Originally published on February 9, 2021 — Microsoft®Certification for Health Professionals (and non-health too) | LinkedIn
This blog post isn’t an endorsement of Microsoft (MS) products, but more a description for ways to upskill for health professionals who are using MS technology and wish to certify. This is a perspective piece and hopefully folk out there find benefit in what they read here.
I’ve written this blog post for health professionals (and non-health people) interested in Microsoft role-based certification. I work as a medical doctor (and informatician) and started my Microsoft learning journey around 9 months ago. I’d received an offer to attend a free Azure Virtual Training day session with certification voucher around May/June 2020 and started my journey as our country exited COVID-19 lockdown.
I’ve carried on doing certifications since this time and have completed a total of 10 MS badges (see above). I have past learning in software engineering, but believe that the fundamental exams (1 star) can be done without a technical background (although some effort and learning will be required).
Given the rapid uptake of digital health solutions, it is probably timely for health professionals to upskill in technology. Microsoft learning pathways offer a way to understand their platforms and products — which could be highly relevant, especially if they are used in your workplace.
Certainly with the development of AI, analytics, chatbots, telehealth and automation — it is likely that we will see seismic shifts in the way that health is practiced over the next decade. Big data will play a more significant role as precision medicine, learning health systems and other systems/services evolve.
Microsoft is just one of the big players in the market, with the other big players [Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud Platform (GCP) and Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI)] also likely playing significant roles in the future health space. The growth of ‘data lake’ technology applied to health appears to be in-motion, and when combined with the use of HL7® Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR®) and cloud uptake/migration, leading to a near horizon where digital health will evolve.
Hence, it is timely that health professionals learn more about technology (whether it is AI, ML, Big Data, Cloud, AWS, GCP, OCI, AB etc etc) to stay ahead of the curve. I believe that building understanding in technology is crucial, regardless of your background or role. This article simply highlights one of the current opportunities that are available for interested health professionals wishing to learn more in the technology field.
Microsoft Virtual Training Days
Microsoft® has some great opportunities for virtual training that are currently available. These free virtual training days are run regularly and currently offer free certification vouchers at completion of the event for Azure Fundamentals (AZ-900), Azure AI Fundamentals (AI-900), Power Platforms (PL-900) and Dynamics 365 fundamentals (MB-901). The two other certifications — Azure Data Fundamentals (DP-900) and Microsoft 365 (MS-900) may also become available in the future.
These virtual training days offer a great way for people working in health to upskill and learn about the various technologies that are on offer through Microsoft. As the courses outlined above are aimed at a fundamental level, there are several generic concepts covered that are vendor-agnostic (e.g. AI methods, IAAS/PAAS/SAAS, hybrid/private/public cloud). There is an opportunity to learn about concepts such as cloud technology (through Azure fundamentals), AI (through Azure AI), Microsoft 365 (e.g. teams), automated workflows (through Dynamic 365) and dashboards (through Power Platforms) through the learning pathways.
Coming from a health background, the idea of completing these certifications might feel a little overwhelming. However, with the evolution of technology and the availability of these training opportunities, it is probably timely to learn about these products — especially if they are being used in your workplace.
Question: I haven’t studied technology… I’m trained in health…? You need an IT degree right?
Well, the good news is that the fundamental courses are well-run and the presenters are very engaging. While the sessions are run live, the style is informational. The format is similar to a webinar (or lecture from university) where you’re presented some interesting facts. There is a Q&A box where you can ask questions and often you’ll get a response as the session proceeds. You don’t have to worry about doing tests during the training day or being asked questions. I personally don’t think that you need an IT degree to engage with the content, but you may need to do some additional reading to understand the content and context, either before or after the session.
The sessions vary in length from half-day (Power Platform), all day (Azure Fundamentals, AI, Data) and two-day (Dynamics 365) training days. The content is interesting and it is likely you may learn new product capabilities along the way.
Question: And I have to sit an exam at the end of it? Are there learning materials available?
The good news is that you don’t have to sit the exam immediately. There will be additional learning that is required, but also some free resources to do this (such as Microsoft learning pathway). You can complete these materials in your own time as self-directed learning.
If you prefer instructor-led training, this is a paid option. You’d consult your local Microsoft regional center to understand how much this costs and how to engage with training providers regionally.
I used the self-directed learning options and this was fine for completing the exams.
Booking for virtual training days
There are two ways to book for virtual training days.
- If you are US-based then you would use this link here (https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/trainingdays)
- If you are non-US then you may use this link here (https://events.microsoft.com/)
You will need to find the right entry (e.g. “Microsoft Azure Virtual Training Day: Fundamentals”). There are other virtual training days that are available, but if you wish to make use of the free certification offer, then you need to look for a similar entry as the example above.
Usually, once you click on the session link that you wish to attend, you’ll be taken to a registration page. Check the bottom of the page to check for eligibility for voucher, and if so, then you should register for the session (see below picture for where you might look)
The screen appearance may vary (depending on platform or session) but usually their is similar information presented as shown in the red-box if this is an eligible session. (Note: I’ve added the red box to the picture to highlight the area to check — it might appear different on your display).
You’ll have to input your details if you wish to attend the session and usually there is a confirm or register button at the bottom of the textbox section that you’ll click. Obviously if you don’t feel comfortable registering or sharing your details, you can always close the window and consider other options for attending training.
Tips for booking
- I would suggest to use a Microsoft email address. If you don’t have one, then create one for your virtual training day and exam/certification/learning profile — this seems to be the easiest option.
- Be prepared for sessions to be full (as they can be popular) and that the sessions may start at different times (sometimes can be early hours of the morning). If you select a session that is 30 days ahead there can be a greater likelihood of booking a session.
- Be aware that sessions may be run in different timezones (so check against local time if somewhere far away).
- If you are using the events.microsoft.com (non-US) page, then be aware that you can remove/add filters that you desire (e.g. such as English language for me and hours 0900–2200h).
Lastly, when attending the session, make sure that you complete the event so that you remain eligible for the exam voucher opportunity.
Question: Well I completed the Virtual Training Day…. so where is my voucher?
Vouchers can take up to a week to appear in your Microsoft certification dashboard. Usually you should receive within this timeframe.
The exam voucher should appear once you have selected the correct exam (e.g. AZ-900 for Azure fundamentals Training Day) and you should get a click-box that states something similar to “Virtual Training Day Attendance — 100% discount”
To register for the exam
To register for the exam — this is probably the best place to start — ( https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/learn/certifications/)
As suggested above — having a Microsoft account works best — setting up a specific account for these purposes may be best if you are using a work computer for example
You will need to search for your exam (e.g. in the example above I’ve suggested looking for Azure Fundamentals if you completed the Azure fundamentals Training Day) and you should be brought to a screen with different options. It’s usually here that you can choose Pearson-Vue, Certiport or other exam provider.
If this is the first-time that you are using the platform then you may need to update some details. However, these details may have already been added from your profile — so make sure that they are correct. You usually have to click on a button to proceed, and then you should be taken to the exam discounts page.
- Everything done correctly, there should be a “Virtual Training Day Attendance — 100% discount” box that you can click.
- If this doesn’t appear, check that you have selected the right exam and be aware of the advice above (e.g. Vouchers can take a week to appear in this dashboard). Should this not be the case — then it may be best to check with Microsoft forums to explain the issue you are having. Usually a support technician can help.
You should then be brought to a screen where you can check whether you prefer a proctored or onsite option (if available).
- Onsite testing centers may be available dependent on region. However, with concerns around coronavirus — onsite testing may not be available
- Proctored/Online exams can be scheduled at home or you could do at your office. Make sure that you run a test first wherever you plan to do it, and ensure that you have the correct set-up for exams (good internet connection, web camera etc)
When selecting your exam day, ensure that you have the correct date and timezone selected. Under the current rules (you’ll need to check this when you register for exams) — you should have at least five days to cancel an exam and re-schedule. Less than five days and if you don’t attend your exam session, you may find that your free exam sitting has been consumed.
Prep for exams
There are several resources available for prep.
- Microsoft Learn — has learning pathways (e.g. Azure fundamentals learning pathway) with modules that you can complete. This should provide adequate material. It’s available currently free of charge
- Pluralsight — this is available but at a cost. I haven’t used this, but several people have given good feedback about this resource.
- Online videos from third parties — Susanth’s A Guide to Cloud and John Savill Youtube channels are some of the content online to prep.
- Others: Linux Academy, A Cloud Guru and several others also available
- There are also several blogs describing study guides, exam experiences and learning methods. A simple web search may find a suitable blog. Here is an example from my learning friend Elkhan Yusubov. There are many similar blogs/articles available — just search!
Practice tests are essential. Although not mentioned up until this point, the passing mark is 700/1000 (can be higher or lower than 70%). I personally would read any prep materials twice, and only when starting my second revision start doing practice tests. I’d do practice tests until scoring >85% or higher (usually higher).
- Microsoft offers official practice exams but these come at a cost. I didn’t use these practice exams due to budget. However, if you wish to do this, then you can pay for these.
- Whizlabs and providers offer exams at a fraction of the cost. The tests for Whizlab are not exact, but give you some idea around general question types and patterns. Usually there is some additional supplemental content for questions when you review your practice sitting.
Well — if you’ve reached this point then good luck!
Try and be relaxed on the exam day, hydrate well, and choose a time that suits you.
- Read the exam questions properly and consider what is being asked. Don’t worry if you don’t know the answer, you can make an educated guess or tag the question to review and move on. If you do tag for review, make sure that you review any outstanding questions before submission. There is an old adage that the first choice is usually the right choice — so keep this in mind if you’re unsure….
- If proctored — ensure that you have the correct set-up required for sitting the exam (e.g. webcam, good internet, quiet space, clear deskspace etc).
- If you’ve followed my previous advice, then you’ve also done your equipment tests days before the exam.
I would advise to follow the instructions to sign-in 30 minutes before the exam time, and ensure that all your set-up is correct. There are usually some preliminary activities that you need to complete
- Passed the exam — congratulations — I’d suggest that you share your achievement, and go forth with your new knowledge
- Failed the exam — these exams are about learning. Sometime it’s not the first go but the second or third. Many people fail the exams. Perseverance can pay off, and I’d suggest looking at areas that you need to improve and work on before trying again. If you don’t go again — then well done for giving it a go!
Finally, best of luck on your MS learning journey. There is a lot of things that can be learnt, and hopefully your new knowledge will help you in your career or future plans. Certainly I’ve found it helpful and hope you do too ^^
Links to my other articles (on medium)
DISCLAIMER: Please be aware that I have put together this personal perspective resource in the hope of enabling more people to upskill. These views are solely my perspective and do not represent the views of Microsoft (or it’s affiliates/partners). Any information herein is a personal opinion and to be used at your discretion.
I do not accept any personal liability for the suggestions/links provided/accuracy of information that are published herein and suggest that you seek further/alternate opinion before deciding to proceed with courses or exams. I welcome any feedback/suggestions to the current version.