Getting Started with AWS Certification
There are now 11 AWS Certifications under the foundational, professional, and specialty learning paths – so you might be wondering which AWS certification is right for me? And which AWS certification should I get first?
It can be a bit confusing at first but once you understand the different levels and the role-based or specialty scope of the exam it becomes much easier to digest.
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Now, keep reading to learn about the various levels and how the certifications are designed to prepare you for specific organizational roles working with cloud computing.
WHY WORK IN CLOUD COMPUTING?
As you’re probably starting to realize, cloud computing is a really good space to be in today and its constant growth indicates that it will continue to be a great industry to work in for the foreseeable future. Here are some of the top reasons why you should work in cloud computing:
Due to the huge, continuing growth of the take up of cloud services, there will be ongoing demand for qualified and experienced cloud professionals around the globe.
Rewarding career paths
If you have a passion for technology, working in cloud computing will be one of the most exciting and rewarding careers with significant opportunities for growth.
Skills are globally relevant
Cloud computing providers such as AWS provide services to customers around the world – so you can take advantage of job opportunities globally.
Why get AWS certified?
Certifications are a great way to demonstrate your skills to potential employers or to get a promotion into your target job role. With AWS dominating the world of cloud computing and many companies moving services into the cloud, AWS certifications are some of the most sought-after certifications.
Gain theoretical and practical knowledge
AWS certifications are designed to test both theoretical and practical knowledge so the training programs for getting certified should always include both elements. Therefore, you can build practical skills by taking a certification training course that will help you perform well in your (future) cloud computing job roles.
Get ahead of the curve
Training for certifications provides knowledge that you can practically use in your current role even if you don’t work with cloud services today. Most IT roles involve some level of exposure to cloud computing (and very likely AWS). If your role doesn’t, it probably will soon. Therefore, it’s wise to ensure your skills stay relevant.
Which AWS Certification should I get and what experience do I need?
Back in 2019, AWS removed the prerequisites from all AWS certifications. This means you can now take ANY AWS certification at any time, you don’t need to complete other certifications first. However, as you’ll now learn, there is a structure to the AWS certification learning paths and it is wise to follow that structure to maximize your chance of success in your exams and to ensure you have a good skill set to take into your working life.
AWS Certification Levels and Specializations
There are 3 different levels of AWS certification: Foundational, Associate, and Professional.
The specializations sit alongside the other certifications and focus in much more depth on particular job skills.
Understanding the key concepts
- Scope – this indicates the breadth of coverage of AWS services in the exam
- Depth – this indicates how deep the exam goes in terms of technical knowledge of a specific service
AWS FOUNDATIONAL LEVEL
There is only one certification at this level: the AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner. This exam is aimed at those who are new to the AWS cloud and need to understand the basics. It is broad in scope as it covers quite a lot of core AWS services but it is very shallow in depth so questions are fairly easy.
AWS Associate Level
The associate level AWS certifications are a big step up in difficulty from the foundational level certification, but not nearly as difficult as the professional level or some of the specialty certifications. The associate-level certifications cover a broad scope of AWS services at a medium depth. This means you will need to learn a relatively large number of AWS services at a good level of technical understanding.
AWS PROFESSIONAL LEVEL
The professional level certifications represent an expert level of knowledge and are aimed at the Solutions Architect and DevOps Engineer job roles.
These exams can be very difficult as they cover both a broad scope of services and they cover those services to a deep level of technical expertise.
AWS SPECIALTY CERTIFICATIONS
Being more specialized, these certifications focus on a much narrower scope of AWS services but the level of technical expertise required is very deep. You need to be an expert in your chosen specialty before taking these exams. Generally speaking, you can expect the overall difficulty to be more akin to the professional level exams than the associate level exams.
Which AWS certification should I do first - based on my experience/career goals?
The path you choose to take will depend on your individual starting point. To help you identify the best learning path, we offer a few options based on common scenarios.
If this sounds like you, you’re best off starting with the AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner. This certification is good for those from both technical and non-technical backgrounds who want to learn what the AWS cloud is. Learn about its benefits, pricing models, architectural patterns and gain a high-level understanding of the core AWS services. Once you’ve earned your AWS Cloud Practitioner certification, you can then move onto the associate-level certifications.
If you already have some working experience with AWS cloud services or you have a strong technical background in IT, you can start off with the associate-level certifications. Personally, I would recommend doing the AWS Cloud Practitioner as well as it will be an easy exam for you and covers a bit more around benefits and pricing models.
So which associate-level certification should you aim for?
Take the AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate first. This is the most popular AWS certification and will give you a strong and broad understanding of many core AWS services.
If you’re a Developer, do the AWS Certified Developer – Associate next. This exam will teach you some services such as AWS Lambda, Amazon DynamoDB, Amazon API Gateway and the AWS Developer Tools in much greater depth. It will also teach you how to optimize your code for performance and security.
If you’re a SysOps Engineer, do the AWS Certified SysOps Administrator – Associate next. This certification will teach you about how to optimize infrastructure to run on AWS and goes into lots of details on operations and management (including great depth on Amazon CloudWatch).
If you’re already well on your way to being an AWS guru but haven’t taken any certifications yet, you may be tempted to start with the professional level or specialty certifications. Though that could work for you, I’d still recommend doing at a minimum the AWS Solutions Architect Associate certification first in most cases.
Following this advice will help you to learn how AWS certification exams are structured and what sort of knowledge gets tested. You’ll also become familiar with the style of the AWS exam questions and learn how to manage time in the exams, which will help you when you get to the harder professional or specialty certification exams.
How to best prepare for AWS exam
Here’s an outline of the recommended learning path that will help you prepare for your AWS certification exam. Following these steps will maximize your chances of passing your exam first time with a great score.
For those ready to take your cloud journey to the next level, we recommend our All Access Membership. Gain unlimited access to ALL of our on-demand AWS courses – current and future. You’ll be in the best position to earn your AWS certifications while building up practical cloud skills