially since the cloud is booming. Your current employer might not raise your salary, but the next time you go looking for a job, make sure you check trusted Internet sources for up-to-date information on salaries in your region.

It's difficult to provide absolute figures because they will depend on numerous factors like your experience, company type and size, industry, and region. According to Nigel Frank, expect average salaries for messaging administrators, consultants, and architects to range from $86,400 to $124,500 in the United States.


As an associate-level certification, the Microsoft 365 Messaging Administrator Associate credential, while challenging, will earn you recognition as a subject matter expert in this field. All it takes is a single exam.

Book the exam, which you can take right in your home or in one of many testing centers.

I hope that this guide is useful and wish you good luck in gaining your certification.