Sometimes when you start on a long journey it can seem a bit daunting – I know where I want to go but how do I get there? Who will give me directions? Will I get help along the way?

I’ve been doing certifications now for longer than I’d care to remember. I know that first step can be a big one. Thankfully QA and AWS have the learning paths and resources to help you get there!

First thought has to be: where do you start? How much AWS experience do you have, how much industry experience do you have?

AWS Technical Essentials and AWS Cloud Practitioner Essentials

If you have a little IT experience to fall back on and need to start your AWS journey at the beginning, then start with either AWS Technical Essentials or AWS Cloud Practitioner Essentials.

Either of these one-day courses will give you a good overview of the cloud, AWS and its service offerings. Technical Essentials is the more popular, perhaps being the first, while Cloud Practitioner Essentials was designed to support the Practitioner Exam.

Also read: So what's the difference between AWS Tech Essentials and AWS Cloud Pratictioner Essentials?

As you will see, they recommend you have six months' experience. Being realistic, this is very subjective as when it comes to exam study, we can be so different. Hopefully, with your IT experience, you have attended the course and taken notes not just for relevant work-related topics but for your areas of study for the exam too.

I personally would never recommend taking an exam on the last day (or day after) the course. There are exceptions (I used to teach Agile where there was an exam on the last day, but the course was designed for that) but with AWS, I think your brain needs a couple of days to meld things together. Using your coursebook and the exam guide to brush up on any areas you’re not sure of will give you a much better level of knowledge and confidence for the exam. Also, try the sample questions that are available before booking to give you an idea of how much study time you’ll need. Don’t leave it too long, my thoughts – a week to a month. Time to study and not too long you'll forget!

Architecting on AWS

With the AWS Cloud Practitioner exam in the pocket, or perhaps just moving straight on from Technical Essentials, we move onto Architecting on AWS. As with all AWS courses, it is not written to the exam but instead serves as training to assist someone in their AWS role or specialist skill. The architecting course gives a good grounding on the services of AWS to start architecting against, together with the best practices. As such it makes a good tool to help prepare you for the AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate Exam.

A year’s minimum AWS experience is recommended. Ultimately you still have to decide how ready you feel for the exam. When you are ready, attend the course, again making both work and study-related notes and using these as your grounding for further study. The more you can expand your knowledge, the better.

My personal approach is to aim for a week to a month for exam study – enough time not to feel under pressure but not too long to start forgetting what you have learned. Perhaps no more than three months. Some have different learning styles and pace to others; some have to juggle other work and home commitments – but once on that journey, keep going! Build a cadence of study and stick to it, whether it takes two weeks or three months. It’s not a race, just keep plodding like the tortoise, don’t trip up like the hare.

AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Professional

Hopefully you're not only enjoying the courses, study and newly discovered skills but also finding them so invaluable at work that you wish to carry on. Your next step is the AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Professional.

For some, this can be one of the harder exams. This is more scenario-based so much more to read and assess, but still multi-choice as all AWS exams are. You may feel there is more than one correct answer – but which one is right based on the scenario? You need to feel more comfortable with not just the technical aspects of AWS but how you will apply these services to fulfil a specific requirement.

The Advanced Architecting on AWS course will help to prepare you for the exam. You'll still need to study a lot more. There is a reason they recommend a minimum of two years’ experience. Your depth and breadth of knowledge will need to significantly expand for this exam. Be the tortoise, plan out your study and just keep going. The day you pass you’ll feel a great deal of achievement after all the effort you put in – it will mean something! I'd say, depending on experience, give yourself three months plus steady work building up to the exam. 

You've put in a lot of hard work on this journey to get to the final goal: AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Professional. Hopefully you have a great sense of achievement, learned valuable new skills, shown your employer and colleagues your ability to move forward on a continuous learning path, and added another certified person in your employers’ pool of valuable resources – you!

A few final tips

As you take this journey there are many things QA and AWS can do to help. Other AWS courses may help to expand your knowledge. Exam-readiness workshops can help you understand and prepare for the exam. And do some additional video-based learning with Cloud Academy if you can.

Genuinely, every little helps to build confidence and knowledge for work and our goal: becoming professionally certified.

You can view a full list of our courses and check available dates at qa.com/aws. We also run a number of AWS events throughout the year, which can be found at qa.com/events.

Looking forward to seeing you on some courses soon.

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