A guide to Microsoft certifications (including types)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 11 April 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Certifications can be useful professional qualifications in a wide range of different careers. If you want to develop your career in IT, obtaining a Microsoft certification could give you an advantage over other candidates. Understanding the types of certifications available and how to earn them can help you find the right option for you. In this article, we discuss Microsoft certifications, including the types of certifications you can get and how to get one.

What are Microsoft certifications?

Microsoft certifications are professional certifications issued by Microsoft. These certifications validate your technical skills for positions that relate to using Microsoft technology. It's typically necessary to renew them annually. Microsoft has a training department that's responsible for managing certifications. It offers more than 250 certifications aimed at different levels of expertise. Certifications end with final exams. You might want to pursue different certifications in sequential order.

Related: 6 Microsoft Office skills to include on a CV (with tips)

Why earn a certification?

Earning a certification can be beneficial for your career. This is because having proof of your expertise with Microsoft products can give you new career opportunities. When you apply for jobs and include your certifications on your CV, it can help you to stand out from other candidates. Being certified by Microsoft can also help you to earn more. If you're committed to developing your career in IT, you might benefit from studying for a Microsoft certification.

Related: The best certifications to advance your career

Types of Microsoft certifications

There are various types of Microsoft certifications you can study for. Microsoft has a role-based certification model. The model validates the technical skills you develop in the first year (beginner), three to five years (intermediate) or five to seven years (expert) in nine different IT jobs. The types of certifications that Microsoft offers are known as paths. Each path has beginner, intermediate and expert levels. Here are the different certifications you may wish to pursue:

Administrator certification path

Administrators are responsible for implementing and maintaining Microsoft software and solutions. There's a variety of different certifications available in this path, including:

  • Azure Administrator Associate: A certification that involves demonstrating subject matter expertise in implementing, managing and monitoring a Microsoft Azure environment for an organisation.

  • Security Administrator Associate: This involves showing the ability to proactively secure Microsoft 365 enterprise and hybrid environments, deploy and manage security and compliance solutions, respond appropriately to threats and enforce data governance.

  • Teams Administrator Associate: This certification involves showing the ability to configure, deploy and manage Office 365 workloads for Microsoft Teams, focusing on efficient and effective collaboration and communication in an enterprise environment.

AI engineer certification path

AI engineers implement Microsoft AI solutions using cognitive services, knowledge mining and machine learning. A certification in this path that employers typically value is:

  • Azure AI Engineer Associate: A certification that involves demonstrating subject matter expertise in building, managing and deploying AI solutions that use Azure Cognitive Services, Azure Cognitive Search and Microsoft Bot Framework.

Data engineer certification path

Data engineers are responsible for the management, monitoring, security and privacy of data using data services. A data engineer certification that employers often look for is:

  • Azure Data Engineer Associate: This includes demonstrating subject matter expertise in integrating, transforming and consolidating data from structured and unstructured data systems into structures that are appropriate for building analytics solutions.

Data scientist certification path

Data scientists use machine-learning techniques to train, evaluate and implement models for solving business problems. A certification that employers often seek out is:

  • Azure Data Scientist Associate: Earning this certification involves showing subject matter expertise in applying data science and machine learning to deploy and run machine learning workloads on Azure.

Developer certification path

Developers are responsible for designing, building, testing and maintaining solutions such as software. It includes a number of certifications that are sought after by employers, including:

  • Azure Developer Associate: Earning this certification requires the ability to show subject matter expertise in designing, building, testing and maintaining cloud-based applications and services via Microsoft Azure.

  • Developer Associate: This involves showing proficiency in Microsoft Identity and Microsoft Graph, in addition to having general knowledge about user interface elements, integration points and how to determine workload platform targets.

  • Azure Internet of Things (IoT) Developer Speciality: A certification that involves demonstrating a general understanding of devices, types and Azure services, including data storage, analysis and processing, AI and other Platform-as-a-Service options. It also includes being able to programme in a minimum of one Azure IoT SDK-supported language.

DevOps engineer certification path

DevOps engineers develop products and services that meet the needs of end-users. They do this using a combination of labour, technology and processes. A desirable certification includes:

  • DevOps Engineer Expert: Earning this certification involves demonstrating advanced subject matter expertise working with people, processes and technologies to deliver business value continuously.

Functional consultant certification path

Functional consultants specialise in using Microsoft Dynamics 365 and Power Platform to predict and plan for customer demands. Some functional consultant certifications that are often in demand include:

  • Dynamics 365 Customer Service Functional Consultant Associate: Earning this certification involves showing experience implementing omnichannel solutions with a focus on service, quality, efficiency, reliability and customer satisfaction.

  • Dynamics 365 Finance Functional Consultant Associate: This involves demonstrating the ability to analyse business requirements and translate them into processes and solutions in alignment with industry best practices.

  • Dynamics 365 Supply Chain Management, Manufacturing Functional Consultant Associate: A certification that focuses on demonstrating the ability to work with other employees such as developers, solution architects, project managers and functional consultants in finance and commerce and the supply chain.

Security engineer certification path

A security engineer implements security controls and threat protection measures, manages identity and access and protects networks and data. Popular security engineer certifications include:

  • Azure Security Engineer Associate: Earning this involves demonstrating subject matter expertise in deploying security controls and threat protection, managing identity and access and protecting data, applications and networks in both cloud and hybrid environments in an end-to-end infrastructure.

  • Identity and Access Administrator Associate: This involves showing experience collaborating with other employees within the organisation to drive strategic identity projects that modernise identity solutions and implement hybrid identity solutions and identity governance.

  • Information Protection Administrator Associate: A certification that focuses on demonstrating experience in planning and implementing controls to meet organisational compliance needs, translating requirements and compliance controls into technical implementation and assisting organisational control owners to increase compliance.

Related: 13 popular security certifications for cybersecurity roles

Solutions architect certification path

A solutions architect is a specialist in networks, storage and security. Solutions architect certifications that are popular with employers include:

  • Azure Solutions Architect Expert: This involves showing subject matter expertise in designing and implementing solutions running on Microsoft Azure, including compute, network, storage and security.

  • Dynamics 365 Finance and Operations Apps Solution Architect Expert: A certification focused on demonstrating the ability to advise stakeholders and translate business requirements into solutions that are secure, scalable and reliable.

  • Power Platform Solution Architect Expert: Earning this certification involves demonstrating the ability to work with stakeholders and focus on solutions that affect the organisation's business and technical needs.

How to become Microsoft certified

Here are the steps you can follow to become Microsoft certified:

1. Identify the certification you need

The first stage is to identify which certification you need. This depends on the career path you want to follow and any existing certifications you have. Sometimes it's helpful to discuss your options with your manager. They might be able to suggest a useful certification. If you're currently looking for work, it's helpful to read job adverts carefully to see which certifications employers are looking for.

2. Study for the certification

Once you've decided which certification to pursue, start studying the relevant material. Microsoft offers more than one way to study. An accelerated boot camp is the fastest way to gain certification. You can also have instructor-led training with Microsoft certified trainers. This can be face-to-face or virtually through online sessions. You might also choose to study the material independently.

3. Take a practice exam

A practice exam can help better prepare you for your final exam. You might get a low score on your practice exam but this is often normal, especially if the material is new to you. A lower score can give you more motivation to study so that you're successful in your final exam.

4. Take your exam

Taking an exam is the assessment method for a Microsoft certification. Passing the exam is essential for receiving your certification. Passing your exam also offers opportunities to study for further certifications.

5. Renew your certification

It's typical to renew these certifications every year. It's important to keep a record of when to renew your certification so you can make sure that it's always valid. It's necessary for your certification to be valid for you to include it on your CV.

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

Related:

  • A guide to Microsoft Azure certifications for advanced users

  • 12 programming certifications, (plus relevant skills)

  • 12 entry-level IT certifications

  • 14 courses for IT professionals: types and how to choose one

  • 10 data analyst certifications to expand your skills

  • How to use Microsoft Project effectively in the workplace


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