Cloud computing skills have never been in such high demand. Many companies have taken the leap to using cloud infrastructure but they are struggling to recruit enough qualified individuals to both stand up and maintain cloud-based systems effectively. This skills gap presents an opportunity for you to become a valuable commodity by enhancing your cloud competencies.

With the increasing demand for cloud computing, it’s crucial that IT professionals can certify their cloud computing skills to differentiate themselves in the job market. By becoming AWS certified, not only do you become qualified to work with the most pervasive global cloud technology provider, but you can also prove your expertise to companies looking to adopt a least a hybrid deployment model of cloud and on-premise infrastructure.

However, it can be difficult to know where to start. If you’re fairly new to the IT profession, or you’ve yet to properly investigate the benefits associated with becoming AWS certified, then it can be tricky to evaluate which AWS certification is best for you. This post will provide a breakdown of the certifications and their respective tracks, so that you can make a well-informed decision about which is best for you.

 

Choosing the Right AWS Certification

AWS provides twelve certifications which can be grouped into 5 different “tracks” which have been categorized as follows – Foundational Cloud, Architecting, Developing, Operations and Specialties. Examinations within those tracks are further classified over three levels:  Foundational, Associate, and Professional.

The foundational cloud certification forms the so-called “base of the pyramid” before the examinations focus on specific core competencies within the designated tracks mentioned above.

Here are the track and expertise-level designations of each qualification:

Available AWS Certifications

*courtesy of Amazon Web Services

Now you know how each certification is organized, it’s useful to delve into a little more detail to understand precisely what each qualification entails. That way you can evaluate whether it presents a good fit for your career aspirations.

Let’s start with the foundation certification.

 

Foundation Certification

AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner (CLF-C01)

One of the more recent AWS certifications, this entry-level qualification is designed to cover foundational AWS cloud concepts without getting into too many specifics. It marks the starting point for many IT professionals and it’s the best place to start for anyone that’s new to cloud computing. For similar reasons, it’s a great qualification to take as someone who isn’t directly involved with cloud computing but needs to know how it operates, for instance C-level executives.

Areas covered:

  • 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

Examination Requirements:

  • Six months of fundamental AWS Cloud and industry knowledge
  • Format: Multiple choice questions
  • Length: 90 minutes
  • Cost: $100

 

 

AWS Associate-Level Certifications

AWS Certified Solution Architect (SAA-C02)

The most popular AWS examination for four years in a row, the Certified Solutions Architect was recently updated (March 23rd 2020) to include more AWS services and best practices. This certification is best suited to those in IT with at least 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.

Areas covered:

  • 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 (on-premises data center paired with AWS components)
  • The exam domains include the design of highly available and scalable systems, implementation and deployment in AWS, AWS-related data security practices, disaster recovery techniques, and troubleshooting

Examination Requirements:

  • One year of experience solving problems and implementing solutions using the AWS Cloud
  • Format: Multiple-choice, multiple-answer
  • Time: 130 minutes (based on the new exam)
  • Cost: $150

 

AWS Certified SysOps Administrator (SOA-C01)

As the name suggests, this certification focuses on system administrators, or those that run things on AWS systems. Many has suggested that this is the hardest of the associate-level examinations, so you need to make sure you’ve put in the preparation work. In order to pass this exam, you’ll need to have both technical expertise and conceptual knowledge of the operational aspects of the AWS platform.

Areas covered:

  • 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

Examination Requirements:

  • One year of experience solving problems and implementing solutions using the AWS Cloud
  • Format: Multiple-choice, multiple-answer
  • Time: 130 minutes
  • Cost: $150

 

AWS Certified Developer (DVA-C01)

This examination focusing on developing and maintaining AWS-based applications. Your code-writing skills will be tested, to demonstrate that you can program AWS software to access AWS applications from within your custom business applications. There’s a lot of overlap between this certification and the solutions architecture, meaning it’s beneficial to take them close together.

Areas covered:

  • Understanding 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

Examination Requirements:

  • One year of experience solving problems and implementing solutions using the AWS Cloud
  • Format: Multiple-choice, multiple-answer
  • Time: 130 minutes
  • Cost: $150

 

Professional-Level Certifications

AWS Certified Solutions Architect (SAP-C01)

The natural progression once you’ve completed your associate-level certifications is the Professional Solutions Architect examination. Many view this as the pinnacle of AWS certifications, and thus, you’ll have to have a deep understanding of of the entire AWS ecosystem. This examination will evaluate your ability to evaluate an organization’s requirements and make architectural recommendations for implementing and deploying applications on AWS.

Areas covered:

  • 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

Examination Requirements:

  • AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate status
  • Two years of comprehensive experience designing, operating, and troubleshooting solutions using the AWS Cloud
  • Format: Multiple-choice, multiple-answer
  • Time: 180 minutes
  • Cost: $300

 

AWS Certified DevOps Engineer (DOP-C01)

The DevOps Engineer certification is all about provisioning, operating, and managing applications on the AWS platform. It goes deeper into certain areas that the Professional Solutions Architect Exam and requires you to think about how systems will change and evolve over time. This exam focuses heavily on continuous delivery (CD) and the automation of processes, two fundamental concepts of DevOps.

Areas covered:

  • The basics of modern CD 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 manage tools that enable automation of production operations
  • Specialty Certification

Examination Requirements:

  • Status as AWS Certified Developer – Associate or AWS Certified SysOps Administrator – Associate
  • Two years of comprehensive experience designing, operating, and troubleshooting solutions using the AWS Cloud
  • Format: Multiple-choice, multiple answer
  • Time: 180 minutes
  • Cost: $300 USD

 

AWS Specialty Certifications

AWS Specialty Certifications are aimed at those within the IT profession that are extremely experienced in specific areas of AWS. They allow you to take the next step in your career by proving knowledge within your chosen field. Specialty certifications are similar to professional-level certifications in their detail, and thus, it’s advised that you have a least two years of hands-on AWS experience with each domain, if not much longer.

The Specialties all have the same examination requirements:

  • Prerequisites: Current associate-level certification and a minimum of two to five years of relevant experience
  • Format: Multiple-choice, multiple-answer
  • Time: 170 to 180 minutes
  • Cost: $300

 

AWS Certified Advanced Networking – Specialty (ANS-C00)

 This Specialty certification is designed to validate a candidate’s skills and experience in performing complex networking tasks on both AWS and hybrid IT networking architecture at scale. Candidates should have a solid understanding of architecting and implementing network solutions on AWS. You also need to have an excellent working knowledge of Direct Connect, Border Gateway Protocol (BGP), and routing.

Areas covered:

  • 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 (SCS-C01)

This certification unsurprisingly focuses on security, with candidates evaluated on their knowledge and ability to follow best practices in relation to data protection and encryption, infrastructure security, incident response, identity, and access management, monitoring and logging.

Areas covered:

  • Using 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 including AWS Identity and Access Management and amazon GuardDuty

 

AWS Certified Machine Learning – Specialty (MLS-C01)

This certification is for those in data science or developmental roles with at least a couple of years’ experience of using Machine Learning on the AWS cloud. The examination focuses on your ability to design and implement machine learning solutions for a wide range of business problems.

Areas covered:

  • Choosing and defending the best Machine Learning approach for a given business problem
  • Identifying the relevant AWS solutions to create and deploy your Machine Learning solution
  • Designing and implementing cost-optimized, scalable, reliable, and secure Machine Learning solutions

 

AWS Certified Alexa Skill Builder – Specialty (AXS-C01)

This specialty certification assesses your ability to build, test, and deploy Amazon Alexa Skills. Suited best to Alexa Skills Builders, those who sit this exam should have at least six to twelve months of experience of using the Alexa Skills Kit, and ideally should be proficient in a programming language.

Areas covered:

  • Learning about the value of voice
  • User experience design
  • Following AWS and Alexa best practices for security
  • Creating, testing, and validating for the skill
  • Working with the Alexa Developer Console

 

AWS Certified Data Analytics – Specialty (DAS-C01)

This certification was formerly called Big Data, but from the 13th of April 2020 onwards it became Data Analytics. This certification is for those who already have a background in data analytics. It evaluates a candidate’s ability to design and architect big data solutions as well as assessing how to extract value from that data solutions using AWS services.

Areas covered:

  • 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 Certified Database – Specialty (DBS-C01)

This is a new certification, with the first exams taking place on the 6th April 2020. Focused on AWS database solutions, this examination looks at a candidates’ ability to bring value to a business through database integration and architecting. Ideally, you should have at least two years’ experience of working with AWS-cloud based and premises-based relational and NoSQL databases.

Areas covered:

  • Database Design
  • Deployment and Migration
  • Management and Operations
  • Monitoring and Troubleshooting
  • Security

 

Should the Courses Be Taken in Order? Which is the Best Path for Me?  

Although, strictly speaking many of the AWS certifications don’t have the prerequisite requirements of having sat either the foundation certification or those on the same level (such as associate), it is recommended that you start with the basics and progress from there.

Even if the concepts are extremely basic for your competency level, by taking an easier examination, you gain a fundamental understanding of how the AWS assessment works and build confidence moving into future exams. If you are going to having contact with the cloud rather than working on it day in, day out, then it makes sense to focus on the AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner exam which should give everything you need.

However, if you are looking to build a career within the AWS cloud, then it makes sense to immediately progress to the AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate exam, which is a cornerstone qualification for the entire suite of AWS certifications. In fact, it’s the second-most valuable IT certification you can have right now, with an average salary of $150,000 reported by those with the qualification.

From there, it is time for you to start adding more strings to your professional bow, collecting the rest of the associate-level exams before moving on to the professional certifications. If you already work in the cloud every day, and you have already got some of the associate-level certifications, taking on a few of the AWS Specialties can give your career the boost it may need. They showcase your specialist knowledge, making you look more attractive to would be employers.

 

Prepare for Your Next AWS Certification with IaaS Academy

IaaS Academy can help you to achieve your goal of becoming AWS-certified by providing you with expert tutelage through our best-in-class AWS-courses and practice exams. We have extended on-demand training courses that make sure our candidates not have the best possible preparation for the exam, but are able to start building real world solutions on the AWS Cloud.

Those who take our course gain access to hundreds of practice questions and an exclusive exam simulator so you can judge your performance under exam conditions. Better still, our new discussion and chat boards will enable you to discuss topics and ask questions to clear doubts covering both technical and business concepts.

If you have any questions regarding our courses or any other of our learning materials, contact our team who will be more than happy to help.