Certifications / Microsoft

Microsoft Rolls Out Role-Based Certifications in 2019

by Jeremy Aucoin
Microsoft Rolls Out Role-Based Certifications in 2019 picture: A
Published on January 3, 2019

In 2019, Microsoft announced a whopper of a change to its certifications. Until about November 2019, you could browse Microsoft exams and find exactly what you'd expect — a list of technologies, certifications, and what you should know about them.

But with the release of role-based certifications, Microsoft shifted the focus from product knowledge to a skills-based approach based on specific job roles.

Microsoft's Taking the Career Development Approach

With role-based certifications, Microsoft finally acknowledges the thing IT pros have been saying for years. There's a disconnect between the knowledge required to earn a certification and the knowledge required to perform job tasks. Microsoft not only acknowledges that fact but also attempts to fix it.

They announced new role-based certifications as a better way to prepare learners for careers, shifting the focus from technologies to the skills needed for specific job roles.

In 2019, the first role-based certifications went live for three Azure job roles: Azure Developer, Azure Administrator, and Azure Solutions Architect. Since then, Microsoft has slowly increased their role-based certification offerings.

You can see the complete list of Microsoft role-based certifications in our Microsoft Certification Guide.

Microsoft Continuing to Retire Exams

Microsoft recently announced they will retire 15 certifications on June 30, 2020. This most recent change was the most drastic and marks the end of all MCSA, MCSE, and MCSD certifications. Here are all the exams that will retire:

  • MCSA: BI Reporting

  • MCSA: Dynamics 365 for Operations

  • MCSA: SQL 2016 BI Development

  • MCSA: SQL 2016 Database Admin

  • MCSA: SQL 2016 Database Dev

  • MCSA: SQL Server 2012/2014

  • MCSA: Universal Windows Platform

  • MCSA: Web Applications

  • MCSA: Windows Server 2012

  • MCSA: Windows Server 2016

  • MCSD: App Builder

  • MCSE: Business Applications

  • MCSE: Core Infrastructure

  • MCSE: Data Management & Analytics

  • MCSE: Productivity

If you're part way through earning a retiring MCSA (meaning you've passed at least one associated exam), you can do the following:

  1. Continue preparing for the original remaining exams. Pass them prior to the listed retirement dates to earn certification.

  2. Stop preparing for the original exams and begin preparing for the transition exams (see below). Passing a transition exam will earn you a role-based certification.

If you're preparing for your MCSE, you have until the retirement date to pass all associated exams. Pass them prior to the listed retirement dates to earn certification.

Role-Based Replacement Exams

To wrap your head around how the new role-based certifications fit with the old system, it's helpful to see the progression of old exams to new exams. Unfortunately, Microsoft doesn't help map old exams to new exams very well. Sometimes that's because there is no clear analog in the new role-based system, but in some cases there's a one-to-one comparison. Here's a list of the most popular retired exams and their role-based counterparts.

NOTE: Microsoft has released and then retired a number of beta exams as well. A few of these are represented here as well.

Microsoft Exam

Exam Replacement

70-532: Developing Microsoft Azure Solutions

AZ-203: Developing Solutions for Microsoft Azure

70-533: Implementing Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Solutions

AZ-100: Microsoft Azure Infrastructure and Deployment

AZ-101: Microsoft Azure Integration and Security

70-535: Architecting Microsoft Azure Solutions

AZ-300: Microsoft Azure Architect Technologies

AZ-301: Microsoft Azure Architect Design

70-346: Managing Office 365 Identities and Requirements

MS-100: Microsoft 365 Identity and Services MS-101: Microsoft 365 Mobility and Security

70-347: Enabling Office 365 Services

MS-100: Microsoft 365 Identity and Services MS-101: Microsoft 365 Mobility and Security

70-695: Deploying Windows Desktops and Enterprise Applications

MD-100: Windows 10 MD-101: Managing Modern Desktops

70-697: Configuring Windows Devices

MD-100: Windows 10 MD-101: Managing Modern Desktops

70-698: Installing and Configuring Windows 10

MD-100: Windows 10 MD-101: Managing Modern Desktops

AZ-100: Microsoft Azure Infrastructure and Deployment

AZ-101: Microsoft Azure Integration and Security

AZ-103: Microsoft Azure Administrator

AZ-103: Microsoft Azure Administrator – retiring March 31, 2020

AZ-104: Microsoft Azure Administrator (BETA)

AZ-203: Developing Solutions for Microsoft Azure – retiring May 31, 2020

AZ-204: Microsoft Azure Administrator (BETA)

Transition Exams

If you've already passed an exam that's been or will be replaced by a role-based certification, there's good news. Microsoft released transition exams that cover changes and new content that wasn't on the original exam.

Transition exams exclude everything covered on the original exams. Instead, they focus on skills not assessed enough on the original exams.

Why Does All This Matter?

If you browse any job board, you'll be hard-pressed to find a job description that doesn't mention certification. When it comes to getting a job or meeting standards within an organization, certifications have become a staple.

But as mainstream as certifications are, no certification can completely prepare you for a career. Though you gain valuable and transferable skills while preparing for certifications, IT certifications show your knowledge of a product — not your competence as an employee. But employers act as if they do.

For better or worse, employers have outsourced their employees' career progression to IT vendors. In some views, it's problematic seeking generic outside counsel to determine what their employees should know. It'd be like asking a manager at Macy's what your wife wants for her birthday rather than her.

In this analogy, that manager is a competent employee, knowing all the daily doorbuster deals, but they don't know your wife. The gift would be generic to all women who fit your wife's demographic. And that's exactly what you get with a certification: a generic knowledge of a product that's unspecific to your job needs.

We've allowed IT vendors (with the use of certifications) to define what employees should know instead of taking the initiative to do it ourselves. And this has led to a gap between the knowledge gained from certification preparation and the knowledge required to perform job tasks.

Microsoft acknowledged this gap, did some research and announced their role-based certifications. These certifications won't just show product knowledge; they'll show employers and peers you're prepared for a career.

What's Next?

Microsoft announced that additional role-based certifications will be released. This marks one of the first steps in the IT certification industry toward career-based knowledge.

This announcement from one of the world's largest IT vendors could be the kindling needed to blaze a new certification trail — one no longer focused on generic overviews of technologies but on the skills and tasks needed by most professionals.

The industry isn't likely to leave product and technology-based knowledge in the dust. But a shift in focus—one specific to job roles and tasks—can lead to more employees gaining the competence they need to excel. And, like Ben Parker used to say, "With great specificity in job training comes greater work performance." Okay, he didn't say that, but he would have if he were an IT professional… and real.

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