Stay current with in-demand skills through free certification renewals

Published 12-15-2020 07:59 AM 135K Views

Updated January 27, 2021


This past year has certainly been an extraordinary one, and we’ve seen the impact of technology as it transforms to meet increasing productivity and collaboration needs around the world. In just the first two months of the COVID-19 pandemic, we observed two years’ worth of digital transformation take place. And the momentum continues to help organizations and businesses optimize. In fact, in the past year, Microsoft Azure grew by more than 1,000 new capabilities, allowing us to innovate with the latest advancements in key areas including AI, machine learning, and virtualization. The rapid pace of technology change has truly shifted the landscape of in-demand skills for a digital world. 


At Microsoft, we’ve been building a portfolio of role-based training and certifications designed to help tech professionals stay current and be future-ready. The retirement of product-focused certifications has allowed us to continue investing in our role-based learning offerings. And today, we’re excited to announce a couple of upcoming updates to our certification program to help our customers and partners keep pace with technology.


First, we’re providing our certified professionals a method to renew their Microsoft Certifications, initially earned by passing rigorous exam(s). In March 2021, you’ll be able to renew your role-based and specialty certifications by passing a free renewal assessment on Microsoft Learn. Rather than having to retake scheduled exam(s), the renewal assessment can be completed online on your own time, and anytime within six months before your certification expires. After you pass the renewal assessment, your certification is extended by one additional year from the current expiration date; this can be done annually. To help you prepare, you’ll also have the option to access a free collection of curated learning modules for each renewal assessment.


Second, we’re updating the validity for role-based and specialty certifications to one year from the date you earned it. Starting in June 2021, this change will take effect for newly earned certifications. The shift to a one-year certification validity aligns to how quickly cloud technology changes; renewing certifications on an annual basis validates skills and ability to perform in job roles are relevant in the market.


This new frictionless approach is intended to enable you to focus on keeping current with technology, while also reducing the stress, complexity, and cost of keeping your certification active. Embracing a growth mindset and the need for continuous learning can help you open career opportunities, successfully perform in job roles, and continue to support your organization’s digital and cloud transformation. With a Microsoft Certification—globally recognized and industry-endorsed evidence of mastered real-world skills—you also demonstrate your proficiency in keeping pace with technology.


We’re happy to share these upcoming changes that enable you to stay current with necessary skills and to seamlessly weave in your certification renewal. For additional details on how to renew role-based and specialty certifications, including answers to frequently asked questions, check out the Renew your Microsoft Certification page. We thank you for sharing your learning journey with us, and we look forward to keeping you up to date on technology’s groundbreaking ability to continue transforming our world.







If I understand correctly, If I pass a certification exam on Jan 1, then I would start the assessment approximately July 1 of the same year (6 months after I received my cert). If I have multiple certs, I will then be studying to take the assessment for multiple certs at the same time. It seems I will be spending all my time studying. I don't see the advantage of this. What am I missing?


@paulaz - you missed the part that the assessment you are taking wont be at exam center, but at your on peace. This part they haven described yet, but lets hope its the same as the other Learning paths available.

Ex you can see one at the bottom of this page (under two ways to prepare):

Exam MS-101: Microsoft 365 Mobility and Security - Learn | Microsoft Docs

Senior Member

Great News. Thanks

Frequent Visitor

I did my Azure Solution Architect Expert certifications AZ 300 and AZ 301 certifications in October 2019, these 2 certifications are no longer available and there are new certifications for Azure Architecting certifications AZ 303 and AZ 304, does this new renewal process(using learning and assesment) is applicable in my case. Or i have to do AZ 303 and AZ 304 first.

Occasional Contributor

How to renew your certification

  • To identify which certifications are available for you to renew, visit your Certification Dashboard.
  • Ensure your certification profile is connected to your Docs profile on Microsoft Learn.
  • As soon as you’re eligible to renew, you will receive an email notification directing you to the assessment that will be available on Microsoft Learn.
  • When you pass the online assessment, your certification will be extended by one additional year from the current expiration date.
  • To help prepare for the assessment, advance your skills with a collection of free, self-paced learning modules. Explore available modules associated on the certification renewal page.
Occasional Visitor

Certification exams with long-term expiration dates coupled with Continuing Education Credits!  That's how the rest of the world encourages knowledge acquisition and maintenance.  Free online assessments is a good start. We will get there:) 

New Contributor

Hello All,

Its still not a nice move again ..needs lot of improvement in MS Exams in My Opinion.Exams should be having more real life exam scenarios and Partcipant should actually do some stuff to prove their effiicency rather than just objective questions ...means lab based questions should be encouraged.

For eg: Redhat Exams.

and yes validity should be one year as technologies changing every minute 

Thanks & Regards



Senior Member

Lets see... If I am an Infrastructure administrator/engineer and want to show base proficiency in a specific technology;

  • Red Hat Server -> RHCSA
  • VMWare ESXi -> VCP-DCV
  • Kali Linux -> OSCP
  • Cisco IOS Devices -> CCNA
  • Windows Server 2019 -> Yet to be named "Role Based" certification
  • Windows Server 2012/2016 -> Soon to be expired MCSA/MCSE

The 1 year rolling certs with an "assessment" sounds like an open book test.

Will test takers be monitored by proctors? Sounds like the market is about to be flooded with more inexperienced people.

Everyone is moving towards using "practical" validation. You can't brain-dump a hands-on exam.


Headhunters, hiring managers and the lot looking for MCSA/MCSE folks have no clue what any of the new alphabet soup AZ-xxx certifications mean.

There is now no value in chasing down any "role based" certs if they do not carry any name recognition.




Now that the MCSE has expired as of yesterday 1/31/21, where are the role based certs for an Infrastructure administrator/engineer. We need this announced asap @alexpayn ! This is very disappointing that Microsoft hasn't made any announcements in regards to this. There are role based exams for WVD, Windows 10, Exchange, but nothing for Windows Server, System Center, or even Azure Stack HCI. Please listen to the community and bring about these certs right away.  

Senior Member

:cry:postponed start

What happened to early Februar?

Occasional Visitor

Understand from the previous comment that MS is extending 6months for certifications expiring between Jan-June 2021.

What about those certification that are expiring between July-September given those certification should be renewed prior to 6months at latest?

Regular Visitor

That's awesome. :smile:

Regular Visitor

For the complainers on here...  You haven't seen the re-certification process yet.  

It's FREE. It's self-paced and most likely open-book.  It's probably not very hard or time-consuming to do.  You'll be able to rec-certify over and over again, for FREE. 


Keeping certifications active and current for FREE is a good thing. Look at the Salesforce model, it works well.

Senior Member

How much infrastructure is Salesforce running? Let me build a Salesforce OS server and I'll let you know how that worked out.


I would be more than happy to "re-certify" on Windows Server 2019 when Microsoft has produced a "role-based" to test proficiency on INFRASTRUCTURE PLATFORMS.  Everyone's head is not in the clouds, and only those that work in secure environments that cannot ever dare touch the dirty web can understand that such environments exist. 


BTW, If you want to compare "apples to apples", Dynamic's 365 is Microsoft's CRM solution, but as expected that certification EXPIRES this year.


Senior Member

I've seen a lot of posts complaining about the lack of replacement for the MCSE infrastructure track.


I can give you my 2 cents. It's dead.


Microsoft for the past 3 years have been aggressively forcing the issue of moving business off of traditional on-premises solutions into the cloud. Fact. First was the exams being deprecated, then removed and not having any new version.


Then came less and less on-premises releases of products - with the added sucker punch of having to pay a subscription  for patching support (SharePoint on-premises as an example).


The reality is we all know - lots of business has legacy kit, on-premises infrastructure, security restrictions, small budgets that require sweating the tin, and lack of buy-in and skills to fully adopt cloud. There's also lots of bespoke apps that won't run the cloud or will cost a fortune for the same experience.


The answer from Microsoft is - tough. Change your job then, to a company that has moved to cloud services, is in the process of doing so, or wants to and has buy-in.


Hard, hard decisions. Having busted my backside off to get the MCSE Productivity track, to be faced with essentially learn from scratch everything is painful. I also left my employer because they just didn't have the funds for full bells and whistles Azure and 365 modern services.


But we have to accept the industry is forcing this upon all of us professionals. Swim with the ocean, don't fight against it. Skill up, and move forward.



Senior Member

Microsoft missed the point...


If you work in a high security environment, your infrastructure cannot move to the cloud. PERIOD.  An air-gapped network will beat one thousand firewalls every time.


Microsoft should be aware of environments that exist on an infrastructure only deployment. Every other major provider continues to maintain an infrastructure and cloud certification tracks.


Moving infrastructure tracks to legacy will not force ANYONE to follow Microsoft's dream vision especially since there is less demand:



Versus AWS:


If I had to chase some new cloud technology, my money would be on Amazon...


Senior Member

I'm with you TekStylez, completely.


It's absurd that Microsoft as an organisation has effectively abandoned a large section of industries and professionals by killing off its on-premises certifications and training. Especially when there is so much of it out there in the wild, and when they are so many use cases that have to use it.


But Microsoft clearly does not care one bit. Their core revenue stream is Azure, Microsoft 365 and Dynamics. By effectively neglecting their entire portfolio of on-premises tools and products they have angered a large proportion of the tech community.


And yes, clearly AWS continues to storm ahead... :)


I got the email to re-certify and just finished it. 20 questions and 70% or over to pass.

No reading material or anything, just straight to the case with questions and no case studies. Its not like MS learning, but fair enough to test your skills.

Not sure what happens if you fail? You get another chance?



Regular Visitor

@Off2w0rk thanks for sharing, that's good info.  A bit surprising though - no prep material?

I expected Microsoft to have a small prep guide for any changes that might have occurred in the exam topics over the previous year. 


With my Salesforce certs, they have a learning module to cover any yearly differences.  If you do the module and take the re-cert test, it's fairly easy to pass.



@diligent176 , after looking more around I can do another retake. Microsoft have also prepared learning lessons for the part that im weak in, so there are some learning materials, but not easy to find.

I just clicked the link in the email and the first thing i saw was to connect it to my account and start the certification.

Not sure how long it takes, but on my certification page expiration date is still not updated. Hopefully it wasnt connected to wrong MCP account (i only have one)

So far i think it looks good :)

Regular Visitor

@Off2w0rk  Coincidentally, John Savill released a short video today that summarizes the process.

He showed they do include some modules to help prepare, which is great.  I think the new process looks really good.

The re-certification test is open book, no proctor, and free re-takes too.  


THanks @diligent176 , i just watched it and was to great help.

Waiting to see if my transcript gets updated to correct date, because it still has old expiration date. Otherwise im positive to this. Fingers crossed! :)


Then my transcript have been updated and admin role extended for another year :)

Occasional Visitor

I think the idea of the assessments to re-qualify is good, I am in favor with continued learning, when it is in the right way. To increase our knowledge. The renewal assessments if they stay free that is good and will help a lot of people as that can be a barrier


I do think 1 year validity will undermine the value of Microsoft certifications and based on role based how does this work with the structured certifications e.g expert level where they are linked to multiple role-based certifications. What happens if I have 12 Microsoft certifications do I have to renew them all individually or only the higher level certifications e.g if I have AZ-303, AZ- 304, Az-500 would I also have to renew AZ-900


My big concern here is Microsoft are forgetting that people only have so much time, companies can only give so much time to continual professional development. if as an IT professional you are expected to keep continual learning and assessment up every 12 months, to keep the certification up to date. I have another vendor qualification I also have to ratify, and I can see this putting people off the certifications


So with 1 year validity I am now getting to a point I have to pick what certification I would like to keep rather then pursuing the next area of innovation, this may also be dictated by the company I work for.  this will then also have a knock-on effect to a lot of Microsoft partners where the qualification are part of the agreement to maintain that status. so, could be a limiting fact.


Also, when you take into account delay in Microsoft course ware to MCT compared to the learn platform the SC qualifications are a good example as they had a lot of excitement, it will start undermining some of the value in-class training as this takes employee time away from company services as well as costing them money for the course. for a company the certification if only valid for 1 year it really drive down its value in there return on investment.


I would be good to hear Microsoft prospective on this on beyond the argument of technology change. On how the 1-year validity adds or maintained the certification value compared to other vendors


@SebastianRogers200 , for me it is the opposite. With this new strategy, it is easier for me to have multiple certifications. Reason is because the re-certification is at own pace and you can re-take it even if you fail without much stress.

I find it more stressfull to re-certify every 2 year at a test center.

I just did the re-certification for Exchange admin and it was not that bad.

Occasional Visitor

@Off2w0rk  I think you missed the point hear I’m not saying the new renewal program is bad idea but the new time limit, could put people of Microsoft certifications as they do not have as much value to a business to justify funding them. So below ill try and show some of the thought process behind the questions:


some people may view it that you take a cert then I have to revalidate that in six months, so it only has a validity of six months (some people don’t always get all the details). But in the case of the renewal, it extends the original date by a year. So, if I take the assessment at six months then I will be validated for the next 18 months before it expires. If I don’t re validate in that period.


online proctored exams it removes that remove the issue of the test center if you have a location that meets their requirements. But the issue is if I have multiple certification that overlap how does this work, so if you look at AZ-500 vs SC-200 there is areas that overlap. But the AZ-500 is used in Microsoft partner program. But to a non-IT person they are both security certifications for Microsoft which one has move value to my company but I could have a point where they both need re validating in the same month


So the question that come up is what’s the value of Microsoft certification compared to others, certifications are that to validate knowledge in an area and that fine. I have always enjoyed that fact that I can benchmark myself and the knowledge I have learned. It hard enough for IT people to keep up with the technology’s let alone non-it if they need to map that to a job role that is general.  


Then if you look at CPD to map progression as with role based there is not always another qualification on a direct path or another vendor level certification to bench it on as it goes across different technology areas that that person may not have rights to use as it’s a different team.  Some job role require that you stay certified to a certain level. Or as a training program It may have an employee lock in/payback period for training and certification.


I understand that the right certifications help install confidence in the IT professional as they have bench marked to a standard and who they provide a service to. if have the right certification at the right level but that is the value for any certification.


 you also have to look at it if an 18 year old was staring his career in IT what certification should he get. If he interested in networking you always hear CCNA. And I do think the learn platform is grate way forward as it stops company ripping off people with the promise of job and all it cost £15000 to £25000 for these 3 qualifications and you could be earning £**** amount per year, so the main limit is on the person doing the learning


There is a bit of a shakeup to industry with adoption of the role base certifications. You just have to look at the amount of IT professional that are we are not working with cloud but we only have windows servers what qualification do I need.  Companies ask what certification do I need the IT guy to have, as all most employer want to know is does the IT professional have the skill I need and is it an entry level or the highest-level for that area of skill / knowledge e.g where does that certification sit in the ranking job pay scales. Or in the case if an MSP it adds value to partner status and customer confident in the providers IT service. So its about its value for them 


If you look at the following qualification from other vendors they all have a different method
Cisco  CCNA is valid for 3 years you can ether reset or you can up certify e.g CCNP or there are other certs that gain additional knowledge and re-certified the original  CCNA


Axelos as a certification prince 2 practitioner. You get 3 years, where you can re-sit or go the CPD hours route over 3 years to show that you have UpToDate skills in that area


VMware  put the year with the certification that then makes it easier for industry to qualify the relevance of the qualification / certification to how up to date it is

So it’s good that Microsoft offer free validation with flexibility as with change from product based qualifications, the current move of ending MCSA, MCSE.  that Microsoft did before with the move to MITCP then back to the MCSA, MCSE as industry and IT professionally did not fully adopt the new names as they did not understand how they could map the value

for example, if a HR person was advertising a role for network engineer, you would look for some with any of the following network+, CCNA, CCNP, CCIE, JNCIA-Junos, JNCIS-ENT, ACSA, ACSP, or ACSX. And depending on the qualification level you add a value to the certification to the company. But certain qualification stands out and hold a value in industry because of the time they have been around as in my example above some people would not recognize the ACSA, ACSO or ACSX but if you just google it you get all sorts of response but if you work with the equipment or hold the certification then you would know they are HPE Aruba. But if you google CCNA or MCSE you get instant hits that is a good way to show value especially if you are request funding from the company you work for


think of it another way how do you justify the course cost to your manages manager. In reality we all have to do continual learning in our own time. So if I have multiple certifications expiring in a similar time then this could be a cause of stress as I would have multiple assessments to sit


so back to my original questions


I might have active the Microsoft 365 certified: enterprise Administrator but to get the I may have chosen the route
MD-100 windows 10 > MD-101 Managing modern desktops this them will give an associate certification Microsoft 365 certified: modern desktop administrator associate

then I sit MS100 Microsoft 365 identity and services and ms-101 Microsoft 365 mobility and security
so then I have been given Microsoft 365 certified: enterprise administrator expert.  So, like the MCSA I have taken 4 exams to get to that level, so to keep that certification active what renewal assessments would I have to sit is it one two or 4 assessments

Now for a company that may scale as I might have a team of 12 IT professionals that have followed that route. now I have to allow time for them to re validate but during that time as a company gets no benefit e.g its not billable time. So the sad reality is as a company you would have it in the contract that they have to maintain that certification and that’s in the employees own time.


it good not to have a fee even if the company may reimburse the exam fee. Time is still a big cost and 2 years would still be acceptable as this also tend to line up with Microsoft update to the exam criteria, and release of updates from preview to production  


So it goes back to my question from Microsoft prospective beyond the argument of technology change as a driver for it to be valid for 1 year. how the 1-year validity adds or maintained the certification value compared to other vendors an IT professional or for a company that may sponsor it   


Interesting reading and I understand your frustration. I was a bit sceptic at first, but after passing the new exam it wasn't that bad.

From earlier i had MCSA and MCSE, then i upgraded and took Messaging administrator associate. I then took MS-100 and MS-101 to get Enterprise administrator expert. Before Microsoft announced the new re-certification model, I did not have plan to take any more certification because I would spend enough time to renew those in the good old ways (at certification center).

Now I am planning to take MS-700 and MS-500. It means that in the future I will need to do 4 re-certification a year. This I think I can manage with the new model. On the old model it wouldn't be possible.

I have been using my spare time to take all those certifications and work only covers exam expenses. For me certification is a source for me to be updated and something I can use to get higher salary each year. This again means the free time i spent to take certification wasn't "free", but i get it in return with higher salary.

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