Earlier this year, Microsoft announced it would retire 15 certifications and 44 exams, including MCSA: BI Reporting, which validated data analysts' expertise using Power BI and Excel to visualise data via dashboards and reports.
The move is the culmination of the company's 2018 decision to focus on role-based certifications such as data analyst, data engineer, and data scientist.
Microsoft recommends individuals who previously would have taken the MCSA: BI Reporting certification instead pursue its new Microsoft Certified: Data Analyst Associate certification. The data analyst role learning path still focuses largely on technical Microsoft Power BI skills.
Market intelligence and advisory firm Mordor Intelligence forecasts the global data visualisation market to achieve a compound annual growth rate of more than nine per cent between 2020 and 2025 as businesses seek to become more analytically driven.
For 13 years running, research firm Gartner has rated Microsoft as a leader in the analytics and business intelligence platform space with a "comprehensive and visionary product roadmap and massive reach through its Microsoft Office channel." Much of that rests on the data preparation, visual-based data discovery, interactive dashboards, and augmented analytics of Power BI.
According to Glassdoor, data analysts with Power BI skills command salaries of US$54K to $113K per year ($76,402 average).
What is a Microsoft Certified: Data Analyst Associate?
Microsoft certified data analyst associates are subject matter experts that can design and build scalable data models, clean and transform data, and provide business value via data visualisations. The certification is intended for data professionals and business intelligence (BI) professionals who use Power BI to develop reports and dashboards that visualise data, whether in the cloud or on-premises.
The certification requires passing the Analysing Data with Microsoft Power BI certification exam administered via Pearson VUE. The exam measures the candidate's ability to prepare data, visualise data, analyse data, and deploy and maintain deliverables.
How to prepare for the Analysing Data with Microsoft Power BI exam
Candidates have two options to prepare for the exam: free online courses or instructor-led, paid training.
For the free courses, Microsoft recommends a series of six learning paths that cover the necessary skills:
Get started with Microsoft data analytics: This learning path provides an overview of data analysis and the role of a data analyst, as well as the skills, tasks, and processes they employ to tell a story with data. It consists of two modules and takes one hour and 10 minutes to complete.
Prepare data for analysis: This learning path focuses on using Power Query to extract data from various data sources (Microsoft Excel, relational databases, NoSQL data stores) and how to choose a storage mode and connectivity type. It teaches how to profile, clean, and load data into Power BI in preparation for modelling data. It consists of two modules that take 3 hours and 26 minutes to complete.
Model data in Power BI: This learning path teaches how to design data models and use Data Analysis Expressions (DAX), the native formula and query language of Microsoft Power BI, to create measures. It consists of three modules that take 5 hours and 31 minutes to complete.
Visualise data in Power BI: This learning path teaches analysts how to select the right visuals to solve a given problem. It covers report design and formatting, how to use report navigation to tell data-driven stories, and how dashboards can help users target report visuals to meet specific needs. It consists of four modules that take 5 hours and 5 minutes to complete.
Data analysis in Power BI: This learning path teaches how to use Power BI to perform data analytical functions. It covers identifying outliers in data, performing time-series analysis, using advanced analytic features, and working with AI visuals. It consists of two modules that take an hour and 52 minutes to complete.
Manage workspaces and datasets in Power BI: This learning path covers creating workspaces in the Power BI service. It teaches how to deploy Power BI artefacts and share them with users, how to connect Power BI reports to on-premises data sources, configure automatic refresh for Power BI datasets, and apply row-level security to restrict users to the data that applies to them. It consists of three modules that take an hour and 10 minutes to complete.
Microsoft also provides a paid, four-day, instructor-led training course for the certification via its learning partners. The course covers the methods and best practices for modelling, visualising, and analysing data with Power BI.
It teaches how to access and process data from a range of data sources, including both relational databases and non-relational data stores. It also covers how to implement security standards and policies, and how to manage and deploy reports and dashboards for sharing and content distribution. The price varies by country and learning partner.
Numerous practice tests and training resources are also available for the exam, including:
- Power BI Practice Sets Year 2020 from Udemy ($29.99)
- Analysing Data with Microsoft Power BI (DA-100) Practice Exam from testprep training ($15.99)
- DA-100 Exam Prep – Power BI Certification from BI Elite Training ($29)
- Exam DA-100: Data Analyst Associate 25 Test Prep Questions by Ger Arevalo ($3.99)
Taking the Analysing Data with Microsoft Power BI exam
The Analysing Data with Microsoft Power BI exam is offered via Pearson VUE and costs $165 in the US (the price varies based on the country in which the exam is proctored).
For a limited time, Microsoft is offering discounted certification to qualifying individuals who have been laid off or furloughed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. To be eligible for the discount, individuals must schedule their exam before Dec. 31, 2020, and have until March 31, 2021, to complete the exam.
The exam measures the candidate's ability to perform technical tasks, including:
- Prepare data (20-25 per cent)
- Model data (25-30 per cent)
- Visualise data (20-25 per cent)
- Analyse data (10-15 per cent)
- Deploy and maintain deliverables (10-15 per cent)
Microsoft offers a thorough breakdown of the skills measured within each task.