Is the MS-900 Worth It?
The concept of the cloud is simple enough: rent computer resources on-demand and only pay for the storage, speed, and power you need when you need it. The reason that's appealing to a company is simple, too: the historical "on-premises" model meant a company had to invest in servers, routers, switches, devices, databases, wiring and hardware that actually sat unused for the majority of every day. The cloud promises that you only pay for what you use, down to the millisecond and byte, leaving cash and manpower for keeping the rest of the company running.
What's less simple is choosing which cloud service provider to use, and – once you do that – which tools and products to choose. Microsoft created the MS-900 to determine who can speak knowledgeably about Microsoft cloud service offerings, their costs and benefits, and the fundamentals of using them. Read on to learn what's in the MS-900 and whether it's worth the time and energy it takes to earn.
What is the MS-900?
The MS-900 is the certifying exam for the Microsoft certification called Microsoft 365 Certified: Fundamentals. The exam covers the general concepts behind Software as a Service (SaaS) models, the benefits of using cloud services, and using Microsoft 365 in particular. Specifically, the cert focuses most on Microsoft 365, Microsoft's subscription service that provides businesses with a suite of productivity apps.
The MS-900 is targeted at non-technical business users and entry-level administrators. Passing the MS-900 and earning the cert proves that you understand the different cloud options that are available in Microsoft 365.
The MS-900 isn't a particularly challenging exam. The content on the exam is largely informational, as opposed to many other certifying exams that tend to focus more heavily on practical knowledge of configurations and management. Some of the exam does focus on implementing Microsoft 365 cloud systems, but most of it centers on knowledge about Microsoft 365 service options and how they differ from other service vendors.
What are the MS-900 Exam Objectives?
The MS-900 is the only exam necessary to earn the Microsoft 365 Certified: Fundamentals, and it has four exam objectives:
Describe cloud concepts
Describe core Microsoft 365 services and concepts
Explain security, compliance, privacy, and trust in Microsoft 365
Describe Microsoft 365 pricing and support
It's always a good idea to pay attention to the operative words in exam objectives – in this case, notice that Microsoft decided to use "describe" and "explain" for their primary objectives for MS-900. The use of those words hints at the level of expertise the test expects. Microsoft isn't looking for advanced configurations or demonstrations of administrative prowess – they mainly want to verify that you thoroughly understand what the cloud is generally, what Microsoft 365 does differently, and how much it costs.
How Much Does the MS-900 Exam Cost?
The MS-900 costs $99 to attempt. Unlike many other certifications and vendors, the MS-900 is the only exam necessary to earn the Microsoft 365 Certified: Fundamentals and it doesn't have any prerequisites. That means you can attempt the test without paying Microsoft for a course or any other cert.
But just because the MS-900 tests basic knowledge of the cloud doesn't mean you should go into without any prep. If you've never used Microsoft 365 and don't know anything about its features or pricing, you might struggle. You might consider adding the cost of a training course to the $99 price tag on the MS-900.
What Experience Do You Need for the MS-900?
Although there aren't any prerequisites for the MS-900 and Microsoft doesn't suggest any formal experience before attempting the MS-900, if you attempt the exam without any experience with Microsoft 365, you could fail. It's always a good idea to dig deeper into exam objectives for a sense of the experience you should have before attempting a certifying exam.
Before attempting the MS-900, you should be able to describe why a company might use a cloud service instead of relying on on-premises equipment. You'll want to know the core Microsoft 365 services and what options you and your company have for deploying and supporting Microsoft 365. You don't need to be a trained network security administrator, but you should understand the nature of security, compliance and privacy in Microsoft 365. Last, you should have a strong sense of the different pricing models Microsoft offers and what different licenses offer.
Some of these are general knowledge, but remember that some of the questions will have "from-the-book" answers specific to Microsoft. You'll want to know what Microsoft thinks is the right answer to questions about compliance, benefits, and pricing.
Who Should Take the MS-900?
The MS-900 is best for business users of office software who might be a part of conversations about using cloud services. A brand-new administrator could use it to prove they understand what Microsoft 365 offers, but it might be too simplistic for network and systems administrators who are eager to prove deep technical expertise.
Is MS-900 Worth It for Non-Technical Professionals?
The MS-900 is probably most worth it for office staff who don't normally work with technology but who might need to contribute to conversations about investing in cloud solutions. Passing the MS-900 doesn't call for technical knowledge of administration or configurations, it only takes understanding how Microsoft 365 administers cloud solutions and how your company could benefit from it.
Depending on the size of your company and the extent of your responsibilities, by passing the MS-900, you could speak knowledgeably about different cloud options and what Microsoft 365 offers. Before you weigh in on the pros and cons of different clouds, pass the MS-900 and rest assured you understand the tech.
Is MS-900 Worth It for Systems Administrators?
The MS-900 is worth it for junior systems administrators who might be looking for a fast and easy certification to add to their resume. On the other hand, as far as technical certifications that prepare you for advanced configurations and management responsibilities go, it's not going to be the most valuable. But don't be discouraged from earning it if your responsibilities include cloud administration or cloud support.
Plenty of people inside a lot of companies don't understand the cloud at all, and passing the MS-900 will give you the vocabulary to talk about and explain what Microsoft 365 does and how it applies to your company.
Is MS-900 Worth It for a Network Administrator?
There are some network administrators who'll find earning the MS-900 a worthwhile investment of time, but for many net admins, it's probably too rudimentary. Don't write it off – if you need a quick primer on cloud service providers and whether or not Microsoft 365 can provide the capabilities you and your company need, the MS-900 is a great way to learn all that.
The MS-900 relates specifically to Microsoft 365's capabilities in productivity and teamwork, business management, and security and compliance. If your job responsibilities include configuring or even choosing those sorts of services for your network, you might consider the MS-900.
Is the MS-900 Worth It?
The MS-900 is worth it for junior professionals, but it might be too simplistic for IT professionals looking for an in-depth certification of cloud administration and configuration. If you work in a company that's obsessed with buzzwords like SaaS and cloud service options but no one has any clue what they actually are, the MS-900 could be a great way to be the subject matter expert. But if you work in a highly technical environment, there are probably Microsoft cloud administration certs that will be more challenging and worth your time.
Using MS-900 to Learn Skills
The best use of the MS-900 is to learn what cloud service offerings Microsoft 365 has and how it holds up against other cloud service providers. As you prepare for taking the MS-900, you'll learn about tools and services that Microsoft 365 offers that many companies and teams overlook. You can learn how to engage collaboration between teams and employees with programs like Teams, Viva and Yammer. You can also learn just how much mobility is possible out-of-the-box.
Probably the people who'll benefit most from learning MS-900 skills are small business owners and staff of small businesses. You can learn how to integrate Windows 365 into a business management strategy and save time and energy with all its tools and products.
Using MS-900 to Validate Skills
If you look at the MS-900's exam objectives and the first thing you think is, "I do all that every day," you should take the MS-900 just to get those skills documented. The MS-900 is a small certification, but earning it proves that you know your way around Microsoft's cloud. It shouldn't take much time to prep, and once you pass it, it's one more line item for your resume.