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Top Microsoft Cloud Certifications To Advance Your Cybersecurity Career

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By: Charles Owen-Jackson

August 7, 2020

Whether you're a newcomer to the cloud or looking to level up your skills and advance your career, obtaining the right certifications can make all the difference. They open the door to lucrative new opportunities, with certified professionals often reaching six-figure salaries. A great way to prove your expertise is to follow one of the new role-based Azure Certification Paths from Microsoft.

Although Microsoft might be best known for Windows, it's also one of the industry leaders in enterprise cloud computing. Microsoft Azure is one of the three major public cloud providers, alongside Amazon AWS and Google Cloud. Over two-thirds of enterprises currently use Azure, with a further 18% experimenting with it. With commercial cloud revenue up 39% over 2019, it continues to grow rapidly as it expands into new areas. Its biggest spenders include global brands like Verizon, MSI, LG, and Intel.

What are Microsoft cloud certifications?

Microsoft offers dozens of certifications to professionals working across its wide ecosystem of software and computing infrastructure products. Azure, first announced in 2008, is one of the biggest product ranges from Microsoft. It provides SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS solutions supporting hundreds of tools, frameworks, and programming languages. These include software and systems developed by both Microsoft and third parties.

Azure certifications prove expertise in specific aspects of the platform. In late 2018, Microsoft announced the rollout of new role-based certification paths – nine in total. Organized across three levels – Fundamental, Associate, and Expert, there are now 12 certifications available and 14 exams. Each path is related to a specific job function, such as administration, development, engineering, and security.

What are the benefits of acquiring a Microsoft cloud certification?

It's not always easy to choose between an AWS and an Azure certification. Both are industry leaders with a comparable market share. However, even though AWS has the edge in sheer size, Azure is rapidly catching up, with over half of Fortune 500 companies currently using it. Azure is also more popular in highly regulated industries like finance and healthcare owing to its better support for hybrid deployments, which provides users more control over the information security. Moreover, it's also worth noting that many companies use both platforms, so there's always enormous value in obtaining a Microsoft Azure certification.

Azure's flexible, role-based learning paths make obtaining a certification extremely valuable to career development, particularly with the ongoing skills shortage across many disciplines. Salaries for certified professionals are highly appealing, too, paying an average of $126,323 per year in the US.

Microsoft cloud certifications are also especially well-suited to those seeking to advance their careers in cybersecurity. Having achieved compliance with the internationally recognized ISO 27018 standard, Azure is the go-to option in many specialized and regulated sectors worldwide.

Which Microsoft cloud certification should you choose?

The basic first step in any Azure certification path is the AZ-900 Azure Fundamentals exam. Although it's optional in all paths, it's strongly recommended for validating your foundational knowledge of the Azure platform and cloud computing in general. The exam covers the main principles of cloud computing and high-level general knowledge of Azure's infrastructure, account management, compute and storage services, and compliance and security. While there are no prerequisites for taking the exam, you should have at least a basic understanding of the platform.

To become a Microsoft-certified Associate, Expert, or Engineer, you'll need to advance along your chosen career path. The most popular next step is the Azure Administrator certification, an associate-level certification that only requires you to pass one exam. You should have at least six months of practical experience in Azure administration before taking the exam. It helps to have an in-depth understanding of the platform's core services and components. This exam demonstrates an intermediate level of expertise in key tasks like managing Azure subscriptions and resources, implementing storage solutions, deploying virtual machines, and managing identities.

Other associate-level Azure certification paths include those designed for developers, security engineers, data engineers, AI engineers, and data scientists.

There are two expert-level certifications – one for DevOps engineers, and another for Azure architects. The Microsoft Azure Architect Technologies path is for those responsible for aligning Azure solutions with business requirements. The Microsoft Azure DevOps Engineer certification is for professionals tasked with delivering and managing cloud services based on the Azure platform.

Finally, there are two paths for specialist roles – IoT development and SAP workloads.

How can you get your certification?

Experts recommend that everyone starts with the AZ-900 Azure Fundamentals exam. You can choose any role-based certification path that appeals to you and aligns with your skills and career goals.

The best way to prepare for an Azure exam is through online classes, preferably ones that include hands-on labs and customizable learning paths. After initial training, students should go through the exam details and take practice tests.

When it comes to taking an exam, students can take it online with the Microsoft-approved partner Pearson VUE. To maintain the exam results' integrity, an online proctor will monitor the student's experience via microphone and webcam.

There are lots of different certifications and role-based paths to choose from. Starting with the fundamentals exam will help set students on a path to success while advancing down their chosen career paths will open up many exciting new opportunities for professional growth.

Cybrary provides customizable training programs to help professionals advance their careers in a wide range of cloud computing and cybersecurity disciplines. Schedule a demo today!

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