Is the AZ-204 Worth It?
Generally, you can't go wrong with Microsoft Azure certifications. However, there are certain scenarios in which the Developer Associate makes more sense than others.
Earning the latest iteration of the Azure Developer Associate certification is a compelling option for anyone already familiar with programming languages like C# and .NET. But like most certifications with a strong coding component, the AZ-204 exam isn't necessarily for everyone.
If you're already well underway in your career as an Azure developer, then your project portfolio speaks for itself. For anyone just starting out, or trying to break into the career field, Azure Developer Associate is absolutely worth the time and effort.
Who Should Take the AZ-204?
If you are looking at becoming Azure Developer Associate-certified, then the AZ-204 (Developing Solutions for Microsoft Azure) is going to be your go-to certification. This cert has been on something of a journey in the past couple years. It is the amalgamation of the now-retired AZ-200 and AZ-201 — and also the soon-to-be retired AZ-203 — exams. There are three scenarios where the AZ-204 is worth it.
Scenario 1: You know how to code, but have no Azure experience
In the first scenario, you've been using C# and .NET for more than a year (just like Microsoft recommends), but don't have any Azure-specific experience. For someone in this situation, the AZ-204 absolutely makes sense. You'll learn how the Azure platform works, how certain coding approaches will work better than others, and how to roll out your creations and then maintain them.
Note the particular emphasis here on existing programming knowledge. That's because the exam will not teach you how to code from scratch. Instead, AZ-204 is designed for programmers who want to develop Azure solutions.
After you have passed the exam, you will be certified as an Azure Developer Associate, and you can start job hunting for a role that will give you more real-world experience and help you grow into the role.
Scenario 2: You're Already an Azure Developer
In the second scenario, you're already a developer working with Azure. You might have picked things up over the years — and are now looking to validate your skills and earn the certification officially. This is a double-edged sword because on the one hand, you will be learning new things that you might not necessarily be doing in your current role, which is great.
On the other hand, you might have to unlearn some bad habits and shortcuts that have been working pretty well for you up until now. (If best-practices are something that you are looking to implement going forward, that is).
Scenario 3: You want to upgrade from scripting to programming
In the first two scenarios, you're already a developer. The third scenario assumes some coding knowledge, but not necessarily programming experience. In this case, AZ-204 will also set you up for success. As a script wizard, you might need to build up some core programming skills along the way.
It is definitely do-able if you give yourself enough time and you make the effort to learn the prerequisite coding skills needed to pass the exam. This approach is going to be a lot harder, but there's no downside to learning programming right now.
Why Become a Certified Microsoft Azure Developer?Regardless of where you're coming from, AZ-204 will get you on a path toward becoming a Microsoft Azure Developer Associate. By earning the AZ-204, you'll be showing future (and current) employers you are able to build enterprise-grade Azure applications and services. Given that Azure is creeping up on AWS for market share, that's exactly where you want to be. Azure development is a specialized career field and Microsoft-certified candidates are in high demand.
Is the AZ-204 Worth It?
The short answer is yes — if you have programming experience. Earning the AZ-204 certification will definitely help you to further your career as a developer, or tailor existing C# and .NET skills to the Azure developer platform. However, be warned, this is not a stepping stone certification to help get you out of a help desk role. Good luck on your certification journey.