Welcome to the “Introducing” series (check here for the full list of blog posts in this series)! Today we will look at how to get started with Azure, what certifications exist and where to get started with them. In the last part of this series, we introduced Azure. In this blog post, we will look at what certification exams are available around Azure and how to get started if you want to learn more about Azure.

Certification exams can provide a way to demonstrate what you know and establish a level of credibility in a variety of technologies. For this blog post, we will focus on Microsoft Certification Exams with a focus on Azure.

For my old-school readers on this blog post who have been working in Microsoft technology for a while, Microsoft recently announced that they will be retiring MCSA, MCSD, and MCSE exams effective June 30th, 2020. I believe that this indicates a push towards their remaining certification exams that are focused more on their cloud technologies such as Azure.

There are a variety of exams that are available and focus on Azure (the list is available here). Currently these are: AZ-103AZ-120AZ-204AZ-220AZ-300AZ-301AZ-400AZ-500AZ-90070-487 and 70-537.

You may be asking yourself if you can get a job in technology without a college degree and the answer is Yes. Microsoft is among many companies in the industry that don’t necessarily require a college degree (at least for entry-level positions).

 

What certification should I start with and what resources should I use?

At first glance, that looks daunting – how to get started with Azure and which exam should you take first? I reached out to several of my colleagues and got some excellent recommendations on that. The first step I would recommend is an exam which is referred to as “AZ-900 – Azure Fundamentals”. The Microsoft Azure Fundamentals exam appears to be a great starting point to get to know more about Azure. Below are resources I would recommend checking out for free (or very inexpensive) self-study for that exam:

  • Microsoft Docs: I would recommend starting here as the doc’s team did a great job with this!
  • Free Online Training: Pluralsight is providing free Azure training which is available here. These courses are all paid for by Microsoft, so they want people to get out there and learn Azure!
  • Free Azure resources: Microsoft provides free 12-month access to Azure resources to help to learn more about Azure. Details on this are available here.
  • YouTube VideosExam AZ-900 Microsoft Azure Fundamentals Study Guide (63 episodes!)
  • Join an Azure User group: These are free, and they even provide dinner! They are great for networking and free training. Locally we have the DFW Azure User group. If you are looking for your local user group just go to your search engine of choice and type something like “DFW Azure User Group” or “Minnesota Azure User Group”. You can also check Meetup or EventBrite and search there for a local user group.
  • Book: There is a book on Amazon which covers this topic for less than $30. Information on it is available here.

 

What about getting a degree?

Getting a degree in Information Technology or Computer Science is a great way to get into a new career! I started my career with a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science and that has opened a lot of doors which would have been closed for me otherwise.

Your local community college (Collin College as an example in my area) can provide you with courses that would help you to see what you are (or more importantly) what you are not interested in with regards to computers. Specifically, if math isn’t your strong area I would recommend looking at “Information Systems”. If math is one of your strengths look at “Computer Science”. Community colleges give you access to a wide variety of topics (many of which are computer-related) at a minimal cost which will give you a chance to see what you are and are not interested in.

 

What about bootcamps to get through certification exams?

Another approach is to go and study at something which is called a “bootcamp”. Bootcamps are designed to provide you with the tools that you need to study a topic quickly and very focused. The goal of a bootcamp is to provide you with the information required to pass multiple Azure certifications. The negative on these is that they tend to be expensive and require dedicated time which would mean taking time off work. An example of one of these is available here.  Before choosing any bootcamps, be sure to find out what their exam pass rate is.

 

Do you have any tips for taking certification exams?

The most important point to effectively taking certification exams is to spend the time and study and try out the technology that you are being tested on (for details on this see “Free Azure Resources” above).

Did you know that you can take certification exams online?

I ran across the following articles recently which provide some good tips and tricks for taking certification exams:

 

What are good resources to help with self-study for the other Azure certification exams?

Below are a set of links that I have run across on Twitter while I’ve been researching for this article.

AZ-103: Microsoft Azure Administrator

If you are looking for an exam to take after the AZ-900 this is most likely the one.

AZ-104: Microsoft Azure Administrator (Beta)

AZ-204: Developing Solutions for Microsoft Azure

AZ0303:

AZ-500: Microsoft Azure Security Technologies

 

Additional resources:

 

Thank you to Tony N, John S, Kris T and JC W for all of your insights on this blog post and thank you to Chad S and Beth F for their help on this blog post! And thank you to Thomas Maurer for this tip and many other links in this blog post!

 

Update: My friend James A sent me this list with a set of free e-books from Microsoft in this space!

 

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