The question of “Where to start with Microsoft Azure Certification?” is a common one. Navigating the gauntlet of certification paths and exams can seem a bit daunting at first. This article is specially written to help ease the pain involved, so you can save time searching and find some useful information right here. Now, let’s discuss the topics of “Where do I start?” in regards to Microsoft Azure certifications.

Role-based Certification

The new job-role orientation of the new certification paths make choosing a little easier than in the past. Simply pick the job-role that best suites your expertise and experience, and there’s a certification path that will guide you.

Instead of focusing on getting certified in a specific technology, Microsoft has started reshaping the certifications offered to be job-role focused. This offers certification paths that are much more closely aligned with job duties, and better suited for individuals looking to prove and validate their expertise with the job duties they perform on a daily basis.

It’s generally best to choose the certification that best aligns with your existing expertise or job role. This should make it easier to study and pass the required exam(s).

The new job-role focused certifications are structured into 3 expertise levels: Fundamentals, Associate, and Expert.

Fundamentals Certification

The “Fundamentals” certification level is targeted towards those either just starting out with the technologies covered, or have zero to 2 years of experience. These are also helpful certifications for those looking to change careers too.

The Fundamentals certifications will require you to pass a single certification exam for the particular Fundamentals certification path you choose.

Associate Certification

The “Associate” certification level is targeted towards those professionals that already have 2 or more years of experience with the technologies covered. These are for mild to moderate experience professionals looking to learn, validate and prove their expertise with the technologies.

While you may choose to start off with a Fundamentals certifications, it is not a prerequisite for the Associate level certifications. You can start with exams at the Associate level if you wish, and it fits your level of expertise and career goals.

The Associate certifications will require you to pass either 1 or 2 certification exams, depending on the specific Associate certification path chosen.

Expert Certification

The “Expert” certification level is targeted towards those professionals that have more advanced levels of expertise and skills working with the technologies covered. These professionals typically have at least 2 to 5 years of experience.

Since the Expert level certifications are a step beyond the Associate level, many of then require you to earn an Associate certification prior to being eligible to earn the Expert certification. However, not all the Expert level certifications require an Associate level to be earned first.

Overall, the Expert level certifications will require you to pass either 2 or 3 exams to earn. it’s important that if you choose to earn an Expert level certification that you verify what the prerequisite Associate level certifications, if any, are needed first.

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What Azure Certifications are offered?

Microsoft currently offers a number of Certifications and Exams for Microsoft Azure and other Microsoft Cloud (Microsoft 365 and Dynamics 365) technologies. Since Microsoft Azure is such a significant platform and part of the Microsoft ecosystem, there are a number of Certifications and Exams available.

Below is a list of the Microsoft Azure Certifications that are currently offered:

It’s also worth mentioning there are some Microsoft 365 and Dynamics 365 certifications as well. You may be interested to know about these certifications too, since they are also cloud-focused certifications from Microsoft.

  • Microsoft 365 Certified: Fundamentals
  • Microsoft 365 Certified: Security Administrator Associate
  • Microsoft 365 Certified: Messaging Administrator Associate
  • Microsoft 365 Certified: Modern Desktop Administrator Associate
  • Microsoft 365 Certified: Teamwork Administrator Associate
  • Microsoft 365 Certified: Enterprise Administrator Expert
  • Microsoft Certified: Dynamics 365 Fundamentals
  • Microsoft Certified: Dynamics 365 for Marketing Functional Consultant Associate
  • Microsoft Certified: Dynamics 365 for Field Service Functional Consultant Associate
  • Microsoft Certified: Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations, Financials Functional Consultant Associate
  • Microsoft Certified: Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations, Manufacturing Functional Consultant Associate
  • Microsoft Certified: Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations, Supply Chain Management Functional Consultant Associate
  • Microsoft Certified: Dynamics 365 for Customer Service Functional Consultant Associate
  • Microsoft Certified: Dynamics 365 for Sales Functional Consultant Associate

This may seem like a long list of certifications, but Microsoft has really only just begun releasing the new Role-based Certification paths. In late 2018 is when Microsoft released the first role-based certifications, and the are continuing to build upon this by releasing new certifications periodically as they phase out and retire the older MCSA, MCSE, and MCSD certifications.

Some of the above Microsoft Certifications require the passing of multiple exams. In general the Fundamentals certifications require 1 exam, Associate certifications require either 1 or 2 exams, and the Expert certifications generally require a total of 2 or 3 exams to earn.

Where are Study Materials?

There are many videos, articles, books and other resources available to use for studying for certification exams. The details page for the specific exam you are looking to take contains a full outline of the exam objectives covered. It’s best to not rely too much on any single study resource, and to additionally go over each exam objective in detail.

On-Demand Training Courses

On-demand training video courses are a great tool to use when studying for certifications. These allow you to have an expert explain all the details to you in an easy to follow manner; plus you can pause and rewind as necessary to repeat things to better understand them.

Here are a few courses from our sponsor Udemy that are pretty popular for some of the latest and most popular Microsoft certification exams:

Practice Exams

In addition to videos, articles, books, etc., it can be very useful to utilize Practice Exams. There are a couple different practice exam vendors that offer these. Personally, I’ve used MeasureUp, but I’ve seen MindHub linked to from the Microsoft Certification site as well. These can be really great aides to help you study and ultimately pass the certification exams.

It’s VERY important to stay away from using “brain dumps” while studying. Brain dumps are cheating and violate the terms you agree to in order to take a Microsoft Certification exam. Braindumps are essentially notes that someone made or compiled after they sat the exam, and may contain actual questions from the exam itself. Not only are these against the terms of use for the certification exams, but they are often riddled with bad questions and incorrect answers (so I’ve heard), so it’s best to steer clear of them on your study journey.

Free Resources

In addition to all the free resources available, and the exam reference books, there are many Azure training courses from on-demand course providers. If you do a quick search you’ll find a few of the popular ones many others are using.

Free Exam Self-Assessment Tools

Knowing what to study and where to focus your efforts is a critical aspect to training for a certification exam. You’ll want to focus on covering all the objective areas of the exam you’re studying to make sure you cover every area the best you can. To help with this, Dan Patrick and Chris Pietschmann have been putting together Free, Open Source Self-Assessment Tools to help with Microsoft Certification exam study.

These Free, self-assessment tools will help ensure you study for all the different objective domains and areas under each. It will also help you gauge you’re studying to keep track of your progress, and even offer you an estimated confidence level that represents your level of preparedness for taking the exam(s) you’re studying for. There are several Free, self-assessment tools available for the different Microsoft Azure certification exams.

Microsoft Azure Certification: Where to Start? 4
Screenshot of the AZ-103 Certification Exam Free, Self-Assessment Tool

We HIGHLY recommend you download the Free, self-assessment tool for the exam(s) you’re studying, and keep tabs on your own study progress and preparedness!

You can download them here:

There are many more vendors and resources available for studying!

How to take an exam?

So, now you’ve studied, and feel ready to sit the exam? First, you need to register for the exam. The official exam information pages on Microsoft site contain a “Schedule Exam” button that will take you through the process of registering with a testing center, and picking a date and time to sit the exam.

Currently, the majority of Microsoft Certification exams cost $165 USD to take. Each time you take an exam, you’ll need to pay the exam fee. This means that if you fail, you will need to pay again on the next attempt to pass.

There are 2 options for taking Microsoft certification exams:

  • Physical Testing Center – This is the standard method of registering for the exam and then going down to your local testing center to sit the exam.
  • Online Proctored – This is where you take a certification exam from the comfort of your own home or office online using your own computer. There are some requirements to be met, but it’s fairly easy as long as you have a decent space to seclude yourself to for the duration of the exam.

The online proctored delivery method of taking Microsoft Certification exams may not be available for all exams offered. When available it can offer a much higher level of convenience; especially if you live a considerable distance from the closest testing center. The below link contains requirements and other information necessary about the online proctored exam deliver option:

Landing Your First Technology or Programming Job

Many people (possibly you included) are searching how to get Microsoft Certified as they are looking to land their first technology and/or programming job. Certifications can be a really great credential to add to your resume that you know what you claim to know. The initial start can be a bit intimidating some times, but it’s important to just take it one step at a time.

If you’re looking to get started with Microsoft Azure and the cloud, then the Microsoft Certified: Azure Fundamentals certification is a really great start. it will prep you for understanding cloud concepts, Azure services at a high-level, and what’s available in the cloud. It will also give. you a really great starting point to take your certifications further towards the Azure Administrator, Azure Developer, or other Azure certifications.

If you are unsure on what technologies to learn first, then it can be really useful to check out the job boards to see what technologies are in-demand by employers. You can look in your geographic region, or even across the country if you are looking for a remote job. Beware that remote technology jobs do tend to favor more experienced candidates over entry-level; as least from what I’ve seen.

In addition to certifications, it can be extremely helpful to build up a portfolio of what you know and have built. You can do this by starting a blog and posting something at least once per month. You can also do this by creating a GitHub account and posting source code for projects you work on through your studies. You could even do both! These activities will really help add more substance to your resume and will help put you ahead of other candidates when applying for that first technology or programming job!

Happy Studying, and I wish you the best throughout your career!

Microsoft MVP

Chris is the Founder of and a Microsoft MVP in Azure & IoT with 20 years of experience designing and building Cloud & Enterprise systems. He is also a Microsoft Certified: Azure Solutions Architect, developer, 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.