Cloud Skills: Career-Building with AWS Certifications

In my career spanning 15 years of technical support and solution-building, I have taken my fair share of technical certifications. I’ve learned that taking these certifications can be an endless treadmill of coursework and credentialing, as they are often built with a two-year timestamp to address a certain product or an immediate need. Technology changes fast, and the market constantly creates new use cases. But in all my certifications, I’ve found the most value in my Amazon Web Services (AWS) core training.

Rarely do you get a certification program as enriching and refreshing as AWS’s. If you are an IT professional, I highly recommend obtaining their cloud certifications at some level, even if your job does not require that you actively work with these products. Why?

AWS is the Standard for Cloud Skills

AWS is the most mature cloud vendor with the largest suite of cloud products for management, maintenance, development and more. That means it’s a built-in direct line to the latest and greatest products and training by default. There’s no searching the Web or signing up with an expensive university or bootcamp.

What’s more, they set the standard for cloud architecture and sit at the forefront of new product movements (remember RDS?). Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform (GCP) have critical differences in their architecture and product portfolio, but it’s safe to say that if you’re certified in AWS core products, you will catch on to Azure and GCP very quickly.

The AWS certification program is also the oldest and most extensive, which puts them in much higher demand with greater value in the job market, for now, and for the foreseeable future. These certifications are highly respected, and their curriculum and testing are recognized industry-wide. (Note to cheaters: You will not pass an AWS Associate or Professional level exam with by cutting corners!)

Where to Begin?

With 9 total certification tracks, it’s easy to feel lost when beginning your certification journey. Even as a technical expert, it can be hard to wrap your head around the size and complexity of AWS products. While it’s not possible to be an expert in every product AWS offers, some critical services are a must.

For example, every AWS professional must understand Virtual Private Cloud, Identity and Access Management, Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2),  RDS, DynamoDB, Route53, S3 and more. But beyond the core fundamentals, how do you decide what’s important in over 200 products? It’s easiest to start with a generalized roadmap for your career and work backward.

Build a Strong Cloud Foundation as an Associate

I love the Solutions Architect – Associate exam because it will build a solid foundation on what AWS is, including detailed knowledge on AWS core products. It provides a strong foundation if you choose to pursue the DevOps path. It will also provide the groundwork for the Developer-Associate certification.

Define Your Cloud Career Path at the Professional Level

This could be your next crossroads to decide whether you’d like to focus on building cloud migration/application architecture plans or cloud automation and development (DevOps).

Build a Deeper Specialty

As your career progress, you can continue down any number of rabbit holes with AWS including Machine Learning, Serverless, and more.

Tips and Tricks To Getting Certified

AWS certifications can be difficult, but don’t despair. Here are few words of wisdom as you start down the path:

Get Your Hands Dirty: There is no theoretical value to technical certification. It’s real, tangible, technology you’re working with, so make sure you get under the hood and sign up for a free AWS subscription and experience the product yourself. Besides, once you roll up your sleeves and work with AWS, the curriculum will sink in much faster. Rich documentation and tips are all over the actual interface, and will accelerate your education very quickly. Reading the documentation is essential to being able to navigate the interface, design and use the features.

Take An Online Course: There are plenty of good-quality online courses that can help at every step of the way.

Read Exam Blueprints and Requirements In Depth: For associate exams, read related products FAQs in full. For professional/specialty tracks, read AWS online documentation in depth. It’s all excellent stuff.

Practice Makes Perfect: Before booking the exam, take online AWS assessment tests from AWS itself, or from third-party practice-exam providers… but don’t rely on practice exams alone. They’re great for measuring your AWS knowledge, but AWS re-creates and rephrases the questions very regularly. This isn’t about rote memorization; it’s about putting concepts into practice.

Prepare to Put in the Time

AWS exams are not easy. Expect some heavy investment in time and effort. Don’t bother keeping any information in your head that is subject to constant change, such as product pricing or exact specifications. In most cases, AWS wants to test your ability to design and integrate various products together to provide an overall solution to a problem. While you need to zoom in-depth on related products, you equally have to understand how those products relate to each other in order to provide a packaged solution for a client’s need.

As AWS continues to capture a large segment of the public cloud computing market, it’s inevitable that your career will eventually intersect with it in some way. Luckily, the company wants to prepare professionals to leverage its products as successfully as possible for companies of all sizes. I highly recommend including AWS certifications in your self-development plan. It’s served me well, and it’ll do the same for you.

Wael Altaqi is a Solutions Architect at OpsRamp.

One Response to “Cloud Skills: Career-Building with AWS Certifications”

  1. Adedamola Adedeji

    Hi, I have a 10years experience as a pre sales telecommunications solution architect and considered changing career part, I wrote the AWS solution architect associate certification exam and passed, did a devops certification also, studying for my AWS solution architect professional certification but my worry is getting a job as a fresher,I have searched for a job and it all comes down to 2-3years work experience in the AWS field, I am not sure if I am able to get a job with the certification only. I would appreciate your input on this. Thanks.