Home > Articles > Microsoft

Considerations for Earning a Microsoft Office 365 Certification

While it has not always been held in high esteem, Microsoft Office 365 certification is gaining in popularity, and more and more IT professionals are seeing the advantage of earning this cert. In this article, Brien Posey looks at some of the advantages IT professionals gain by earning this certification.

Although initially considered by many IT professionals to be an epic flop, Microsoft Office 365 is starting to gain traction. This is especially true for smaller organizations who have found it more cost effective to operate products such as Exchange, SharePoint, and Lync in the cloud rather than to host the required service on premise.

Because Office 365 has begun to gain rapid popularity, IT professionals might find it advantageous to earn a Microsoft Office 365 certification. However, doing so might not be as simple as it seems. This article will explain why.

Certification Basics

At first glance, Office 365 certification seems relatively simple and straightforward. Unlike some Microsoft certification paths, there are only two certifications available for Office 365. The lower end certification is a Technology Specialist level certification called Administering Office 365. Candidates can earn this certification by passing a single exam – 70-323: Administering Office 365.

Those seeking a higher level certification have the option of taking Exam 70-321: Deploying Office 365. This exam counts as credit toward the Microsoft Certified IT Professional (MCITP): Office 365 Administrator certification. In order to earn this certification, IT pros must also pass the aforementioned Exam 70-323.

Certification Challenges

Earning a Microsoft Office 365 certification can be deceptively simple. After all, you only have to pass one exam per certification. However, it is easy to underestimate the difficulty of these exams.

Part of the difficulty is based entirely on the exam's subject matter. But there are also a couple of other factors that contribute to the exam's overall difficulty.

One such factor is the lack of study resources. Microsoft is not presently offering any classroom training, Microsoft Press books, or e-learning courses for Office 365. And at the moment, there do not appear to be any reputable third-party study guides available either. The good news, however, is that there are starting to be some non-exam oriented Office 365 books available. Even just a few months ago, those who were interested in learning Office 365 were more or less limited to using Microsoft's online deployment documentation.

The other thing that makes passing a Microsoft Office 365 exam difficult is the fact that Office 365 is steadily evolving. Since its introduction, Microsoft has made a number of different changes to the administrative console. Furthermore, the next editions of Exchange, SharePoint, and Lync are expected in 2013. Given Microsoft's history, it seems likely that these new versions will be included with Office 365 before they are made generally available for on-premise deployments.

The evolution of Microsoft Office 365 is an important issue because over the last year or so, Microsoft has gotten into the habit of updating exams as the products evolve. For example, if a new service pack for a product such as Exchange Server or Windows Server introduces new functionality then Microsoft may update the certification exam in a way that introduces new questions that are specific to the service pack. This trend can be problematic for those studying for an exam because it means that study materials can quickly become outdated.

So what about the actual exam content? I mentioned earlier that the exams themselves were easy to underestimate. Microsoft assumes that anyone who is taking one of the Office 365 exams has already mastered the various Office 365 products (Exchange, SharePoint, and Lync). This assumption plays directly into the exam objectives.

In the case of Exam 70-323: Administering Office 365, there are only three exam objectives. The first objective, Administer Microsoft Office 365, should prove to be relatively easy to most of the people that are taking the exam. This objective tests your ability to do things such as creating users, managing roles, and configure remote connectivity.

It is the next objectives that prove much more difficult. The second objective is Administer SharePoint Online. In order to meet this objective, those taking the exam must know how to manage SharePoint objects such as sites, metadata, site collections, and user profiles.

The third objective is Administer Exchange and Lync online. This objective requires you to manage Exchange mailboxes, contacts, and groups and to know how to manage a hybrid Exchange deployment. The exam also expects administrators to be familiar with Exchange Server’s various security and compliance features, and to know how to configure Lync features such as instant messaging, audio and video conferencing, and file transfer settings.

I will be the first to admit that this particular exam does not require expert level knowledge of the three Office 365 products. However, those taking the exam are expected to have a solid working knowledge of the basics of these products.

Exam 70-321 is the higher-level Microsoft certification exam for Office 365, and Exam 70-323 is actually a prerequisite to taking the exam. This exam focuses very heavily on migration and coexistence with on premise deployments. From an Office 365 standpoint, those taking the exam are expected to know how to implement Active Directory Federation and single sign-on capabilities while also maintaining solid security that complies with Microsoft's established best practices. Licensing is also a big topic on this exam.

This exam place is very heavy emphasis on the individual Office 365 products. Microsoft expects you to know how to migrate from an on premise deployment to the Office 365 environment, but the exam delves even more heavily into coexistence. For example, the Exchange Server portion of the exam requires you to know how to move a user's mailbox to the Office 365 environment, but there is a much greater emphasis on things like planning mail flow, message hygiene, security, and compliance.


My advice for anyone who is seeking a Microsoft Office 365 certification is to start out by taking some of the entry-level certification exams for Exchange, SharePoint, and Lync. Having a solid foundation in these areas is essential to passing the Microsoft Office 365 certification exams. I also recommend that you spend some time working with the Office 365 administrative interface, and learn that interface inside and out. Finally, until dedicated exam study guides become available, is a good idea to procure some of the Microsoft Office 365 books that are available.

Pearson IT Certification Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from Pearson IT Certification and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about Pearson IT Certification products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information

To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.


Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites; develop new products and services; conduct educational research; and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.


If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email information@informit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information

Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by Adobe Press. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.pearsonitcertification.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information

Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents

California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure

Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact

Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice

We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020