Microsoft Certifications: Worth the Effort and Cost?

Landscape to becoming Microsoft certified gives you several different paths to choose from, depending on your job requirements. And while they may seem attractive, the question remains, are Microsoft certifications really worth it?

Microsoft Certificates will get your resume recognized by HR and will help get you through the door. Microsoft Azure certs, in particular, are highly sought after and will let the company know that at least you have a minimum of knowledge for that job position.

Certificates validate your skill and give certain assurance to the hiring manager. Most Microsoft certs are beneficial, and Azure ones especially, even more than Google’s GCP certificates.

What’s more, if the company uses Azure or AWS, then Microsoft Azure certificates are worth it regardless of what kind of cloud provider it is, AWS or Azure or some other. Getting a Microsoft certification verifies that your experience is transferrable to industry knowledge, not just your company.

Can Microsoft Certifications Get You a Job?

Microsoft Certified Certifications

Since having a Microsoft certificate grants a certain assurance of minimum knowledge to an employer, it most certainly can get you a job, especially for an entry-level position. For some job positions, it’s a requirement and often discussed during an interview.

Azure certificates are highly sought after, more so if you can back up the skills. Companies often equate Azure certifications with dedication to technological advancements, seeing certified professionals as forward-thinking and updated. A certification often acts as a testimony to your commitment, giving recruiters confidence in your ability to handle advanced tasks right off the bat.

Additionally, getting Microsoft certified can get you some prestige with your management, which you can use to prove that you deserve a raise. 

Recruiters love to see Microsoft certifications, especially the Azure ones. 

This is especially true on LinkedIn. You may want to post your certs on LinkedIn to look more attractive to other prospective recruiters, which can land you a job. Certain other certificates are especially attractive to recruiters on LinkedIn, such as an AWS Certification and GCP. Doing this will almost certainly increase the number of opportunities you’re presented with, and the number of offers you get.

Additionally, getting a Microsoft cert makes it easier to change career paths. For example, if you get an AZ-400 certificate, then you can generally transition into a DevOps role at many companies.

Azure certificates are highly sought after.

When it comes to getting into the Azure cloud, you also need some actual experience to start working in this field. For a junior-level position, if you can set up a personal project and document your technique via a git repository, you will stand out in the sea of potential applicants.

Having a certificate is a plus, but the most important thing a hiring manager will look for in an applicant is experience in the field, and this will give you some.

Where to Start With Microsoft Certifications?

Generally, the best place to start with Microsoft certs is with AZ-900 (Azure fundamentals), MS-900 (Microsoft 365 Fundamentals), AZ-104 (Azure Administrator), and SC-900 (SCI). These are highly sought after, and teach you the fundamentals for different career paths.

You don’t even need to take the certs, just learn from the modules and then at the end decide where you want to go, depending on your job requirements. However, possessing the certification can provide that competitive edge in tight job markets, showing tangible proof of your expertise.

Highly recommended to check out this landscape to become Microsoft Certified, which gives an overview of all the available Microsoft certificates you can get.

How to Get Get Microsoft Certified?

Generally, Microsoft Learn is sufficient (plus free) to get your Microsoft certs. Additionally, most employers offer some kind of reimbursement to get a certificate. If they’re Microsoft partners, then they may get a certain number of certs per year, which you can take.

Ask your HR person or MS partner contact to figure out if you can get any of the Microsoft certificates from your company.

Another great way to learn about Azure/M365 is John Savill’s content on YouTube. The AZ-900 video is pretty good:

How Hard Is It to Get Microsoft Certified?

Depending on your skills and hands-on experience, getting Microsoft Certified is generally harder than it seems, especially for Azure Certifications. If you don’t have any cloud background, it will be harder than you think.

All Azure certificates require some prior familiarity with the platform. As far as other paths go, such as 365, Power Platform certificates, or Security certs, they are usually harder than they seem, regardless of your experience. These certifications can open doors to specialized roles where specific expertise is valued, potentially leading to higher remuneration.

One of the easiest Microsoft certificates to get is AZ-900, which is an entry-level certificate teaching you fundamentals in the Azure cloud. This is a highly useful certificate and is generally recommended as an entry-level cert.

How Long Does It Take To Get Microsoft Certified?

The scope for most of the Azure certs is broad, and even with experience, you’ll need 2-3 months on average per Azure certificate. As far as other paths/roles go, the timeframe is similar of at least 2 months per certificate.

Typically, completing AZ-900 takes about two months for a novice and the same with AZ-104. With some experience, you can complete AZ-305 in 2 to 3 months.  In general, the time it takes for you to learn will depend on your skill and experience, and the type of certificate you’re pursuing.

How Long Does a Microsoft Certification Last?

Microsoft role-based Certificates and specialty certifications are valid for one year from the date that you complete all the requirements to earn that certification. Microsoft fundamentals certifications do not expire, and it’s the same with MOS, MTA, and MCE.

For those that do expire, you need to renew the certification with a test on Microsoft Learn for free before your certification expires. If it expires, you won’t be able to renew it but will need to re-earn the certification by having to pass the exams again.

This isn’t so bad when you think about it. You can renew certs for free, and if you fail, study the areas you missed and take the test the next day. Microsoft has made it simple and cost-effective.

If you’re wondering what the renewal is like, it’s just a quiz via Microsoft Learn, with the same style of questions as the standard exam. The difficulty is about the same if not a bit easier.

Here’s a good video on the experience with Azure Certification Renewal:

Is Microsoft 365 Certification Worth It?

There are several great 365 certs to pursue, not only because there are jobs that want employees who specialize in Microsoft 365, but also because some certification exams require knowledge in other areas, such as Azure AD, which is a valuable skill. 

A couple of M365 certs are highly useful, such as MD-100 (Windows), MD-101 (Managing Modern Desktops), MS-100 (Identity and Services), MS-101 (Mobility and Security). 

You can choose your path and go for what’s relevant to you so you don’t have to do all of these, but specialize in a certain role.

Some certs, such as Microsoft 365 Security Administrator Associate Certificate focus heavily on security and compliance in an Office 365 environment. If you’re going towards a security admin role, this certificate is definitely worth it, but only if your company has the appropriate M365 enterprise and Azure licenses.

Is Microsoft Azure Certification Worth It?

Azure skills are highly sought after, and getting an Azure certification is generally recommended because it’s considered to be at the level of AWS and GCP certificates. All very popular, all generally recommended, and definitely worth it. 

They can also be mandatory for some positions, or a plus on your resume depending on what you’re pursuing to do.

Some Azure certs are more in demand than others, but they can all help you in your career. For example, AZ-104 is probably the Azure certification that is most demanded if you’re trying to move in the Azure cloud towards a sysadmin role, while AZ-900 (Fundamentals) is best for those new to the cloud platform and will get you familiar with some terminology. 

Both of these are well-known certs and are generally recognized as a positive bonus. AZ-900 can also help you articulate the basics of Azure from a commercial perspective.

Becoming Microsoft Certified

But what gets you the job is mostly experiences, not the certs. These are just the bonus. If you can deploy a simple solution, document it on Github, and mention it during an interview (or in your resume), then you’ll have a much higher chance of getting contacted afterward, passing to another round of an interview, or even landing a job.

While experience paints a picture of your journey, certifications spotlight your milestones, offering a comprehensive view of your professional caliber.

And if you’re worried that you have an Azure cert while moving into a company where they use AWS or vice-versa, you shouldn’t worry because they’re all a similar set of tools. Fundamentally, if you can drive one cloud provider it’s just a matter of terminology and familiarity to get up to speed with another.

Is Microsoft Office Specialist Certification Worth It?

Being one of the most widely used computer application suites in the world, this is a good cert to get, especially if you lack job experience, or if you’re teaching Office.

A resume that claimed competence in Microsoft Office could mean a lot of things, but having a proper certification on it tells the hiring manager that at least you meet a certain minimum. The certificate can also get you some legitimacy if you’re looking for clients, in regards to the Office 365 suite.

However, what’s far more important is the knowledge and skills you’ll gain regarding the O356 stack while doing the course, so keep that in mind.

Is Microsoft Power BI Certification Worth It?

Getting a Power BI Cert such as a DA-100 (now called PL-300) is very useful to a novice to learn some fundamentals. In addition to that, the average salary for a skill of Power BI is quite high, so this cert is almost certainly worth it, especially for a beginner.

The module PL-300 goes through a wide range of topics, but only on the surface, so keep that in mind. If you’re a beginner, it may take you 2-3 weeks of studying.

Hands-on experience plays a major role in your ability to pass this exam, which for experienced people shouldn’t be difficult. Once you finish the exam, you’ll get your results instantly. If you passed, you get your Microsoft Certified: Power BI Data Analyst Associate Certification.

The average salary for the skill of Power BI is about $100k in the US, according to Radacad and ZipRecruiter. Therefore, it’s not a bad skill to learn and have in this day from a monetary standpoint. The price of the certification is $165.

Is It Worth Getting Excel Certified?

Getting Excel certified isn’t very expensive or hugely time-consuming, but whether you’ll benefit from it will depend on two factors: whether the job requires an Excel expert, and whether you’re just starting out your career.

Excel certificate is great for junior roles, where no one has anything much to set them apart. A hiring manager will recommend this for anyone just setting out in their career, but not so much if you’re an accountant veteran.

Therefore, if the job requires an Excel expert, some employers will care whether you simply wrote “excel expert” on your resume, compared to actually having a proper Excel certificate.

How much do Excel experts earn?

According to Zip Recruiter, Excel experts earn about $47,621 on average in the US, with the highest paying cities being San Jose and Oakland, California. It’s not the highest paying job, but it’s still a job worth pursuing, and the skill used almost everywhere.

Is getting Excel certification hard?

Getting an Excel certification doesn’t take a lot of effort for most people, while on the other hand, it may bring you a few more interviews simply because of the cert. And, once you’re good at it, excel can be fun and much easier to learn.

What is the highest paid Microsoft Certification?

According to ZipRecruiter, the highest-paid Microsoft certification is Expert in Azure Solutions Architecture, with an average salary for Azure solutions architect in the US of $145,472 a year, or about $70 an hour.

Since there are about 15 MS certs that have been retired a few years ago, the 2nd highest right now appears to be Azure Administrator Associate, with Global Knowledge reports the average salary being $121,420.

Final thoughts

Don’t just pursue certifications, no matter how attractive they may seem. Try to pursue actual professional experience, as it’s much more valuable. If you can’t get any, try to do a few projects as you’re pursuing certificates, and document them. You can mention this during an interview or in an application for a job to raise your chances of landing that dream job of yours. Learn what you need first, and get certificates only as a bonus. Good luck!

  • Alex Mitch

    Hi, I'm the founder of! Having been in finance and tech for 10+ years, I was surprised at how hard it can be to find answers to common questions in finance, tech and business in general. Because of this, I decided to create this website to help others!