Power BI Certifications in 2023 – Is it Worth it? How to Get Certified?
If you’re an aspiring business analyst, you probably already know that Power BI skills are highly in demand. So how can you prove that you actually have those skills? How can you stand out from the crowd?
Adding a certification to your resume is one way to attempt to prove you’ve got the Power BI skills. But what does a Power BI certification mean to a potential employer? Can it actually help you get the job?
That depends on the certification.
What certifications mean, and what they don’t
Here at Dataquest, we’ve written a lot about certifications and how they often don’t have the impact that learners hope they will. But there are some skills where a specific certification matters, and Power BI is one of them.
Let’s dive into the details. It’s important to differentiate between course certifications and industry-recognized certifications.
Online course certifications
These certificates can be nice to share on LinkedIn, but they don’t really mean anything to employers. There are simply too many of them (every online learning platform has their own), so employers have no easy way to verify what your particular course covered.
For example, on many platforms, it’s possible to get a certificate that says you’ve completed a Python coding course without actually writing a single line of code, because assessing learners with multiple-choice or fill-in-the-blank questions is much easier to scale than trying to run or assess each individual’s code.
To be clear, this doesn’t mean that courses that offer certificates aren’t valuable. But it’s important to understand that for the vast majority of them, the value you get will be in the skills you learn. The certificate – even if it’s from an online course associated with a famous university like Harvard or MIT – isn’t going to mean much of anything to potential employers.
In short: the courses may be helpful, but the certificates themselves are pretty useless. Employers know they don’t necessarily reflect your actual skills.
For specific tools there are industry-recognized certifications that employers respect. These certifications typically require you to pass a lengthy, standardized exam, and they generally don’t require you to complete any specific online course. Rather, anyone can sign up, pay a fee, take the exam, and (if they pass) get certified.
There is a certification like this for Power BI. The certification, which is called the Power BI Data Analyst Associate certification, is issued by Microsoft, the makers of Power BI. To get it, you must pass a 90-minute exam that’s called the PL-300. The exam costs $165 (although there’s a way to take it for less; we’ll cover that later in this article).
Unlike the certifications associated with most online courses, Microsoft’s certification is recognized and respected by employers because they know the PL-300 is a rigorous, standardized exam that will test your actual competence with Power BI.
So, while many online course certifications aren’t worth your time, Microsoft’s Power BI Data Analyst Associate certification is meaningful because employers know it means you have passed the PL-300 exam.
Do you need a Power BI certification?
You don’t need a certification to get a job working with Power BI, but having one can definitely help open some doors.
What employers truly care about is whether you have the skills to do the job. And you can prove this in a variety of ways. Often, a great-looking portfolio of relevant data analysis projects is the most convincing proof that you’re capable of doing the work an employer needs done.
However, the assessment of job candidates at many companies still starts with looking at their resume. Whether it’s a human or a machine doing the assessing, plenty of applications are going to get tossed out based on the resume alone, without so much as a glance at the portfolio.
One way to combat that is with an industry-recognized certification like Microsoft’s Power BI Data Analyst Associate certification. Most employers in the business analysis field are familiar with that certification and the PL-300 exam required to get it, so being able to put that on your resume gives them some quick evidence that you really do have the skills they need.
There are other ways to impress employers on a resume, of course, and it’s absolutely possible to get a job as a business analyst using Power BI without getting certified. However, having the certification is helpful in this case, so it’s definitely worth considering.
What’s the best Power BI certification?
Microsoft’s Power BI Data Analyst Associate certification is the best Power BI certification for aspiring data and business analysts. Unlike the certificates associated with online platforms at sites such as EdX or Coursera, this certification requires a formal exam (the PL-300) and is recognized in the industry as a meaningful indicator of skill.
Other online programs that offer certificates may still be valuable in terms of what they can teach you, but in terms of the brand name on the resume, Microsoft’s Power BI certification is really the only one that matters.
What does the PL-300 exam cover?
Microsoft’s PL-300 exam is available in a variety of languages but according to Microsoft’s official study guide, here’s what’s covered on the English-language version of the exam as of 2023:
Preparing the data (25–3
This section will test your ability to import, evaluate, clean, and transform data in Power BI. Among other things, you will need to be able to:
- Import data from a variety of sources
- Change data source settings
- Evaluate data for errors and inconsistencies
- Resolve null values and other data quality issues
- Manage datatypes
- Merge queries
- Design schema and manage data relationships
Modeling the data (25–3
This section tests your knowledge of how to work with and optimize data models. Among other things, you will need to be able to:
- Design effective data models
- Use DAX to create a variety of measures and calculations
- Analyze and optimize performance by doing things like removing unnecessary data
Visualizing and analyzing the data (25–3
This section will test your ability to create visualizations using your data model to uncover meaningful business insights. Among other things, you will need to be able to:
- Create a variety of charts and visualizations
- Design and arrange these charts into multi-page reports
- Configure the reports for effectiveness and interactivity using tools such as bookmarks, sorting, slicers, tooltips, and more
- Identify patterns and trends accurately using features such as error bars
- Detect outliers and anomalies
Deploying and maintaining assets (15–2
This section tests your knowledge of how to turn your Power BI reports into sharable analytics assets that your company can use. Among other things, you will need to be able to:
- Publish assets and apps
- Create and manage roles and access
- Manage datasets and configure scheduled refreshes
- Create dashboards
- Configure data sensitivity
Altogether, the PL-300 exam assesses your ability to complete an end-to-end data analysis project using Power BI. It won’t be enough just to know the basics; Microsoft also notes that:
Candidates for this exam should be proficient at using Power Query and writing expressions by using Data Analysis Expressions (DAX).
In short: the PL-300 is a thorough examination of your Power BI skills. That’s why it’s a certification that’s actually respected by potential employers.
How to prepare for the PL-300 exam (and save 5
There are many online resources that can help you prepare for this certification exam for free, but they tend to be video-based lecture courses that won’t force you to get hands-on and actually do things in Power BI. You might learn how to answer questions, but you won’t be building experience with completing a Power BI project from start to end.
The best way to prepare for the exam is to learn and practice Power BI skills by actually doing Power BI projects. That way, you’ll have an easier time on the exam, and when you’re certified you’ll already have a portfolio of projects ready to go that reinforce your Power BI skills.
Dataquest’s interactive Analyzing Data with Microsoft Power BI Skill Path, designed in partnership with Microsoft, is built to help you do exactly that. It’s designed to show you how to analyze and visualize data using Microsoft Power BI by actually getting you hands-on with Power BI right in your browser.
As you work through the courses, you’ll also complete guided projects that can be used as portfolio projects on your job applications. Before you’re done, you’ll have completed an end-to-end project that covers most of the same skills tested on the PL-300.
Plus, if you complete all of the Power BI training courses in this path, you’ll get a 5
Ready to change careers — or start a new one? Check out this user-friendly learning path, and get ready for a new world of career opportunities.