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AWS Certified Engineering Career Paths

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By: Charles Owen-Jackson

August 11, 2020

How to become an AWS-certified engineer

Which AWS certifications can help you further your career in cloud computing?

With more business operations taking place in hosted environments, cloud-computing skills are in enormous demand. Whether you’re looking to advance your career or jump into a new space, choosing the right certification can open the path to many exciting and highly profitable opportunities.

Amazon Web Services was the first vendor to offer infrastructure-as-a-service back in 2008. It remains an undisputed industry leader in IaaS. Becoming AWS-certified demonstrates that you have some of the most important technical skills in the market, as validated by one of the most recognizable names in cloud computing.

Why should you get an AWS certification?

AWS is the cloud provider of choice for more than a million customers. While most of the user base consists of small- to medium-sized companies, it also caters to a rapidly growing number of enterprise-scale customers. Some of the biggest spenders include Netflix, Twitch, LinkedIn, and the BBC.

Even with many enterprises adopting multi-cloud strategies, the value of AWS certifications is unlikely to diminish in the foreseeable future. According to Flexera’s 2020 State of the Cloud report, 76% of enterprises use AWS, most of them in combination with Microsoft Azure. That’s a considerable increase over the 64% who were using it just a couple of years ago. Moreover, with a constant stream of new services and the immense financial support of one of the world's biggest companies, there’s most likely a lot more to come.

An AWS certification opens the door to more opportunities when it comes to interviews and promotions. They’re also highly valuable, with average annual salaries of certificate holders averaging $129,868 in the US. But it’s about more than earning power alone – they also provide proof of knowledge, which helps teams acquire a common set of skills to benefit the economy at large. In areas like cybersecurity, for example, where there remains a severe skills shortage, globally recognized certifications are only going to become more important.

Which AWS certifications are available?

AWS comprises a large and constantly expanding range of tools and services, so it stands to reason that it offers an extensive range of certifications. This flexible approach helps students pursue the most relevant certification to their professional goals, skills, and experience.

AWS provides 12 certifications in total. The entry-level certification is the AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner, which is an introduction to the basics of cloud computing before delving into security concepts, services, and billing. The next two tiers cater to the associate and professional levels, focusing on solution architecture, administration, and development. The most advanced certifications cover specialty areas, including security, big data, advanced networking, and machine learning, and require several years of technical experience in their respective domains.

Every career path has to start somewhere. For AWS, this is the foundational Cloud Practitioner certification. This is ideal for anyone who wants a high-level overview of how AWS works and the wider cloud concepts. AWS recommends six months of experience working with AWS and at least a basic level of industry knowledge. For those not sure they’re ready for this certification, it may be good to enroll in an introductory course to AWS and cloud computing in general.

Associate-level certifications

There are three associate-level certifications available, which are aimed towards anyone who needs a firm grounding in AWS. This branch off into more specialized career paths; hence it’s recommended students have at least one year of experience deploying solutions and solving problems using the AWS cloud.

Becoming an AWS Certified Solutions Architect is the logical next step after passing your AWS Cloud Practitioner exam. It focuses on core services like Identity and Access Management (IAM), S3 cloud storage, and Elastic Cloud Compute (EC2). After this certification, it’s best to continue with the AWS Certified Developer. There’s some overlap between this one and the previous one, making them easier to complete quickly. Finally, the AWS Certified SysOps Administrator exam is the hardest one to pass, but it’s important for anyone who runs systems and software on AWS.

Professional-level certifications

There are two professional-level certifications, which are continuations from their respective associate-level ones. AWS recommends at least two years of comprehensive experience, and those with professional-level certifications are typically expected to be highly familiar with each of the three associate-level exams. Becoming a professional is the peak of general expertise in AWS, and students can either become a Certified Solutions Architect Professional or a Certified DevOps Engineer.

Specialty certifications

Finally, there are six specialty certifications, all of which recommend two to five years of hands-on experience in their respective domains. These include advanced networking, big data, information security, machine learning, Amazon Alexa, and databases. Unsurprisingly, these certifications go extremely deep into niche focus areas and are not taken lightly. Students shouldn’t attempt these until they have one or both of the professional-level certifications.

How do I get started?

Experts recommend anyone just getting started with cloud computing begins their career path with the AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner certification before advancing into the associate-level AWS Certified Solutions Architect course.

Before students embark on their journey, however, it’s important they thoroughly review any study and exam guides available. Studying AWS whitepapers can also yield valuable insights, which will help students better prepare for their courses. While the exams themselves take between one and three hours, it typically takes two or three months to prepare. The good news is that it’s possible to prepare for AWS certification exams online using customizable training paths and hands-on experiences. This helps students achieve their career goals faster, all from the comfort of home.

Cybrary provides customizable training programs to help professionals advance their careers in a wide range of cloud computing and cybersecurity disciplines. Schedule a demo today!

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