A lot of people entering into the Business Intelligence field wonder if they should get a Power BI Certificate. As professionals having worked in the field and several others we share our thoughts on the value of certificates in general and dive specifically into the Microsoft PL-300 exam for Data Analysts focused on Power BI and the Fabric Platform.
We’ll focus this article on people who are considering a career in business intelligence or data analytics. Though a certificate can be a worthwhile investment if you are already working in the field with Power BI or are looking at expanding your job role to include more dashboard development.
Let’s dive in and take a look at Power BI Certifications.
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Do you Need a Power BI Certification?
For most people getting a Power BI certification such as the Microsoft PL-300 is optional. Some employers may favor hiring employees with certifications giving applications with a certificate an edge in the recruiting process. Other employers will look past the certification requirement if you are coming into the organization with a decent amount of experience.
In some cases, employers who require Power BI certification will give new employees a set period of time to achieve certification, and some will even reimburse employees who take and pass the exam.
Why do Some Companies Require Power BI Certifications?
Power BI certification is most commonly a requirement for consulting and specialized Power BI developer jobs. The key indication that a company will require it is when they are a Microsoft Partner. The Microsoft Partner program is a path for a number of consulting companies to receive sales leads from Microsoft.
The more consultants a company has on staff with Microsoft Certifications, the more sales leads that Microsoft will send their way. It puts a company into a higher tier of partnership. This gives many companies an incentive to hire people that already have certifications or to require them shortly after being hired.
Power BI Certification is a Differentiator for Hiring
Most organizations will hire a business intelligence analyst or a Power BI developer without a certificate. However, if we were interviewing two identical candidates and one has a certificate and the other doesn’t it could be a tie breaker.
This is of course a hypothetical scenario and hiring decisions involve many different factors and considerations.
What Will You Learn with a Power BI Certificate?
The Power BI certification process includes introductory to intermediate concepts including data preparation, data modeling, how to dashboards with visualizations and how to deploy them to the Power BI Service.
It’s a decent overview of content and gives people pursuing a certificate an understanding of some of the more enterprise grade features that Power BI offers such as diving into the nuances of security setups and data governance.
The full self-paced curriculum can be found on the Microsoft Learn website: Microsoft Certified: Power BI Data Analyst Associate – Certifications | Microsoft Learn
Should You get a Power BI Certificate?
The value that you receive from getting a Power BI Certificate is difficult to quantify. In many cases it will depend on where you are at in your career. It can be a small differentiator for people new to the business intelligence field looking for their first job, and can possible help you get a job at a development or consulting firm.
For experienced hires and people with existing complimentary skillsets the value of a Power BI certificate becomes less clear. Having a proven track record will mean more to most employers than a Power BI certificate.
There is also no quantifiable benefit for a certificate when it comes to Power BI Developer and Business Intelligence Analyst Pay ranges.
Increased pay is more correlated with years of experience and complimentary skillsets.
Power BI Developer Pay Scales
Power BI Developer pay can vary greatly by country, experience, and complimentary skillsets. For a rough idea of what you can expect to make as a Power BI developer in the United States here are some general guidelines. These ranges will also vary greatly based on company size, and complexity of their existing Power BI deployment.
|Years of Experience||Job Title||Annual Salary Range|
|0-2||Junior Power BI Developer||$50,000 – $75,000|
|3-5||Mid-Level Power BI Developer||$65,000 – $95,000|
|6+||Senior Power BI Developer||$85,000 – $115,000|
One of the challenges with Power BI developers in the United States and achieving a higher level of compensation is that much of the work done in Power BI can easily be outsourced to lower cost of labor countries. As more people work from home, and companies adjust to not having employees physically in a workspace they can also hire lower cost contractors.
Senior Developers Have Complimentary Skillsets for Higher Wages
Power BI developers that achieve the highest level of pay typically have complimentary skillsets along with advanced knowledge of data modeling, Vertipaq engine optimization, and writing complex DAX formulas.
Additional skills to compliment advanced Power BI knowledge is a necessity to reach the highest levels of pay.
Compliment Power BI with Additional Skills
The best way to make more money and become a senior BI developer is to compliment your business intelligence skills with complimentary skills. Specific skillsets will vary by person, and more importantly the combination of skillsets will be valued differently by different organizations..
Here are some example of skills that Power BI developers can invest time into.
- Accounting and Finance – Having a depth of knowledge about accounting and finance can be highly beneficial. Accounting data is the basis for many different Power BI reports and can give you an edge specializing in financial statements, KPIs, and reporting.
- Communication and Sales – Understanding project requirements and articulating the pros and cons of different solutions can not only help you build better dashboards but can also help build relationships helping you get promoted into managerial positions or transition towards technical sales.
- Data Architecture and Engineering – While technically a different field than Power BI there is a lot of overlap. As companies move towards Data Lakes and cutting edge big data solutions being able to mesh these solutions with familiar Power BI interfaces will become more in demand.
Hopefully this gives some ideas on areas that you can invest time into to become a higher paid Power BI Developer than what would be possible as an entry level analyst with a Power BI certificate.
Recommended Reading and Books for Power BI Certification
Even if you are pursuing a Power BI certification, the following books provide additional knowledge that you will find exceptionally helpful when building reports. Some books are technical in nature while others are meant to help provide you with background knowledge to better understand the business context and challenges that other departments go through that you will need to work with when creating reports.
DAX is a cornerstone of Power BI. Extreme DAX goes into great detail on how to utilize DAX and understand it at a foundational level. We highly recommend people interested in becoming professional Power BI developers invest in learning DAX. It can not only save you time, but DAX may be the only option available when working with specific data sets that don’t allow you to transform the data model.
While DAX is a cornerstone of Power BI Development, Accounting is a cornerstone of business. Many of the reporting dashboards, KPIs and other calculations that you work on will have an intersection with the accounting world. The Accounting QuickStart Guide is meant to provide a functional understanding of different aspects of financial accounting and managerial accounting. Knowing some accounting can be a great differentiator when building reports for business users.
Storytelling with Data is filled with ideas of how to build better dashboards and visualizations. It can help your dashboards stand out and go beyond presenting a chart or graph of data points to becoming something that is truly informative and easy to read for the end user. The book includes many real-life examples and helps developers think through which parts of a report are truly important and should be highlighted.
The Data Warehouse toolkit by Kimball is a data modeling classic. It teaches people the basics of data modeling and best practices related to working with and building star schemas. Most databases and systems that you will connect Power BI to will have a star schema structure. Some of the highest paid data analysts that work with Power BI will also help with developing data models and assist data engineers with creating new data warehouses. The Data Warehouse Toolkit helps you speak their language and build reports more efficiently.
While there is some value in attaining a Power BI certificate early on in your career it should be considered optional if you have years of related experience. Unless you work for a Microsoft Parter where the number of employees with Microsoft certifications on staff has added value to the organization, most will not require you to have a certificate.
To increase pay and become a better Power BI Developer, people should invest in additional training that compliments their Power BI development skills. People will often earn more money if they can show an expertise in fields such as marketing, accounting, data science, data engineering, or cyber security just to name a few.
The certificate should be seen as foundational, and people should plan to invest a significant amount of time to continue education and enhancing skillsets.
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