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The ultimate guide to Azure certification

By Lina Arshad

It’s no secret that the demand for Microsoft Azure professionals has increased dramatically over the past couple of years, with a pressing digital skills gap and the Great Resignation to thank in large part.  

According to figures from Statista, demand for Azure products has grown monumentally, with the vendor holding 23% of the global cloud market share by Q4 of 2022—a significant increase on the 16.9% it held pre-pandemic in 2019. 

And this increased demand presents more opportunities for both current Azure professionals and those wanting to break into the ecosystem. But with so many different areas of expertise within the Azure sphere, it can be daunting to some to know where to go and how to progress.  

However, getting certified is great for everything from building foundational knowledge of Azure, to finding your niche and positioning yourself as an expert in it. So, whether you’re thinking of starting a career in Azure, looking to further develop your existing skills, or you’re ready to explore a new role within the ecosystem, certifications can give you the push you need in the right direction.  

In this blog, we’ll be discussing why some professionals choose to undertake certifications, as well as sharing potential certification pathways for six of the most popular Azure roles: 

Why would professionals want to gain a Microsoft Azure certification? 

The debate over whether a certification is worth it or not is a long-standing one. And while there are valid arguments for either side of the coin, with our Nigel Frank Careers and Hiring Guide: Microsoft 365 and Azure Edition 2023 revealing that 37% of Azure professionals are already certified, it’s worth exploring the reasons why.  

Gaining a certification takes time, effort, and money, so we can assume there’s a good incentive for professionals to invest their time into these. And according to our report, 83% of respondents believed that certifications help professionals stand out in the job market—which was a significant increase on the number of professionals who believed the same last year (73%).  

As well as this, an astounding 92% of professionals with certifications believe they make you more marketable, telling us they help to demonstrate your knowledge and passion for learning, and that they add value to your profile in a competitive job market.  

On top of this, our study found that Microsoft professionals have plenty to gain from undertaking a certification, with 43% agreeing that the main benefit is the verification it gives you with regards to Microsoft products. And while this points to how having a certification can put you in better stead in terms of how an employer ranks you, it also indicates that professionals are willing to do this to increase their own opportunities down the line—this is further supported by the fact 41% of respondents said they gained better career prospects after gaining an additional certification.  

And of course, with an advancement in skills and knowledge comes the prospect of a higher earning potential. According to the Microsoft professionals who took part in our survey, of those who had gained an Azure certification, they saw their salary increase by a whopping 25%—and who doesn’t love a salary top-up? 

With so many reasons, both in terms of the advantage the certifications bring to candidates/employees and employers, it’s easy to see why so many Azure professionals view certifications as an important accolade. But how do you know which ones are worth studying? 

In the following sections, we will be dissecting some of the most popular Azure roles and the certifications associated with them, so you can discover a pathway that works for you.  

How to become an Azure Cloud Engineer

 An Azure Cloud Engineer is a central part of any IT team, holding responsibility for a host of cloud-related activities including: 

  • Assessing an organization’s IT infrastructure to determine best options for moving to the cloud 
  • Overseeing the migration process and maintaining the new system 
  • Deploying Azure virtual workloads with high-level security and performance 
  • Monitoring network performance to comply with service-level agreements 
  • Performing configuration management and disaster recovery tasks 
  • Using automation technology options within Azure  

On top of these technical capabilities, any successful Azure Cloud Engineer will also need a sound set of soft skills under their belt, including leadership and managerial skills. With the Cloud Engineer at the center of Azure operations, any professional pursuing this role will need strong communication skills. This is because it’s likely that a Cloud Engineer will need to negotiate with, and feed back to, many other parties including vendors, IT members or teams, and senior management.  

Although there’s no one specified route to becoming a Cloud Engineer, we often see professionals starting out in the following roles: 

  • Software Developer 
  • Systems Administrator/Engineer 
  • Database Administrator/Engineer 
  • Network Engineer 

Skills and experience needed 

Being such an integral part of an organization’s IT team, an Azure Cloud Engineer will need a good combination of soft and hard tech skills.  

This includes: 

  • A deep understanding of how Microsoft Azure and Microsoft cloud solutions work 
  • Familiarity with tools and platforms such as Kubernetes, Hadoop, Spark, and SQL/NoSQL databases 
  • Experience with agile development and building and maintaining cloud-native applications in Azure 
  • Experience with DevOps practices and CI/CD tools including Azure DevOps and Jenkins 
  • Experience with Azure Networking, Microsoft Windows Servers, and Azure CLI 
  • Advanced knowledge of development or scripting languages such as Java, PHP, Ruby, Node.js, C#, PowerShell, Python, Bash, or similar 
  • Experience with Azure monitoring tools and services such as Azure Monitor, Azure Log Analytics, Azure Trusted Advisor, or similar 
  • Knowledge of best practices across security, infrastructure, and governance 
  • Strong communication, analytical, and problem-solving skills 

Azure Cloud Engineer certification pathways 

Over two-thirds of the Azure Cloud Engineers that took our survey were certified, with 44% holding an Azure certification.  

Here are some of the best cloud certifications you can get under your belt to establish yourself as having mastered the skills necessary to become a successful Cloud Engineer.   

Microsoft Certified: Azure Fundamentals

Exam(s): AZ-900 

Pre-requisites: As the most foundational-level exam that can be taken, there are no pre-requisites for the Azure Fundamentals certification. It’s a great fit for everyone from seasoned professionals to those looking to break into the industry. It can also be used to reinforce your understanding of the basics in other Azure role-based certifications. 

It is recommended that before you sit the AZ-900 exam, you are familiar with concepts of networking, storage, compute, and application support and development. 

Skills measured:  

You will need to demonstrate your confidence in describing many basic-level Azure concepts to gain the certification. This includes being able to: 

  • Describe cloud concepts 
  • Describe the benefits of using cloud services 
  • Describe cloud service types 
  • Describe core architectural components of Azure 
  • Describe Azure compute and networking services 
  • Describe Azure storage services 
  • Describe Azure identity, access, and security 
  • Describe cost management in Azure 
  • Describe features and tools in Azure for governance and compliance 
  • Describe features and tools in Azure for managing and deploying Azure resources 
  • Describe monitoring tools in Azure  

To learn more, visit the Microsoft Azure Fundamentals exam page 

Microsoft Certified: Azure Administrator Associate

Exam(s): AZ-104  

Pre-requisites: Although there are no strict pre-requisite exams candidates need to take before they can sit the AZ-104 exam, it’s important that any candidate aiming to gain this certification has subject matter expertise in implementing, managing, and monitoring a Microsoft Azure environment for an organization. This includes having hands-on experience with concepts of compute, storage, virtual network, identity, governance, and security. Although it’s not a requirement, having the AZ-900 under your belt can make studying for the AZ-104 easier.  

Similarly, candidates need to have experience with operating systems, networking, servers, and virtualization. Plus, they will need to have used PowerShell, Azure CLI, the Azure Portal, Azure Resource Manager templates, and Microsoft Azure Active Directory. 

Skills measured: 

Within the AZ-104 exam, candidates can expect their proficiency to be tested in the following areas: 

  • Manage Azure subscriptions and free account servicing 
  • Identify resource groups and analyze resource utilization best practices 
  • Develop an understanding of the Network Security Group 
  • Manage Azure identities and governance 
  • Implement and manage storage 
  • Deploy and manage Azure compute resources 
  • Monitor and maintain Azure resources 
  • Configure and manage virtual networking 
  • Implement Azure load balancer 

To learn more, visit the Microsoft Azure Administrator exam page. 

How to become an Azure Technical Architect

An Azure Technical Architect is a professional who will work closely with the Solutions Architect and is responsible for the execution of the integration—with both holding very senior positions within the industry. As well as this, a Technical Architect will define the best practices, and deal with any configuration issues to ensure the result of implementation matches up to the stakeholders’ expectations and requirements.  

Technical Architects also tend to do more heavy lifting when it comes to coding, so those who like getting very hands-on and stuck into the nuts and bolts of things will be well-suited to this role.  

A career in Technical Architecture can start from almost anywhere, but there are a few common career backgrounds that we see candidates coming from: 

  • IT Support Executive 
  • Systems Engineer 
  • Database Administrator  
  • Azure/Software Developer 
  • Azure Administrator  

Skills and experience needed 

With Technical Architects holding responsibility for plenty of key back-end processes, and also doing more heavy lifting with regards to coding, it’s important that candidates have a solid set of skills and experience behind them—specifically:  

  • Exceptional knowledge of Azure infrastructure, products, and services 
  • Understanding of networking including TCP/IP, IP addresses, HTTP, DNS 
  • Understanding of other cloud functionality like virtualization and storage 
  • Knowledge of operating systems including Linux, Unix, and Windows 
  • Familiarity with cloud infrastructure concepts like microservices and containers 
  • Experience with service-oriented architecture and with Azure app-related services including ASP.NET, .NET Core, Service Bus, and Azure SQL Database 
  • Advanced understanding of key security concepts 
  • Working knowledge of a programming or scripting language 
  • Understanding of cloud governance practices such as cost management and control 
  • Solid understanding of software design patterns and strategies 
  • Requirements gathering and specification creation 
  • Time, communication, and project management skills 
  • Ability to translate commercial requirements into technical solutions 

Azure Technical Architect certification pathways 

All the Azure Technical Architects that took part in this year’s survey were certified, compared to the 62% who responded to last year’s survey. Over three-quarters (77%) of these held a Microsoft Azure certification, with 77% of the total Technical Architect respondents believing that certifications help you stand out in a competitive market.  

There were 11 commonly held Azure certifications among the Technical Architects, showing the variety of pathways that can be taken to become certified in this role. But some of the more common certifications we see associated with Technical Architects include the following: 

Microsoft Certified: Azure Developer Associate

Exam(s): AZ-204 

Pre-requisites: To become a certified Azure Developer Associate, there are no pre-requisites. However, some candidates may like to prove their foundational knowledge of Azure by having the AZ-900 under their belt before taking this exam.  

Although it’s not a strict requirement, candidates should generally have between one- and two-years of professional development experience working with Azure. They should be proficient with Azure SDKs, data connections, and storage options, as well as APIs, app authorization and authentication. They should also have solid experience with container deployment and concepts of compute, as well as performance tuning and monitoring, and debugging.  

Candidates will also need to be able to program in an Azure-friendly language and should be confident using tools such as Azure CLI and PowerShell. 

Skills measured: 

Within the material for the AZ-204 exam, candidates will need to show proficiency in the following areas: 

  • Develop Azure compute solutions 
  • Implement IaaS Solutions 
  • Create Azure App Service Web Apps 
  • Implement Azure Functions 
  • Develop solutions that use Azure Cosmos DB Storage 
  • Develop solutions that use blob storage  
  • Implement user authentication and authorization 
  • Implement secure cloud solutions 
  • Implement caching for solutions 
  • Troubleshoot solutions by using metrics and log data 
  • Connect to and consume Azure services and third-party services 
  • Implement API management 
  • Develop event-based solutions 
  • Develop message-based solutions 

To learn more, visit the Azure Developer Associate exam page. 

Microsoft Certified: Azure Solutions Architect Expert

Exam(s): AZ-305: Designing Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Solutions 

Pre-requisites: Azure Administrator Associate (AZ-104) 

Skills measured:  

As this is an expert-level certification, candidates can expect to demonstrate their advanced and extensive knowledge of designing within Azure—particularly in building cloud hybrid solutions, including compute, network, storage, monitoring, and security. The advanced-level skills measured within the AZ-305 exam will include: 

  • Design identity, governance, and monitoring solutions 
  • Design a solution for logging and monitoring 
  • Design authentication and authorization solutions 
  • Design governance 
  • Design identities and access for applications 
  • Design a data storage solution for relational data 
  • Design data integration 
  • Recommend a data storage solution 
  • Design a data storage solution for non-relational data 
  • Design a solution for backup and disaster recovery 
  • Design for high availability 
  • Design a compute solution 
  • Design an application architecture 
  • Design migrations 
  • Design network solutions  

To learn more, visit the Designing Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Solutions exam page. 

How to become an Azure Data Engineer

Azure Data Engineers are responsible for managing, distributing, analyzing, organizing, optimizing, and securing the data. These professionals use various Azure data services and frameworks to produce clean and enhanced datasets that they can then analyze.  

Data Engineers are also responsible for ensuring that data pipelines and stores are optimized for high performance while being efficient, organized, and reliable against business requirements and constraints. So, a confident candidate with a keen eye for detail who loves getting stuck in with the nitty gritty of it all will likely excel in this role.  

Professionals seeking to become certified Azure Data Engineers can come from a multitude of previous career backgrounds. However, we have frequently seen candidates from the following roles looking to develop into the role of a Data Engineer: 

  • Junior Data Engineer 
  • Software Engineer 
  • Data Analyst  

Skills and experience needed 

As Azure Data Engineers help identify and troubleshoot any operational and data quality issues, as well as designing, implementation, monitoring, and optimizing data platforms, they need a keen eye for detail and experience dealing with multiple elements of Azure. You can find a list of essential requirements for Azure Data Engineers below: 

  • Extensive understanding of the entire extract, transform, and load process 
  • Strong understanding of data architecture design, deployment, and maintenance  
  • ETL logic-writing skills 
  • Experience developing and aggregating complex data pipelines 
  • Experience with database administration and creating data stores 
  • Ability to manage and warehouse structured and unstructured data  
  • Understanding of scripting and programming languages  
  • Understanding of tools like Hadoop, Hive, Apache Spark, and Kafka  
  • Knowledge of SQL and NoSQL databases and querying 
  • Good understanding of machine learning concepts, algorithms, and data structures 
  • Knowledge of operation systems like Linux, Solaris, and UNIX  

Azure Data Engineer certification pathways 

Our survey revealed that over two-thirds (64%) of Azure Data Engineers are certified—that’s a large increase compared to the 14% who reported being certified in our last survey. Of those who reported being certified, 59% held a Microsoft Azure certification, with 91% of professionals in this role believing that certifications make you stand out in a competitive job market.  

There are a number of certification pathways Azure Data Engineers can take to prove their knowledge and expertise gathering and analyzing data in Azure. Here are some of the most common: 

Microsoft Certified: Azure Fundamentals

Exam(s): AZ-900 

Pre-requisites: As the most foundational-level Azure exam that can be taken, the AZ-900 exam has no pre-requisites. However, it’s recommended that before sitting it, candidates have familiarity with concepts of networking, storage, compute, as well as application support and development. 

Skills measured: 

Candidates will need to be able to describe many of the basic concepts within Azure in the AZ-900 exam. This includes proficiency in being able to do the following: 

  • Describe cloud concepts 
  • Describe the benefits of using cloud services 
  • Describe cloud service types 
  • Describe core architectural components of Azure 
  • Describe Azure compute and networking services 
  • Describe Azure storage services 
  • Describe Azure identity, access, and security 
  • Describe cost management in Azure 
  • Describe features and tools in Azure for governance and compliance 
  • Describe features and tools in Azure for managing and deploying Azure resources 
  • Describe monitoring tools in Azure  

To learn more, visit the Microsoft Azure Fundamentals exam page. 

Microsoft Certified: Azure Data Fundamentals

Exam(s): DP-900: Microsoft Azure Data Fundamentals  

Pre-requisites: As a fundamental-level exam, DP-900 has no pre-requisites, however candidates may find it useful to have taken AZ-900 beforehand to prove their understanding of basic concepts within Azure.  

DP-900 is intended to be an exam aimed at those beginning to work with data in the cloud and can be used to build on foundational knowledge before taking other Azure data-related roles such as Azure Data Engineer Associate and Azure Database Administrator—but it’s not a pre-requisite for either.  

Any candidate looking to sit the DP-900 exam should be familiar with concepts of relational and non-relational data, as well as transactional and analytical data workloads.   

Skills measured: 

DP-900 is used to demonstrate knowledge of core data concepts, so candidates can expect to show their capability to do the following: 

  • Describe ways to represent data 
  • Identify options for data storage 
  • Describe common data workloads 
  • Identify roles and responsibilities for data workloads 
  • Describe relational concepts 
  • Describe relational Azure data services 
  • Describe capabilities of Azure storage 
  • Describe capabilities and features of Azure Cosmos DB 
  • Describe common elements of large-scale analytics 
  • Describe consideration for real-time data analytics 
  • Describe data visualization in Microsoft Power BI 

To learn more, visit the Microsoft Azure Data Fundamentals exam page. 

Microsoft Certified: Azure Data Engineer Associate

Exam(s): DP-203: Data Engineering on Microsoft Azure 

Pre-requisites: To sit the DP-203, there are no pre-requisites, however candidates may find it helpful to have taken AZ-900 which tests their knowledge of basic Azure capabilities and their ability to describe some of the key concepts on the platform.  

Candidates looking to sit the DP-203 are recommended to be subject matter experts in integrating, transforming, and consolidating data from unstructured, structured, and streaming data systems—and be able to turn them into suitable schema for building solutions using analytics.  

Similarly, candidates must have a solid understanding of data programming languages like Scala, Python, and SQL—as well as having an in-depth understanding of parallel processing and data architecture patterns. It’s also important for candidates to be proficient in using Azure to create data processing solutions. This includes being able to confidently use Azure Data Factory, Azure Databricks, Azure Data Lake Storage, Azure Event Hubs, Azure Synapse Analytics, and Azure Stream Analytics.  

Skills measured: 

Data Engineers are required to be comfortable with analytics and data, so it’s unsurprising that a lot of the skills tested within the DP-203 exam are based around this. Candidates looking to gain this certification can expect to demonstrate proficiency in being able to do the following: 

  • Implement a partition strategy 
  • Design and implement data exploration layer 
  • Ingest and transform data 
  • Develop a batch processing solution 
  • Develop a stream processing solution 
  • Manage batches and pipelines 
  • Implement data security  
  • Monitor data storage and processing 
  • Optimize and troubleshoot data storage and processing  

To learn more, visit the Azure Data Engineer Associate exam page. 

Microsoft Certified: Azure Database Administrator Associate

Exam(s): DP-300: Administering Microsoft Azure SQL Solutions  

Pre-requisites: There are no pre-requisites required to sit the DP-300 exam. However, candidates should have expertise in building database solutions which have been designed to support workloads that are built with SQL Server on-premises and Azure SQL database services.  

They should also have knowledge and experience using many different Azure products, including Azure SQL Edge, Azure SQL Database, Azure SQL Managed Instance, and SQL Server on Azure Virtual Machines (Windows and Linux).  

Skills measured: 

To qualify as a Database Administrator Associate, it’s imperative that candidates are confident handling data from databases and confident in scaling and optimizing them for performance. More specifically, candidates should know how to show the following:  

  • Plan and deploy Azure SQL database solutions 
  • Configure resources for scale and performance 
  • Plan and implement a migration strategy 
  • Configure database authentication and authorization 
  • Implement security for data at rest and data in transit 
  • Implement compliance controls for sensitive data 
  • Monitor resource activity and performance 
  • Monitor and optimize query performance 
  • Configure database solutions for optimal performance 
  • Create and manage SQL Server Agent jobs 
  • Automate deployment of database resources 
  • Create and manage database tasks in Azure 
  • Recommend a HA/DR strategy for database solutions 
  • Plan and perform backup and restore of a database 
  • Configure HA/DR for database solutions 

To learn more, visit the Azure Database Administrator Associate exam page. 

How to become an Azure Developer

Azure Developers are the all-rounders within an organization’s IT team, however their primary roles include designing and building cloud solutions on Azure. Because of this integral role, they participate in all phases of development—from solution design to development and deployment, all the way through to testing and maintenance.  

And because they often partner with cloud solution architects, cloud DBA’s and administrators, as well as clients to implement the solutions they’ve designed, Developers need to have exceptional communication skills. This includes being able to explain complex topics in ‘laymen’s terms’ to interested parties and stakeholders.  

A career as an Azure Developer can begin from almost anywhere, but some of the recurring backgrounds we see professionals coming from include: 

  • Software Developers 
  • IT Support Executive 
  • Azure Administrator  

Skills and experience needed: 

As an Azure Developer is incredibly hands-on with all parts of the Azure design and implementation process, they need a sound set of hard and soft skills under their belt to succeed in the role. These include: 

  • Knowledge of multiple programming languages including JavaScript, Java, HTML, ASP.NET, and C# 
  • In-depth knowledge of the Azure framework including Azure SQL, scalable cloud storage, web apps, servers, IoT hubs, and service fabric 
  • Strong familiarity with software development, DevOps, and other methodologies 
  • Strong understanding of cloud architecture including basics of API creation 
  • Knowledge of using consumption and integration using service-oriented architecture 
  • Confidence in performing unit and integration testing on all developed code  
  • Troubleshooting environment issues during application or integrations of various components 
  • Competence benchmarking application code to mitigate performance and scalability issues 

Azure Developer certification pathways 

Azure Developers can come from a range of Azure backgrounds, particularly as there are a number of Developer specialist pathways candidates can choose to go down. Because of this, candidates’ certification pathways may look a little different to the one outlined below—but starting with an associate-level Developer certification can give the leverage needed to branch off into any of these specialisms.  

Microsoft Certified: Azure Developer Associate

Exam(s): AZ-204: Developing Solutions for Microsoft Azure 

Pre-requisites: Although there are no strict pre-requirements needed for the AZ-204 exam, some candidates may like to verify their foundational knowledge of Azure by having the Azure Fundamentals (AZ-900) under their belt prior to taking this exam. 

Candidates should generally have between one- and two-years’ of professional development experience working with Azure and should be proficient with Azure SDKs, data connections and storage options, APIs, and app authorization and authentication. They will also need to have solid experience with container deployment and concepts of compute, as well as performance tuning and monitoring, and debugging.  

Anyone looking to take the AZ-204 exam will also need to be able to program in an Azure-friendly language and should be confident using tools such as Azure CLI and PowerShell. 

Skills measured: 

Candidates will need to confidently show proficiency in the following areas through the AZ-204 exam: 

  • Develop Azure compute solutions 
  • Implement IaaS Solutions 
  • Create Azure App Service Web Apps 
  • Implement Azure Functions 
  • Develop solutions that use Azure Cosmos DB Storage 
  • Develop solutions that use blob storage  
  • Implement user authentication and authorization 
  • Implement secure cloud solutions 
  • Implement caching for solutions 
  • Troubleshoot solutions by using metrics and log data 
  • Connect to and consume Azure services and third-party services 
  • Implement API management 
  • Develop event-based solutions 
  • Develop message-based solutions 

To learn more, visit the Azure Developer Associate exam page. 

Microsoft Certified: Azure Solutions Architect Expert

Exam(s): AZ-305: Designing Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Solutions 

Pre-requisites: Azure Administrator Associate (AZ-104) 

Skills measured:  

Azure Developers can branch out into any specialism they like once they have the established set of skills related to a generic developer role. The Solutions Architect certification is aimed at highly advanced developers who want to create Azure solutions. This advanced-level certification covers topics including designing and deploying high-performance cloud applications, managing resources in Azure, managing and monitoring Azure applications and much more. More specifically, candidates can expect to show competency in being able to do the following: 

  • Design identity, governance, and monitoring solutions 
  • Design a solution for logging and monitoring 
  • Design authentication and authorization solutions 
  • Design governance 
  • Design identities and access for applications 
  • Design a data storage solution for relational data 
  • Design data integration 
  • Recommend a data storage solution 
  • Design a data storage solution for non-relational data 
  • Design a solution for backup and disaster recovery 
  • Design for high availability 
  • Design a compute solution 
  • Design an application architecture 
  • Design migrations 
  • Design network solutions  

To learn more, visit the Designing Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Solutions exam page. 

As well as branching down the Solutions Architect Expert route, Azure Developers will also have the option to specialize as an Azure DevOps Engineer (by taking the AZ-400 exam), or Azure IoT Developer (by taking the AZ-220 exam). The possibilities are endless! 

How to become an Azure Solutions Architect

An Azure Solutions Architect does exactly what it says on the tin; they design solutions that can run on Azure. This means they need to be an evangelist of Azure cloud computing who will work alongside the IT team and other related team members to design, build, and execute an Azure cloud environment.  

A Solutions Architect’s responsibilities also extend to handling risk analysis, cost estimates, and taking charge of the communication of these aspects with non-IT personnel to ensure a smooth transition to, and implementation of, Azure.  

Skills and experience needed: 

Anyone wanting to become an Azure Solutions Architect will need to have confidence with not only the basics of Azure, but with designing solutions and being able to make recommendations based on best practices and in-depth analysis of a team’s current IT infrastructure.  

In particular, Azure Solutions Architects will need to have the following skills and experience nailed down to succeed in the role: 

  • Ability to provide technical direction and manage a team of architects/IT professionals, leading everyone to a common goal 
  • Ability to create solutions that satisfy functional and non-functional needs 
  • Ability to create and review artifacts for architecture and solution design 
  • Ability to ensure that architectural best practices and standards are followed  
  • Ability to provide best practice recommendations and proactive engineering processes 
  • Confidence in building cloud environments 
  • Knowledge of DevOps, Azure Administration or Azure Development 
  • Familiarity with IT operations including budgeting, business continuity, data management, disaster recovery, governance, identity, networking, security and visualization 
  • Proficiency implementing and monitoring Azure infrastructure 
  • Proficiency implementing management and security solutions 
  • Proficiency implementing solutions for apps and data platforms 

Azure Solutions Architect certification pathways 

Azure Solutions Architects need to show strong understanding and experience in being able to design solutions that can run on Azure. And while this requires a deep understanding of Azure architecture, Solutions Architects are specifically brought into an organization to give best practice recommendations about Azure and implementing solutions for better results.  

There are a number of ways a Solutions Architect certification can be gained, starting with fundamental-level exams that prove understanding of core Azure concepts, to specialist certs that prove expert-level knowledge. Here are some of the key certifications we often see Solutions Architects gaining: 

Microsoft Certified: Azure Fundamentals 

Exam(s): AZ-900 

Pre-requisites: As the most foundational-level Azure exam, AZ-900 exam has no pre-requisites. However, it’s recommended that candidates sitting it have familiarity with concepts of networking, storage, compute, and application support and development. 

Skills measured: 

Candidates will need to be able to describe many of the core concepts within Azure in the AZ-900 exam. This includes proficiency in being able to do the following: 

  • Describe cloud concepts 
  • Describe the benefits of using cloud services 
  • Describe cloud service types 
  • Describe core architectural components of Azure 
  • Describe Azure compute and networking services 
  • Describe Azure storage services 
  • Describe Azure identity, access, and security 
  • Describe cost management in Azure 
  • Describe features and tools in Azure for governance and compliance 
  • Describe features and tools in Azure for managing and deploying Azure resources 
  • Describe monitoring tools in Azure  

To learn more, visit the Microsoft Azure Fundamentals exam page. 

Microsoft Certified: Azure Administrator Associate 

Exam(s): AZ-104  

Pre-requisites: Although there are no strict pre-requisite exams candidates will need to take before they can sit AZ-104, it’s important that candidates have subject matter expertise in implementing, managing, and monitoring a Microsoft Azure environment for an organization. This includes having hands-on experience with concepts of compute, storage, virtual network, identity, governance, and security. Although it’s not a requirement, having the AZ-900 under your belt may make studying for the AZ-104 easier.  

Candidates will also need to have experience with operating systems, networking, servers, and virtualization. Plus, they will need to have used PowerShell, Azure CLI, the Azure Portal, Azure Resource Manager templates, and Microsoft Azure Active Directory. 

Skills measured: 

The AZ-104 exam will test candidates’ proficiency in the following areas: 

  • Manage Azure subscriptions and free account servicing 
  • Identify resource groups and analyze resource utilization best practices 
  • Develop an understanding of the Network Security Group 
  • Manage Azure identities and governance 
  • Implement and manage storage 
  • Deploy and manage Azure compute resources 
  • Monitor and maintain Azure resources 
  • Configure and manage virtual networking 
  • Implement Azure load balancer 

To learn more, visit the Microsoft Azure Administrator exam page. 

Microsoft Certified: Azure Solutions Architect Expert 

Exam(s): AZ-305 

Pre-requisites: Azure Administrator Associate (AZ-104) 

Skills measured:  

47% of the certified professionals in our Careers and Hiring guide said gaining this certification increased their earning potential. This is testament to the expert-level knowledge and experience that candidates demonstrate by taking the AZ-305 exam—particularly in designing and cloud hybrid solutions, including compute, network, storage, monitoring, and security. The advanced-level skills measured within the AZ-305 exam will include: 

  • Design identity, governance, and monitoring solutions 
  • Design a solution for logging and monitoring 
  • Design authentication and authorization solutions 
  • Design governance 
  • Design identities and access for applications 
  • Design a data storage solution for relational data 
  • Design data integration 
  • Recommend a data storage solution 
  • Design a data storage solution for non-relational data 
  • Design a solution for backup and disaster recovery 
  • Design for high availability 
  • Design a compute solution 
  • Design an application architecture 
  • Design migrations 
  • Design network solutions  

To learn more, visit the Designing Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Solutions exam page. 

How to become an Azure Data Scientist

An Azure Data Scientist is responsible for collecting, analyzing, and interpreting big data to uncover patterns and insights within these datasets. As well as this, they make predictions and create actionable plans, leading research projects to extract the most valuable information from both structured and unstructured datasets. This information then feeds into and dictates the decisions organizations make to ensure they’re able to solve complex issues and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of their operations. 

Candidates specializing in the Data Science field are becoming increasingly more in-demand, as more and more companies across the globe are depending on analytics to drive both revenue and innovation. And according to our report, Data Scientist salaries can range from $125,750 for junior roles, with the potential to increase up to $190,000 further into their career.  

Skills and experience needed: 

As the name suggests, Data Scientists will need to be confident in working with extensive datasets and be able to draw conclusions for the business from these. But it’s not all hard skills they need. Because of their central role within an operation’s IT team, they also need to have mastered plenty of key soft skills too. Here are just some of the skills and experience required to make it as a successful Data Scientist: 

  • Strong knowledge of using programming languages, including Python, Julia, and R to write code 
  • Strong understanding of math topics, especially statistics and probability 
  • Strong domain knowledge for data translation 
  • Confidence with data storytelling and public speaking to share key findings with wider teams 
  • Proficiency with data visualization 
  • Good knowledge of SAS and other analytical tools including Hadoop, Spark, Hive, and Pig 
  • Adept at working with unstructured data, as well as concepts of machine learning, AI, and deep learning 
  • Critical thinking and strong communication skills 
  • Proactive problem-solving skills and intellectual curiosity 

Azure Data Scientist certification pathways 

Building up skills in data collection, analysis, and processing are key for any professional hoping to forge a career as a Data Scientist. And luckily, there are a range of certifications that can help prove their knowledge of this.  

Loosely speaking, once already working with Azure, Data Scientists can specialize into the role from almost any background, so the certification pathway outlined below is not the only one to take.  

Microsoft Certified: Azure Fundamentals 

Exam(s): AZ-900  

Pre-requisites: As the most foundational-level Azure exam, AZ-900 exam has no pre-requisites and itself is not a requirement to gain a more data-related certification. However, many candidates prefer to sit it to prove their knowledge of core concepts, including those of networking, storage, compute, and application support and development.  

AZ-900 is an optional start for those new to Azure who want to show a clear pathway and progression of their knowledge over time.  

Skills measured: 

Candidates will need to be able to describe many of the core concepts within Azure in the AZ-900 exam. This includes proficiency in being able to do the following: 

  • Describe cloud concepts 
  • Describe the benefits of using cloud services 
  • Describe cloud service types 
  • Describe core architectural components of Azure 
  • Describe Azure compute and networking services 
  • Describe Azure storage services 
  • Describe Azure identity, access, and security 
  • Describe cost management in Azure 
  • Describe features and tools in Azure for governance and compliance 
  • Describe features and tools in Azure for managing and deploying Azure resources 
  • Describe monitoring tools in Azure  

To learn more, visit the Microsoft Azure Fundamentals exam page. 

Microsoft Certified: Azure Data Fundamentals

Exam(s): DP-900: Microsoft Azure Data Fundamentals

Pre-requisites: There are no strict pre-requisites for taking the DP-900 exam, however candidates may find it useful to have taken AZ-900 beforehand to prove understanding of basic concepts within Azure.  

DP-900 is intended to be an exam aimed at those beginning to work with data in the cloud and can be used to build on foundational knowledge before taking other Azure data-related roles. 

Any candidate looking to sit the DP-900 exam should be familiar with concepts of relational and non-relational data, as well as transactional and analytical data workloads, so is a little more in-line with Data roles than AZ-900 is.   

Skills measured: 

DP-900 is used to demonstrate knowledge of core data concepts, so candidates can expect to demonstrate their capability to do the following: 

  • Describe ways to represent data 
  • Identify options for data storage 
  • Describe common data workloads 
  • Identify roles and responsibilities for data workloads 
  • Describe relational concepts 
  • Describe relational Azure data services 
  • Describe capabilities of Azure storage 
  • Describe capabilities and features of Azure Cosmos DB 
  • Describe common elements of large-scale analytics 
  • Describe consideration for real-time data analytics 
  • Describe data visualization in Microsoft Power BI 

To learn more, visit the Microsoft Azure Data Fundamentals exam page. 

Microsoft Certified: Azure Data Scientist Associate 

Exam(s): DP-100: Designing and Implementing a Data Science Solutions on Azure 

Pre-requisites: There are no pre-requisites for sitting the DP-100 exam, however some candidates may choose to gain the Azure Fundamentals (AZ-900) or Azure Data Fundamentals (DP-900) (or both!) to demonstrate their understanding of key core concepts.  

Skills measured: 

As a Data Scientist Associate, candidates should have already gained the foundational soft and hard skills for ultimately becoming an expert in the Data Science field. In the DP-100 exam, candidates can expect to demonstrate their proficiency with the following: 

  • Design a machine learning solution 
  • Manage an Azure Machine Learning workspace and data within this 
  • Manage compute for experiments in an Azure Machine Learning workspace 
  • Explore data via data assets and data stores 
  • Create models by using Azure Machine Learning designer 
  • Use automated machine learning to explore optimal models 
  • Use notebooks for custom model training 
  • Tune hyperparameters with Azure Machine Learning 
  • Run model training scripts 
  • Implement training pipelines 
  • Manage models in Machine Learning 
  • Deploy a model 
  • Apply Machine Learning operations practices 

To learn more, visit the Designing and Implementing a Data Science Solution on Azure exam page. 

Gaining certifications is a great way of showing your knowledge and passion, as well as demonstrating the time, money, and resources you’re willing to dedicate to forge a career in Azure. If you’re thinking about becoming certified in one of these roles, why not take a look at the pathways we’ve outlined above to get started? 

Once certified, we can also help you land your next role where you can put all your new industry knowledge into action. 

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