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The Top Azure Certifications

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By: Shelby Welty

November 9, 2020

The Sky's the Limit: The Top Azure Certifications

While Amazon was first to market, Microsoft has been steadily closing the cloud computing gap. As noted by ZDNet, Azure is now solidly in second place behind AWS offerings and is considered the "enterprise favorite" thanks to the broad adoption of Windows OS, productivity, and server products across business technology ecosystems.

As a result, training and certification in Azure fundamentals, frameworks, and functions are worthwhile for any IT professional looking for cloud career opportunities. However, there are many certifications to consider. Which qualifications offer the most value in this evolving market? Which are tied to the best compensation? Which opens up the most career doors and which are critical for getting started? Here's a look at some of the top Azure certifications.

AZ-900 Microsoft Azure Fundamentals: Best for Jumpstarting Cloud Careers

The AZ-900 Microsoft Azure Fundamentals certification is exactly what it sounds like: An introduction to the basics of cloud computing in an Azure environment. This introductory-level course forms the foundation of all other Azure training around administration, design, and security. It also indicates to prospective employers that IT experts have both knowledge of general cloud computing concepts and the ability to deploy Azure-specific solutions at scale.

This certification covers six key areas:

  • Considerations and benefits of cloud services at scale
  • Key differences between SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS models in the enterprise
  • The characteristics and use cases of public, private, and hybrid cloud models
  • Core architectural elements of Microsoft Azure deployments
  • Key products and solutions in the Azure stack
  • Pricing and support options for Azure

To earn this qualification, candidates must complete an 85-minute, 40-60 question, mixed-format exam that includes short-answer, best-answer, case study, and review screen questions, with a score of 700 or better.

AZ-103 Microsoft Azure Administrator: Best for Expanded Earning Potential

Cloud computing expertise is now in demand. As a result, companies are willing to pay well for qualified candidates who have the skills necessary to both implement and administer Azure environments. As noted by Forbes, Azure administrator associates now rank among the top-paying IT certifications with an average salary in 2020 of just over $125,000.

Geared toward IT professionals who already have some Azure cloud knowledge, this certification is often completed after AZ-900. Training courses for AZ-103 Microsoft Azure certification typically cover five knowledge areas:

  • Managing Azure subscriptions and resources
  • Implementing and managing Azure storage
  • Deploying and managing virtual machines
  • Configuring and managing virtual networks
  • Managing user identities with Active Directory and multi-factor authentication

Of note, recent changes to Microsoft's training framework saw the AZ-103 exam replaced with AZ-104, but the basic concepts and expectations remain the same. Certified administrators are highly valued for their ability to manage complex Azure deployments.

While AZ-900 certification isn't required to earn the administrator designation, the fundamentals course also makes the list of top-paying certifications in 2020. It ekes out Administrator associates for the highest Azure salary. As a result, completing both AZ-900 and AZ-103 is a great choice for IT pros looking to expand their Azure expertise and boost their earning potential.

AZ-301 Microsoft Azure Architect Design: Best for Building Expertise

While general Azure knowledge remains in-demand to help enterprises implement and integrate Microsoft's cloud computing solution across their IT environments, companies are also looking for design and development experts capable of creating, monitoring, and managing custom Azure solutions at scale.

The intermediate-level AZ-301 Microsoft Azure Architect Design certification — often paired with AZ-300 to earn the Microsoft Azure Solutions Architect Experts designation — is a great option for IT professionals looking to increase their cloud building expertise and design purpose-driven Azure deployments.

The AZ-301 exam is 2.5 hours long, with 40-60 multi-format questions covering six knowledge areas:

  • Determining workload requirements
  • Designing for identity and security
  • Creating a business continuity strategy
  • Designing a data platform solution
  • Developing an infrastructure strategy
  • Designing for deployment, integration, and migration

A score of 700 or better is required to pass the exam and earn this qualification.

AZ-500 Microsoft Azure Security Technologies: Best for Bridging the Skills Gap

The cybersecurity skills gap is growing. Despite the best efforts of four-year institutions to ramp up infosec enrollment and enterprises' ongoing work to "upskill" employees, the need for skilled security personnel continues to outstrip supply. As a result, IT experts with certifications such as AZ-500 Microsoft Azure Security Technologies are in demand as companies look to shore up cybersecurity teams while simultaneously building out the essential cloud infrastructure. This intermediate-level qualification requires completing a 40-60 question exam that features a multiple-choice, case study, scenario-based, and practical lab assessments. Critical skills evaluated by the AZ-500 exam include:

  • Configuring Azure Active Directory and Privileged Identity Management
  • Implementing host security
  • Managing security alerts
  • Configuring container security
  • Configuring and managing Key Vault

Earning the AZ-500 certification clarifies prospective employers that IT staff have the skills necessary to address and actively mitigate potential security challenges.

Prepare for Takeoff

Microsoft Azure has earned its place as a top-tier enterprise cloud solution, thanks to native Windows integration, innovative development, and ongoing improvement. For IT pros, the expanding Azure landscape offers a launchpad for great cloud careers — and it all starts with some of the top Azure certifications.

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