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Are AWS Certifications Worth It?

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By: Cami Ragano

April 14, 2021

Cloud Career Considerations: Are AWS Certifications Worth It?

As noted by Forbes, Amazon now owns almost half of the public cloud infrastructure market worldwide and continues to enjoy a significant enterprise lead over its nearest competitors. While this is partly predicated on Amazon's role as the first large-scale public cloud offerings, the company isn't resting on its laurels; Amazon Web Services (AWS) continues to add new functions and features that make it easier for IT teams and end-users alike.

For IT professionals, however, this creates a potential paradox. With Amazon now ubiquitous in corporate cloud landscapes, are AWS certifications worth it? Does technology staff benefit from the time and effort to learn new material, prepare for exams, and pay for certification? Or are they best served by leaning into on-the-job training focused or skill over study?

The short answer? AWS certifications are worth the work. The long answers? Let's dive in.

Reason #1: Better Career Options

Amazon is continuously expanding its suite of cloud options — from EC2 to Elastic Load Balancing, Lambda, and Lightsail, there's always something new on the horizon. As a result, there's no shortage of opportunities for IT professionals, from entry-level cloud computing management to more in-depth architecture, design, and security career tracks; the right certifications open a host of cloud career doors.

For IT staff who are cloud-curious but have limited practical experience with AWS, it's worth considering AWS terminology courses to gain knowledge of core concepts, including VPC, S3, EC2, and IAM, just to name a few. Next, it's worth tackling the AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner certification. This entry-level qualification introduces key cloud principles such as:

  • Understanding AWS cloud models and deployments
  • Implementing AWS security basics
  • Creating AWS storage, compute, and database instances
  • Managing AWS services and billing

Once equipped with this foundational qualification, IT pros can dive deeper into three AWS cloud areas: Development, Operations, or Architecture. From there, Amazon offers even further role-based refinement with five specialty certifications.

Reason #2: Bigger Salary Potential

Compensation matters — IT pros working full-time need positions that offer competitive salaries and boost financial security. Here, AWS delivers: Experienced IT pros who earn the AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner qualification can earn more than $130,000 per year. At the same time, AWS Certified Solutions Architects often land near the $150,000 mark for their expertise.

The ubiquity of AWS technology also offers benefits for long-term salary potential. Here's why: with a growing gap between the scope of cloud deployments and the supply of skilled IT professionals, organizations are willing to pay top-dollar for the right candidate. If staff can show they've put in the time and effort to go beyond the basics of AWS adoption, they're in a better position to negotiate for solid salaries and job security.

It's also worth noting that the sheer volume of AWS deployments worldwide makes these certifications transferable. Enterprises will each have their approach to cloud migration, deployment, and management. The skills developed with AWS training mean that IT pros are in-demand no matter where they go, offering leverage in current jobs and the potential to try new IT tracks and expand their experience.

Reason #3: Broader Knowledge Gains

As noted above, Amazon's cloud offerings are continually improving — and their certification options are evolving to keep pace. Introductory AWS courses are a great place to start for IT staff considering a jump to more cloud-focused careers. They'll provide critical knowledge about AWS operations without the pressure of an exam, giving potential cloud practitioners the chance to evaluate AWS offerings worry-free and determine if they'd like to dig deeper.

If so, it's worth starting with the Amazon Certified Cloud Practitioner certification. While this isn't a requirement for any other AWS qualification, it can help IT pros establish a firm cloud foundation and find work in the expanding cloud landscape. Next on the list are Amazon's Associate certifications — Solutions Architect, Developer, and SysOps Administrator. While there are no prerequisites for these courses, Amazon recommends at least one year of experience using the AWS cloud to solve problems and implement role-specific solutions.

Next up are the AWS Certified Professional qualifications: AWS Solutions Architect and DevOps Engineer. Amazon recommends two years of experience for each of these qualifications, along with at least one Associate certification. While specific qualifications are not mandatory, even experienced IT professionals may find Professional exams challenging without targeted knowledge and skill-building.

Finally, Amazon offers five specialty certifications for IT professionals looking to broaden their knowledge and dive into specific IT domains:

  • Advanced Networking
  • Big Data
  • Security
  • Machine Learning
  • Alexa Skill Builder

Again, there are no previous certification requirements for these specialty offerings. Still, Amazon does recommend between two and five years of on-the-job experience with the AWS cloud. It's also a good idea for IT pros to invest in area-specific training — such as identity and access management (IAM) in AWS for the Security Specialist certification, to streamline the qualification process.

Worth the Effort

Are AWS certifications worth it? Absolutely. There's something for everyone in the AWS certification framework, from increased cloud career options to improved salary potential and expanded knowledge offerings.

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