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An Introduction to Microsoft’s Big Data Certifications and Courses

By Alex Bennett, Firebrand Training

Big Data spending is set to hit £36.95 billion by 2019, as tech giants like Microsoft invest in large-scale data analytics projects, IDC reports in the Worldwide Semiannual Big Data and Analytics Spending Guide. And with growth in the use of Big Data from manufacturing, healthcare, education and government, demand for these skills is set to grow alongside spending.

But for the organisations eager to progress big data projects, finding the right skills can be challenging; Big Data expertise saw the largest increase in demand over the past few years, a report from Bentley University revealed.

Microsoft continues to invest in Big Data, this year announcing Azure Machine Learning (AML) tools for developers at Ignite. A host of new Big Data certifications and exams are set to arrive imminently with some interesting certifications already available for analytically-minded IT professionals.

It’s never been easier to build your Big Data knowledge; let’s take a look at some of the options professionals now have to train and certify in Big Data with Microsoft.


MCSA: Machine Learning Certification

Unveiled this year, the MCSA: Machine Learning certification is designed for those working in data scientist and analyst positions. It’s ideal for anyone that processes and analyses large data sets using R – one of the most popular open-source Big Data programming languages - or those who are using Azure cloud services to build and deploy Big Data solutions.

Unlike traditional analysis tools, machine learning thrives on huge datasets. This MCSA will build your knowledge of machine learning, giving you the skills you need to explore the opportunities hidden in Big Data.

To achieve this MCSA, you’ll need to pass two exams:

  • Exam 70-773 - Analysing Big Data with Microsoft R
  • Exam 70-774 - Perform Cloud Data Science with Azure Machine Learning

Exam 70-773 will test your ability to process and analyse massive data sets using R. Passing this exam will prove your knowledge of R, data structures, basic programming concepts and debugging. Before attempting the exam, you should build a wider knowledge of Big Data; Microsoft recommends you have a high-level understanding of various data platforms, like Hadoop, SQL Server and core T-SQL capabilities.

Next, pass exam 70-744 to achieve the MCSA: Machine Learning certification. This exam is centred on Azure Machine Learning, Bot Framework and Cognitive Services. To pass it you’ll build knowledge of these Azure data services, alongside machine learning and typical data science processes, like filtering and transforming data sets.

To support your studies, take a look at this free eBook on Azure Machine Learning by Jeff Barnes, available on the Microsoft Virtual Academy.

After you earn the MCSA: Machine Learning, you only need to pick up one more eligible elective exam to earn the MCSE: Data Management & Analytics certification.


MCSE: Data Management and Analytics Certification

With massive Microsoft certification changes in 2016, it’s now possible to achieve an MCSE certification by focusing only on relevant Big Data exams.

After you have achieved your MCSA: Machine Learning certification, consider taking exam 70-475 Designing and Implementing Big Data Analytics Solutions to achieve your MCSE: Data Management and Analytics. Updated in February 2017, this exam focuses on Big Data processing and analysis in Azure, including real-time processing, data factories, and data security.

Not only will passing this exam gain you an MCSE certification, you’ll build on the Big Data knowledge you gained during your MCSA.

Plus, the latest generation of MCSE certifications does not expire. Instead, each credential is now tied to a specific platform or version, so an old MCSE may make itself obvious on your certification portfolio.


MCSA: Data Engineering with Azure

Designed for Big Data professionals that work with HDInsight – a Microsoft service that deploys and provisions Apache Hadoop clusters in the Azure cloud - and analytics solutions on Azure. This unique MCSA certification teaches you the skills you need to engineer data on Azure with HD Insight and Cloud Services.

You’ll get the knowledge you need to design and build analytics and operations solutions on Azure and learn how to implement Big Data engineering workflows on HDInsight.

To achieve this MCSA, you’ll need to pass two exams:

  • Exam 70-775 - Perform Data Engineering on Microsoft HD Insight
  • Exam 70-776 - Perform Big Data Engineering on Microsoft Cloud Services (beta)

Microsoft recommends you have relevant work experience in data engineering across Azure, including Azure SQL Data Warehouse, Azure Data Lake, Azure Stream and Azure Data Factory. You’ll also want to be familiar with batch data-, real-time- and interactive- processing.

Exam 70-776 is currently in beta, but if you pass it now, you’ll receive full credit towards your MCSA: Data Engineering certification. However, you will not get a score report or pass/fail notification until 8-12 weeks after the beta period ends.

Just like the MCSA: Machine Learning Certification, pass just one additional elective exam to achieve the MCSE: Data Management and Analytics.


Microsoft Professional Program in Big Data (edX)

In addition to Microsoft’s certifications and exams, keen big data professionals can also sharpen their skills with the Microsoft Professional Program in Big Data.

Provided through the edX platform and built in collaboration with leading universities and employers, this online programme will help you learn the skills needed to build big data solutions using Azure and open source platforms like Hadoop and Spark.

Made up of three units (10 individual courses) and a final capstone project, the Microsoft Professional Program Certificate in Big Data provides a comprehensive curriculum, featuring courses that teach the skills necessary for a career in big data. Learners can choose from different courses within each unit of study.


Microsoft Virtual Academy

The Microsoft Virtual Academy is home to hundreds of free online video courses. Among them, Microsoft has launched 15 Big Data courses, covering Microsoft Analytics Platform System, HDInsight, Hadoop, Azure Data Lake, machine learning and loads more.

Dive into Big Data with Microsoft before committing to an exam or course by with the Big Data courses on Microsoft Virtual Academy.