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A Brief Introduction to the Microsoft Azure Role-based Certifications

May 4, 2020 • 10 Minute Read


Historically, Microsoft has created certifications for their business products. However, over the past couple years Microsoft shifted its certification focus to job roles, particularly job roles in the Microsoft Cloud Platform ecosystem.

In this guide you will learn what Microsoft Azure role-based certifications exist, as well as some detailed guidance on crafting your certification strategy.

Microsoft Azure Certifications

As of this writing in May 2020, 52 credentials make up the Microsoft Cloud Platform role-based certification portfolio. However, in this guide we will focus only on the following Azure-related job roles:

  • Administrator
  • Developer
  • Architect
  • DevOps Engineer
  • Security Engineer
  • AI Engineer

The value proposition behind these certifications is that Microsoft validates your expertise within a specific Azure-related job role.

The validation takes place not through a printed certificate, but through a digital credential. For example, take a look at Figure 1, which shows a Microsoft Certified Azure Administrator Associate badge:

Observe the following attributes of the Azure certification badge:

  • Both Microsoft and Acclaim, Microsoft's digital credential provider, verify that you did in fact earn the badge
  • Azure certifications typically have a two-year expiration
  • You can easily share these badges on your website, social media, or online resume

Next, let's undertake a whirlwind consideration of the most popular Azure role-based certifications.

Azure Administrator

The Azure Administrator Associate credential is for IT professionals who implement, monitor, and maintain primarily infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) solutions in Azure.

If you currently work as a systems administrator, this is the closest Microsoft Cloud Platform match. You need to pass one exam to earn this badge:

Note that Exam AZ-104 is in beta (prerelease) status as of May 2020; the current exam, AZ-103, will be around until August 31, 2020.

Like all the associate and expert Azure exams, the registration cost is US$165, and you'll take the exam remotely from your home or office with Pearson OnVue, at least until the COVID-19 quarantine period is over.

Azure Developer

Microsoft aims the Azure Developer Associate badge at app developers (aka programmers) who design, build, test, and maintain apps that run in Azure.

This certification requires that you pass one exam:

This exam is in beta status as of May 2020; the current exam, AZ-203, expires August 31, 2020.

Azure Solutions Architect

The Azure Solutions Architect Expert certification is for IT professionals who design solutions that run on Azure. This skill set requires expertise in both the administrator and developer domains.

To earn your Azure Architect badge, you must pass two exams. You can take the exams in any order:

Exams AZ-303 and AZ-304 will start their beta testing period on June 29, 2020. In the meantime, you can take the current exam versions, which are available until September 30, 2020:

If you've been reading this guide all the way through, you've doubtless detected a theme. Microsoft Worldwide Learning reviews these role-based certifications every year to ensure the job role tasks are current.

As it happens, Microsoft completed their review of the Administrator, Developer, and Solutions Architects certifications in Spring 2020; this action explains the presence of all these beta exams.

Azure DevOps Engineer

The Azure DevOps Engineer Expert credential is for IT professionals who work on a DevOps team and who use the Azure DevOps product family.

This is the only Azure certification that has a prerequisite. To earn this badge you must hold either of the following badges:

  • Microsoft Certified: Azure Administrator Associate
  • Microsoft Certified: Azure Developer Associate

You also need to pass the following exam:

You can pass the exams in any order, but you won't receive your Azure DevOps Expert credential until you clear AZ-400 and your prerequisite.

Azure Security Engineer

The Azure Security Engineer Associate certification is for IT professionals who implement security controls and threat protection in their organization's Azure deployments.

Pass the following exam to earn this badge:

Azure AI Engineer

The Azure AI Engineer Associate badge covers the Azure artificial intelligence (AI) job role; these professionals use Azure AI/machine learning (ML) products and technologies to design AI solutions.

To earn this badge, pass the following exam:

Designing Your Certification Strategy

Which role-based certification should I start with?

First, consider your IT professional specialty thus far. Does it make you happy? If so, look for an Azure credential that matches your existing job role as closely as possible.

To quickly identify your IT skill strengths and weaknesses, you can also get your Skill IQ and Role IQ at Pluralsight.

In what order should I complete these certifications?

If you're entirely new to Azure, then you might consider studying for and earning your Azure Fundamentals badge. This entry-level credential validates your general, baseline understanding of the Azure platform.

To earn your Azure Fundamentals badge, pass the following exam:

As mentioned, the only Azure certification that has a prerequisite is the Azure DevOps Engineer badge. Where you go after your earn your first badge depends on the following:

  • Your professional interests
  • Your skills aptitude
  • Your available time and resources to prepare

What Pluralsight content teaches me what I need to know for these certifications?

You're in excellent hands if you're a Pluralsight subscriber because we have skill paths mapped out to all the Azure role-based certifications outlined in this guide. Check 'em out:

What practice exams exist for these exams?

Many Azure skill paths at Pluralsight include access to CyberVista IT practice exams. Figure 2 shows you a representative example:

Alternatively, you can find quality Azure practice exam simulations from the following vendors:


There you have it! By now you should have a good grasp of what's available in the Microsoft Azure certification space. You also should be well on the way to devising your certification strategy and taking your next step.

We wish you all the best in your certification journey!

Tim Warner

Tim W.

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 Windows PowerShell. Follow him on Twitter @TechTrainerTim.

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