I get this question from time to time, and I could have sworn I had written about this somewhere. I looked here, looked on YouTube, and couldn't find it. So it's about time I put down in words the answer to the question...
"I'm wanting to learn Azure for work. Which Azure exam should I start with?"
I guess the question of "which direction should I go?" should first be answered with, "where do you want to end up?"
So let's start there? What is your ultimate goal? What is your purpose for wanting to take certification tests?
Person A - I want to learn Azure completely. I want to know a little bit about everything when it comes to Azure. Well-rounded generalist.
Person B - I have a particular job role in mind. I want to excel at that role. I don't anticipate changing careers in the next little while because I love what I do.
Person C - Although I currently need to learn Azure for a particular job, I can see myself wanting to learn more than just the tasks for that job. I'm wanting to grow into a new job possibly.
So depending on the type of person you are, you might want to go a different route when it comes to learning Azure.
For Person B , the person who has a job and likes their job and isn't looking to learn more than what it takes to be excellent at their job, then I might suggest you concentrate on one area of study.
For Person C, the person who starts with a job and is looking to grow from there, they can take a similar approach. Start with what you know, and use that as a base to add more skills and knowledge from.
For instance, developers might want to start with 70-532 exam. This is a developer focused exam. All you would need to learn is the way that developers interact with Azure - from code, command line, and the developer tools that Microsoft provides.
Database administrators and data developers might start with 70-473 as a logical place to start. That isn't a difficult exam, and you might find familiarity with the SQL Server and SQL Database topics based on your existing understanding of how SQL Server works.
Operations and implementors might want to look at 70-533 exam to start. This exam doesn't focus on dev tools but does focus on the things that operations team members need to know to set up, manage, and optimize Azure in day-to-day operations.
And if you're not a coder, and not really familiar with PowerShell, you might look at 70-535 architecture exam. This exam covers a LOT of ground. There are hundreds of topics covered. But they don't go into too much coding or implementing detail, just testing your understanding of the services and their purpose.
So, if you're trying to become a specialist, I might suggest you go after the area that you already have knowledge in.
For Person A, the generalist, you have to learn it all eventually. So it's makes some sense to be strategic about in what order you learn things.
I myself took the 70-534 exam (now 70-535) first. It was a tough exam, but I spent the time to learn all of the parts and was able to build a solid general understanding of the different services of Azure and why you'd choose to use them.
Then when I took 70-532, it was easier. It did not require as much studying. I was able to leverage what I had already learned to take the next exam.
Some people might want to do that the other way around.
You can take the 70-533 exam first, which some think is the easiest. Then you can move to 70-532 before taking 70-535. Or skip one of those 3 and add another exam like 70-473 data to the mix.
So either you take the hardest first, and the next exams don't require as much effort to study. Or you take the easiest first, and build your confidence up to take the other exams.
I can't tell you what to do. I can't tell you which way will work for you. I can only say what I did, and offer up the pros and cons of each approach.