The new Microsoft Applied Skills – Frequently Asked Questions

In November 2023, Microsoft held Microsoft Ignite, and held several sessions on Microsoft Applied Skills and certifications more generally. Here are some of the Frequency Asked Questions about Microsoft Applied Skills, including information as answered by the Microsoft panel.

What Microsoft Applied Skills are available?

Please see my other blog on this subject.

How do you sign up for one of the Microsoft Applied Skills assessments?

It is is fully integrated within Microsoft Learn. You can complete these assessments on their own computers.

Why were Microsoft Applied Skills created?

It allows for scenario-based assessments.

This approach is tailored to equip individuals with relevant skills for critical digital transformation projects in their organizations. It should enhance their effectiveness and create significant business impact.

It aims to provide the “hot skills” current in demand, aligning with what hiring managers and recruiters are seeking in the skills-based hiring world.

What are the skills which are required for Microsoft Applied Skills?

These identified skills are then published on the relevant Microsoft page, and Microsoft Learn offers learning paths that cover these specific skills and scenarios.

What is the difference between Microsoft Applied Skills and Microsoft certifications?

Microsoft Certifications is a role-based assessment. They validate technical proficiency across various jobs and roles. They encompass a broad range of skills relevant to a specific role, such as AI engineering or data science. They generally have the specific role in their name, such as Azure developer, Azure architect, or Azure admin.

Microsoft Applied Skills is a skill-based assessment. They are designed for individuals who require specific skill sets for a current project they are working on. They are more targeted and in-depth.

What is the difference in the assessments between Microsoft Applied Skills and Microsoft certifications?

The process to earn a Microsoft certification typically involves studying for and passing a proctored exam that tests a breadth of skills pertinent to a particular role.

The Microsoft Applied Skills assessment is lab-based, consisting of tasks related to the chosen scenario. This process is less about a broad validation of skills and more about acquiring and demonstrating specific, practical skills for project implementation.

How do Microsoft Applied Skills and Microsoft certifications complement each other?

People who are either already in a specific role or aspiring to enter one find role-based certifications beneficial. These certifications showcase a broad set of skills required for that particular role, offering a comprehensive validation of an individual’s capabilities within a broader professional scope. For hiring, certifications are often the first filter in the hiring process. For general roles, certifications play a vital role.

Others might already be in a role or are looking to quickly adapt to implement a specific project or scenario. For them, Applied Skills provide a more focused and practical approach. This pathway is ideal for those needing immediate, project-specific skills, rather than a broad spectrum of role-based abilities. For specific projects or to upskill an existing employee in a particular area, Applied Skills become more pertinent than certifications.

Are Microsoft certifications being retired in light of the new Applied Skills program?

No, Microsoft is not retiring the category of certifications as a whole. Certifications continue to be in high demand and are an integral part of Microsoft’s educational offerings. In fact, there has been significant growth in certification demand, particularly in the data and AI sectors.

However, individual certifications can be retired as part of their natural life cycle, especially when certain skills become less in demand or evolve.

What feedback has Microsoft received regarding the new Microsoft Applied Skills program?

The feedback has been about:

Focused Learning: Members appreciate the focus of Applied Skills on specific subjects, allowing you to concentrate on enhancing particular aspects of their professional profile.

Career Advancement: It’s especially useful for individuals considering a career change or wanting to augment their current role with specific, targeted skills.

Accessibility and Personal Benefit: Currently the Microsoft Applied Skills assessment is free. However, there may be a charge later.

Promoting Professional Growth: Applied Skills empowers individuals to enhance and showcase their abilities, helping them to raise their professional profile and open up new career paths.

What is the expected longevity of Microsoft Applied Skills credentials?

Currently, Microsoft Applied Skills credentials do not have an expiration date. This allows you to have lasting recognition of your skills, albeit with the understanding that the relevance of these skills may evolve with technological advancements.

Are there plans to release more Applied Skills for other Microsoft products?

Yes, Microsoft intends to introduce more Applied Skills on a more regular basis compared to the cadence of releasing certifications. They will encompass various Microsoft solution areas, across different Microsoft products and technologies, ensuring a broader range of skills and technologies are covered.

How is the integrity of the Microsoft Applied Skills assessments maintained?

While it is not proctored, you must apply the skills and knowledge gained from the learning paths in a lab-based assessment. This method ensures that you truly understand the material and can apply it in a real-world scenario, rather than just repeating information learned from texts. This practical approach is much more challenging and can’t be circumvented through traditional study methods like brain dumps.

It requires using specific product features to complete tasks related to the scenarios. This demonstrates your proficiency in navigating and utilizing the product effectively.

The lack of proctoring is to encourage skill development and to make the process accessible to a wider audience. While there is an element of trust, Microsoft is open to implementing additional security features.

Are there any plans or expectations for Microsoft Partners to include Applied Skills in addition to certifications?

Yes, Microsoft is actively collaborating with their partner program to explore the integration of Applied Skills into the existing framework of partner requirements and benefits. This includes assessing when and how it makes sense to include Applied Skills in addition to the traditional Microsoft certifications. Changes need 6 month notice, so partners are well-informed and can adjust accordingly.

What is the cost for taking Microsoft Applied Skills assessments?

Currently, Microsoft Applied Skills assessments are offered for free, but this is for a limited time only. There is no announced timeline or future pricing strategy.

Can completing Microsoft Applied Skills be credited towards certifications on similar topics?

While this is a common and logical question, Microsoft has not announced any such integration at this time. However, Microsoft is considering this for the future.

Is there a possibility of Microsoft Applied Skills also encompassing technologies from third parties?

Currently, Microsoft is focusing on Microsoft technologies. However, it’s conceivable that, in the future, third-party technologies could be applied to Applied Skills.

Can we expect Microsoft Applied Skills focused on AI?

Microsoft has already launched three AI-aligned Applied Skills:

  • Natural Language Processing
  • AI Vision
  • Document Intelligence Solutions

As it continues to launch co-pilot capabilities across its products, Microsoft plans to incorporate these co-pilot scenarios into the Applied Skills program.

What is the retake policy for Microsoft Applied Skills assessments?

If you do not pass or cancel a Microsoft Applied Skills assessments, you can retake it after 72 hours.

Will there be Microsoft Applied Skills assessments for Power Platform?

There are currently 2 Microsoft Applied Skills assessments for Power Platform, and 2 coming soon. They are:

  • Create and manage canvas apps with Power Apps
  • Create and manage automated processes by using Power Automate
  • Build apps with Teams (coming soon)
  • Create and manage model-driven apps with Power Apps and Dataverse (coming soon)

How is Microsoft balancing the number of certifications and Applied Skills offerings?

Certifications are generally role-based and cover major roles that rely on Microsoft technology. The number of new certifications has slowed down, given the maturity and robust size of this portfolio.

For Microsoft Applied Skills, it is anticipated that, over time, there will be more Applied Skills scenarios than certifications. This is because they are newer and their scope per Applied Skill is smaller.

How does Microsoft decide whether a new area of technology requires a certification or a Microsoft Applied Skill?

If the technology aligns with a clear, definable job role that requires a broad range of skills, a certification may be the appropriate route.

Where the focus is on a very specific problem or task within a broader job role, an Applied Skill may be more appropriate.

For example, a role like “prompt engineer” might not currently necessitate a full certification due to its specialized nature. However, it could be a perfect candidate for an Applied Skill, as it represents a specific skill set within a larger technological context.

The decision also depends on market demand and the evolving landscape of technology. What may not require a full certification today might become significant enough in the future to warrant one.