Tuesday, April 2, 2019

The Complete Guide to AWS Certifications

With 34 percent of the public cloud market share, Amazon Web Services (AWS) has emerged as the clear market leader. Thanks to its dominant presence in a growing market, AWS will continue to be a key resource for businesses looking to scale operations through cloud-based computing, networking and storage solutions.

As an IT professional, specializing in AWS is a smart career move that could open the door to lucrative job opportunities. Companies are seeking trained professionals with varying skill levels to help them navigate their unique cloud requirements.

Whether you’re an AWS beginner or experienced developer, AWS offers certifications across every specialty to help differentiate you as a candidate.

Use this AWS certification guide to find the best certification for your career goals.

Overview of AWS Certifications

Earning an AWS certification proves you’re up-to-date on the latest in AWS and can successfully manage components of the technology.

The credential also highlights your expertise in a specific AWS technology or domain to further confirm you have specialized knowledge for the job at hand.

You can choose from five certifications categories to find the perfect specialization for your career goals:

  • Cloud
  • Architect
  • Developer
  • Operations
  • Specialty

Depending on your experience, you can also choose from foundational, associate, professional and specialty level certifications.

Is an AWS Certification Worth It?

As more companies flock to AWS, it’s no surprise that AWS-specific skills and expertise are in demand. AWS certifications are also among the most lucrative IT certifications on the market, according to Robert Half.

Obtaining certification confirms that you understand the platform, its related terminology and how to utilize AWS for developing or architecting cloud-based solutions.

Some organizations require that candidates have AWS certifications when working with the platform. If you’re seriously considering a career as a technical AWS professional, a certification can help widen your job prospects and amplify your earning potential.

Choosing the Best AWS Certification for Your Career

As you consider which is the best AWS certification to pursue, it’s important to understand the differences between each one. Let’s examine each certification more closely to help you make an informed choice:

AWS Cloud Certifications

Certified Cloud Practitioner

If you’re seeking to develop an overall understanding of the AWS cloud, the AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner certification is a great starting point. This foundational-level certification is especially beneficial for IT professionals in technical, managerial and sales roles that regularly work with AWS.

Certification topics include:

  • Basic AWS architectural principles
  • Key AWS services and their use cases
  • Basic security and compliance

Prerequisites: None, but at least six months of AWS cloud experience is recommended. The Certified Cloud Practitioner credential is a prerequisite to AWS specialty certifications.  

Recommended training: Take one of the following courses:

AWS Architect Certifications

These certifications are perfect for IT professionals who create and run distributed applications using AWS. Currently, this category offers two certifications: AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate and AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Professional.

AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate

This entry-level architecting certification is designed for professionals with base-level experience creating distributed applications. You’ll be required to show proficiency in designing, managing and implementing applications using AWS.

Certification topics include:

  • Network technologies in AWS
  • Building secure and reliable apps on the AWS platform
  • Deploying hybrid systems
  • Understanding AWS-based applications

Prerequisites: At least one year of experience leveraging the AWS platform is suggested.

Recommended training: Take one of the following courses:

AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Professional

This professional-level certification leverages much of the same material that the associate program covers, but is geared toward IT professionals with more advanced experience.

If you want to pursue this certification, you should be able to assess the needs of your organization and make architectural recommendations for deploying apps on AWS.

Certification topics include:

  • Best practices for building and designing apps on AWS
  • Migrating complex application systems to AWS
  • Cost optimization strategies

Prerequisites: You should already possess the AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate certification and have two years of experience creating and deploying cloud architecture on AWS.

Recommended training: Take one of the following courses:

AWS Developer Certifications

Developers who want to sharpen their skills creating and maintaining AWS-based applications should consider earning an AWS Developer certification. This category offers two certifications: AWS Certified Developer – Associate and AWS Certified DevOps Engineer – Professional.

AWS Certified Developer – Associate

The AWS Certified Developer – Associate certification assesses proficiency in developing and maintaining AWS-based applications. You should be able to write code that utilizes AWS software and implement code-level security.

Certification topics include:

  • Basic AWS architecture and core AWS services

  • Designing, developing, deploying and maintaining AWS-based apps

  • AWS databases, notifications and workflow services

Prerequisites: At least one year of relevant experience with AWS and in-depth knowledge of at least one high-level programming language are recommended.

Recommended training: Take one of the following courses:

AWS Certified DevOps Engineer – Professional

This advanced certification for developers and IT professionals in operations roles focuses on provisioning, operating and running distributed application systems using AWS. The exam places emphasis on continuous delivery, automation of security controls and operations tools maintenance.

Certification topics include:

  • Architecting best practices for implementing AWS big data services
  • AWS tools for data analysis
  • Security best practices
  • AWS services including Kinesis, QuickSight and Athena

Prerequisites: You should have at least two years of hands-on experience with provisioning, operating and managing AWS services. You should also possess the AWS Certified Developer – Associate certification.

Recommended training: Take one of the following courses:

AWS Operations Certifications

To control costs and maintain high availability, AWS needs to be appropriately managed and run smoothly from an operational perspective. Professionals who are systems administrators are candidates to obtain the AWS Certified SysOps Administrator – Associate certification.

AWS Certified SysOps Administrator – Associate

The AWS Certified SysOps Administrator – Associate is the only certification catered entirely toward system administrators. The exam focuses on assessing your knowledge of the operational aspects of AWS.

Certification topics include:

  • Deploying apps to the AWS platform
  • Moving data between data centers and AWS
  • Selecting the right AWS services to accomplish administrative tasks
  • Managing and securing systems in an AWS environment

Prerequisites: You should have at least one year of direct experience operating AWS-based applications.

Recommended training: Take one of the following courses:

AWS Specialty Certifications

Specialty AWS certifications also exist to serve seasoned IT professionals looking to gain specialized knowledge in their field. AWS offers specialty certifications for big data, advanced networking and security.

AWS Certified Big Data – Specialty

This certification assesses your ability to design big data solutions with AWS. You should be able to demonstrate the capacity to generate value from data while leveraging AWS. The target candidate is a professional who uses big data for analytics.

Certification topics include:

  • Using basic architecture best practices to implement AWS Big Data services
  • Designing and maintaining big data
  • Leveraging tools to automate data analysis


If you’re seeking this certification, you should possess an AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner or a current Associate-level certification and have at least five years of hands-on experience in the data analytics field. A background in AWS Big Data services architecture and experience designing scalable architecture to process data are also suggested.

Recommended training:

AWS Certified Advanced Networking – Specialty

This credential is for professionals who perform complex networking tasks and focuses on assessing a professional's skills in designing scalable hybrid IT networking architecture.

Certification topics include:

  • Designing, developing and deploying cloud-based solutions using AWS
  • Using basic architecture best practices to implement AWS services
  • Designing and maintaining network architecture for all AWS services
  • Leveraging tools to automate AWS networking tasks


AWS recommends that you earn the AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner or a current Associate-level certification.

You should also have at least five years of hands-on experience architecting and delivering network solutions and advanced knowledge of AWS networking concepts and technologies.

AWS Certified Security – Specialty

This certification examines technical ability in security with AWS. You will have to show proficient knowledge of data classifications, data encryption methods and secure internet protocols.

Certification topics include:

  • Specialized data classifications and AWS data protection mechanisms
  • Data encryption methods and secure Internet protocols
  • AWS security services and features for securing production environments
  • Balancing cost, security and deployment complexity considerations
  • Assessing security operations and risk


If you’re pursuing the AWS Security – Speciality, AWS recommends you have five years of IT security experience designing and implementing security solutions under your belt. At least two years of hands-on experience securing AWS workloads and using security controls for workloads on AWS are also suggested.

Recommended training:

Prepare for AWS Certification with New Horizons

Are you ready to elevate your AWS skills and demonstrate your value to employers?

As the world’s largest IT training company, New Horizons offers expert-led AWS training courses to support your path to certification. Check out our full AWS course list to determine how to learn AWS and choose the best AWS certification for you.


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