In the process of consulting and training many people in the efforts of studying for various Microsoft certifications, in particular Azure certification, I do receive a lot of various questions. On of the questions I’ve seen a lot is in the area around Exam or Certification expiration and/or renewal. So, I thought I’d explain a bit on what causes a Microsoft certification to expire, and how to renew your certifications when necessary.

When Do Microsoft Certifications Expire?

Eventually all technical certifications will expire in some fashion as the technology and skills tested on the required certification exams become outdated. There are 2 facets to the expiration of Microsoft Certifications, as there are 2 separate things that can (and eventually do “expire”); these are the Exams and the Certifications. These are each on their own time tables, and there isn’t a simple “expired or not” rule.

Exam Retirement

Microsoft will release certification exams for specific technologies periodically to offer IT Professionals in all different roles a way to test and prove their skills with that specific technology. As each technology release or version gets old, it’ll eventually get replaced with a new release, so the certification exam for that technology will be replaced with a newer exam that covers the new release. The older exam will get retired when this “exam replacement” happens. This has occurred with the transition from Windows Server 2008 to 2012, and SQL Server 2014 to 2016, to give a couple examples.

Pretty much every 6 months there are some Microsoft certification exams being retired. When an exam is retired, then it will no longer be available for people to take and attempt to pass. However, once you’ve passed a particular Microsoft certification exam, it will remain on your official Microsoft Certified Professional Transcript to indicate the date you passed that exam.

Here’s a screenshot from my own MCP Transcript that shows some old exams I passed a while back:

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There are also times when instead of retiring the exam, Microsoft will publish an Update to the exam. These exam updates are more common in recent time with the Microsoft Azure certification exams, as the products covered on those exams are constantly changing; rather than only having a single release per year like older products. When Microsoft certification exams are Updated, then when you pass the new version of the exam you should have both exam passes listed in your MCP Transcript.

Certification Retirement

While certification exams get updated and retired a bit more frequently, there are times when Microsoft will retire an older Certification, and possibly release a new one. A Microsoft Certification is generally earned by passing 2 or more certification exams that are required for that particular certification. However, there are some certifications like the “Microsoft Specialist” certifications the do only require a single exam to earn.

When you pass all the required exams for a certification then each of the exams passed will be listed in the “Microsoft Certification Exams Completed Successfully” section of your Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP) Transcript. Also, each of these exam will then count as credit towards all the different Microsoft Certifications they are requirements for. As a result, it is possible to earn multiple Certifications from passing 1 or more exams that complete the requirements for those multiple Certifications. An example of this is the current structure for earning MCSA and MCSE certifications.

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Then after all the required certification exams for a particular Microsoft Certification have been passed, then that certification will be earned. Your MCP Transcript will display all “Active” certifications within the “Active Microsoft Certification” section.

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Eventually, once the particular Microsoft Certification is being retired or is expired, then you will no longer hold that certification as “Active”. When a certification is no longer “Active” then it will be listed within the “Legacy Microsoft Certifications” section of your MCP Transcript.

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There are also some Microsoft Certifications that do not expire. These certifications will always show on your MCP Transcript within the “Active Microsoft Certifications” as being Active. In the past it was most common that Microsoft Certifications would expire over time, specifically as they retired the exams necessary to earn them. However, the newer MCSA, MCSD, and MCSE certifications do not expire once earned. However, even though the MCSA doesn’t expire, the MCSE is “tagged” with the year you earn it in a way since Microsoft is now updating certification exams more; rather than retiring them.

Here’s an example of my own MCP Transcript that shows that I earned the “MCSE: Cloud Platform and Infrastructure” certification in 2016, and then again at the beginning of 2018. Both of these display within the “Active Microsoft Certifications” section of my transcript.

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The following example shows my own MCP Transcript listing the old “MCSD: Azure Solutions Architect” certification still underneath the “Active Microsoft Certifications” section. This version of the MCSD certification has been retired and is no longer available to be earned. However, it does not expire, so it is remaining shown as “Active” for me.

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In generally, it’s easiest to check your Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP) Transcript every so often just to check if your Microsoft Certification is still “Active”. You can also check the Microsoft Learning site for Exam and Certification updates periodically too. If you do find one of your Microsoft Certifications are about to expire or be retired and you will no longer be active, then you can assess what certification exam(s) you’ll need to renew and stay current with the latest requirements.

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Annual Certification Renewal

The “smaller” Microsoft Certifications like Microsoft Specialist (MS) and Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA) do not expire. However, the newer Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer (MCSD) and Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE) certifications do have a process where they go “stale” in a way.

The MCSE and MCSD certifications will remain “Current” through the next calendar year after you earn them, and they will display as “Active” on your MCP Transcript. Then after that time period, they will no longer be “Current” if you do not take and pass an additional elective exam to stay “Current”. When the MCSE and MCSD certifications are no longer “Current” that doesn’t mean their expired, it’s just that these certifications are now labeled with the Year you earned them.

Here you can see on my own MCP Transcript, that the “MCSE: Cloud Platform and Infrastructure” certification is listed twice. Once for when I first earned it in 2016, then a second time for when I renewed it to make it “Current” again in 2018.

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NOTE: You can see the “MCSE: Cloud Platform and Infrastructure” certification I earned in 2016 being marked as “Charter”. This basically just means that I passed all the required exams for this certification before Microsoft started offering this version of the MCSE certification, and Microsoft decided to retroactively grant me it. Microsoft did this back when they retired the “MCSD: Azure Solutions Architect” and introduced the “MCSE: Cloud Platform and Infrastructure” as a replacement.

The Easy Answer

The easy answer to the question, “Do Microsoft Certification Exams Expire?” is a simple “No, but…”. Actually, they don’t really expire. Once you earn a Microsoft Certification you still hold that certification. It’s just that once earned it will be marked somehow with the Technology version or the Year you earned it.

  • The newer MCSD and MCSE certifications get marked with the year you earned them, and you may want to renew annually to keep “Current”.
  • The MCSA and MS certifications do not require renewal.
  • Older certifications are no longer “Active”, but you still earned them and they will remain on your MCP Transcript to indicate as such. These are also marked with the Technology that was tested.

Here’s a screenshot of my own MCP Transcript to show you what it looks like for the much older “Legacy” certifications that are no longer “Active” but still displayed on my MCP Transcript that I didn’t earn them in the past:

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I hope this answers a few questions you have in regards to earning, renewing, and staying current with Microsoft Certifications.

Microsoft MVP

Chris Pietschmann is a Microsoft MVP (Azure & IoT) and HashiCorp Ambassador (2021) with 20+ years of experience designing and building Cloud & Enterprise systems. He has worked with companies of all sizes from startups to Fortune 100. He is also a Microsoft Certified Azure Solutions Architect and developer, a Microsoft Certified Trainer (MCT), and Cloud Advocate. He has a passion for technology and sharing what he learns with others to help enable them to learn faster and be more productive.