AWS certified shows that you have some of the most in-demand (and profitable) skills for one of the most recognizable entities in cloud computing. A certification demonstrates a shared understanding of a platform, a shared terminology, and a expertise that can speed up the time to value for cloud projects.
AWS certifications themselves stand out for their rigor and thoroughness in evaluating a candidate’s skills, with an emphasis on hands-on experience and best practices. If you’re new to AWS, then a certification will provide foundational knowledge, and skills you’ll need to work with AWS services and solutions down the road.
A Guide to AWS Certifications
AWS currently offers nine certifications: a foundational certification, three associate-level certifications, two professional-level certifications, and three specialty certifications.
Developer – Associate
SysOps Administrator – Associate
Solutions Architect – Associate
DevOps Engineer – Professional
Solutions Architect – Professional
Big Data – Specialty
Advanced Networking – Specialty
Security – Specialty
Let’s take a closer look at each exam.
Foundational Certification: AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner
This entry-level certification is designed to validate a candidate’s overall understanding of the AWS cloud. I personally only recommend this if you are required to get an AWS certification and are not interested in getting more certifications.
Recommended Pre-requisites: At least six months of general AWS cloud experience in any role (technical, managerial, sales, etc.) is recommended.
Format: Multiple-choice questions
Length: 90 minutes
- Understanding of basic AWS architectural principles
- The value proposition of the AWS cloud
- Key AWS services and their common use cases
- Basic security and compliance, the shared responsibility model for security
- Core deployment and operating principles
The associate level is the second tear of certification and in my opinion your starting point.
Format: Multiple-choice, multiple-answer
Time: 80 minutes
AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate
For those with some experience in designing distributed applications. Candidates will need to be able to demonstrate their ability to design, manage, and implement applications using tools and services on the AWS platform. This exam was updated in February 2018 to include more AWS services and best practices. The original exam will be available through August 12, 2018.
- Network technologies and how they work in AWS
- How AWS-based applications work and how client interfaces connect to the AWS platform
- How to build secure and reliable applications on the AWS platform
- Deploying hybrid systems – those with an on-premises data center as well as AWS components
The exam domains include the design of highly available and scalable systems, (requires familiarity with AWS infrastructure and concepts), implementation and deployment in AWS, AWS-related data security practices, disaster recovery techniques, and troubleshooting
AWS Certified Developer – Associate
Looking to target developing and maintaining AWS-based applications take this exam. You will need to know how to write actual code that uses AWS software to access AWS applications from within your custom business applications.
- Understanding of the basic AWS architecture and the core AWS services
- Hands-on experience designing, developing, deploying, and maintaining applications
- Working knowledge of applications that utilize key AWS services such as AWS databases, notifications, workflow services, and services for storage and change management services
AWS Certified SysOps Administrator – Associate
The exam is the only certification that is fully geared toward system administrators. Passing this exam requires both technical expertise and conceptual knowledge of the operational aspects of the AWS platform. Previous experience as a Linux or Windows administrator will be a plus.
- Deploying applications to the AWS platform
- Sending and receiving data between data centers and AWS
- Selecting the appropriate AWS services to meet an organization’s needs
Provisioning, managing, and securing systems in an AWS environment
AWS Professional-level certifications are designed to validate a candidate’s skills and are much more difficult then associate. The Professional-level is a deep dive into advanced skills of AWS.
Format: Multiple-choice, multiple-answer
Time: 170 minutes
AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Professional
A professional AWS architect is someone who can evaluate an organization’s requirements and make architectural recommendations for implementing and deploying applications on AWS. The Certified Solutions Architect Professional certification requires a high degree of technical skill and experience designing AWS-based applications.
Prerequisites: Status as AWS Certified Architect – Associate.
Two years of hands-on experience designing and deploying cloud architecture on AWS and best practice knowledge of multi-application architectural design is recommended.
- Best practices for architecting the designing applications on AWS
- Selecting the right AWS service for the requirements of an application
- Migration of complex application systems to AWS
- Knowledge of cost optimization strategies
AWS Certified DevOps Engineer – Professional
All about provisioning, operating, and managing applications on the AWS platform. This exam focuses heavily on continuous delivery (CD) and automation of processes, two fundamental concepts of the DevOps movement.
Prerequisites: Status as Developer, SysOps – Associate. Experience in provisioning and managing AWS-based applications, as well as a firm understanding of modern application development such as the agile development methodology, is recommended.
- The basics of modern Continuous Delivery methodologies
- How to implement CD systems
- Set up, monitoring, and logging systems on AWS
- How to implement highly available and scalable systems on AWS
- How to design and use management tools that enable automation of production operations
AWS specialty certifications are designed to validate a candidate’s skills in big data and networking.
Prerequisites: Current associate-level certification and a minimum of five years of relevant experience
Format: Multiple-choice, multiple-answer
Time: 3 hours
AWS Certified Big Data – Specialty
A certification for those with a background in data analytics and experience using AWS services for designing and architecting big data solutions. It is designed to validate a candidate’s experience in extracting value from data using AWS services.
- Architecting best practices for implementing core AWS big data services
- Designing and maintaining big data
- AWS tools for automating data analysis
- Security best practices for big data solutions
- AWS services covered include: Kinesis, Athena, Quicksight, and Rekognition
AWS Certified Advanced Networking – Specialty
This certification is designed to validate a candidate’s skills and experience in connection with performing complex networking tasks on AWS and hybrid IT networking architecture at scale. Candidates should have a background in architecting and implementing network solutions and advanced knowledge of networking on AWS.
- Designing, developing, and deploying cloud solutions with AWS
- Implementing core services according to architectural best practices
- Automation for AWS tasks for network deployments
- Security and compliance design and implementation
- Network optimization and troubleshooting
AWS Certified Security – Specialty
The AWS Certified Security – Specialty certification covers topics that security pros and teams need to master security fundamentals, follow best practices, and build deep knowledge in key services unique to the AWS platform. It is designed to validate your AWS knowledge across security topics such as data protection and encryption, infrastructure security, incident response, identity and access management, monitoring and logging.
- Use a variety of AWS services to select the appropriate level of security based on your deployments and the sensitivity of your data
- Select the most appropriate data protection techniques including encryption mechanisms
- Implement logging and monitoring solutions to detect and analyze security vulnerabilities and weaknesses within your infrastructure
- AWS services include: AWS Identity and Access Management, AWS CloudTrail, AWS Config, Amazon Inspector, AWS Trusted Advisor, Amazon GuardDuty, Amazon CloudWatch, Amazon Key Management Service
Recertification and Staying Up to Date
To demonstrate continued expertise and knowledge of best practices for the most up to date AWS services, certification holders are required to recertify every two years.
You may recertify by either passing the professional-level exam for the same certification or by passing the recertification exam for your existing certification. Recertification exams run for 80 minutes and cost $75.
Remember that a certification is broadly representative of your knowledge at a specific point in time. The real AWS mavens don’t wait until their certification expires — they build good habits to stay current and are obsessed with learning. Here are some tips for keeping your skills current.
Read, a lot. Subscribe to AWS Release Notes newsletter and others to receive the latest updates.
Learn by doing. Get hands-on practice experimenting with new services in Machine Learning and AI
Attend re:Invent. An amazing professional conference
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Test your skills. Take AWS practice exams, regardless of whether you’re sitting for the exam or not.
Suggest training at work. Excellence begets excellence. If you surround yourself with a team of well-informed individuals who strive for excellence, you’ll move faster together.
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