Cloud adoption continues to rise as companies look for ways to empower remote workers, secure key documents anywhere, anytime, and deliver scalability on-demand.

To streamline migration and make the best use of new cloud solutions, companies are looking for trained IT professionals — experts with the skills and certifications to solve challenges in-situ and seize opportunities at scale. They’re also looking for staff with specialized expertise in market-leading cloud solutions such as AWS or Azure.

For IT pros looking to jumpstart their career with in-demand cloud certifications, this raises a critical question: Where should they start? Which qualifications offer the best return on investment? And which cloud framework — Azure or AWS — is easier to learn?

Current Conditions

While Amazon still leads the pack in public cloud services, Microsoft isn’t far behind. Recent survey data found that although 76% of enterprises are using AWS, only 12% of those asked are experimenting with the platform. Meanwhile, Microsoft comes in just under this mark with 69% of companies using some aspect of Azure — but 18% of survey respondents say they’re experimenting with the service.

The result? Amazon may not hold the top spot for much longer as companies experimenting with cloud adoption seem to prefer Azure over AWS, and Microsoft closes the overall usage gap.

For IT professionals, growing parity between these two popular cloud solutions offers increasingly diverse job opportunities. The challenge comes in choosing where to start — which option offers the easiest path to a promising cloud career?

The Azure Analysis

Opting for Azure offers the benefit of familiarity since Microsoft’s solution is built around commonly used enterprise components such as Active Directory and SQL-driven database access. User-facing Azure elements such as Office and Excel are also ubiquitous in corporate environments, and Microsoft makes it easy to integrate new SaaS services with existing Windows infrastructure.

It’s also worth considering the Azure training and certification path. Last year, Microsoft revamped its qualification structure to offer more choice and greater flexibility that focuses on role-based certifications rather than a linear progression. For example, while AZ-900: Microsoft Azure Fundamentals is a great introductory course covering key cloud concepts, core services, security functions, and Azure support — it’s not a requirement for more advanced qualifications such as AZ-104: Microsoft Azure Administrator or AZ-204: Developing Solutions for Microsoft Azure.

Some certifications have multiple pathways; to earn the Azure Solutions Architect designation, IT professionals can complete either AZ-203 or AZ-304, depending on their preference for Azure design or Microsoft technologies. There are also higher-level qualifications that do come with specific certification requirements. Azure DevOps Engineer is a good example: IT pros must first complete AZ-103 (or AZ-203) and then pass AZ-400 to earn this designation.

The outcome of our Azure analysis? Familiarity and flexibility make this cloud a solid choice for IT professionals.

The AWS Assessment

Launched in 2006, AWS has almost 15 years of market experience and evolution. From Amazon S3 to the Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) and event-driven, serverless computing platform Lambda, Amazon Web Services offers something for every organization. While it exists outside the Microsoft ecosystem common across many enterprises, top-tier support from Amazon and expanding service offerings, make AWS a priority for many corporate digital transformations. As a result, AWS-certified professionals are always in demand.

But is it easy to learn AWS? Let’s start with the basics: AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner. This entry-level certification covers key topics, including:

  • Understanding AWS core principlesArticulating the AWS cloud value proposition
  • Leveraging fundamental AWS services
  • Securing key cloud components
  • Implementing core solutions

In many respects, this course is similar to Azure’s introductory offering, focusing on basic cloud operations, services, and deployment.

When it comes to higher-level certifications, however, Amazon takes a slightly different approach. For example, earning Associate designations such as AWS Certified Solutions Architect, SysOps Administrator or Developer requires one year of AWS experience plus successful exam completion. In contrast, Professional Solutions Architect or DevOps Engineer certifications require at least two years of real-world experience. IT professionals can also specialize in Machine Learning, Data Analytics, or even Alexa Skill Building.

The takeaway from our AWS assessment? Getting started with the Amazon cloud is easy — and you’ve got plenty of choices when it comes to specializing in your career path.

Starting Strong

Both Azure and AWS experts are in-demand — and both offer benefits for IT professionals just getting started with cloud careers. If you’re looking to leverage common knowledge and work within familiar function ecosystems, Azure is a great fit. If you’d rather dive into Amazon’s deep services framework, opt for AWS.

No matter which path you choose, however, make sure you’re starting strong with in-depth online Azure training or comprehensive AWS offerings. While it’s possible to challenge and complete key exams on your own, the right digital education resources can help set you up for success — and make your journey from entry-level to cloud expert even easier.

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