Amazon Web Services (AWS) remains the most widely adopted cloud platform on the market used by companies such as Netflix, Apple, Slack and Adobe. And that makes AWS certifications among the most valuable certifications you can earn in IT. Three of the 10 highest-paying certifications in the U.S. are offered by AWS, and the average salary for an AWS-certified IT professional is $129,868, according to the 2019 Global Knowledge IT Skills and Salary Report.
Each AWS certification is designed to validate your skills and knowledge in AWS cloud technology, so the best preparation for each exam is hands-on experience. But you can also download an exam guide for each certification directly from Amazon, which also offers sample questions help familiarize you with what will be asked on the exam. Exams are multiple choice but vary in duration — most take between 60 to 180 minutes to complete and can be completed at a testing center or online.
If you’re interested in certifying your cloud skills on the AWS platform, here’s a breakdown of each AWS certification offered by Amazon at the foundational, associate, professional and specialty levels.
Foundational-level AWS Certification
The AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner certification covers the basics of AWS cloud, including its global infrastructure and architectural principles. You’ll be asked to define and describe the AWS Cloud value proposition, key services on the AWS platform and their common use cases, as well as basic security and compliance aspects of the AWS platform and the shared security model.
It’s recommended that you have a basic understanding of IT services and how they work with AWS. You’ll also need at least six months of experience with AWS in any role, whether technical, managerial, sales, purchasing or financial. The foundational-level AWS certification exam is priced at $100.
Associate-level AWS certifications
Amazon offers three associate level exams, each of which consists of a multiple-choice exam that lasts 130 minutes, with a cost of $150 per exam. You don’t need to earn associate-level certifications to move on to a professional-level credential, but you will want to make sure you choose the right exam for your experience level.
Solutions Architect – Associate
The AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate certification is designed for those working in a solutions architect role with one or more years of hands-on experience designing systems on AWS. The certification exam covers how to architect and deploy “secure and robust applications” on AWS, define solutions based on customer requirements using architectural design principles and your ability to guide the organization through implementation.
You’ll also be tested on your understanding of AWS global infrastructure, network technologies related to AWS, security features and tools, and best practices for building secure and reliable applications. It’s recommended to have at least one year of hands-on experience using AWS and designing cost-effective, fault-tolerant and scalable distributed systems on AWS.
Developer – Associate
The AWS Certified Developer – Associate certification is for those who work in a development role and have one or more years of hands-on experience developing and maintaining AWS-based applications. The exam covers your knowledge of programming languages, AWS core services, AWS architecture best practices and application lifecycle management. You’ll also be asked about developing, deploying and debugging cloud-based applications using AWS and writing code for serverless applications.
It is recommended that you have experience with at least one programming language as well as an understanding of AWS services, the ability to use or interact with AWS services and proficiency writing code for serverless applications.
SysOps Administrator – Associate
The AWS SysOps Administrator – Associate certification is aimed at systems administrators with at least one year of experience in deployment, management and operations on AWS. The certification tests your knowledge and abilities around deploying, managing, and operating scalable systems on AWS. It also covers implementing and controlling data flow, determining the appropriate AWS service based on requirements, identifying AWS operation best practices, estimating costs and migrating workloads to AWS.
For those looking to get certified, it’s recommended that you have at least one year of experience monitoring and auditing systems; understand networking, virtualization and security concepts; and have hands-on experience with AWS CLI, SDK and API tools.
Professional-level AWS certifications
Amazon’s professional-level AWS certifications are designed for cloud professionals with deeper AWS experience. Associate-level certification is not required, but make sure you review the requirements to ensure you choose the right certification for your skill level. The professional certification exams are multiple choice and take 180 minutes to complete. Each exam is priced at $300.
Solutions Architect – Professional
The AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Professional certification tests your ability to develop scalable and reliable AWS applications, choose AWS services based on requirements, develop cost-saving measures, migrate complex and multi-tier applications, and design and deploy enterprise-wide operations. You’ll also need experience with a scripting language, Windows and Linux environments, hybrid architecture and evaluating cloud application requirements to make architectural recommendations on AWS. It’s recommended that to earn your AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate certification and have at least two or more years of hands-on experience designing and deploying cloud architecture on AWS.
DevOps Engineer – Professional
The AWS Certified DevOps Engineer – Professional certification is best suited for those with two or more years of experience managing AWS environments. The exam covers your ability to implement and manage continuous delivery systems, automated security controls, governance processes and compliance validation on AWS. To pass the exam, you’ll need experience coding in one or more high-level programming language, automation, administering operating systems and a strong understanding of development processes and methodologies.
Specialty AWS certifications
Amazon offers several specialty certifications in specific skills such as security, machine learning and data analytics. Each specialty certification exam is priced at $300 and can be completed at a testing center or online, except for the database specialty certification which can only be taken at a testing center. Due to current restrictions with COVID-19, testing centers have been temporarily closed and in-person exams and recertifications will be rescheduled.
- Advanced Networking: The credential certifies your ability to implement core AWS services, design and maintain network architecture and automate networking tasks. It’s recommended that you have at least five years of hands-on experience with networking architecture and implementing network solutions.
- Alexa Skill Builder: This certification for those working with Alexa tests your abilities to build, test and publish using the Alexa Skills Kit on the AWS cloud. It is recommended that you have at least six months of experience building Alexa skills, be proficient in a programming language and have experience publishing an Alexa skill in the past.
- Security: AWS Certified Security – Specialty certifies your understanding of data encryption, secure internet protocols and specialized data classifications, and your ability to make security decisions. It’s aimed at those working in a security role with at least two years of experience securing AWS workloads.
- Machine Learning: Targeted at those working in development or data science, the machine learning specialty certification certifies your ability to implement machine learning solutions on AWS. It’s recommended that you have at least one to two years of experience developing, architecting or running machine learning projects, a basic understanding of machine learning algorithms and experience with deep learning frameworks.
- Big Data: The big data specialty certification is designed for those working with complex big data and implementing big data services using AWS technology. It’s recommended that you have at least two years of experience using AWS technology and that you hold a prior AWS associate-level certification, but it is not required.
- Database: Aimed at IT pros working with database services, the database specialty certification validates your ability to drive business transformation using AWS database services. It’s recommended that you have at least five years of experience with database technologies, two years of hands-on experience working with AWS and working on premises with AWS cloud-based databases.