Making sense of Microsoft’s new certifications scheme

Microsoft certification courses are essential for any IT professional wishing to advance in the industry. Previously, Microsoft courses would be based on and around individual products, such as a Windows 10 certification, providing courses on exclusive, individual aspects of a job role. Although, in recent days, Microsoft has been working towards providing certificate courses that would cover a wide range of job roles. The purpose is now to provide hands-on experiential training in small chunks rather than one huge theoretical exam, which students would have to prepare for the whole year and then write.

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To make the changes, Microsoft’s new certification scheme has been created around Azure. Microsoft certification courses have grouped its certifications into nine roles – administrator, solutions architect, developer, security engineer, data scientist, data engineer, AI engineer, DevOps engineer, and functional consultant.

Fundamentals, Associate, and Expert are the three levels provided by each certification role. In addition, Microsoft also offers specialities such as Azure for SAP Workloads, Azure IoT Developer, and the recent Azure Virtual Desktop Speciality.

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What about MCSA, MCSE, or MTA?

Microsoft has mentioned the Database Administrator Associate, Azure Administrator Associate, and Data Analyst Associate certifications as the closest replacement for MCSA and MCSE certifications; they cover cloud services.

MCSA certifications that were product-based, like Windows Server and Exchange Server, were discontinued last year, and the certifications have since retired. Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA) certifications covering Windows and Windows Server became unavailable after June 2022.

Outside of the administrator and developer certifications, seven Microsoft Office Specialist certifications still cover specific products such as Access, Excel, Word, and Office generally.

Microsoft Fundamentals Certifications

Fundamental certifications intend to build a solid foundation on the basics. Those typically take them up with industry experience who want to demonstrate skills to an employer. Microsoft certification training is also helpful for business leaders who want to know a platform well enough to make informed decisions about its services.

The fundamentals level consists of eight certifications:

  • Azure Fundamentals
  • Azure AI Fundamentals
  • Azure Data Fundamentals
  • Dynamics 365 Fundamentals (CRM)
  • Dynamics 365 Fundamentals (ERP)
  • Microsoft 365 Fundamentals
  • Power Platform Fundamentals
  • Security, Compliance, and Identity Fundamentals

Microsoft Associate Certifications

Associate-level certifications are not equal. It is to say they are based on a person’s technical requirements for a job. For example, if a person is more interested in apps and infrastructure, they should go for Azure Administrator Associate and Azure Developer Associate. Similarly, those interested in Data and AI would opt for Azure Data Scientist Associate or Azure AI Engineer Associate.

Associate and expert certifications require one or more exams. These exams help students prepare for more complex roles by providing multiple examinations for an in-depth learning experience.

There are 39 Associate level certifications currently available on Koenig, ranging from Azure Administrator to Data Engineer to Word and Excel credentials and more.

Microsoft Expert Certifications

Expert-level certifications should be taken up after completing the Associate Certification. Expert certifications build up on the previous Associate knowledge and are far more specialized. For example, there are five Microsoft expert certifications – DevOps Engineer Expert, Microsoft 365 Enterprise Administrator Expert, Azure Solutions Architect Expert, Power Platform Solution Architect Expert, and Dynamics 365: Finance and Operations Apps Solution Architect Expert. Two or more exams typically take place for these.

Microsoft Certification Renewal

Recent cloud-based Microsoft certifications have a validity of one year from the certification date. Online training requires candidates to take an exam and practice the skills they learn. Renewal only requires repeating examinations to stay updated as cloud services change. Candidates can renew certifications for free, annually, up to 6 months before the expiration date.

To renew a certification, one has to take an online assessment on Microsoft Learn. Passing the assessment leads to an extension of the validity for another year from the expiration date.

Microsoft Learn keeps track of all the modules a trainee has completed and the ones left before renewing a certification. It prompts the candidate to learn the extra modules to keep updated with the ever-evolving cloud syllabus.

Conclusion

Microsoft has bought the changes to ensure professionals learn systematically from whichever platform they want. They can choose Microsoft itself, or they could opt for in-person classes, go through online training resources, connect with Microsoft’s training partners or choose Microsoft Learn. The main objective is to ensure that the learning material is in sync with all the different methods and certifications available for all those who seek it.

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