What is the best AWS certification path?

I am often asked by new AWS users, what are the best AWS certification to get? Which certification should I get first? Which ones are most valuable to me right now?

My answer is always, it depends. I don’t have a single favorite or one best certification to get. It really depends on your current skill level and goals for learning more about AWS. After you read this article be sure to check out my new article which compares all of the different available certifications.

AWS certification

First, let’s consider some general guidelines:

AWS has many different services with different roles and skills associated with them. If you already know much about AWS but want to focus on a specific area such as Networking or Databases then pick an exam that tests your knowledge in that area. If you are starting out with AWS and have no or less experience then I recommend one of the associate level exams which is an entry point for many different certifications later on. To see which certifications are currently available check here.

Is AWS experience required?

If you don’t have any practical hands-on experience in the field it’s hard to pass the exam. You can pass them if you have a lot of theoretical knowledge about AWS but there are several questions asked where the best answer comes from knowing what happens in real life when working with AWS. The best way to get this kind of practical knowledge is either using the free tier in your own lab or by signing up for one of our training courses. You can also get the associate level certification as a sort of boot camp before you take more advanced exams.

Choosing between Associate and Professional Level Certifications

Generally speaking, you should choose the professional-level certification if one or more of the following criteria are true: You already know quite a bit about AWS, for example from using it in your current job The exam contains an architecture section with multiple questions There is no clear winner between associate level and professional level certifications usually the answer is that both have good value depending on your background and plans. You can use this gamification table to help make your decision.

Which Exams Should I Start With?

If this is your first attempt at an AWS Certification start with either the AWS Certified SysOps Administrator – Associate or the AWS Certified Developer – Associate, depending on your background. Both of these exams are associate-level certifications and if you pass both of them, then you will have earned the basic “AWS Certified” Tag which can look very good on your resume.

The next step for an engineer is to take either the AWS Certified SysOps Administrator – Professional or the AWS Certified Developer – Professional exam. It does not matter that much which one of those two professional level certs you start with as all four of them (SysOps Admin and Dev) cover mostly similar topics and questions, but some parts use different words and naming conventions in AWS. If you don’t know where to start first read my article about Which Certification First?

Choosing Between SysOps Admin and Developer Certifications

Generally speaking the choice between Associate and Professional level certifications does not apply here because both of these AWS certifications cover almost all of the same topics. You should choose based on your background and future plans. I have helped many engineers that started with an associate-level certification take their next steps much faster bypassing one of the professional exams early on in their learning journey.

What Can I Do With The Different AWS Certification?

First, let’s consider what you can do when having only an Associate or Professional AWS Certification:

Associate Level AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner – This is a fairly basic certification where you can list having an AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner on your resume when starting to look for a new job.

Professional Level AWS Certified Developer – Associate – This is also fairly basic but less so than the Cloud Practitioner certification. This certificate could be useful if you want to work in the development field with AWS moving forward.

AWS Certified Developer – This is very similar to the associate level developer certification but includes some additional topics that are only covered by this professional level exam, for example using CodeStar or Architecting on AWS. If you have no or little experience working with AWS before this might be too much at once and I would recommend taking one of the lower exams first until you get familiar with all of the different services in AWS.

AWS Certified SysOps Administrator – Associate This certification is aimed at system administrators that are new to cloud computing in general and AWS in particular, but it also contains some basic developer topics. If you have experience with other cloud providers or none at all this certification will help you get started with AWS, but there are better starting points for sysadmins.

AWS Certified Developer – Professional The professional level Dev cert covers many of the same topics as the associate level dev exam does, including CodeStar and Architecting on AWS. It includes additional material about architectural best practices for designing secure efficient applications. It is a good choice if you want to work with scalable distributed applications using different services in AWS.

AWS SysOps Administrator – Professional The SysOps Admin Professional Certification covers much of the same material as the Associate SysOps Administrator certification (and the Dev cert) but with more focus on AWS best practices. It is an excellent starting point for system administrators that are new to cloud computing in general and AWS in particular, but it also contains some basic development topics.

Which Certification First?

If you don’t know where to start and need guidance request a call to thinkcloudly. If you plan to take one of the professional level exams take a look at the additional material each certification includes to decide which exam looks like a better fit. General advice If there is no job offer/interview in sight yet I would advise getting started with either developer or sysops associate exams depending on your experience in AWS and background.

For SYSOPs, I would wait until you have some experience with other cloud platforms beforehand or at least start with an associate-level certification. If you need to fill the gap on your resume ASAP for interviews take a look at my list of recommended certifications.

Conclusion

AWS has become an integral component of the digital transformation that is happening in our world. Whether you are a developer, programmer, or engineer, it’s important to have knowledge about how this service can help your business succeed. However, with so many options for certifications and training courses across the web from different providers, choosing which one will be best suited for you can seem daunting at first glance.

We understand that feeling – we’ve been there! That’s why we created these resources to help answer questions on what certification path is right for you as well as provide guidance on some great online course offerings- all designed by people who truly know their stuff when it comes to cloud computing technologies like AWS.

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