Roadmap to Success: MCSA Cloud Platform

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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.

With the launch of Microsoft’s new certification structure, IT professionals have an abundance of new options for certification, such as the MCSA: Cloud Platform. As ever more organizations are relying on the cloud for scalability, flexibility, cost savings, and improved collaboration, cloud administrators are increasingly in demand. Generally, the MCSA: Cloud Platform certification qualifies learners for roles including systems administrator, IT manager, cloud administrator, cloud architect, systems engineer, cloud & infrastructure engineer, and more.

Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA): Cloud Platform

The Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA): Cloud Platform certification is designed to demonstrate your expertise in Microsoft cloud-related technologies to reduce IT costs and deliver more value for modern businesses. The MCSA: Cloud Platform certification is made up of two exams, both of which are covered by CBT Nuggets training:

Generally, learners interested in pursuing the MCSA: Cloud Platform certification should have 1-2 years of professional experience, including experience designing, programming, implementing, automating, and monitoring Microsoft Azure solutions. Learners also should have 1+ years web development experience (.NET, PHP, Node.js, or Python), an understanding of basic networking concepts, and experience working with virtualization and virtual machines.

Microsoft considers the MCSA certification an entry-level certification, however, learners should note that CBT Nuggets lists the relevant coursework as intermediate due to the complexity of the content.

Exam Details

Because of Microsoft’s certification and exam updates, Azure has had significant technology changes. The exams associated with the MCSA: Cloud Platform certification reflect the technological changes, even if the official exam objectives currently do not.

Time allotted for exam: 2 hours (120 minutes) per exam
Number of Questions: 40-60 per exam
Passing score: 700* per exam
*Because the number of questions varies, it is not necessarily true that learners must earn 70 percent to pass the exam.
Question types: Multiple choice/single answer; multiple choice/multiple answer; matching; simulations; short answer
Exam registration: Microsoft Learning or Pearson Vue
Please note that MCSA: Cloud Platform certification exams may be available for online proctored delivery.
Exam cost: $165 (USD) per exam
Skills Measured: Each exam registration page on the Microsoft website provides a list of Skills Measured (free resources) to guide your study and preparation.

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 no cost. Please note that the Exam Replay may not always be available. As of this post’s publication date, both the 70-532 and 70-533 exams include an Exam Replay, but that may change. Learners should research Exam Replay availability to avoid missing out on the opportunity.

Recertification

Microsoft’s MCSA certifications do not expire, meaning no recertification or continuing education is necessary to keep your MCSA certification valid. MCSA certifications are, effectively, lifetime certifications that are valid as long as the technology exists. However, under Microsoft’s new certification structure, earning an expert-level certification (MCSE) can be accomplished by taking just one additional exam, of your choosing from a pool of exam options.

The Next Step

Most learners who successfully earn the MCSA: Cloud Platform will continue on the same track, advancing their certification to the expert level with the MCSE. Under Microsoft’s new certification structure, earning the MCSE: Cloud Platform and Infrastructure certification requires that learners pass just one additional exam from a pool of 10 exam options. CBT Nuggets offers training for seven of the 10 course options: 70-532: Developing Microsoft Azure Solutions, 70-533: Implementing Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Solutions, 70-534: Architecting Microsoft Azure Solutions, 70-413: Designing and Implementing a Server Infrastructure, 70-414: Implementing an Advanced Server Infrastructure, 70-246: Monitoring and Operating a Private Cloud, and 70-247: Configuring and Deploying a Private Cloud.

Learners sometimes choose to supplement their product-specific expertise with further Microsoft certifications. Often, learners opt for:

Career Considerations

Payscale.com  and SimplyHired.com are excellent resources for helping learners determine average pay scales for job opportunities associated with roles in IT. The MCSA: Cloud Platform certification is typically held by system administrators or system engineers. SimplyHired.com reports an average salary for those holding an MCSA at $60,525. Payscale.com reports a broader range of salaries, dependent on professional experience, at $41,617 to $134,543. Common roles or titles for those who hold any MCSA certification include systems administrator, IT manager, senior systems administrator, and network administrator.

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 Windows 10. 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. Every year, you have the opportunity to re-earn 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

The MCSA: Cloud Platform certification sets you up for a career in cloud technologies, a field that is rapidly expanding. As cloud technology grows and evolves, you can open up amazing job opportunities by earning relevant certifications, creating a career path that will be secure and rewarding now and in the future. Launch yourself into the cloud with the MCSA: Cloud Platform certification! 

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