Microsoft certifications are a great way to stand out in the job market and show off your skills. They also provide opportunities for lifelong learning, which is essential to success in this ever-changing tech landscape.
The Definitive Guide to Microsoft Certifications will teach you everything you need to know about Microsoft certs so that you can decide if they make sense for you!
We’re going to cover the topics of:
- Microsoft certification paths
- Benefits of earning an MS cert
- Microsoft certification renewal, and
- How to prepare for a certification exam.
Let’s start with the basics.
Microsoft Certification Paths
A most common question an IT beginner (or someone new to Microsoft exams and certs) asks is, “What types of Microsoft Certifications exist?“
There are dozens of different Microsoft certifications available, and they are grouped into different paths according to the type of career you are interested in pursuing.
IT administrators deal with the day-to-day tasks of computers, networks, and computer systems. Their job is a combination of technical, managerial, and administrative work that requires an understanding of the fundamentals to do well.
A Microsoft administrator implements, monitors, and maintains Microsoft solutions on networks in a corporate environment. IT administrators usually need to work with several different computer systems and have experience administering Microsoft Exchange Server, Windows Server, SharePoint Services, or SQL server databases.
The following certifications belong to this path:
- Azure Administrator Associate
- Azure for SAP Workloads Specialty
- Azure Stack Hub Operator Associate
- Enterprise Administrator Expert
- Identity and Access Administrator Associate
- Information Protection Administrator Associate
- Messaging Administrator Associate
- Modern Desktop Administrator Associate
- Security Administrator Associate
- Teams Administrator Associate
- Windows Virtual Desktop Specialty
AI Engineer Path
For the revolutionary technology of artificial intelligence, Microsoft has developed a certification program that covers the basics of AI. An AI engineer utilizes machine learning to solve business problems and create new opportunities by building intelligent solutions.
The AI Engineer Path is a certification program that covers the fundamentals of AI and its applications in business and Microsoft Azure service offerings related to artificial intelligence. It consists of only one certification:
- Azure AI Engineer Associate
Data Engineer Path
Data is the foundation of every organization, and engineers who specialize in analyzing that data are highly sought after. Data engineering is a fast-growing field where IT professionals use specialized software to glean insights from raw data sets.
The data engineer certification program is for those seeking an introduction to this discipline or furthering their knowledge with more advanced topics. As is the case with the AI engineer path, the data engineer path also includes only one certification:
- Azure Data Engineer Associate
Data Scientist Path
The main difference between a data engineer and a data scientist is that a data scientist is more focused on exploring and analyzing large datasets to solve business problems.
A data scientist’s work can vary from building predictive models, creating visualizations of the dataset, or mining for patterns in a particular subset of the raw data (for example, all transactions made within an hour). They encourage data-driven decision-making and uncovering insights that have been otherwise hidden from a company’s view.
This path includes the following certification:
- Azure Data Scientist Associate
Microsoft developers are in charge of creating, designing, and constructing software. Developers work on the back-end of an application to make sure that it functions well, and they also generate user interfaces or “front ends” for people who will be using their applications.
The developer path includes:
- Azure Developer Associate
- Azure IoT Developer Specialty
- Developer Associate
- Dynamics 365: Finance and Operations Apps Developer Associate
- Power Platform Developer Associate
DevOps Engineer Path
Even though it seems similar to the previous one, the DevOps engineer path focuses on bridging the gap between development and operations so that they can work more efficiently together to create a product or service.
DevOps engineers are tasked with making sure development is as agile and efficient as possible while also ensuring you have the infrastructure needed to support your product.
This path includes one certification:
- DevOps Engineer Expert
Functional Consultant Path
In the world of Microsoft, a functional consultant is someone who is brought in to consult on a project or system and then leaves after they have completed their work. Their main responsibilities include advising and consulting on the use of Microsoft products in a team setting. They also need to plan for customer needs and use Microsoft environments to prepare for and manage multiple project aspects.
The functional consultant path includes:
- Dynamics 365 Business Central Functional Consultant Associate
- Dynamics 365 Customer Service Functional Consultant Associate
- Dynamics 365 Field Service Functional Consultant Associate
- Dynamics 365 Finance Functional Consultant Associate
- Dynamics 365 Marketing Functional Consultant Associate
- Dynamics 365 Sales Functional Consultant Associate
- Dynamics 365 Supply Chain Management Functional Consultant Associate
- Dynamics 365 Supply Chain Management, Manufacturing Functional Consultant Associate
- Power Platform Functional Consultant Associate
Security Engineer Path
Security engineers are IT professionals who are responsible for maintaining the security of a company’s information systems. They work to protect these systems from outside intruders and make sure that they comply with industry standards in order to maintain their integrity.
This path includes:
- Azure Security Engineer Associate
- Identity and Access Administrator Associate
- Information Protection Administrator Associate
- Security Operations Analyst Associate
Solution Architect Path
Finally, solution architects are senior-level professionals in charge of designing and implementing solutions for customers. They take a holistic approach to project management, as they need to think about how the solution will work with other parts of an organization’s IT landscape.
Solution architects create best practices or policy guidelines based on their experience with different technologies so that others can leverage them when building their own products.
The solution architect path includes:
- Azure for SAP Workloads Specialty
- Azure Solutions Architect Expert
- Dynamics 365: Finance and Operations Apps Solution Architect Expert
- Power Platform Solution Architect Expert
Are Microsoft certifications worth it?
Now that you are familiar with the different types of Microsoft certifications, it’s time to look at their benefits. Are these certs even worth it?
Microsoft certifications are valuable because they can show that a person is qualified to work in their field. They also make it easier for people to find jobs, which can make them worth the time and effort necessary to get one.
Here is a breakdown of some of their main advantages.
Aside from finding new employment, Microsoft certificates can also help with promotions. When you have a Microsoft cert, your employer may see that as an indicator of increased skill sets and be more likely to promote you.
They may also like the fact that this certification shows that you are willing to put in the time and effort necessary for career growth, which is very valuable in any job market!
Enhancing Professional Credibility
If you are not looking for a new or better job, you can still use your Microsoft certifications to enhance the credibility of your resume and professional skill set.
These exams are not easy to pass – they demonstrate hard work and dedication to your profession. They might also lead to more interesting engagements, such as speaking at conferences or presenting ideas to senior-level managers.
Your Microsoft certifications may also be relevant to other parts of your life, such as by providing new insights into how technology can help with personal hobbies or lifestyle choices.
Better Networking Opportunities
Without networking, it’s easy to feel like you are not where you wanted to be in your career.
Microsoft certifications can help with this because they give the holder an advantage when it comes to networking. They allow professionals to speak intelligently about their profession and how technology impacts others, which opens up new opportunities for collaboration at work and beyond.
Professional networking can be beneficial for both the individual and their company. A great network means more resources to draw from when solving problems – which is good news for everyone!
Lastly, because of the sheer volume of Microsoft certifications, one can specialize in a specific area. The more Microsoft certs in a particular path an individual has, the higher their level of expertise and responsibility will be.
This is because they have experience with different technologies and can create best practices or policy guidelines based on that knowledge for others to leverage when building products.
Specialization is not a must at the start of your IT career, but later on, it can become more and more necessary because of the level at which you are working. By choosing a Microsoft certification path that suits your needs, you can more easily get a job in that niche and help people with technology-related problems.
How to Renew Your Microsoft Certificate
Before you proceed with a certification, it is important to know whether it expires or not. Some MS certs are lifetime certs, meaning they never expire as long as you maintain your skills and keep up with any new changes. Others have expiration dates, which means the holder must renew them periodically or risk losing all their hard work in that area.
Here is a list of lifetime Microsoft certificates:
- Microsoft Fundamentals Certifications
Compared to them, role-based at associate and expert levels and specialty certifications are indicative of a date; they all expire one year after they are earned.
On June 30th, 2021, Microsoft introduced changes to its certification expiration and renewal policy. All certificates earned before this date will last for two years. All certificates earned after that date will expire one year after they are earned.
This change was made because information technology, and cloud technology, in particular, is constantly changing. Introducing these changes helps to keep professionals on top of the latest developments in their field and up-to-date with any new trends that might be impacting technology as a whole.
Fortunately, renewing your MS certs is not a complicated process. Six months before your certification is about to expire, you will receive an email notification from Microsoft. Once you receive this notification, you will have six months to pass an online renewal assessment.
You are allowed to take this assessment as many times as you want until it is passed, and there is no fee to pay. It is imperative that you pass your renewal assessment before the expiration date of the certificate in question.
If you fail to pass this assessment, your certification will expire, and you will need to take all the required exams again to earn it back.
Another vital piece of information is that you cannot renew a certification by earning a higher-level or an updated one. You can only renew it by passing the renewal assessment.
How to Pass a Microsoft Certification Exam
It is one thing to talk about renewing a certification after you’ve earned it and another thing entirely to successfully pass a certification exam, to begin with. The process for passing a Microsoft certification exam is not as straightforward as taking the renewal assessment. However, it still needs to be followed diligently and carefully to guarantee success.
Before diving headfirst into studying, make sure that you know what the exam will cover. This will help you create a study plan that targets the areas of content where you are most lacking.
Microsoft has an exam description page for each of its certification exams. Here, you will find what topics the exam covers, the passing score, any prerequisites needed to take it, and suggestions on how much study time is required before taking it.
Having a clear idea of what you need to learn and the amount of time necessary to study will help you feel more confident about taking a Microsoft certification exam.
Choose a Study Method
When preparing for a certification exam, you typically have two options:
- Study on your own
- Enroll in a group class
If you choose the on-your-own approach, find resources that might be available for free online. Join discussion boards, browse the internet, and read up on blog posts to see if you can find any information that is relevant or helpful.
The benefits of self-studying are that you have complete control over how much time and effort is put into learning. The downside, however, is that without the help of a tutor or lecturer to answer your questions when they arise, it could be difficult for some learners to know exactly what they should focus on during their study sessions.
If you choose group classes as your preferred study method, make sure to choose a reputable institution with instructors who have experience teaching Microsoft certification classes. The benefit is that you will be able to ask any questions you may have during or after the class without needing an outside resource such as the internet.
The downside is that group study sessions are usually more expensive than self-study and require more time commitment.
Regardless of the option you choose, both have their benefits and drawbacks. As a learner, the choice is up to you on what will be best for your learning style and budget.
When preparing for a certification exam, whether self-studied or in a group class setting, taking notes is essential.
Taking detailed notes while studying will help jog your memory of the information and find any gaps in what you have learned, which is essential when it comes time to study again or retake an exam if necessary.
The best way to keep track of these notes is through index cards. Write down any key information or facts that you come across, and then use the back of each card to record what category it falls under. The more cards you have, the easier this will be to do.
Microsoft certification helps professionals show their expertise and dedication to a given field. It also provides the opportunity for individuals to prove themselves in the workplace by gaining knowledge that is relevant to succeeding.
Your journey to obtaining an MS exam begins with selecting a certification path. Choose one that makes sense for your interests and career goals. If you want to evolve as a software developer, go for the Developer cert. If you’re going to show off your ability to protect digital assets, go for the Security Engineer cert.
The benefits of Microsoft certification are many, and there is no better feeling than having that piece of paper in hand after finally conquering a high-stakes exam.
After you have chosen a certification path, it will require time and effort to study for the exam. Acquire the necessary study material, develop a study schedule, and take extensive notes.
After you have completed your certification studies, it is vital to maintain the knowledge through ongoing education and practice. By continuing to learn new skills and implementing what has been learned in previous courses, professionals can both specialize their skill set as Microsoft professionals or continue on a path of growth with potential for even higher certifications.
If you have any questions about earning a Microsoft certification, please contact MyComputerCareer. We will be happy to help you in any way that we can!