Everything you need to know about AWS Certifications

Everything you need to know about AWS Certifications

About AWS Certifications

In the landscape of cloud computing, Amazon Web Services (AWS) Certifications stand as a benchmark for expertise and proficiency. These globally recognized certifications demonstrate an individual's ability to design, deploy, and manage applications and infrastructure on AWS, Amazon's versatile and comprehensive cloud computing platform.

AWS Certifications aren't just another feather in your cap; they validate your knowledge and skills in one of the most prevalent cloud computing platforms worldwide. They play a crucial role in leveraging better job prospects, validating technical expertise, and standing out in a competitive market. AWS Certifications are designed with specific roles in mind, catering to a broad spectrum of professionals such as cloud practitioners, architects, developers, and operations staff. The certifications are categorized across foundational, associate, professional, and specialty levels, offering progression and specialization within the field.

Available AWS Certifications

The path to AWS proficiency is divided into four main categories, each offering a unique level of expertise: Foundational, Associate, Professional, and Specialty. Each certification aligns with specific job roles and expertise levels and offers a different set of knowledge and skills.

The Foundational AWS Certification, aimed at individuals with six months of basic AWS Cloud and industry knowledge, is a great starting point for those looking to get their feet wet in the cloud realm.

The Associate AWS Certifications are designed for professionals with one year of experience solving issues and implementing solutions on the AWS Cloud. There are three certifications for different roles, including Solutions Architect, Developer, and SysOps Administrator.

The Professional AWS Certifications require two years of comprehensive experience and cover a deeper understanding of how to design, operate, and troubleshoot solutions using the AWS Cloud.

Specialty AWS Certifications cater to those with distinct technical skills, focusing on specific technical areas like advanced networking, data analytics, security, machine learning, and more.

Benefits of AWS Certifications

AWS certifications provide several benefits, not just in terms of knowledge and skills, but also for your professional development. The benefits are wide-ranging, from improving your employability and job security to increasing your salary potential. Let's dive into a few key benefits.

Significant Demand for AWS Certified Professionals

One of the key benefits of obtaining an AWS certification is the high demand for AWS certified professionals in the IT job market. As businesses of all sizes move their operations to the cloud, the need for skilled and certified cloud professionals continues to grow.

AWS, in particular, holds the largest share of the cloud market, making AWS skills and certifications highly sought after. AWS certified professionals are viewed as subject matter experts in their respective certification areas, be it architecture, development, operations, machine learning, or data analytics.

These certifications demonstrate your proficiency and commitment to staying updated in the rapidly evolving cloud space, which can help differentiate you from non-certified professionals. They make you more attractive to employers, increasing your chances of landing job interviews and securing high-profile projects.

Salary Benefits of Being AWS Certified

In addition to increased job opportunities, another significant benefit of AWS certifications is the potential for a higher salary. On average, AWS certified professionals earn significantly higher salaries compared to their non-certified counterparts. According to the Global Knowledge 2020 IT Skills and Salary Report, IT professionals with an AWS certification have a median salary of $129,868, which is higher than the average for all certified professionals in North America.

Moreover, with each additional AWS certification, you can expect your salary to rise even further. Earning multiple AWS certifications can also open the door to more specialized roles with higher salaries.

How Do I Become AWS Certified?

Becoming AWS certified involves a systematic approach, starting from choosing the right certification to passing the examination. The steps involved in the process are:

  1. Choose the AWS Certification: Depending on your job role and career aspirations, choose the certification that best suits your needs.

  2. Review the Exam Guide: AWS provides an exam guide for each certification. It outlines the content of the examination and helps you understand what to expect.

  3. Prepare through AWS Training and Learning Resources: AWS offers a multitude of both free and paid learning resources. These include self-paced labs, instructor-led training, practice exams, whitepapers, FAQs, and much more.

  4. Gain Hands-on Experience: AWS certifications, while theoretical, require a good amount of practical knowledge. Hands-on experience with AWS services helps consolidate learning and prepares you better for the exam.

  5. Schedule and Pay for the Exam: Once you are prepared, schedule the exam and pay the examination fee. AWS exams can be taken online or at a testing center.

  6. Review and Take the Exam: Regular review and practice are essential. Once you are thoroughly prepared, take the exam.

Choosing the Right AWS Certification

Choosing the right AWS certification can seem daunting, especially with so many options available. The right choice depends on your current skill set, your role (or the role you aspire to), and your career goals. AWS provides a certification learning path for each role (Architect, Developer, and Operations), making it easier to select the certification that aligns best with your career path.

If you are a cloud practitioner looking to establish your AWS foundation, the AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner would be a good start. For professionals with one year of experience in designing distributed systems, the AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate would be an ideal fit. Similarly, choose the certification that best represents your expertise and career trajectory.

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Foundational AWS Certifications

AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner

AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner is the entry-level certification and an excellent starting point for individuals looking to begin their cloud journey. It provides a basic understanding of AWS Cloud, including the architectural principles, the value proposition, key services, security aspects, and more. It also provides an understanding of billing, account management, and pricing models. This certification is ideal for individuals in roles such as sales, purchasing, financial analysis, who need a basic understanding of the AWS Cloud.

Associate-Level AWS Certifications

The Associate-level certifications are designed for individuals with one year of experience in designing systems on AWS.

AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate (SAA-C03)

The AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate certification validates your ability to design and deploy secure and robust applications on the AWS platform. It involves architectural design principles, including designing for cost optimization and designing for organizational complexity. Candidates should be able to demonstrate an understanding of networking technologies and how they work in AWS.

AWS Certified Developer – Associate

The AWS Certified Developer – Associate certification validates your proficiency in developing, deploying, and debugging cloud-based applications using AWS. It covers the core AWS services, uses, and basic AWS architecture best practices. Candidates should have a good understanding of the AWS SDKs and how they interact with AWS services.

AWS Certified SysOps Administrator – Associate

The AWS Certified SysOps Administrator – Associate certification validates your experience in deploying, managing, and operating scalable systems on AWS. This certification covers a wide range of topics, including data management, security controls, networking concepts, and more.

Professional-Level AWS Certifications

The Professional level certifications require two years of comprehensive experience designing, operating, and troubleshooting solutions using the AWS Cloud.

AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Professional (SAP-C02)

The AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Professional certification validates your advanced technical skills and experience in designing distributed applications and systems on the AWS platform. It covers designing dynamic applications, designing for business continuity, and cost optimization strategies.

If you're looking to take the Solutions Architect - Professional exam, you'll want to read my AWS Solutions Architect Professional Exam Notes and Prep Guide.

AWS Certified DevOps Engineer – Professional

The AWS Certified DevOps Engineer – Professional certification validates your technical expertise in provisioning, operating, and managing distributed application systems on the AWS platform. It covers implementing and managing continuous delivery systems, implementing and automating security controls, governance processes, and compliance validation.

Specialty AWS Certifications

The Specialty AWS Certifications cater to individuals with expertise in specific technical areas.

AWS Certified Data Analytics – Specialty

The AWS Certified Data Analytics – Specialty certification validates your ability to design, build, secure, and maintain analytics solutions on AWS. It covers designing and maintaining big data, leveraging tools to automate data analysis, and more.

AWS Certified Advanced Networking – Specialty

The AWS Certified Advanced Networking – Specialty certification validates your ability to design and implement AWS and hybrid IT network architectures at scale. It covers designing, developing, and deploying cloud-based solutions using AWS, implementing core AWS services according to architectural best practices.

AWS Certified Security – Specialty

The AWS Certified Security – Specialty certification validates your ability to effectively secure the AWS platform. It covers incident response, logging and monitoring, infrastructure security, and identifying and managing access controls.

AWS Certified Machine Learning – Specialty

The AWS Certified Machine Learning – Specialty certification validates your ability to design, implement, and maintain machine learning solutions for given business problems. It covers selecting the appropriate ML approach, identifying the appropriate AWS solution, and designing and implementing a scalable, cost-optimized, reliable, and secure ML solution.

AWS Certified Database – Specialty

The AWS Certified Database – Specialty certification validates your comprehensive understanding of AWS database services and your ability to bring value to businesses through optimized database integration and architecting. It covers choosing appropriate database services for specific types of data and workload requirements, migrating existing databases to AWS services, and more.

AWS Certified SAP on AWS – Specialty

The AWS Certified SAP on AWS – Specialty certification validates your ability to run SAP environments and applications on AWS. It covers deploying, managing, and operating scalable, highly available, and fault-tolerant SAP applications on AWS, selecting appropriate AWS services to meet an SAP application's requirements.

Recertification and Staying Up-to-Date with AWS Certifications

AWS certifications have a validity of three years, after which you'll need to recertify to keep your certification status. Recertification helps strengthen your AWS knowledge with the latest updates and innovations in the AWS ecosystem. Recertification can be done either by taking a recertification exam for your current certification level or by passing a higher level exam.

Continuous learning is critical in the rapidly evolving cloud ecosystem. AWS provides several resources to stay up-to-date with the latest technologies, services, and best practices. These include whitepapers, user guides, FAQs, forums, webinars, and more.

Having an AWS certification under your belt not only validates your cloud skills but also opens up new opportunities for career advancement. Whether you are a developer, an administrator, a solutions architect, or a cloud practitioner, there's an AWS certification that can help you climb the ladder of your career.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

In this section, we'll answer some of the most commonly asked questions about AWS certifications.

How Long Does It Take to Become AWS Certified?

The time it takes to become AWS certified depends on the certification level and your existing knowledge and experience with AWS. If you're just starting with the foundational level AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner certification, you can expect to spend 30-50 hours of study over 1-2 months. For associate-level certifications, you might need to study for 80-120 hours over 2-3 months. For professional and specialty certifications, you might need to dedicate 120-180 hours of study over 3-6 months. These estimates can vary significantly based on your background and how much time you can dedicate to studying each week.

How Much Does It Cost to Get AWS Certified?

The cost of AWS certification exams varies based on the level of the certification. As of the current writing, the Foundational certification exam costs $100, Associate level exams cost $150 each, and Professional and Specialty certification exams cost $300 each. These costs are for the exam only and do not include training or study materials.

What Are the Different Levels of AWS Certification?

AWS offers certifications at four levels: Foundational, Associate, Professional, and Specialty. Foundational certification is designed for individuals seeking to demonstrate basic understanding of AWS cloud services. Associate level certifications are designed for professionals with some experience in designing or managing applications on AWS. Professional level certifications require a high degree of technical skill and experience in designing or managing AWS applications. Specialty certifications validate advanced skills in specific technical areas.

Which Certification is Best in AWS?

The "best" AWS certification depends on your career goals, current skill level, and area of interest. If you're new to AWS, the AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner certification can be a good starting point. If you're a Solutions Architect or aspiring to be one, then the AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate or Professional might be best for you. If you specialize in areas like data analytics, machine learning, or security, you might consider the relevant AWS Specialty certification.

Are AWS Certifications Worth It?

Yes, AWS certifications are worth it. They validate your skills and knowledge in the leading cloud platform, increase your job opportunities, enhance your credibility, and can increase your salary. In addition, preparing for AWS certifications helps you gain deeper knowledge and understanding of AWS services and best practices.

Can I Get AWS Certifications Online?

Yes, all AWS certification exams can be taken online with remote proctoring through Pearson VUE. You'll need a quiet, private location, a reliable device with a webcam, and a strong internet connection. AWS also provides various online resources, like virtual training, practice exams, whitepapers, and FAQs to help you prepare for certification exams.

What is an AWS Certification Path?

An AWS certification path is a series of AWS certifications that align with your career goal. The path starts with the foundational level, then progresses through the associate and professional levels. After achieving professional certification, you might choose to specialize in a specific area of AWS technology. For example, if you aim to be an AWS Solutions Architect, you could follow this path: AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner -> AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate -> AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Professional. This path provides a structured approach to gaining the necessary skills and knowledge in AWS services and best practices.

What are the best courses available to get AWS Certified?

The best courses that I've found are Adrian Cantrill's. They're really affordable, starting at $40 for an Associate-level certification, and will cover all the exam topics plus some guided examples so you can get real experience. Get them here.

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