Best Microsoft Professional Certifications in 2021

Microsoft is the world’s largest software and programming company in terms of revenue, ahead of Oracle and SAP. This means that professionals with Microsoft certifications, such as a Microsoft Azure certification, are in high demand in 2021.

In this guide, we’ll look at entry-level certifications that cover general Microsoft technologies, as well as those that follow more specialized learning paths, for example in Microsoft Azure or Microsoft 365. Read on to find out the best Microsoft certifications in 2021.

What Is a Microsoft Professional Certification?

A Microsoft certification proves your competence in one or more of Microsoft’s software products and programs. Many employers now look for candidates with Microsoft certifications that validate their skills. Microsoft certifications include free training courses, as well as well-respected certification exams.

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Earning a Microsoft certification shows employers that you have industry-standard knowledge and skills. The certification programs are constantly updated to ensure that your skills remain relevant in the constantly evolving tech sector.

Professional Certification vs Certificate Program

Certificate programs are different from professional Microsoft certifications, so make sure you know the difference. A Microsoft professional certification is sanctioned by Microsoft. You need a certain level of experience to become a certified Microsoft professional, and will have to pass an exam to receive certification.

A certificate program is offered by a third party such as an online education provider or university. Certificates are offered for attending and completing a training course, but you won’t necessarily be assessed in the subject. Many of these courses serve as a preparatory course for the official certification exam.

Microsoft Skills: What’s Demand Like in 2021?

The job outlook for professionals with Microsoft skills is bright. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts the employment rate for Computer and Information Systems Managers to increase by 10 percent between 2019 and 2029, which is much higher than average.

Microsoft is one of the most widely-used software tools for businesses. This means businesses increasingly expect people across all departments to have up-to-date Microsoft skills.

Importance of Microsoft Certification

Many jobs in the tech sector currently require you to have a Microsoft certification. Jobs that require in-depth knowledge of Microsoft programs include IT specialist, software engineer, software tester, web developer, system administrator, data scientist, and cloud services architect. They are also particularly beneficial to Azure administrators.

A certification shows that you have the skills and knowledge to thrive in the field. It also shows you are dedicated to your continued professional development. Some certification programs focus on a certain area of Microsoft. This can be a great way to specialize your skills and stand out from the pack.

Top 10 Microsoft Certifications

Top 10 Microsoft Certifications

Below we’ve rounded up the best Microsoft certifications. The certifications featured in this list cover a broad range of specialties. Some are designed for people who want to be Azure administrators, some are for people who specialize in artificial intelligence, while others are aimed at budding cloud computing experts.

Microsoft Azure Data Scientist Associate

Cost: $165

Validity: Does Not Expire

After completing this Microsoft certification you’ll be able to demonstrate your ability in using Azure for data science tasks. You’ll be able to create machine learning models, no-code predictive models with Azure Machine Learning, the operation of Azure Machine Learning solutions, and the performance of data science with Azure Databricks.

Microsoft provides free online training for anyone interested in this certification. Alternatively, you can pay for their instructor-led preparation course, run by Microsoft-certified trainers. There is also a practice test available to help you prepare for the final exam.

Microsoft Azure Developer Associate

Cost: $165

Validity: Does Not Expire

This Microsoft certification is designed for experienced developers with about two years of experience in the field. Passing the certification exam will demonstrate your competence in developing Azure compute solutions, Azure storage, and Microsoft Azure security. You should be able to troubleshoot any problems within Azure.

Microsoft Azure Fundamentals

Cost: $99

Validity: Does Not Expire

If you are planning on becoming an IT manager or a developer, this would be an ideal certification for you. The Microsoft Azure Fundamentals exam proves your expertise in Microsoft Azure cloud concepts, virtual networking, security, privacy policy, governance, and compliance.

After completing this certification path, you should also understand the core Azure concepts and services. It’ll also show you have a good understanding of Azure cost management and service level agreements.

Microsoft Azure for SAP Workloads Specialty

Cost: $165

Validity: Does Not Expire

To gain this certification, you’ll need to be an architect or engineer with extensive knowledge of Azure for SAP Workloads. You’ll typically have already taken SAP certifications, as well as the Azure Administrator Associate or Azure Solutions Architect Expert certification.

This Microsoft certification will prove your knowledge in SAP offerings for Azure and the migration of SAP workloads to Azure. You should understand the design and implementation of infrastructure capable of supporting SAP workloads and how to maintain those workloads. You will also need to understand High Availability Disaster Recovery (HADR).

Microsoft Certified Educator

Cost: $127

Validity: Does Not Expire

This mid-level certification is suited to educators such as teachers and educational administrators. It tests professionals on educational technologies and e-learning tools. Certified professionals will be able to demonstrate that they can provide rich learning experiences for online students.

You will be tested on your capacity to facilitate communication, student collaboration, and self-regulation. You’ll also need to show you can help students use information and communication tools (ICT).

Microsoft Dynamics 365 Sales Functional Consultant Associate

Cost: $330 (Two Certifications)

Validity: Does Not Expire

If you want to work as a consultant working with Microsoft Dynamics 365 Sales, this Dynamics 365 Sales FUnctional Consultant Associate certification is highly recommended. While training for this certification, you will deepen your knowledge of Dataverse, Power Apps, Power Automate, and Microsoft Power Platform environments.

You will need to pass two separate examinations. The first is the Microsoft Power Platform Functional Consultant certification, followed by the final Microsoft Dynamic 365 Sales certification.

Microsoft 365 Fundamentals

Cost: $99

Validity: Does Not Expire

To pass this Microsoft certification exam, you will need to be an expert at operating Microsoft 365. You will learn how the teamwork and productivity models function, how the business management models work and what requirements need to be met for security and compliance on 365.

You’ll also learn about Microsoft licensing, services, and support, making you an effective salesperson of the product. The program will be of particular interest to current or aspiring system administrators.

Microsoft Power Platform Developer

Cost: $165

Validity: Does Not Expire

This certification exam will test your ability to design, develop, secure, and troubleshoot on the Power Platform. You’ll need to be competent in technical tasks such as creating and configuring Common Data Service and Power Apps, configuring business process automation, and developing integrations.

If you are interested in this Microsoft certification program, note that some of the exam components changed on June 23, 2021. Make sure you are up to date on the current requirements of the exam.

Microsoft Power Platform Fundamentals

Cost: $99

Validity: Does Not Expire

Earning this certification shows you understand the basics of Power Platform. It demonstrates you can identify the core components of the Power Platform and extract business value from it.

During the exam, you’ll show you can use Power Platform for Power BI (Business Intelligence), Power Apps, Power Automate, and Power Virtual Agents. The certification is a great step for students and early-career professionals.

Microsoft Word Expert

Cost: $100

Validity: Does Not Expire

Among the products that Microsoft offers is Word, a Microsoft mainstay that is constantly updated. The certification demonstrates your ability to keep up with the latest changes, use the advanced editing and formatting features of Word and create custom document elements.

For graduates and entry-level professionals, this shows you can extract more out of Word than the average candidate. It’s an excellent addition to your resume if you’re doing administrative work of some capacity.

How to Choose the Right Certification

How to Choose the Right Certification

As you can see, there are many different Microsoft certification options so it’s important to choose carefully. Consider your current skill levels, career goals, and time capacity, to make sure you choose a certification that will benefit your career. Below are some tips on choosing the best certification program.

Career Goals

Choose a certification that is specifically relevant to the career path you want to pursue.
Scan online job boards to find roles that appeal to you. Then see which certifications those employers look for. This will help make sure you gain the certification that’s valued most highly in your chosen path.

Time Requirement

Think about how much time you’re able to commit towards earning a certification. The training time required to prepare for the final exam differs hugely between certifications. Make sure you give yourself enough time to prepare before enrolling in a certification exam.

Exam Requirements

Some certification programs have strict requirements. For example, some require you to already have several years of experience in the subject. For others you need to have passed other related certifications before applying. If you’re early on in your career, make sure you choose an entry-level certification program.

Top Courses to Prepare for Certifications

Microsoft usually offers online training courses for its certifications, but you may have to pay for instructor-led classes. Here’s a look at some well-regarded courses designed to prepare you for Microsoft certification exams.

DP-100T01-A | Microsoft

Cost: $1,795

Duration: Three Days

Format: Instructor-led

Outcome: No Certificate

The course helps prepare you for the Azure Data Scientist Associate certification. Once you have completed this course, you should be able to operate machine learning solutions on the Azure platform. You need some experience with Python, SciKit-Learn, PyTorch, and Tensorflow to keep up with this course.

The curriculum includes an introduction to Azure machine learning, no-code machine learning, experiments and training models, datastores, datasets, and data centers. You will also be taught to work with Azure compute.

DP-090T00 | Microsoft

Cost: Free

Duration: One Day

Format: Instructor-led

Outcome: No Certificate

This is another course designed to help you pass the Azure Data Scientist Associate certification. However, this course is more specifically focused on working with Azure Databricks, a cloud-scale platform for data analytics and machine learning.

During the course, you will be given an introduction to Azure Databricks and machine learning models. You will also be equipped with the skills required to integrate Databricks with Azure Machine Learning.

AZ-204T00-A | Microsoft

Cost: $2,995

Duration: Five Days

Format: Instructor-led

Outcome: No Certificate

If you’re hoping to take the Azure Developer Associate certification, this is the course for you. Aimed at developers, it focuses on creating end-to-end solutions in Azure. It covers many areas of Azure development over the five days.

You will become competent in creating Azure Web Apps, implementing Azure functions, developing solutions that use blob storage and Cosmos DB storage. You will also learn about IaaS solutions, user authentication, cloud solutions, and API management.

AZ-900T01-A | Microsoft

Cost: $795

Duration: One Day

Format: Instructor-led

Outcome: No Certificate

This course will adequately prepare you for the Microsoft Azure Fundamentals certification. It’s especially beneficial for administrators, AI engineers, data analysts, data engineers, data scientists, developers, and security engineers.

During the course, you will learn about core Azure concepts, services, solutions, and management tools. It’ll also cover networking security, privacy and compliance, and cloud governance and strategy.

AZ-104 Microsoft Azure Administrator | Udemy

Cost: $11.99

Duration: 12.5 Hours

Format: Self-paced, Video

Outcome: Certificate of Completion

Provided by Udemy, this course will give you a firm handle on all the major concepts associated with Azure. The course is designed to prepare you for the Azure Administrator certification exam. You can set your own pace for this course as the teaching is provided through video on demand.

This course content is regularly reviewed and updated. However, as it’s provided by Udemy rather than Microsoft, it’s worth making sure that the material is still relevant for the Microsoft certification exam when you sign up for this course.

Is a Microsoft Certification Worth It in 2021?

Yes, a Microsoft certification can open up many exciting career opportunities. The average salary of somebody with Microsoft’s previous MSCE certification is $97,293, according to PayScale. These certifications are common for jobs such as Chief Information Officer (CIO), which earns around $166,500 per year.

While your prospects might depend on the company that you work for, it is worth noting that the IT industry is currently entering a golden age. With the demand for people with these skills growing, a Microsoft certification is a great way to make yourself stand out and advance your career.

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