January 2023 is behind us, and February 2023 is already almost half over. Time feels like it goes by faster and faster the older I get. As tech layoffs continue, now may be the best time to review your current career skillset and work towards Microsoft (or other) certifications that you have been putting off for a while.
For those looking at certification in 2023, I wanted to provide some advice on how to plan and move forward.
My Microsoft Certification Journey – So Far
I took my first Microsoft (and any other) certification exam on June 1, 2020. At the time I had been working in the Azure Cloud for just over three years and decided it was time to add some certifications to prove my own knowledge to myself.
Since taking that first exam, I have taken a total of twelve exams. I currently hold eleven active Microsoft certifications and I am a current Microsoft Certified Trainer. For the past two years I have been posting on this blog about my exam experiences and preparation practices. I’ve also delivered custom training to many customers since joining Microsoft on both certification and general Azure services.
Microsoft Certification Advice
Choose Your Path and Stick to It – When I first decided to pursue a Microsoft certification, I decided that I wanted to earn the Azure Solution Architect Expert certification. As this was the first time in my 20-year career that I was looking to take a certification exam I had no actual knowledge of what the experience would be like.
- How hard would the exam questions be?
- What would the exam experience be like? Keep in mind that we were all locked down as this was the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
- How much do I need to study given that I work in Azure every day?
- Should I jump right in or take a lower-level exam to get some experience first?
I decided to work my way up, and took the following path towards my goal:
I first took the AZ-900 exam to cover Azure Fundamentals. From there I took the AZ-104 exam to earn the Azure Administrator Associate certification. It was then on to the AZ-303 Microsoft Azure Architect Technologies exam which at the time was the first of two required exams. The AZ-304 Microsoft Azure Architect Design exam was the final piece of the puzzle that allowed me to complete my goal.
Once you decide on your goal make sure you check the current exam and certification pages on Microsoft Learn so you know what to study before you get started. The path I took above is no longer valid and most of the exams have been updated or replaced since I took them.
Microsoft Certification Exam Pages
The individual exam pages on Microsoft Learn are the best and only place to find the most current information about what is currently on the exam you are looking to take.
The exam page provides additional information on when the exam was last updated, a link to the exam study guide and since the last time I had a look, a demo exam sandbox. You can also link off from the page to book your exam.
My favorite part of the exam pages are the links to the Microsoft Learn modules that go through the content you’ll need to know to pass and earn your certification. Over the years this content continues to get better and better.
My Microsoft Certification Study System
One option to study for certification exams is in-person training. This type of training can be done through an official Microsoft trainer or through customized training.
Both options have their advantages and disadvantages. If you are lucky enough to have this as an option, be sure to ask questions to take advantage of the trainer’s knowledge.
Prior to working for Microsoft, I took advantage of remote live training offered via the Microsoft Enterprise Skills Initiative. If you have access to this program through your employer, I highly recommend that you take advantage of it.
Now that I work for Microsoft, the following is my current study system:
- I review the exam and certification pages so I know what I need to study paying close attention to the exam study guide.
- I go through the official Microsoft Learn modules linked on the exam page.
- If available, I will watch related exam content provided by John Savill. His content is clear providing all the necessary details.
- Finally, I go through the practice tests from MeasureUp (Disclosure – access is provided by my current employer Microsoft).
Everyone is different so be sure to create your own study system that allows you to be successful.
I hope my advice for pursuing Microsoft certifications has been helpful and encouraged some of you to take your own Microsoft certification journey. You can find more information on the above sections by clicking on the links in this post (where available).
Have a blessed 2023. As always, feel free to comment below or find me on Twitter.