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What's the Best Microsoft Azure Certification Path For Me?

What's the best Microsoft Azure certification and the right Azure certification path for you? Our Microsoft Azure certifications guide shows you the way!

Jun 08, 2023 • 40 Minute Read

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  • Cloud
  • Learning & Development
  • azure

Wondering what’s the best Microsoft Azure certification path for you or which Azure certifications you should get? Sadly, I can’t tell you what to do with your life. (OK. If you insist, I’d say it’d be pretty cool if you got really good at parkour or formed an electric scooter demolition derby league.)

But if you’re looking to begin a cloud career or looking to move up by picking up some of the most in-demand skills, I can offer an overview to help with plotting your path and picking the Azure cloud certs that may get you where you’re looking to go. There’s never been a better time to develop cloud skills in Microsoft Azure and level up your career.

Consider this post your Microsoft Azure certifications guide. Let’s get started!


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Whether you’re wondering what Microsoft Azure is and where to begin or where to go next in your cloud career, there’s a Microsoft certification for you. There are 20 Azure cloud certifications (and a handful of Azure-adjacent certifications). 

Here are the Microsoft Azure certifications out there today. Click the links below to jump to more info about each certification, what it takes to earn it, and what it can mean for your cloud career.

Table of contents

And there are many others. So many others. You can go here to browse the full library of Microsoft certifications (if you literally have nothing else to do right now).

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What's the point of Azure certifications?

So you’re thinking of snagging some Azure cloud certifications? Excellent! (If you were looking to get pants altered, I couldn’t help… But if it’s certs you seek, you’ve come to the right place!)

There’s great value in cloud certifications. Why? Well, most Azure certifications are based on job roles. That means Azure certifications show employers you have a specific skill set for a typical role. Due to this naming convention, the certification names make it pretty clear as to what you're getting yourself into. (This is a relief when compared to the often confusingly named exams in the world of Azure.)

What are Azure certifications (and what are they NOT)?

Whether you’re going to focus solely on Azure or mix it up and go multi-cloud, there are a few misconceptions about certifications worth clearing before you invest the time, money, and energy into earning them.

  • Certifications ARE proof of knowledge. They are NOT a substitute for experience working in the cloud.
  • Certifications ARE potentially door-openers. They can help you get an interview or earn a promotion, but they are NOT a guarantee of a job. 
  • Certifications ARE valuable. (Average salaries for cloud architects range from $89,500 to $210,500.) But certifications are NOT just about earning. Certifications are often used to get teams on the same wavelength with a common cloud “language.”

Certifications are good for many things. But one thing they aren’t is a golden ticket that can be instantly redeemed for a six-figure salary. 

Think of them more like power-ups to make the cloud-career game a little easier for you — and potentially unlock some shortcuts to help you reach the next level.

I like to think of it in the same way I like to think about everything in life: through the lens of Super Mario Bros. 3. Sure, you can beat the classic Nintendo game without any warp whistles, but warp whistles make it easier to get farther faster. However, there’s a flip side to this. If you warp from World 1 to World 8 without picking up the skills you’d earn with hands-on time through natural progression, you may get your raccoon tail handed to you fast.

To leave the Mushroom Kingdom behind and put it more simply, certifications help you get ahead by acting as an achievement or trophy. But nothing beats experience picked up from the grind. Get in the cloud and get your hands dirty — or cloudy. Studying up for certifications and getting certified are helpful ways to push yourself to learn new things, but experience is king.

Looking to keep up with all things Microsoft Azure?
Watch Azure This Week.

Why should you get Azure cloud certified?

Whether you’re looking to move into a high-paying cloud career or just looking to declare your existing cloud skills, Microsoft Azure certifications are a great choice — whether you’re starting there or migrating to Azure from another provider.

But why might you want to pursue Azure certifications over AWS certifications or Google Cloud certifications?

Microsoft has been making smart moves that play to its unique strengths, using legacy footholds in organizations to ease reluctant organizations to the cloud. That means there’s plenty of opportunity to put Azure skills to use.

  • Maybe your employer (current or future) uses Azure. 
  • Maybe you think the future is multi-cloud and you're taking a “gotta catch ’em all” approach to certs to flex your well-roundedness. 
  • Maybe you think it’s a good first step in your quest to make Bill Gates your BFF. (We’re here to help you pick up cloud skills — not judge.)

Whatever the reason you might be considering Azure certifications, it’s clear that this cloud runner-up is doing more than just keeping pace with AWS and warrants serious consideration when choosing your Azure cloud path.

AWS may be the frontrunner in terms of workload and adoption numbers, but the gap is closing fast. According to the Flexera 2021 State of Cloud Survey, Azure adoption is increasing in enterprises while AWS adoption remains relatively flat. 

  • Businesses are continuing to adopt Azure as Big M pushes hard into the enterprise space. (Microsoft claims that around 95% of Fortune 500 companies use Azure.) 
  • Azure has also historically been the preferred choice for hybrid deployments, and (shocker) it plays well with the Microsoft solutions businesses have been using since before the days of dial-up.

This probably won’t be your deciding factor, but Azure offers one cool bonus. Last year, Microsoft rolled out some big certification renewal and expiration changes that make Azure certs free to renew indefinitely. This move makes Azure’s arguably the best certification renewal option out there.

Besides the value they’ll bring to your employer and your career, all the Azure certs can be obtained remotely, meaning you can get certified while working from home.

(Side note: Whether you opt for online or in-person, whenever you’re ready to take your test, we have a few tips for preparing for your Azure certification exam.)

why should i get azure

Want to learn more about Azure certifications?
Check out our Azure Certifications and Learning Paths.

Which Azure certification path is right for me?

Which certification is best for you? There’s no single, best Microsoft Azure certification path for everyone. And getting started in the cloud can be overwhelming. (Do you know the basics of cloud migration? And should you go with AWS, Azure, or Google Cloud?)

Once you’ve decided which cloud provider path is right for you, figuring out your next steps isn’t exactly a walk in the park either. 

So let’s take a deep breath and take an explain-it-like-I’m-five (but-for-some-reason-I’m-a-five-year-old-who-is-super-interested-in-cloud) look at Azure’s cert selection.

Download the Azure certification guide

Download a PDF of ACG's Azure Migration Guide here.

Where should you begin with Azure certifications?

Microsoft offers a smorgasbord of certifications and — as of 2022 — 12 role-based Azure certifications, three fundamentals certs, plus a quartet of “specialty” certifications around IoT, SAP, Azure VDI (Azure Virtual Desktop), and Cosmos DB. There are also a mix of Azure-adjacent certifications.

Where should you begin?

Here are three possible scenarios that may help you when deciding where to begin.

  1. “I’m new to tech. I know almost nothing about this ‘cloud’ you speak of.”
    If you’re the type of person who lists “Microsoft Word” as experience with technology on your resume, you too can learn to cloud. If you’re looking to begin your cloud career, an entry-level certification will give you the vocab and understanding needed to better assess where you might want to go next. The first stop on the Azure path for you is the AZ-900 Azure Fundamentals certification. The cloud can be intimidating, but what you learn to earn this certification will break it down in a way that even a total newcomer can understand — especially with the training for beginners. (Call me biased, but I think our Azure Fundamentals course is pretty fantastic.)
  1. “I’m new to tech. I know almost nothing about this ‘cloud’ you speak of.”
    If you’re the type of person who lists “Microsoft Word” as experience with technology on your resume, you too can learn to cloud. If you’re getting started, an entry-level certification will give you the vocab and understanding needed to better assess where you might want to go next. The first stop on the Azure path for you is the AZ-900 Azure Fundamentals certification. The cloud can be intimidating, but what you learn to earn this certification will break it down in a way that even a total newcomer can understand — especially if you have the right training. (Call me biased, but I think our Azure Fundamentals course is pretty awesome.)
  2. “I know a little bit about the cloud.”
    Maybe you’ve got some IT experience. Maybe you’ve poked around with AWS, GCP, or Azure. Think you’re ready to jump in the deep end? Tap the brakes. You too should probably start with the Azure Fundamentals certification. Best-case scenario, it’s a breeze for you. But however high you ascend in Azure, this cert will set the foundation for future success. The Azure Administrator Associate is the next certification on the ladder, and it can be a serious challenge. You’ll need all the knowledge of the Fundamentals cert and a whole lot of hands-on time with Azure before attempting it.
  3. “I work with the cloud, I’m familiar with Azure, and I’m looking to level up.”
    Microsoft’s Azure certifications are mostly role-based. See a job title you have or would like to have? That’s the certification for you. Of course, those certifications don’t always 100% align with what every employer might ask of a person with that title. Check job postings for the name of the cert you’re considering and see if the role and responsibilities sound like something you’d be interested in.

A Cloud Guru also offers a several Azure learning paths that are perfect for beginners and those who are looking to take their skills to the next level:

Microsoft Azure certifications

What are the Microsoft Azure certification levels, and what do they mean? Microsoft certifications are organized into four levels: Fundamentals, Associate, Expert, and Specialty.

What do those mean for you and your cloud certification quest? Not too much. With a couple of exceptions, you don’t necessarily need to clear one level to move up to the next level.

  • Fundamentals Certifications:
    Consider these Microsoft Azure certifications for beginners. None of these are required for any higher Azure certifications, but they offer ideal starting points for anyone new to cloud or Azure.
  • Associate Certifications:
    If you already know your way around Azure well, you may feel comfortable starting here. Whether you’re a developer or not, working alone or in a team, Azure DevOps training can help you organize the way you plan, create, and deliver software.
  • Expert Certifications:
    If you’ve got serious tech chops, you may be ready for these. An Associate certification (either the Azure Developer Associate or Azure Administrator Associate) is required for the Azure DevOps Engineer Expert, and the Azure Administrator Associate is required for the Azure Solutions Architect Expert.
  • Specialty Certifications:
    There are a handful of these, including the Azure for SAP Workloads Specialty and Azure IoT Developer Specialty certifications. And there are no certs required before earning them.

Before we get into our rundown of all those sweet certs, a quick side note: Microsoft is always making updates to certification exams. (Here are a few of the updates as of early 2022.) These changes are typically covered on the Microsoft Learn Blog. So exam details and requirements are subject to change. The good news is once new exams go up, old exams will remain accessible for 90 days. So plan (and study) accordingly!

With all that out of the way, let’s dig into the bounty of Azure certifications available from Microsoft.

Let's start your Azure journey
Looking to level up your cloud career? Our accessible, explain-it-like-I’m-five Azure cloud courses will help you hone your skills and go from a novice to a cloud guru. Check out ACG's current free cloud courses or test your knowledge with our cloud skills assessment.

Fundamentals-level certifications

Microsoft Certified: Azure Fundamentals (AZ-900)

TL;DR? This is the best Microsoft Azure certification for beginners. It’s a go-to starting point for anyone new to cloud or Microsoft Azure. If exam-naming made more sense, this one would be Azure 101.

Prerequisites: None

Skills covered:

  • High availability in cloud computing
  • Foundational cloud concepts
  • Cloud scalability
  • Fault tolerance in cloud computing
  • Capex vs Opex cloud computing

Who’s it for?
Pretty much anyone. New or aspiring developers or IT pros and non-technical people with a cloud-adjacent job could benefit from understanding what the heck the cloud actually is and isn’t. The knowledge needed to pass this exam is essential for anyone who wants to understand the Microsoft Azure ecosystem.

Why should you get it?
This cert isn’t mandatory for those looking to continue up the Azure ladder, but what you’ll learn to earn it will prove a solid first step. If the cloud plays or will play a big role in your organization — and signs indicate it will — this exam (or the equivalent from AWS) should be a requirement for nearly everyone on staff. Even non-technical people can benefit from speaking cloud. Managers, marketers, salespeople, and more can benefit from learning the fundamentals.

What’s this certification mean?
The AZ-900 got a refresh in 2021 and some other updates in early 2022, but the basics still hold true. This cert shows you can talk semi-intelligently about Azure without embarrassing yourself. It proves you have an understanding of basic cloud concepts and security, privacy, compliance, services, pricing (Azure cost management), and support in Azure.

What’s it mean for your career?
The Azure Fundamentals certification is one of the top-paying cloud certifications with cert owners pulling in an average $126,000 salary. But real talk: cloud-embracing companies aren’t going to be beating down your door just because you have this certification. Still, the basics you’ll learn here are a foundation for cloud understanding. If you’re an aspiring Azure guru, this is a great place to get your feet wet before jumping into a full-on career change. 

Suggested training: Ready to take your first step into the wild world of Azure? We make it simple (and fun) with our Azure Fundamentals course. I hear the instructor is AMAZING. (Disclaimer: It’s me, and I try.)

Microsoft Certified: Azure Data Fundamentals (DP-900)

TL;DR? This is a good first-step certification for aspiring data-focused cloud practitioners.

Prerequisites: None

Skills covered:

  • Core data concepts
  • Relational and non-relational data on Azure
  • Analytics workloads on Azure
  • Modern data warehousing
  • Data ingestion and processing
  • Data visualization in Microsoft Power BI

Who’s it for?
The Azure Data Fundamentals cert is for database engineers and database administrators just getting started working with data in the cloud. 

Why should you get it?
While this certification isn’t a necessary prerequisite for climbing up the Azure ladder, it can equip you with the data-specific know-how needed to move up to the next level of Microsoft Azure certifications, like the Azure Database Administrator Associate or Azure Data Engineer Associate.

Suggested training: Check out our DP-900 Azure Data Fundamentals course to learn the basics needed to start working data in cloud.

Microsoft Certified: Azure AI Fundamentals (AI-900)

TL;DR? This Microsoft Azure certification for beginners of both technical and non-technical backgrounds serves as proof that you get the basics of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) in Azure.

Prerequisites: None. 

Skills covered:

  • AI workloads and considerations
  • Principles of machine learning on Azure
  • Computer vision workloads on Azure
  • Natural Language Processing (NLP) workloads on Azure
  • Conversational AI workloads on Azure

Who’s it for?
AI Engineers, Data Scientists, Developers, and Solutions Architects who have a basic understanding of AI and ML and Azure services related to them. Like all the Azure Fundamentals certifications, this one is for people with both technical and non-technical backgrounds. That means data science and software engineering experience aren’t mandatory — but some general programming understanding or experience is a plus.

Why should you get it?
This isn’t a required stepping stone in any Azure career path, but it can be helpful in getting you ready for certs like Azure AI Engineer Associate and Azure Data Scientist Associate.

Suggested training: Get a crash course in ML on Azure with our AI-900: Microsoft Certified Azure AI Fundamentals course.

Associate-level certifications

Microsoft Certified: Azure Administrator Associate (AZ-104)

TL;DR? This is Azure management basics for the IT crowd. This takes you from knowing a bit about the cloud to being able to do cloud things (and hopefully get paid to do them).

Prerequisites: None officially, but candidates should ideally have a minimum of six months’ worth of Azure hands-on experience. A basic understanding of cloud, Microsoft Azure, PowerShell, the Azure portal, and the command-line interface will be needed.

Skills covered:

  • Configure Azure backups
  • Manage Microsoft Azure resource groups
  • Microsoft Azure subscription management
  • Create Azure file storage
  • Deploy Azure virtual machines
  • Manage Azure Active Directory
  • Implement Azure load balancer

Who’s it for?
IT pros and administrators who keep tabs on cloud assets and resources and manage cloud infrastructure should seek this cert. This exam gets (mistakenly) regarded as an entry-level exam, but there’s a monster-truckload of assumed knowledge you’ll need to know to pass and not get your AZ handed to you.

Why should you get it?
This is one of the top-paying Azure certifications. If you’re wanting to get into the Azure management game, it’s a no-brainer. This builds on a basic cloud knowledge foundation and puts theoretical concepts into real-world practice, ensuring you can keep Azure apps and services up and running (and running well). Bonus: This certification (or the Azure Developer Associate cert) is required to continue your climb up the Azure skill tree and snag the Azure DevOps Engineer Expert certification.

What’s this certification mean?
Having your Azure Administrator Associate certification means you have a solid grasp on the basics of cloud storage, security, networking, and compute. You’re also proficient in the basics of PowerShell, Azure’s portal, and command-line interface.

What’s it mean for your career?
You’ll be equipped with the Azure understanding needed to help organizations get more out of their cloud investments — advising on, evaluating, managing, and optimizing Azure apps and services. Mix in a little bit of experience and you may find yourself a good fit for roles like Azure Administrator, Systems Administrator, or Database Administrator. From there, some further grinding and training can propel you into the world of some of the most sought-after cloud gigs (with the six-figure salaries that often come with them).

Suggested training: Get ready for your AZ-104 exam (and your dream job) with our Azure Administrator Associate course.

Microsoft Certified: Azure Developer Associate (AZ-204)

TL;DR? This certification (a solid first step Microsoft Azure certification for developers) proves you know the basics of developing apps and services for Azure, with the skills needed to design, build, test, and maintain cloud solutions.

Prerequisites: Development on Azure is as much about the services on the platform and how you integrate them in your application as it is about actual syntax and programming languages. That’s why with the AZ-204 exam, Microsoft requires candidates to have at least 1–2 years’ experience with development and Azure development. Granted, they’re not going to ask your boss to sign a permission form before you sit the exam, but you’ll ideally want to have that under your belt (so the exam doesn’t catch you with your pants down). You’ll also need know an Azure supported language: C#, PHP, Java, Python, or JavaScript.

Skills covered:

  • Deploy Azure Resource Manager (ARM)
  • Build Azure Managed Kubernetes Service (AKS) cluster
  • Create Azure app services
  • Implement Azure RBAC
  • Implement IaaS with Azure
  • Develop Azure Cosmos DB solutions

Who’s it for? 
This certification is for developers who want to flex their Azure skills. You’ll need to learn Azure and get up to speed on development before taking a swing at this exam. The ideal candidates have proven development experience and familiarity with Azure command-line interface, PowerShell, C#, Azure SQL, and the Azure portal. Sound like you? Note that even though this is an Associate-level certification, many find this exam to be especially tricky. Approach it with patience, and don’t feel discouraged or overwhelmed if you don’t ace it on your first try.

Why should you get it? 
Azure can feel more intuitive for developers with experience with Microsoft, and the integrations available in Microsoft-based enterprise environments can simplify development.

What’s this certification mean? 
You’re an Azure developer capable of designing and building cloud-native apps from start to finish — having a hand in every step from design to deployment to testing and maintenance.

What’s it mean for your career? 

Proving your prowess at developing in Azure is another feather in your cloud cap. (Stylish!) The more platforms you can develop for, the more you set yourself apart from the competition.

Suggested training: Get ready for the AZ-204 exam and gain hands-on experience designing, building, testing, and maintaining cloud applications with our Azure Developer Associate course.

Watch: Building serverless .NET applications on Azure
Everyone benefits from a simple, lean application design. The developers, the support folks, and most of all the people using the product. In this free, on-demand webinar, Jeremy shows you how to leverage innovative services on Azure to build simple applications that scale.

Microsoft Certified: Azure Database Administrator Associate (DP-300)

TL;DR? You’re an Azure database pro who knows the ins and outs relational databases.

Prerequisites: Microsoft says people eyeing this cert should understand all the concepts covered in DP-900 Exam for the Microsoft Azure Data Fundamentals certification.

Skills covered:

  • Plan and implement data platform resources
  • Implement a secure environment
  • High Availability and Disaster Recovery (HADR)
  • Optimize operational resources and query performance
  • Task automation
  • Perform administration using T-SQL

Who’s it for?
Database administrators and data management specialists who manage on-prem and cloud relational databases cooked up with SQL Server and Microsoft Azure Data Services.

Why should you get it?
You geek out at the idea of managing security, availability, and optimization of modern relational database solutions.

What’s this certification mean?
It means you’re able to implement and manage cloud-native and hybrid data platform solutions built using Azure services and SQL Server

What’s it mean for your career?
You’re capable of being trusted with the day-to-day operation and management of modern relational database solutions. You’ll likely work with Azure Data Engineer types to manage data platform solutions’ operation — and use your T-SQL knowledge to handle admin management.

Suggested training: Our Azure Database Administrator Associate course will prepare you for the DP-300: Administering Relational Databases on Microsoft Azure exam.

Microsoft Certified: Azure Security Engineer Associate (AZ-500)

TL;DR? Security in the cloud is massive and growing. This newer Azure certification shows you know how to help an organization keep its networks, data, and applications secure in a cloud world.

Prerequisites: None officially, but strong scripting and automation chops plus familiarity with networking, virtualization, and cloud are needed for the exam.

Skills covered:

  • Configure azure log analytics
  • Manage azure security alerts
  • Secure cloud based infrastructure
  • Azure privileged identity management

Who’s it for? 
This cert is for security engineers who design, configure, and implement security tools and controls in Azure.

Why should you get it?
Cloud security is a highly sought-after skill. As more organizations do hyper-critical things in the cloud, people who can ensure those things stay safe will continue to see their stock (and salaries) soaring.

What’s this certification mean?
You have the security skills to keep data in the cloud locked down and ensure cloud and hybrid environments are secure. You also have the know-how needed to school users — those lovably unavoidable soft spots in cybersecurity — on security best practices.

What’s it mean for your career?
Cloud security equals job security. These jobs pay well and pay off even more after a few years of experience. Whatever wild innovations come next, you can rest assured that security will continue to be a top priority.

Suggested training: Lock down the security engineer gig of your dreams. Get ready for the AZ-500 with our Azure Security Engineer Associate certification course.

Microsoft Certified: Azure Data Scientist Associate (DP-100)

TL;DR? Big Data isn’t a giant version of the Enterprise’s most lovable android (sadly). But you probably already know that if you’re eyeing this certification. This cert proves your data and machine learning skills are up to warp speed on Azure, and that you can help turn data into those oh-so-sweet actionable insights businesses love.

Prerequisites: None, but test-takers typically have a history with computer science, math, and statistics.

Skills covered:

  • Configure Azure resources for machine learning
  • How to identify cloud data imbalances
  • Evaluate cloud model performance and assess cloud environment constraints
  • Understand what makes for responsible machine learning implementation

Who’s it for?
This is for data scientists — current and aspiring — who want to work with data in Azure.

Why should you get it?
5G and the Internet of Things (an awesome band name you’re free to use, by the way) mean more data flying back and forth from more sources. The stats around data growth we always see bandied about are mind-boggling, but it’s clear jobs wrangling data and making sense of it will be a hot gig for the foreseeable future.

What’s this certification mean?
You can drink from the data firehose and spit out insights. This cert says you know how to use machine learning to train, test, and deploy models in Azure to build business-assisting tools. You can use apps involving language processing, computer vision, and predictive analytics, and you’re able to help visualize data for colleagues and leadership.

What’s it mean for your career?
Big Data can be a capital-B BIG deal for your career. Someone has to dig into the data and pry out all those next-step nuggets. Data scientist salaries are nothing to sneeze at, and the insights you bring to the table can give you some serious job security.

Suggested training: Get hands on to prepare for the DP-100 with our three-part course series, starting with DP-100 Part 1: Preparation.

Microsoft Certified: Azure Data Engineer Associate (DP-203)

TL;DR? Data is valuable. Someone needs to protect it and help ensure (the right) access to it. That’s where an Azure data engineer comes in. They’re responsible for managing, monitoring, and securing data using Azure data services.

Prerequisites: None, but you’ll need to know basically every data-related Azure service come test time.

Skills covered:

  • Implement relational storage solutions
  • Implement non-relational data storage solutions
  • Manage dynamic data masking
  • Develop Azure batch processing solutions

Who’s it for?
This certification is for data engineers responsible for data solutions that use Azure services.

Why should you get it?
You’re a data-obsessed engineer who wants to work behind the curtain, propping up the systems that keep data safe and get it where it needs to go quickly. You like the idea of keeping an ever-steady eye on compliance standards and figuring out things like bottlenecks and a data retention policy.

What’s this certification mean?
You can implement, design, monitor, and optimize a boatload of data-related solutions. You’re capable of using and creating data storage and data processing solutions and can ensure data stays secure. And you can do it all across a laundry list of Azure services.

What’s it mean for your career? You’ll find yourself an integral part of your organization’s data team, the steward of the crucial and sensitive information that informs your organization’s strategy and keeps the lights on. You’ll likely be working with various internal teams to figure out their needs and deliver solutions that meet those — and keep them firing on all cylinders.

Suggested training: Check out our Implementing an Azure Data Solution and Designing an Azure Data Solution courses to learn more about data and analytics on Azure.

Microsoft Certified: Azure AI Engineer Associate (AI-102)

TL;DR? You don’t have to be self-aware to recognize that AI is big and primed to get even bigger. Azure AI Engineers create and manage cutting-edge tools in Azure to automate and let machines do some of the heavy thinking.

Prerequisites: None, but if you’re coming from a non-technical background you’ll need to learn Python and software development and get studied up on data science, math, and machine learning.

Skills covered:

  • Identify cloud automation requirements
  • Design pipeline for AI apps
  • Integrate bots with Azure extensions

Who’s it for?
Engineers who know the ins and outs of AI and want to prove their prowess with Azure’s sizable suite of AI tools.

Why should you get it?
AI has quickly gone from the stuff of science fiction to an increasingly sought-after skill set. This cert shows you’re a step ahead of the curve and ready for a long, fruitful career (even after our robotic overlords have replaced all food with a flavorless life-sustaining sludge). You’ll architect and run AI tools using natural language processing, speech, computer vision, bots, and agents.

What’s this certification mean?
You can use machine learning, cognitive services, and knowledge mining to design and implement Microsoft AI solutions.

What’s it mean for your career?
You can’t spell “paid” without AI. But you’re not a spelling expert. You’re a master of machine learning and AI! That means you can expect to be in hot demand now and well into the future.

Suggested training: Get a crash course in all things Azure AI in this course.

Microsoft Certified: Azure Stack Hub Operator Associate (AZ-600)

TL;DR? This newer Azure certification focuses on Azure Stack Hub, which lets you bring Microsoft Azure to your on-premises environment. Why would you want to do that? To get hybrid cloud benefits, including full ownership and control of your data.

Prerequisites: You should have significant experience managing and operating Azure Stack Hub environments. (Obviously.)

Skills covered:

  • A strong understanding of Azure
  • Knowledge of virtualization, networking, and identity management
  • Understanding of how Azure Stack Hub enables DevOps processes and the hybrid development model

Who’s it for?
This cert is for Azure admins and Azure Stack Hub operators who provide cloud services to users/customers via your own datacenter using Azure Stack Hub. You plan, deploy, package, update, and maintain Azure Stack Hub infrastructure. Your responsibilities also include offering hybrid cloud resources and requested services and managing infrastructure as a service (IaaS) and platform as a service (PaaS).

Why should you get it?
Not all organizations want to (or can) go all-in on public cloud. This shows you have the skills to walk the line between flexibility and control by bringing the innovative, agile superpowers of Azure to on-prem environments.

Suggested training: Microsoft offers a series of free learning modules here that will help you prepare for the AZ-600.

Microsoft Certified: Azure Network Engineer Associate (AZ-700)

TL;DR? This newer cert is a doozy. The AZ-700 Azure Network Engineer Associate builds on all the networking knowledge you got from AZ-104 and takes you down the VNet rabbit hole.

Prerequisites: Before you even consider tackling AZ-700, I would recommend passing AZ-104. (Check out this episode of Azure This Week for more on the AZ-700.)

Skills covered:

  • Design, implement, and manage hybrid networking
  • Design and implement core networking infrastructure 
  • Design and implement routing
  • Secure and monitor networks
  • Design and implement Private access to Azure Services

Who’s it for?
Have you got networking game? Because there’s a huge amount of networking detail included in this exam. Candidates for this exam should have extensive experience and knowledge of networking, hybrid connections, and network security — as well as subject matter expertise in planning, implementing, and maintaining Azure networking solutions. (Oh, and you should probably also have expert-level Azure administration skills.)

Why should you get it?
This cert shows you’ve got the right stuff to recommend, plan, and implement Azure networking solutions — and manage those solutions for performance, resiliency, scalability, and security.

Suggested training: Check out Pluralsight’s Designing and Implementing Microsoft Azure Networking Solutions (AZ-700) course.

Microsoft Certified: Windows Server Hybrid Administrator Associate (AZ-800 + AZ-801)

TL;DR? A lot of people still rely on Windows Server, but they have traditionally been left out of the computing love from Microsoft certifications. That gap is now getting filled with this giant Windows Server certification, which consists of two exams.

Prerequisites: You should have extensive experience working with Windows Server and should probably have already passed AZ-104 Azure Administrator.

Skills covered:

  • Deploy and manage Active Directory Domain Services
  • Manage Windows servers in a hybrid environment
  • Manage virtual machines and containers in Azure
  • Implement and manage an on-premises and hybrid networking infrastructure
  • Secure Windows Server on-premises and hybrid infrastructures
  • Implement and manage Windows Server high availability and disaster recovery
  • Migrate servers and workloads
  • Monitor and troubleshoot Windows Server environments

Who’s it for?
This new cert is for experienced Windows Server admins who configure and manage core and advanced Windows Server workloads and services using on-premises, hybrid, and cloud technologies, and who integrate Windows Server environments with Azure services. One thing is sure — it’s a super-sized curriculum, and it might be a bit optimistic to pitch it at the associate level rather than expert. Time will tell. For more info, check out our post on the AZ-800 and AZ-801.

Why should you get it?
Hybrid is the world many organizations now live in, and this new cert validates the skills of Windows Server administrators who are making the most of these environments. 

Suggested training: Check out Pluralsight’s Administering Windows Server Hybrid Core Infrastructure (AZ-800) learning path and the Introduction to Exam AZ-801: Configuring Windows Server Hybrid Advanced Services course to prepare for this challenging cert.

Expert-level certifications

Microsoft Certified: Azure Solutions Architect Expert (AZ-305)

TL;DR? This cert proves you are among the Azure elite. You have the proven prowess in compute, network, storage, and security needed to masterfully design solutions that run on Azure.

Prerequisites: You must have Exam AZ-104: Microsoft Azure Administrator in the bag before attempting to take down this colossal certification and its demanding exam. Check out this post for more on the AZ-305.

Skills covered:

  • Manage Azure Active Directory
  • Cloud migration to Azure strategy
  • Configure serverless computing with Azure
  • Integration of on-prem infrastructure
  • Configure Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS)

Who’s it for?
This is for experienced IT and DevOps pros with existing Azure administration and development skills. A successful solutions architect is a day-walker who works effortlessly with cutting-edge technology and good old-fashioned humans. They’re capable of taking on technical tasks like creating apps, configuring cloud infrastructure, and planning continuity. But they’re equally up for getting chatty about cloud with colleagues — helping pair teams with solutions and serving as a persuasive cloud evangelist to convert cloud naysayers.

Why should you get it?
You’ll bring tech brains to your organization’s strategy and potentially prime yourself for strategic leadership positions down the road.

What’s this certification mean?
You have an in-depth understanding of cloud infrastructure, security, storage, data platforms, workload requirements, application creation and deployment, and more.

What’s it mean for your career?
An experienced solutions architect is basically packing a brain filled to the brim with an encyclopedic level of IT insights, making you a must-have at any tech-savvy organization. It also potentially opens a whole new dimension of future career possibilities. This sort of cross-departmental role, the experience you earn, and the people you work with could set the foundation for a jump off the cloud ladder to the corporate leadership ladder.

Suggested training: Ready to reach the pinnacle of the Azure certifications? Check out our courses on Microsoft Azure Architect Design and Implementing and Monitoring Azure Infrastructure. Microsoft also offers free learning modules to help you prepare for the exam.

Microsoft Certified: DevOps Engineer Expert (AZ-400)

TL;DR? The DevOps engineer is the conductor (train or orchestra, your pick) who ensures the many moving pieces around DevOps in modern organizations are performing as they should using Azure tech, a strategic mind, and a deep understanding of development and infrastructure.

Prerequisites: You’ll need either the Azure Administrator Associate or Azure Developer Associate cert before taking on the DevOps Engineer Expert certification.

Skills covered:

  • Form instrumentation and SRE strategies
  • Create a security and compliance plan
  • Manage source control
  • Define and implement continuous integration
  • Mobile DevOps strategy with Azure
  • Manage cloud hosting infrastructure
  • Capture Azure cloud feedback

Who’s it for?
This is for the engineer who is equal parts coder, people person, and a pro-level cat wrangler. You’re familiar with Azure administration and development (and an expert in one or the other) and well versed in Agile development practices.

Why should you get it?
You want a high-paying DevOps gig that is heavy on strategy without being completely removed from the fulfillment of digging in on day-to-day to-dos.

What’s this certification mean?
You’re a DevOps master who can tackle the trifecta of people, processes, and tech — all to deliver products that meet user needs and business objectives with Azure.

What’s it mean for your career?
You have the combo of hard technical and soft people skills that can take you far. Your work will likely focus on taking the friction out of delivery, creating automation and scalability as well as optimizing communication and processes. You’ll collaborate with development teams to deploy code and coordinate releases.

Suggested training: Get ready for your Azure DevOps Engineer Expert exam with our AZ-400: Designing and Implementing Microsoft DevOps Solutions course.

Specialty certifications

Microsoft Certified: Azure IoT Developer Specialty (AZ-220)

TL;DR? The first cloud IoT developer certification from the big three cloud providers, the Azure IoT Developer Specialty cert says you can implement the Azure services that form an IoT solution.

Prerequisites: There are no official prerequisites, but you’ll need to understand the ins and outs of IoT solutions and be fluent in one Azure-supported language, including C#, Node, C, or Python.

Skills covered:

  • Implement IoT solution infrastructure and security
  • Provision and manage devices
  • Set up, deploy, and configure an IoT Edge device
  • Process and manage data
  • Troubleshoot and optimize IoT solutions

Who’s it for?
This certification is for Azure-fluent developers looking to get into IoT or IoT devs who want to get into Azure.

Why should you get it?
So you can call “first.” OK. Maybe not that. It’s more likely because the demand for IoT skills is such that you like the idea of having to fight off recruiters with a stick. (Note: No recruiters were harmed in the typing of this post.) As many as 80% of IT decision makers report lacking the “skills in the hands-on delivery of IoT solutions” needed to ensure solutions work as intended. If that’s the case now during the days of IoT’s infancy, it’s probably safe to wager the need (and your stock) will go up with the rising number of connected devices.

What’s this certification mean?
You’re an Azure-savvy developer who can implement the Azure services that form an IoT solution, including data analysis, data processing, data storage options, and PaaS options.

What’s it mean for your career?
You’ll implement solutions to manage, monitor, and transform IoT-related data, working with data engineers and others to ensure business integration.

Suggested training: Eyeing the Azure IoT Developer Specialty? ACG has you covered with courses to get you ready for the AZ-220.

Microsoft Certified: Azure for SAP Workloads Specialty (AZ-120)

TL;DR? One of the newer Microsoft Azure certs, this certification is for people in the weeds of planning and administering SAP workloads to be hosted in Microsoft Azure.

Prerequisites: It’s not mandatory but “strongly recommended” you have an Azure Administrator or Azure Architect certification, plus SAP HANA and Linux certs.

Skills covered:

  • Migrate SAP workloads to Azure
  • Design Azure solutions that support SAP Workloads
  • Build and deploy Azure for SAP workloads
  • Validate infrastructure for SAP workloads
  • Optimize Azure SAP architecture performance

Who’s it for?
This certification is for administrators, architects, and engineers migrating SAP solutions to the cloud. Moving forward, expect to see more specialty certifications focused on the pain points of moving on-premises solutions to Azure.

Why should you get it?
You’ll find SAP applications in the majority of Fortune 500 companies. Many of these organizations have on-premises SAP workloads that could benefit from being migrated to the cloud, but migrating these complex workloads can be a serious task. (You can help with that.)

What’s this certification mean?
You’re a wealth of SAP knowledge and experience who can build and deploy Azure SAP workloads, make suggestions on services, and optimize resources.

What’s it mean for your career?
Considering the number of businesses relying on SAP, having this certification should make you an MVP to plenty of employers out there who would benefit from migrating to the SAP S/4HANA and SAP Cloud Platform on Azure.

Suggested training: Check out Pluralsight’s Planning and Administering Microsoft Azure for SAP Workloads (AZ-120) learning path.

Microsoft Certified: Azure Virtual Desktop Specialty (AZ-140)

TL;DR? This cert is for Azure admins with experience in planning, delivering, and managing virtual desktops and remote apps on Azure.

Prerequisites: Microsoft calls out that candidates for this cert “must have expert Azure administration skills.”

Who’s it for?
You may be a good candidate for this cert if you’re an administrator with hands-on experience planning, delivering, and managing virtual desktops and remote apps on Microsoft Azure. You understand on-prem virtual desktop infrastructure technologies as they relate to migrating to Azure Virtual Desktop and are able to use the Azure portal and Azure Resource Manager templates with ease. Bonus points if you have experience with automation using PowerShell and Azure Command-Line Interface (CLI).

Suggested training: Check out Pluralsight’s Configuring and Operating Microsoft Azure Virtual Desktop (AZ-140) learning path.

Microsoft Certified: Azure Cosmos DB Developer Specialty (DP-420)

TL;DR? This Azure certification is one of my favorites, because Cosmos DB is one of my absolute favorite services on Azure. (To put it simply, Cosmos DB just lets you focus on the good stuff.) This is truly a proper specialty exam that goes in depth on most if not all of the parts of Cosmos DB.

Prerequisites: You should have solid knowledge and experience developing apps for Azure and working with Azure Cosmos DB.

Skills covered:

  • Use non-relational data models with the Azure Cosmos DB Core API
  • Design and configure partitioning strategies 
  • Manage scaling and sizing, connectivity options, and data access for all APIs
  • Developer-specific features such as multi-document loading, session consistency, pagination, stored procedures and more
  • Replication strategies, multi-region writes, and consistency models
  • Integration with other Azure services
  • Performance optimization, monitoring, security, backup and restore operations.

Who’s it for?
This cert is for candidates with expertise designing, implementing, and monitoring cloud-native applications that store and manage data. You can design and implement data models and data distribution, load data into an Azure Cosmos DB database, integrate the solution with other Azure services, and optimize the solution for security, availability, resilience, and performance.

Why should you get it?
This new certification (announced in late 2021) is a key step for developers who are ready to prove their expertise in supporting their organization’s business goals with modern cloud apps and Azure Cosmos DB.

Microsoft Certified: Azure Support Engineer for Connectivity Specialty (AZ-720)

TL;DR? This new Azure cert is for networking superstars adept at planning, implementing, and maintaining networking solutions, including hybrid solutions, but also candidates capable of discerning when things go wrong, and knowing exactly how to fix them.

Prerequisites: This exam essentially takes the AZ-700: Designing and implementing Microsoft Azure Networking Solutions, and has added in the ability to break and fix everything .

Skills covered:

  • Troubleshooting business continuity issues including backup and recovery problems
  • Diagnosing and fixing hybrid and cloud connectivity issues with VNet, DNS, VPNs, and Azure ExpressRoute
  • Resolution of issues that arise around Platform as a Service (PaaS) 
  • Authentication and control issues within both hybrid and cloud solutions
  • All things network troubleshooting (NSGs, Azure Firewall, latency problems, routing and traffic control, load balancing)
  • Troubleshooting VM connectivity

Who’s it for?

This certification is for support engineers with subject matter expertise in using advanced troubleshooting methods to resolve networking and connectivity issues in Azure. Candidates will be able to troubleshoot hybrid environments, and use a variety of tools and technologies to diagnose and identify the root causes of complex issues.

Why should you get it?

This new certification (announced in March 2022) will be an extremely valuable cert for support engineers that want to stand out and display a more senior level skillset.

Suggested training: Dig into Pluralsight’s Designing and Implementing Microsoft Azure Networking Solutions (AZ-700) course and the AZ-700 Microsoft Azure Network Engineer Associate course on A Cloud Guru, and get hands-on experience resolving complex networking issues.

Plot your path to Azure awesomeness
Get started with ACG today to transform your career with courses and real hands-on labs in Microsoft Azure, AWS, Google Cloud, and beyond. And wherever you are in your Azure adventure, stay up to date on all the latest Azure news with our original series Azure This Week.