Roadmap to Success: MCSD Azure Solutions Architect

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Roadmap to Success is a series of posts designed to help learners better understand certification pathways, career opportunities associated with those certifications, and next steps beyond certification.

UPDATED: We updated this article May 9, 2017, to reflect relevant changes to the MCSD Azure Solutions Architect certification curriculum.

The MCSD Azure Solutions Architect certification has been gaining momentum as Microsoft continues to gain market share in the cloud space. There are many indicators that seem to signal that this certification will continue to increase its popularity and desirability among employers. Generally, this certification will qualify learners to architect, develop, and administer Microsoft Azure solutions.

MCSD: Azure Solutions Architect

CRITICAL UPDATE: Microsoft restructured its certifications. The MCSD: Azure Solutions Architect certification was formally retired March 31, 2017, and replaced by the MCSE: Cloud Platform and Infrastructure. For more information on the restructure, please read our What to Expect from the New Microsoft Certification Paths post.

The Azure certification is intended to equip learners with the skills and knowledge needed to develop, implement infrastructure, and architect Azure solutions. The MCSD: Azure Solutions Architect (Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer) certification is made up of three exams, all of which are covered by CBT Nuggets training:

The MCSD Azure Solutions Architect certification is distinguished from other MCSD certifications in that it demands a broader scope of skills and abilities, beyond programming and programming languages. Because it is a Solutions Architect certification, learners are expected to demonstrate their expertise as a developer, IT pro, DevOps practitioner, as well as in design and architecture.

Learners pursuing this certification path should have one or more years of web development experience (including .NET, PHP, Ruby, or Python), a solid understanding of basic networking concepts, and familiarity with the basic structure of the Microsoft Azure platform. Related areas of expertise could include cloud services and/or virtualization.

Exam Details
The following exam details are applicable for each exam that makes up the MCSD: Azure Solutions Architect certification. Please note that with the Microsoft certification restructure, these exams can be used to qualify for credit toward other Microsoft certifications including the MCSA: Cloud Platform, MCSA: Linux on Azure, MCSD: App Builder, as well as the MCSE: Cloud Platform and Infrastructure.

70-532, 70-533, and 70-534 Exams
Time allotted for exam: 2 hours (120 minutes) per exam
Number of questions: 40-60* per exam
Passing score: 700** per exam
Question types: Multiple choice; multiple choice/multiple answer; scenario
Exam registration: Microsoft Learning or Pearson Vue
Exam cost: $165 (USD) per exam
Skills measured: Each exam registration page on the Microsoft website provides a list of Skills Measured (free resource) to guide your study and preparation.

*Microsoft does not publish the exact number of questions associated with its exams. Therefore, the number of questions a learner will see varies on a case-by-case basis.
**Because the number of questions varies, it is not necessarily true that learners must earn a simple 70% to pass the exam.

Microsoft exams have a reputation for being challenging. Many learners find they have to take an exam more than once to achieve a successful outcome. Fortunately, Microsoft is aware of the level of challenge associated with their exams, and often provides an Exam Replay, allowing learners to retake exams at a fraction of the cost. Please note that the Exam Replay may not always be available. Learners should research Exam Replay availability to avoid missing out on the opportunity.

Recertification
Microsoft MCSD certifications are valid for two years. According to Microsoft, recertification exams are currently available for all MCSE and MCSD specialties. Recertification exams cover material from the exams taken to originally earn the credential, with particular emphasis on the most recent technology and process changes. With the new elective exam structure for continuing education, learners have the opportunity to take an elective exam of their choosing each year to “re-earn” the certification.

The Next Step
The MCSD Azure Solutions Architect certification is a building block, opening up opportunities in DevOps, Cloud, app development, and more! Azure is just the beginning! Learners who earn their MCSD Azure Solutions Architect certification most typically also consider:

Career Considerations
Payscale.com provides information that can help learners determine appropriate pay scales for job opportunities associated with the MCSD certification. Depending on experience, an employee who holds an MCSD certification can earn anywhere between $47,928 and $150,070. Common roles or titles for those that hold an MCSD include software engineer, senior software engineer, software developer, senior software engineer/developer/programmer, and software architect.

Microsoft Certifications
Microsoft certifications are laid out as a pyramid, with each level of certification leading learners to higher, more specialized, complex certifications. At the base of the Microsoft pyramid, IT professionals develop the foundation of knowledge with the MTA (Microsoft Technology Associate). The next level is the MCSA (Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate) and MCSD (Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer), which include many of the most popular certifications among IT professionals that are offered by Microsoft, including Server 2012, Office 365, and Azure. Finally, the MCSE (Microsoft Certified Solution Expert) represents the highest level of certification offered by Microsoft and provides learners the opportunity to develop specializations related to MCSA-level content.

As Microsoft describes it, the new MCSE and MCSD certifications (MCSE: Cloud Platform and Infrastructure, MCSE: Mobility, MCSE: Data Management and Analytics, MCSE: Productivity, and MCSD: AppBuilder) are aligned to Centers of Excellence, used by the Microsoft Partner Network to identify technical competencies that are widely recognizable by both Microsoft partners and customers. These credentials do not have a recertification requirement. Instead, the achievement date signifies how you keep up with changes to the technology.

Each year, you have the opportunity to renew the certification by passing an exam from the list of electives, demonstrating your investment in broadening or deepening your skills in a given Center of Excellence. Each time you earn the certification, a new certification entry is added to your transcript. This process replaces the existing recertification requirement of taking a specific recertification exam every two years (MCSD) or every three years (MCSE) to prevent your certification from going inactive. Learn more about the new Microsoft certification structure.

Begin exploring other Microsoft training and certification options to open up even more professional development opportunities.

Concluding Thoughts
With Cloud skills in general and Azure skills in particular, being in high demand, IT professionals can use the MCSD Azure Solutions Architect certification to advance their careers in powerful ways. Earning the Azure certification will equip and empower learners for a rapidly expanding field within the IT industry. Start training today!

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