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Is the AZ-204 Worth It?

Is the AZ-204 Worth It?

Microsoft is going all-in on Azure. That’s apparent across the board from platform integrations to their steady peace with Linux to their certifications. The future of Microsoft is Azure, which means that developers need to follow along.

There are a number of reasons you should take the AZ-204. You may be a new developer. You may be a developer who has never worked with Azure. Or there are a number of other roles that would benefit from taking the AZ-204 — or even just studying for it. 

In this article, we’ll discuss what you should know for the AZ-204, who should take it, and how difficult the exam is. 

What is AZ-204?

The AZ-204 is a Microsoft certification that validates the skills an Azure developer learns in their first year or two on the job. Looking at the AZ-204 exam objectives that mean:

  • How to develop for Azure compute solutions
  • How to develop for Azure storage
  • How to implement Azure security
  • How to monitor, troubleshoot, and optimize Azure solutions

Even though it’s an Associate-level exam, the AZ-204 is a comprehensive exam that covers the major components required to build, deploy, and maintain Azure applications. Those successful on the AZ-204 will earn the Azure Developer Associate certification. 

One of the easiest ways to study for the AZ-204 is with a cloud Bootcamp, which covers the full range of exam objectives while also providing a hands-on lab environment to work in. 

Enroll in our Cloud Computing Bootcamp program to launch your career in cloud technology.

The AZ-204 may be a knowledge and skills exam rather than a practical exam, but hands-on practice and instruction are essential. The exam validates not only that a developer knows which tools to use to build an Azure application, but also tests whether they can use those tools to build the application. 

That’s why anyone who takes the exam should have hands-on experience with the components listed in the exam objectives. For instance, Microsoft lays out what you should know about creating Azure App Service Web Apps:

  • create an Azure App Service Web App
  • enable diagnostics logging
  • deploy code to a web app
  • configure web app settings including SSL, API, and connection strings
  • implement auto-scaling rules, including scheduled autoscaling, and scaling by operational or system metrics

These topics could potentially comprise 10% to 15% of the total exam. As you can see, these exam topics combine both product knowledge as well as Azure-specific skills-based knowledge. Additionally, the AZ-204 assumes a basic proficiency with one or more programming languages. 

It’s important to note that while AZ-204 is a development exam, exam prep material does not teach programming skills. Instead, Microsoft recommends anyone attempting the AZ-204 be proficient in one or more programming languages before taking the exam. 

AZ-203 vs AZ-204: What Happened

In 2018, Microsoft announced that it would transition its product-based certifications over to a role-based certification program. In the last two years, the Azure Developer certification program specifically has suffered a series of starts and stops.

In 2018, Microsoft initially announced the AZ-200 and AZ-201 exam as the two exams required to earn the Azure Developer Associate certification — the apparent replacement for the retiring Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer (MCSD) certification. In late 2019, Microsoft combined the AZ-200 and AZ-201 exams into the AZ-203 exam. By February 2020, Microsoft launched the AZ-204 as the replacement for the AZ-204. The retirement of the AZ-203 came less than five months after it left beta. 

It seems, however, that Microsoft has settled on AZ-204 as the role-based Azure exam moving forward. 

How Difficult is the AZ-204?

As with all exams, the difficulty is entirely linked to how much you study and how much experience you have with the technologies. That’s why it’s important to look at the experience prerequisites and exam objectives before scheduling a technical exam like AZ-204. 

The AZ-204 isn’t particularly hard if you meet the (optional) criteria set by Microsoft for the exam:

  • 1 to 2 years of professional development experience
  • 1 to 2 years of experience with Azure

At first read, it may seem like Microsoft recommends one to two years of total experience, but under some circumstances, it may be two to four years. That’s because Microsoft recommends at least a year of development experience and at least another of working with Azure as a professional developer. 

For instance, if you were working as a professional developer for a couple of years, but not with Azure, then you may want to get another 6 to 12 months of experience before attempting the AZ-204. 

Take note of your own experience. Look through the AZ-204 exam objectives. If you’ve done most of the things listed, then the AZ-204 won’t be too difficult. The AZ-204, like all technical exams, is intended to validate the experience. So if you haven’t done the things on the exam, then the AZ-204 could be difficult. 

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Who Should Take the AZ-204?

The AZ-204 was designed for experienced Azure developers. However, there are a number of other technical career fields that may benefit from the certification, including:

  • New Developers
  • Cloud Administrators
  • DevOps

These three groups of technical professionals may benefit from the AZ-204 exam material even if they never attempt the exam. However, AZ-204 is the only exam required to earn the Azure Developer Associate, so it doesn’t hurt to try the exam.

AZ-204 for New Developers

As stated before, Microsoft recommends at least one year of professional experience before attempting the AZ-204. New developers who find themselves in an Azure shop are in a particularly good position to use the AZ-204 exam objectives to both learn their new job and also study for the exam.

The AZ-204 exam objectives are essentially a roadmap for your first year on the job. New developers are always exposed to every facet of application development immediately. They are often started off with the basics and then progress into more advanced projects. Similarly, not every application or dev environment uses everything covered in the AZ-204. 

The AZ-204 fills in the technological blind spots that a new developer encounters in their first couple of years whether through the scope of work or company architecture. By studying for the AZ-204, you’ll not prepare to become a certified Azure Developer, but also just a better Azure developer. 

AZ-204 for Cloud Administrators

Cloud administrators are increasingly required to learn code, which may be daunting, but it’s a valuable skill. Azure supports a number of languages including C, Python, and JavaScript. Cloud admins just learning one of these languages can use the exam objectives as a way to learn Azure services, development, and language. 

The AZ-204 is everything an entry-level developer should have learned in their first couple of years on the job. By punching through the list of objectives like a to-do list, cloud administrators can easily expand their Azure skills while also upskilling themselves. It may be difficult to find the right project to accomplish bullet points like:

  • implement solutions that use Azure Event Grid
  • implement solutions that use Azure Notification Hubs
  • implement solutions that use Azure Event Hub

However, other objectives are entirely within the wheelhouse of a cloud administrator — and can make life easier. Some of the Azure services don’t even require coding. With services like Logic App, cloud administrators don’t even need code to create automated processes between services. 

The AZ-204 is absolutely worth it for cloud administrators looking to move into development or simply get better at using automation and development to automate their job.

Is the AZ-204 Worth It?

It depends. The AZ-204 is an entry-level development certification, so it depends on where you are in your career and where you want your career to go. Like all role-based certifications, Microsoft wants to validate the skills you need to be successful in your role. In this case, it’s your role as an Azure developer. If you’re new to development, want to get into it, or just want to learn some automation to make life easier, then the AZ-204 is definitely worth it.

Connect with our experts for counseling on your next step to succeed as a cloud expert.

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