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Brett Hargreaves

Cloud Certifications: Microsoft Azure AZ-303 and AZ-304 Exam Requirement Changes

Brett Hargreaves

  • Aug 27, 2020
  • 6 Min read
  • 12,673 Views
  • Aug 27, 2020
  • 6 Min read
  • 12,673 Views
Cloud
Architecture and Design
Microsoft Azure Architect Technologies AZ-300
Cloud Architecture and Design

Introduction

This guide details the requirements and preparation materials for the Azure Solutions Architect Expert certification, and specifically calls out the latest changes between the original AZ-300/AZ-301 exams and the replacement AZ-303/AZ-304 exams.

The Azure Solutions Architect Expert certification is one of the highest-level and most sought after Microsoft Azure accreditations.

Who Is This Certification For?

This certification is of course for Azure Architects, or those with Azure experience, such administrators and developers, who want to progress their career to the next stage.

Exams

In order to achieve the Azure Solutions Expert Certification, you must pass two individual exams;

Azure Architect Certification Path

Although optional, you should have either passed, or at least be confident enough to pass, the AZ-900 Fundamentals exam.

Prerequisites

Being an expert-level certification, candidates are expected to have at least two years' experience of using Azure and designing, building, and supporting solutions. An understanding of software development patterns and technologies is also extremely useful, especially automated deployment tooling such as Azure DevOps.

Skills Measured

The AZ-303 exam tests you on your abilities around configuring various Azure components and services. Specifically, you are tested on:

  • Implementing and Monitoring Azure Infrastructure
  • Implementing Management and Security
  • Implementing Solutions for Apps
  • Implementing and Managing Data Platforms

The AZ-304 exam tests your ability to understand customer requirements and translate those into robust, secure designs, and suggests the appropriate technologies to meet a brief. This is broken down into;

  • Design Monitoring
  • Design Identity and Security
  • Design Data Storage
  • Design Business Continuity
  • Design Infrastructure

Exam Updates

AZ-300 -> AZ303

On the Microsoft pages linked in the "Exams" section above you can download a detailed set of requirements for each exam. What's interesting about the difference between the old AZ-300 and the new AZ-303 exam is that more has been taken away than added.

The original AZ-300 exam covered much more detail on advanced networking and development patterns, especially messaging technologies.

Although an awareness of these us still useful, there is much more focus on core networking, such as routing and peering and identity and security.

AZ-301 -> AZ-304

As with the AZ-300/AZ-303 exam differences, there are not a lot of differences between AZ-301 and AZ-304. What is telling the wording of the requirements. AZ-301 was worded heavily towards requirements gathering and design, whereas AZ-304 tends to talk more about design and recommendations. As with the AZ-303 updates, there is less about software design, and more about identity and security, infrastructure, and monitoring.

Helpful Resources

Pluralsight offers a number of courses that cover all the required skills across both exams. Relevant courses are grouped by subject area (e.g. infrastructure, security, databases, etc.) and made available through a series of learning plans associated with each exam.

Microsoft also offer their own shorter, less detailed learning paths;

Compensation and Employment Outlook

We live in uncertain times, however with a worldwide shift towards remote working there's an ever-increasing demand by businesses to leverage cloud services in general, and Azure in particular.

Cloud, with its ability to provide greater mobility, remote working, and working from home, has accelerated this move and proven its use. This trend can only continue—in fact, many are expecting it to increase at a faster rate.

To support this growth, 66% of enterprises already have a central cloud team or cloud center of excellence, and core to these centers are individuals who are certified in cloud.

According to Microsoft and a 2017 Pearson VUE Value of Certification white paper, when earning a certification 23% of Microsoft certified technologists reported receiving up to a 20% salary increase. Certified new hires also reach full productivity sooner, and end up having more opportunities for advancement. On average, certified employees earn 15% more than those without certification and are nearly 20% more productive.

Conclusion

Cloud adoption is growing stronger and faster than ever, but as more people pivot their careers in that direction, attaining professional qualifications is being seen as essential by many companies.

The Azure Solutions Architect Expert certification is a great way to prove your skills and stand out in a crowded market.

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