Is the DA-100 Worth It?
Data analysis is a need that is exploding for many organizations. Companies are quickly learning that they are able to gather large swaths of information and do something with that data. In other cases, large collections of data are already being gathered but nothing is being done with it yet.
This explosion of data analysis has been furthered by the fact that tools are becoming more powerful, more economical and more accessible to smaller businesses that previously could not afford them. In the not too distant past, it was only large organizations that could afford the compute, software and staff needed to power such systems and actually make it worthwhile for their business.
What is the DA-100?
The title for DA-100 is Analyzing Data with Microsoft Power BI. This test grants you a Microsoft Certified: Data Analyst Associate. This test is a successor of Exam 70–778 Analyzing and Visualizing Data with Power BI which is scheduled to retire near the end of January 2021. If you have spent any time studying 70-778, there is a high degree of overlap in the content.
Microsoft Power BI is a Business Intelligence Platform or Service Microsoft puts out to help make it easier for Data analysts to move that data around. It allows analysts to pull data from many different sources and merge it into Business Intelligence reports. Most of this can be done from an easy to use GUI with little to no programming experience.
As you can see from the objectives below, this is all about the data. Unseen from the objective descriptions is that the lens it is viewed through is using Power BI. Understanding the data and being able to pump it into a tool and then out in a manner that makes sense will be key to passing.
Please keep in mind there is a scheduled update to this Exam as of January 27, 2021, however the changes are fairly minimal and this article takes those changes into consideration.
Generally on these certifications, Microsoft is moving towards more of a role-based certification than a tool specific one. This exam takes a step in that direction by opening up to concepts and theory instead of only focusing on Power BI.
What Does the DA-100 Test?
Below are the main objectives for the DA-100:
Prepare the data (20-25%)
Model the data (25-30%)
Visualize the data (20-25%)
Analyze the data (10-15%)
Deploy and maintain deliverables (10-15%)
How Much Does the DA-100 Cost?
The cost of the DA-100 exam is $165. Interestingly enough there are concessions for those affected by COVID-19 reducing it down to $15 under special circumstances through the end of 2021. If you have been out of work due to COVID-19 and are seeking a job, I highly recommend investigating the more economical option on this. It appears to be valid through the end of 2021.
What Experience Do You Need for the DA-100?
Ideally someone exploring this will have familiarity with data. Fairly generic, right? Being familiar with data in this instance refers to understanding data sources, pushing data somewhere, pulling it out and massaging it into various formats. This is independent of whether it is a file, web service, database or a report. Data can come from a multitude of places.
Some exposure to reporting tools or concepts is great to have. This helps give an understanding to the underlying data and a use case of how you would use it. Along with that some of those generic exposures as well as exposure to Power BI or other similar tools can be helpful. This is not absolutely necessary though.
Who Should Take the DA-100?
As with any certification, there are particular job titles that usually benefit from any given certification more than others. Below are a few that would easily slide into this role and generally do well passing the test. Aside from that, a general interest for pulling a wide variety of information and providing useful output can go a long way on this.
This test and subsequent certification is a great addition to most professionals in the IT industry that touch or are exposed to data flows in any capacity. Being an associate level certification, desire and effort can be very effective in retaining information and passing the test.
DA-100 for Data Analysts
Data analyst is the primary title that would investigate taking this test and achieving the certification. A Data analyst is very likely using some tool to pull data from various sources to generate reports for the business. They may even be using Power BI already if they are a Microsoft shop. If not, this would be great exposure to a new tool that could help their day to day job. Along with that, it would grant them an associate level certification to help solidify and validate their knowledge. Many times on the job experience fills quite a bit of the knowledge cup but it can leave a few important gaps and run you into a situation of not knowing what you don't know.
DA-100 for Business Intelligence Analysts
Many organizations may use BI analysts interchangeably with data analysts. Data analysts are primarily concerned with pulling data in and massaging it into reporting outputs for consumption. At a technical level, Business Intelligence is more about taking the data and helping the business make decisions or predict decision paths. It tends to have more to do with what's being done with the data after it’s digested and massaged. In any case a BI analyst could greatly benefit from this certification if they do not already have a higher level certification.
DA-100 for Database Administrators
A database administrator or DBA is likely to be very familiar with some of the technologies and processes involved. They may not use the same tools or terminology but they usually have a great foundation to shift into a data analyst role. It’s not uncommon for them to move data from files to database and export. They may not be as familiar with the reporting aspects of the data but may have some indirect exposure to data analytics. That indirect exposure tends to come from the fact that many times DBAs have to create views and in some cases simplistic reports to make it easier for reporting systems to pull the necessary data.
Is the DA-100 Worth It?
The DA-100 requires $165 and a passing score in order to achieve certification. As mentioned, if you meet the criteria for COVID-19 reduced pricing, it is reduced down to $15. Either way, both prices are fairly economical in the certification world and only require a singular passing test to achieve certification. Being an entry level certification, it is almost certainly worth it as a door opener to a new career or even transitioning into a new role.
Using DA-100 to Learn Skills
The DA-100 is a great path to take in order to learn data visualization as well as Power BI in order to help the business visualize its data. Since the exam is headed toward a more role-oriented path, it also touches on higher level concepts important to Power BI but not all specific to it. Going down this course path can greatly benefit anyone looking to learn more about this field and career path. This is because of the wide variety of data knowledge involved in this study.
Using DA-100 to Validate Skills
While one could argue every certification is a great tool to validate skills, the DA-100 does not only an excellent job at validating Power BI skills but also higher level concepts that translate to related tools. This helps validate a wheelhouse of data analytics and business intelligence knowledge, at least from an associate level certification. Many analysts have a much wider set of skills than just the tool they are using. Therefore, this certification does a great job at also validating those analytic skills and constructs that would be lost on exams that simply focus on the tool at hand.