Which AWS certification is right for me?

Cloud Computing

Which AWS certification is right for me?

So you’re thinking about getting AWS certified. That’s great! Cloud computing skills are in huge demand, and whether you’re looking to take your career to the next level or jump into a new field, the right certification can help you open the door to some life-changing opportunities.

But where do you begin? AWS offers ten individual certifications, spread across four different levels. Figuring out where to start, and which AWS certification is right for you and your career goals, can seem super intimidating at first. Fortunately, once you figure out what’s what, the path usually becomes pretty clear.

Before taking a look at the different certifications, it’s important to take a moment to explore what certifications are, and what they are not.

  • Certifications are a proof of knowledge – in that you are proficient enough to pass the exam.
  • Certifications are not a proof of experience – there is no substitute for actually working in the cloud.
  • Certifications are door-openers – they can get you into the interview, or the consideration set for promotion.
  • Certifications are not golden tickets – they do not ensure a job. They can tee you up for success, but you have to earn it from there.
  • Certifications are rather valuable – the average salaries for holders of AWS certifications are well over $100,000 per year.
  • Certifications are not just about earning power – they also validate your knowledge and help ensure that teams possess a common cloud “language”.

It can help to think of a certification like a stepping stone. It can be instrumental in helping you reach that next level, but the actual reaching is still up to you.

Exploring the AWS Certifications

Let’s take a look at the different certifications offered by Amazon Web Services. As of 2019, there are ten distinct certifications, spread across four experience levels – Foundational, Associate, Professional, and Specialty.

AWS Foundational Level Certifications


  • AWS Cloud Practitioner – Foundational
  • Scope: 10
  • Depth: 2
  • Prerequisites: None
  • Recommended Experience: 6 months of AWS and industry knowledge

It’s probably for you if: You need to know foundational cloud concepts and how AWS works at a high level, but won’t be getting your hands dirty with implementation.

Every journey starts somewhere. For AWS, that starting point is a Foundational certification. Since there is only one certification at the foundational level, we’re just going to combine our discussion of the level and the individual certification.

AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner –Foundational

The AWS Cloud Practitioner certification gives you a high-level introduction to AWS. It doesn’t go deep on any particular services, instead providing a general overview of how AWS is structured.

We recommend our AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner course as the best place to start for anyone who’s new to cloud computing. This will help you build the, er, foundation you’ll need as you delve deeper into the inner workings of AWS.

Ready to get certified? Prepare for your exam with our AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner course.

AWS Associate Level Certifications


  • AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate
  • AWS Certified Developer – Associate
  • AWS Certified SysOps Administrator – Associate
  • Scope: 8
  • Depth: 4
  • Recommended Experience: One year of experience working in AWS to solve problems and implement solutions.

It’s probably for you if: You’re going to be working in AWS in any capacity and need a firm grounding for actually working in the cloud.

If you’re going to be working in AWS in any hands-on capacity, the associate level certifications should mark the point where your journey truly begins. AWS Cloud Practitioner provides a solid conceptual footing, but the AWS associate level certifications are where the rubber really meets the road in terms of day-to-day implementation.

AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate

The AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate certification gives you a broad overview of AWS, and forms a valuable foundation on which you can build everything else you’ll learn moving forward. There’s a reason it’s been the #1 cloud certification for four years running.

The CSA – Associate certification focuses on the core AWS services, like Identity and Access Management (IAM), Virtual Private Cloud (VPC), S3, and EC2. Studying these core services will give you a good understanding of how AWS approaches security, networking, data storage, and compute capability.

For anyone new to cloud computing, we recommend our AWS Solutions Architect – Associate course as the next best step after you’ve gained your AWS Cloud Practitioner certification. You developers and sysadmins might be tempted to go straight at the Developer – Associate or SysOps Admin – Associate certs, and more power to you, but we’d still recommend going through Solutions Architect – Associate first.

Ready to get certified? Prepare for your exam with our AWS Certified Solutions Architect –Associate course.

AWS Certified Developer – Associate

You might think this cert is for developers – after all it says developer right there – but it’s really for anyone who uses AWS.

In terms of focus, this AWS certification takes you deeper into services like Dynamo DB, Elastic Beanstalk, SQS, and SNS, but not too deep. It also expects you to know a bit more about how you would use these services, as well as how they present themselves to the outside world through APIs and SDKs.

This is another certification that we recommend to everyone. In fact, we recommend that you move onto it immediately after you finish the AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate exam. There’s a lot of overlap between the certs, and taking them close together makes this one much easier to finish off quickly.

Ready to get certified? Prepare for your exam with our AWS Certified Developer – Associate course.

AWS Certified SysOps Administrator – Associate

This certification is also somewhat misleading. It’s not only for SysOps Admins. It’s for anyone who runs things on AWS. This exam goes rather in-depth on CloudWatch, among other things. Going through this certification gives you a much stronger grasp of what’s actually going on in your AWS architecture.

A word to the wise! SysOps Admin is widely regarded as the hardest AWS Associate certification. But it’s really valuable to finish off all of the Associates before taking on the much harder Professional exams. The Professionals expect you know everything about the Associate level exams like the back of your hand, so skipping one – particularly the hardest one – could come back to bite you.

Ready to get certified? Prepare for your exam with our AWS Certified SysOps Admin – Associate course.

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