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The 12 Best Azure Certifications For 2024: Empower Your Data Science Career

Discover the comprehensive 2024 guide on Azure Certification for data practitioners. Delve into the essentials of Azure certification levels, preparation strategies with DataCamp, and their impact on your data science career.
Updated Feb 2024  · 12 min read

In this guide, we delve into the world of Azure certifications, highlighting their significance in the burgeoning field of cloud computing and data science. As technologies evolve and the demand for skilled professionals in cloud services and data science grows, Azure certifications stand as a testament to an individual’s expertise and commitment to staying abreast of industry trends and technologies.

This article is tailored for beginners who are taking their first steps into the realm of cloud computing and data science, as well as data practitioners seeking to enhance their skills and credentials. Whether you are looking to kickstart your career, pivot to a new domain, or simply expand your skill set, understanding the landscape of Azure certifications can be a game-changer.

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Why Azure Certification?

Let’s look at some of the reasons why to get certified in Azure.

The landscape of cloud computing is witnessing a rapid transformation. As businesses increasingly migrate to the cloud, the demand for skilled cloud professionals is soaring. Azure, Microsoft's cloud computing service, is at the forefront of this revolution. With its wide array of services and solutions, Azure is becoming a critical tool for organizations across various sectors. Azure is currently the second-largest player in the cloud computing market, with a share of around 23%, second only to AWS (read more about AWS certification in our separate guide). 

Role of Azure in Current Tech Landscape

Azure’s diverse offerings in AI, machine learning, and big data analytics are reshaping how businesses operate. By leveraging Azure, companies are unlocking new efficiencies and capabilities. This dynamic environment creates a fertile ground for professionals who possess the know-how to navigate and utilize Azure effectively. Azure has over 600 cloud services, and it edges the market among light and moderate cloud users.

Benefits of Azure Certification for Career Advancement

Earning an Azure certification validates your skills and knowledge in the cloud domain, setting you apart in a competitive job market. It demonstrates to employers your commitment to professional growth and your proficiency in one of the leading cloud platforms. Whether you aim to advance in your current role or pivot to a new career path, Azure certification can be a key stepping stone.

Understanding Azure Certification Levels

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Fundamental Azure Certifications

Fundamental certifications are the starting point in the Azure certification journey. Designed for beginners, they cover basic cloud concepts and Azure services. This level is ideal for those new to cloud computing or seeking to understand the basics of Azure.

If you’re a newcomer to the field, you can get started with DataCamp’s Introduction to Azure and Cloud Computing Concepts courses.

Available certifications:

1. AZ-900: Azure Fundamentals

  • Who It's For: Beginners in cloud services or Azure, with a non-technical background welcomed.
  • Skills Covered: Basic Azure services and cloud concepts, including core Azure services, security, privacy, compliance, and trust, as well as Azure pricing and support.
  • Prerequisites: None, though general IT knowledge or experience is beneficial.
  • Cost: $99 USD

2. AI-900: Azure AI Fundamentals

  • Who It's For: Individuals with technical or non-technical backgrounds interested in understanding AI and machine learning concepts using Azure services.
  • Skills Covered: Basic AI and machine learning concepts, Azure AI services, computer vision, natural language processing, and conversational AI.
  • Prerequisites: Familiarity with basic cloud concepts and client-server applications is beneficial, but not required.
  • Cost: $99 USD

3. DP-900: Azure Data Fundamentals

  • Who It's For: Individuals beginning to work with data in the cloud, covering both technical and non-technical roles.
  • Skills Covered: Core data concepts, relational and non-relational data on Azure, and analytics workloads.
  • Prerequisites: Familiarity with data concepts and cloud environments recommended but not required.
  • Cost: Approximately $99

Associate Azure Certifications

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Associate certifications are for individuals with some experience in cloud services. They delve deeper into specific roles like Azure Administrator, Developer, or Security Engineer. These certifications require foundational knowledge of Azure and typically involve more complex concepts than the fundamental level.

Available certifications:

4. AZ-104: Azure Administrator Associate

  • Who It's For: Individuals with Azure administration experience, managing cloud services that span storage, networking, and compute cloud capabilities.
  • Skills Covered: Managing Azure identities, governance, storage, compute, and virtual networks in a cloud environment.
  • Prerequisites: Six months of hands-on experience administering Azure, strong familiarity with core Azure services, Azure workloads, security, and governance.
  • Cost: $165

5. AZ-204: Azure Developer Associate

  • Who It's For: Experienced developers familiar with Azure.
  • Skills Covered: Designing, building, testing, and maintaining cloud applications and services on Azure.
  • Prerequisites: At least one year of professional development experience and knowledge of Azure.
  • Cost: $165 USD

6. AZ-500: Azure Security Engineer Associate

  • Who It's For: IT professionals specializing in security and compliance.
  • Skills Covered: Implementing security controls, maintaining posture, identifying vulnerabilities, and using a variety of security tools.
  • Prerequisites: Strong skills in scripting, security, and Azure services.
  • Cost: $165 USD

7. DP-100: Azure Data Scientist Associate

  • Who It's For: Data scientists and professionals working on Azure to implement and run machine learning workloads.
  • Skills Covered: Designing and implementing data science and machine learning solutions on Azure.
  • Prerequisites: Experience with data science and Azure Machine Learning.
  • Cost: $165

8. DP-203: Azure Data Engineer Associate

  • Who It's For: Data engineers focusing on data solutions in Azure.
  • Skills Covered: Designing and implementing data storage, data processing, and data security, along with monitoring and optimizing data solutions.
  • Prerequisites: Knowledge of data processing languages (e.g., SQL, Python) and Azure data services.
  • Cost: $165 USD

9. DP-300: Azure Database Administrator Associate

  • Who It's For: Database administrators and data professionals.
  • Skills Covered: Managing relational databases on Azure, including security, performance, and availability.
  • Prerequisites: Experience with database concepts and Azure SQL.
  • Cost: $165 USD

10. PL-300: Power BI Data Analyst Associate

  • Who It's For: Data analysts who leverage Power BI for data analysis and visualization.
  • Skills Covered: Preparing data, modeling data, visualizing data, and analyzing data using Power BI.
  • Prerequisites: Experience with data analysis and non-relational and relational data from various data sources.
  • Cost: $165 USD

Expert Azure Certifications

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Expert certifications are the pinnacle of Azure credentials. Targeted at seasoned professionals, these certifications demand a deep understanding of Azure services and architecture. They are suited for individuals who have extensive experience and specialize in areas like Azure Solutions Architect or DevOps Engineer.

Available certifications:

11. AZ-305: Azure Solutions Architect Expert

  • Who It's For: Solutions architects and engineers focusing on Azure infrastructure solutions.
  • Skills Covered: Designing solutions that run on Azure, including aspects like compute, network, storage, and security.
  • Prerequisites: Advanced experience and knowledge of IT operations, including networking, virtualization, identity, security, business continuity, disaster recovery, data platforms, and governance.
  • Cost: $165 USD

12. AZ-400: Microsoft DevOps Engineer Expert

  • Who It's For: Professionals in DevOps roles focusing on Azure.
  • Skills Covered: Combining people, processes, and technologies to continuously deliver valuable products and services.
  • Prerequisites: Familiarity with Azure administration and development, and expertise in at least one of these areas.
  • Cost: $165 USD

Comparison of all Azure Certifications in 2024

Below is a table comparing all of the available Azure certifications to help you choose the right one: 

Certification Who It's For Skills Covered Prerequisites Cost (USD)
AZ-900 Beginners in cloud services Basic Azure services and cloud concepts None 99
AI-900 Individuals interested in AI and ML Basic AI and ML concepts, Azure AI services Familiarity with basic cloud concepts 99
DP-900 Individuals starting with data in the cloud Core data concepts, Azure data services Familiarity with data concepts 99
AZ-104 Azure administrators Azure identities, governance, storage, compute, virtual networks Six months of Azure experience 165
AZ-204 Experienced developers Designing and maintaining cloud services One year of development experience 165
AZ-500 IT security specialists Security controls, maintaining posture Skills in scripting, security, Azure services 165
DP-100 Data scientists Data science and ML solutions Experience with data science and Azure ML 165
DP-203 Data engineers Data storage, processing, security Knowledge of SQL, Python, Azure data services 165
DP-300 Database administrators Managing relational databases Experience with database concepts and Azure SQL 165
PL-300 Data analysts using Power BI Data preparation, modeling, visualization Experience with data analysis 165
AZ-305 Solutions architects Azure solutions design Advanced IT operations experience 165
AZ-400 DevOps professionals Delivering products and services Familiarity with Azure administration and development 165

How to Choose an Azure Certification

Navigating the world of Azure certifications can be overwhelming given the wide range of options available. Whether you’re new to Azure or looking to specialize further, choosing the right certification is crucial to aligning your professional development with your career aspirations. Here’s how you can make an informed decision:

1. Assess your current skill level

Before diving into the specifics of each certification, evaluate your current understanding of Azure services. If you’re new to Azure, starting with a fundamental level certification, such as the Azure Fundamentals (AZ-900), can provide a solid foundation. For those with more experience, consider an associate or expert level certification that matches your skills.

2. Identify your career goals

Think about where you see yourself in the future. Are you aiming to become a Cloud Architect, a DevOps Engineer, or perhaps a Data Scientist? Your career goals should guide your certification choice, ensuring it aligns with the roles and industries you’re interested in.

3. Research the market demand

Look into job listings that interest you and note the certifications frequently mentioned. Some roles may prefer candidates with specific certifications. Understanding market trends and employer preferences can help you select a certification that will enhance your employability and relevance in the job market.

4. Consider your learning style

Everyone has a unique learning style, so consider how you learn best when choosing a certification path. Microsoft offers various resources, including online courses, instructor-led training, and hands-on labs. Similarly, DataCamp has a wide range of resources that can help you master many of the skills you'll need. Choose a certification with learning resources that match your preferred method of study to facilitate an effective learning experience.

5. Review the certification pathway

Microsoft Azure certifications are structured in a pathway from fundamental to expert levels. Review these pathways to understand the progression and prerequisites required for each certification. Some certifications may require you to pass a fundamental exam before moving on to more advanced certifications.

6. Plan for future growth

Consider certifications that not only meet your current goals but also offer pathways for continued learning and advancement. The field of cloud computing evolves rapidly, so selecting a certification that allows for further specialization or advancement can help keep your skills relevant.

Preparing for Azure Certification with DataCamp

DataCamp offers a range of courses and materials that can help with Azure certifications, such as our introduction to Azure course. These resources are designed to build foundational knowledge and advance to more complex concepts.

Our AWS, Azure and GCP Service Comparison for Data Science & AI cheat sheet can help you prepare for Azure certification.

There are several other ways you can prepare for Azure certification:

Understand the Exam Objectives

Begin by thoroughly reviewing the exam objectives and skills measured. This information is available on the official Microsoft certification webpage for each exam. Understanding what is expected will help you focus your study efforts effectively.

Utilize Learning Resources

Look for resources like DataCamp courses, Microsoft materials, books, and practice tests. These can provide different perspectives and additional practice opportunities. Use our courses and cheat sheets, such as this AWS, Azure and GCP Service Comparison for Data Science & AI cheat sheet.

DataCamp's structured programs guide learners from basic to advanced levels with a blend of theory and practical exercises. For a comprehensive preparation, it's advisable to follow these structured paths and regularly test your knowledge with the quizzes and projects provided.

Hands-On Practice

Theoretical knowledge is important, but practical experience is crucial. Use Microsoft Azure's free tier or sandbox environment to get hands-on practice with Azure services. Experimenting in a real Azure environment will deepen your understanding. You can also utilize DataCamp's interactive learning platform for practical experience.

Join Study Groups and Online Communities

Engaging with others who are also preparing for the exam can be beneficial. Join online forums, study groups, or communities (like those on DataCamp, LinkedIn, Reddit, or Microsoft’s own Tech Community) to share knowledge and ask questions.

What Jobs Can You Get with Azure Certification?

Earning an Azure certification opens up a multitude of career opportunities in the IT sector. Below, we outline several key job roles that Azure-certified professionals are well-suited for, focusing on their primary responsibilities and the skills they need.

Cloud Architect

  • What they do: Design and implement an organization's cloud computing strategy, including cloud adoption plans, application design, and management.
  • Skills needed: Expertise in Azure infrastructure and services, cloud solution design, and cloud security.

DevOps Engineer

  • What they do: Work to integrate development and operations to improve software development, deployment, and maintenance.
  • Skills needed: Proficiency in Azure DevOps, CI/CD pipelines, automation scripts, and cloud service management.

Solutions Architect

  • What they do: Design and implement complex solutions that meet business requirements.
  • Skills needed: Deep understanding of Azure services, solution design principles, and architectural best practices.

Azure Administrator

  • What they do: Manage and configure cloud services, including networking, storage, security, and compute capabilities.
  • Skills needed: Knowledge of Azure administration, PowerShell, Azure CLI, and cloud architecture.

Security Engineer

  • What they do: Ensure the security of cloud applications and data from threats.
  • Skills needed: Skills in cloud security, identity management, threat mitigation, and familiarity with Azure security tools.

Data Engineer

  • What they do: Design and implement management, monitoring, security, and privacy of data using the full stack of Azure data services.
  • Skills needed: Experience with Azure data storage solutions, data processing, and data security practices.

AI Engineer

  • What they do: Use AI and machine learning to build intelligent solutions that enhance business processes.
  • Skills needed: Proficiency in Azure AI services, machine learning models, and cognitive services integration.

Final Thoughts

It's clear that these Azure certifications are more than just accolades; they are a pathway to deepening your understanding and expertise in cloud computing. Whether you're starting with the fundamentals, aiming for an associate level, or targeting expert certifications, each step in this journey equips you with vital skills for today’s technology-driven landscape.

Get started towards certification today with DataCamp’s Introduction to Azure and Cloud Computing Concepts courses. If you're a more experienced learner, you can check out our Azure Architecture and Services course, which delves into the heart of Azure's infrastructure, covering cloud computing basics and insights into Azure's organizational structure.


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Author
Matt Crabtree

A writer and content editor in the edtech space. Committed to exploring data trends and enthusiastic about learning data science.

Azure Certification FAQs

How Do I Get Started with Azure Certification?

To get started:

  1. Identify the certification path that aligns with your career goals and experience level. Microsoft offers certifications ranging from fundamental to expert levels across various roles.
  2. Prepare for the exam by utilizing Microsoft's learning paths, online courses, and practice tests.
  3. Schedule your exam through the Microsoft website or a certified testing center.

How Long Does It Take to Become Azure Certified?

The time it takes to become Azure certified varies based on your background, the certification level, and how much time you dedicate to study and practice. On average, it can take anywhere from a few weeks for a fundamental certification to several months for more advanced certifications.

Is Azure Certification Worth It?

Yes, Azure certification is highly valued in the IT industry. It can significantly improve your employability, help you negotiate higher salaries, and provide you with the skills necessary to work on cutting-edge cloud technology projects.

Can I Take Azure Certification Exams Online?

Yes, Microsoft allows you to take Azure certification exams online. These online exams are proctored, ensuring the integrity of the certification process while allowing you the convenience of testing from home or your office.

What Other Certifications Will Benefit My Career?

There are a range of options available to you. For example, AWS certifications could help if you're interested in cloud-based skills. Similarly, if you want to master the building blocks of data analysis, then Python certification and R certification could be beneficial. You can also consider machine learning certification if you want to stay up-to-date with the latest trends in that industry. 

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