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How to Become a Microsoft Azure Solutions Architect and how it can accelerate your career, the full guide

  • Microsoft Azure
  • Solutions Architect AZ-305
  • Certification Guide
  • Published by: André Hammer on Nov 04, 2022
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Are you an experienced IT professional who loves working with Azure? Do you already hold a Microsoft Azure certification and you’d like to advance your career working specifically with Azure? No matter your goals, Microsoft has certifications that will help; one of the best you can get is the Solutions Architect certification.

If you’re curious about how you can advance your IT career, and you’d like to take on a position with more authority and influence working with company stakeholders, then consider becoming a Microsoft Azure Solutions Architect.

Once certified, the position you’ll hold will be demanding, yet rewarding, and the pay for certified professionals is excellent. Holding this certification also makes you a more ideal candidate for certain positions in the corporate world. This means it will be easier for you to get hired.

Companies want to hire Azure-certified professionals

For several years, Azure has been the fastest-growing cloud provider, with a revenue growth of 76% in the last quarter of 2018. There is a massive demand for Azure cloud environments as more companies move their IT infrastructure to the cloud. This, in turn, creates a higher demand for Azure-certified professionals.

When it comes to hiring Azure professionals, many employers will only hire people with specific certifications in order to verify their expertise. This is actually why Microsoft launched its line of Azure certifications – to prepare IT professionals for the Azure-specific roles within companies. These certifications help IT pros land jobs, and they help companies get the right people to fill their open roles. It’s a win-win for everyone.

There are many different Azure-specific certifications you can get, and the Azure Solutions Architect is just one. In this article, you’ll learn about this role-specific certification and how to get certified.

What is an Azure Solutions Architect?

An Azure Solutions Architect is an adept, experienced IT professional who translates business requirements into reliable, secure, and scalable designs that run in Azure cloud environments.

Although it’s not a specific cybersecurity role, it does require a working knowledge of security best practices and strategies, along with expertise in the area of storage.

Azure Solutions Architect roles

As an Azure Solutions Architect, your main roles will be to provide round-the-clock support, set up monitoring systems for software development, execute cloud migrations, and connect with clients to make sure their project is on track and meets all of their requirements.

As a higher-level IT professional, you’ll also be responsible for identifying issues and opportunities for improvement, along with solutions. For example, you might have ideas for upgrading the company’s infrastructure. You’ll then turn your ideas into proposals to share your ideas with C-Suite executives.

Some common Azure Solutions Architect responsibilities include:

  • Provide technical direction to other architects to achieve a goal
  • Create functional and non-functional solutions
  • Create and review artifacts for architecture and design solutions
  • Enforce standards for architectural principles, product requirements, stakeholder requirements, usability, and any other important rules
  • Recommend best practices and standards
  • Analyze architectural solutions and make recommendations
  • Balance the strategic with the practical

Knowledge and tools required:

  • Proficiency building in cloud environments
  • Working knowledge of DevOps, Azure development, or Azure administration – preferably all three
  • Working knowledge of cloud concepts
  • Outstanding communication and team player skills
  • Know how to budget on-demand provisions properly to save money
  • Business continuity and disaster recovery
  • Data management and governance identity
  • Networking and security
  • Virtualization
  • Experience with cost analysis

How to become a Microsoft Certified Azure Solutions Architect

The path to becoming a certified Azure Solutions Architect is simple, but it’s challenging. In general, you need to meet requirements to qualify to take the exam. Once you pass the exam, you’ll be certified. However, there’s a specific path you need to take in order to pass.

For instance, you’ll need to take a prep course. No matter how long you’ve been working with Azure, you probably won’t pass the exam without taking a preparation course.

Here’s an overview of the four general steps involved in becoming an Azure Solutions Architect.

  1. Experience

Generally speaking, to become a Microsoft Certified Azure Solutions Architect, you’ll need several years of hands-on experience working with Azure, scalable applications and systems, and experience with migrating software.

The need for experience also extends beyond Azure knowledge. Before you can fulfil your role as a Solutions Architect, you’ll need to have several years of experience in other roles.

The Azure Solutions Architect certification is required for knowledge, but you’ll also need experience working in the corporate environment at a higher level since the Solutions Architect position is a senior role.

If you get certified and jump into a high-level position without experience working in other company roles, you might get in over your head. Also, despite your certification, companies might not hire you if you don’t have additional working experience.

  1. Take a prep course

Taking a preparation course before sitting for the exam will be the best decision you’ll ever make. When you take our Azure Solutions Architect preparation course, you’ll get instructor-led training that will help you learn new concepts and apply that new knowledge in real situations.

While the practice exams given with your prep course won’t tell you the exact questions that are on the exam, they will contain similar questions that go into the same level of depth. You’ll be required to solve specific problems on your practice exams, and even if those particular problems aren’t on the real exam, you’ll at least know how deep you need to go with your studies.

Practice tests will also help you identify where your knowledge is weak, which will give you the opportunity to study harder in those areas.

Once you take a prep course, you’ll be ready to study a little more and then take the exam that will get you certified.

  1. Study hard

Studying hard for your exam is critical. Once you complete your prep course, take some time to go over what you’ve learned to identify weaker areas and then study those areas hard.

In many cases, taking a prep course provides sufficient study time for people who then go on to take the exam. For many, they pass the first time and become certified right after completing their prep course. However, don’t gauge your own progress by how other people are doing.

Don’t get it in your mind that you should be somewhere you aren’t just because other people were ready to take the exam faster than you. If you need extra time to study, take that time. It’s better to take a little more time to study than to become overwhelmed by your exam and fail.

  1. Sign up for, and pass the AZ-305 exam

The AZ-305 exam consists of questions that focus on Azure technologies. The exam is split into the following topics:

  • Design identity, governance, and monitoring solutions (25-30%)
  • Design data storage solutions (25-30%)
  • Design business continuity solutions (10-15%)
  • Design infrastructure solutions (25-30%)

When it comes to designing infrastructure solutions, you’ll be tested on subjects like virtual machines, networking, storage, and Azure Active Directory. However, the subjects go into detail and you’ll need more than basic knowledge. For instance, you’ll need to know how to make a virtual machine highly available and use Azure Resource Manager to automate deployment.

For networking, you’ll need to know how to use VNET peering and virtual network gateways to connect virtual networks. And it’s not enough to be slightly familiar with Azure Active Directory. You’ll need to know how to enable single sign-on and sync an on-premises Active Directory server.

Where security is concerned, you’ll be tested on your ability to connect an on-premises network to a virtual network in Azure and then use Site Recovery to migrate your on-premises network. Load balancing will also be part of this section, and you’ll need to be skilled in implementing MFA, as well as role-based access controls.

Where implementing authentication and secure data is concerned, you can expect to be tested on implementing Managed Identity to authenticate an application to give it permission to access other services. You’ll also need to know how to encrypt data using Azure Key Vault.

One of the most important parts of this exam will be in the Azure and cloud development section. This part of the exam will test you on your ability to automate resource provisioning so that Azure adds and removes resources based on real-time demands. This sounds easy since it’s automated, but it takes skill to set up the rules correctly.

Mistakes and oversights can be costly in terms of money and performance. You’ll also need to know how to do this in a cost-effective way so that you aren’t wasting any company money.

Study Azure architecture and design

The AZ-305 exam is a bit difficult to pass since it requires extensive knowledge of IT architecture and designing IT environments in Azure. For instance, you’ll be tested on governance, maintainability, and capacity planning. This exam is also where you’ll be tested on optimizing Azure costs and your ability to create an effective monitoring strategy.

When it comes to designing for identity and security, you’ll be tested heavily on using Azure Active Directory. If you work for a large organization, you’ll have a multitude of identities to manage, including users and applications. This will require you to create a solid identity management system along with authentication.

The AZ-305 exam will test you on your ability to design data solutions for the various Azure services like relational and non-relational databases, data warehouses, and data lakes. You won’t just need to know how to use Azure data services – you’ll need to know when each service is appropriate and how to design them for security, availability, durability, and consistency.

You’ll also need to know how to design repeatable ways to deploy Azure resources and integrate applications with Azure API Management. Additionally, you’ll need to design an effective and secure infrastructure strategy for storage and networking.

One of the most important aspects of this exam is about designing a business continuity plan. This will be one of the most important skills you’ll bring to the table when you work for an organization as an Azure Solutions Architect.

According to statistics, 96% of organizations that have a business continuity plan are able to survive ransomware attacks. On the other hand, 93% of companies that don’t have a business continuity plan who suffer a major data disaster end up going out of business within a year of the incident.

Several other details you’ll be tested on include:

  • Determine workload requirements
  • Design for deployment, migration, and integration
  • Design a data platform solution
  • Create and deploy apps
  • Implement Authentication and secure data
  • Implement workloads and security
  • Develop for the cloud and Azure storage

As you can see, this exam is quite difficult because it’s extremely nuanced. This is why you need to study hard to pass.

What specific knowledge is needed to pass the AZ-305 exam?

When you take the AZ-305 exam, you’ll be tested on quite a lot of material. Here are some of the details you’ll be tested on.

Applications. You’ll need to know how to deploy applications with Azure Container Service or Azure App Service.

Authentication and data security. You’ll need to use managed service identity to implement authentication, as well as encrypt data using Azure Key Vault.

Azure Active Directory. You’ll need in-depth knowledge of Azure Active Directory and the ability to connect virtual networks with VNet peering and network gateways. You’ll need to be able to synchronize Azure AD as well.

Business continuity and disaster recovery. You’ll need to know how to create a business continuity plan that maintains high availability using redundancies, Azure Backup, and Azure Site Recovery.

Cloud development. You’ll need to know how to develop a cloud for auto scaling while keeping costs under control.

Data platform solutions design. You’ll need to know how to design solutions across several data services, like data warehouses, data lakes, and both relational and non-relational databases.

Deployment, migration, and integration. You’ll need to know how to deploy various Azure resources, integrate applications using Azure API Management, and migrate services between on-premises and Azure environments.

Infrastructure. You’ll need to use secure design strategies and have the ability to choose the right solution for networking and storage.

Security. You’ll need to be familiar with the security of any product you suggest or build for your company or clients.

Workload requirements. You’ll need to know how to work with capacity planning, governance, and maintenance in an Azure environment.

Everything you need to know about Azure Solutions Architect

Before you start your journey to become a Microsoft Certified Azure Solutions Architect, there are some things you should know about this certification and the roles you’ll be asked to fulfill when searching for a job.

Candidates for the Azure Solutions Architect certification need to have advanced IT experience, including identity and security, business continuity and disaster recovery, virtualization, networking, budgeting, and governance. In addition to this technical knowledge, candidates need to know how decisions in each of these areas will impact the overall solution being implemented.

You’ll have 120 minutes to complete the AZ-305 exam.

  1. How long is Azure Architect certification valid?

The Microsoft Azure Architect certification is good for one year. This certification is easy to renew online for free through Microsoft Learn and you can get your certification renewed up to six months before it expires.

You’ll get an email from Microsoft six months before your renewal date with a link to take a renewal assessment. The renewal assessment will last 45 minutes and many people have said it’s fairly easy to pass. You only need a score of 57% to pass the renewal exam.

However, if you don’t pass the first time, you can take the test again right away. If you fail a second time =, you’ll have to wait 24 hours between retakes. Once you pass, your certification will be valid for another year.

Remember not to let your Azure Solutions Architect certification expire because then you can’t renew. Instead, you’ll need to take the original exam all over again and pass to get recertified. This means you’ll have to pay the exam fee again, so make sure you renew your certification before it expires.

  1. Is the Azure Solution Architect certification worth it?

Whether or not this certification is worth getting will depend on your personal circumstances, including your career and salary goals. If you have a specific career path you want to take that doesn’t involve working in Azure full-time, this certification probably isn’t for you.

However, if your career goals involve specializing in working with Azure, then this would be an excellent certification to obtain.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself to make your decision:

  • Do I want to work in a senior role?
  • Does it sound interesting to work with company stakeholders?
  • Am I passionate about building hybrid and cloud environments with Azure?
  • Am I willing to continue learning to stay on top of the latest technologies?

Since the Azure Solutions Architect certification is role-based, it’s a valuable certification. As more businesses move to the cloud, cloud certifications have become essential for employers in choosing their candidates.

For most Azure-specific roles you must be certified. More than that, this certification demonstrates Azure expertise that will make you more valuable than uncertified candidates.

Microsoft Certified Azure Solutions Architect Salary, Certifications, Jobs and Career

  1. How much do Azure Architects make?

Jumping right into salary, the entry-level salary for a Solutions Architect is roughly $135,000 per year ($80/hour), and the average salary is upwards of $153,000 per year. There are Solutions Architects who earn more than this – up to $183,000 – based on other certifications, skills, experience, and seniority in their companies.

  1. What's the Best Microsoft Azure Certification Path For you?

If you’re going for your Azure Solutions Architect certification, you might already have some other certifications under your belt. If not, here are some other certifications that complement the Solutions Architect certification or that might be ideal for you to pursue as your main career.

Of course, you’ll want to choose your certifications intentionally to make sure you’re not straying from your intended career path. If a certification won’t help you achieve your career goals, then it’s probably better to skip that one.

However, if there are additional certifications you feel will give you a leg up on your personal career path, go for it because the more relevant certifications you have, the more valuable you’ll be to your employers.

  1. What can be the career as an Azure cloud Solution Architect

As a Microsoft Certified Azure Solutions Architect, you can find both remote and in-person jobs. Sometimes employers won’t give you a choice, but if you’re not picky about which company you work for, you can look for only remote or only in-person jobs.

Here’s a list of some of the careers you can get into with an Azure Solutions Architect certification:

Azure-specific careers:

  • Azure Cloud Architect
  • Azure Solutions Architect
  • Azure Lead Solutions Architect
  • Assistant Director Solutions Architect
  • Senior Azure Solutions Architect
  • Infrastructure Cloud Architect
  • Application Security Engineer
  • Enterprise Architect
  • Cloud Security Architect
  • Junior Azure Solutions Architect (entry-level; up to three years experience)
  • Senior Azure Data Architect

As you can see, there are many different Azure-specific career paths you can choose from when you become a certified Solutions Architect.

General careers

Even though Azure is a specific environment, sometimes companies need roles that extend beyond just working with Azure. Some of these general roles include:

  • Senior software engineer
  • Systems administrator
  • Development operations engineer
  • Data engineer
  • Cloud engineer
  • System engineer
  • Data scientist
  • Software architect
  • Java developer
  • Senior Java developer
  • Full-stack developer
  • .NET developer
  • Front-end developer
  • Back-end developer

You really have many different career options as a certified Solutions Architect.

  1. Fulfilling your role in your organization

Getting certified is wonderful, but make sure you’re ready to fulfill the expectations and duties of your role. To fulfill your role as an Azure Solutions Architect, you’ll need strong communication skills, knowledge of cybersecurity protocols, and an understanding of distributed systems. You’ll also need the ability to travel in some cases.

If you choose to work remotely, be prepared to come into the office occasionally no matter how far away you live. For instance, you might need to fly to another state for a meeting, and it’s also possible your boss may want you to attend various meetings and events across the world. All of this will be considered part of your job duties and you will be expected to be a team player when it comes to traveling, whether you’re remote or not.

Plan your career with Microsoft Azure certification

What is your ideal career path? Everyone has their own preferences for working with Azure, so it’s important to focus on what works for you. Your personal goals are the only thing you should consider when planning your career with Microsoft Azure certifications.

  1. Choose the right certifications

Planning your career is critical because you don’t want to spend time, money, and effort pursuing the wrong certifications. Technically, it doesn’t hurt to have all the Azure certifications. However, not all certifications will benefit you. If you try to acquire every single Azure certification just because you want them all, you’ll be busy for quite some time studying and you’ll also take a large chunk of money out of your bank account.

It’s fun to be a jack-of-all-trades, but to get the higher salary, you need to be a master of your trade. The time you spend pursuing, say, three unnecessary certifications could have been time spent gaining more in-depth experience suitable for your desired company role.

  1. Choose a definite career path

It’s okay not to know exactly what you want to do with your Azure certifications, but be aware that not choosing a career path will make it harder for you to reach specific goals. The more specific you are about what career path you want to follow, the more specific goals you can set, and the easier they will be to reach.

Here are some tips for choosing your Microsoft Azure career path:

  • Learn about all the certifications first. Research each Azure certification to learn more about what each one covers. Since Azure certifications were created to match common company roles, it’s safe to assume that whatever is covered on a certification exam will be the ‘meat and potatoes of your job responsibilities when you step into your Azure job role.
  • Choose a certification that aligns with your passion. Instead of choosing your career path based on salary alone, make sure your chosen path centers on your passion. You don’t want to get into a new career only to realize you really don’t like your main roles.

If you’re not interested in the specific focus of a certain certification, choose a certification that is more in alignment with your passion. However, keep in mind that you’ll need to do things outside the realm of your interests at times. For instance, if you don’t really enjoy cybersecurity, there’s no way around it. However, you can skip becoming an Azure cybersecurity specialist.

  • Learn about potential company roles. You’ll be able to land certain roles depending on the certifications you hold. However, you might need more than just Azure certifications and hands-on experience working in an Azure environment. You might need experience leading teams, fostering communication, or training new hires. It all depends on the job role and the company, but you can expect to need more than just Azure expertise to land your ideal corporate job.

Check online job boards and classified ad sites to look at job descriptions that are asking for candidates with your target certifications. This will give you a great idea of what professional skills you’ll need to fulfill potential roles.

If you find that you lack professional experience in any of the common areas, make it your goal to get some of that experience. You might need to work in a non-certified position for a year to gain the necessary experience, and that’s okay. Don’t skip work experience because a future employer will expect you to be able to fulfill the entire role.

  1. Take a preparation course

It’s basically guaranteed that your exam will contain topics that you’re not familiar with, so it’s critical to take a prep course. Even when you are familiar with the topics on the exam, taking a prep course will prepare you for the depth of knowledge you’ll be required to have to pass.

To make sure you’re fully prepared for your exam, sign up for our prep course. You can take it online or in person at various times throughout the year at your convenience. You’ll get access to instructor-led training and you’ll get practice exams that will really help you identify your areas of weakness so you can study more where it’s needed.

Want to become an Azure Solutions Architect? Sign up for our prep course!

If you’re certain you want to become a Microsoft Certified Azure Solutions Architect, sign up for our training course and start preparing now.

Our instructor-led prep course can be taken in-person or online, and includes the exam at the end. Don’t put your career off any longer – get started today with our training course and you’ll be on your way to a new and rewarding Azure career!

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