Your certification journey doesn’t need to be a scary one!
Often when you start on a long journey it can seem daunting – you might not know where you want to go and if you know where you want to go, how do you get there? Who will give you directions? Will you get help along the way?
I’ve been doing certifications now for longer than I care to remember, so I appreciate the first step can be a big one. Usually, understanding the paths you can take and taking the initial leap to get started is the hardest – yet most important – bit, so thankfully QA and AWS have the learning pathways and resources to provide direction.
Getting started with AWS certifications
The million-dollar question is, where do you start? Well, a good place would be to consider how much AWS and industry experience you have. If you have 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. Both one-day courses give you an excellent overview of the cloud, AWS and its service offerings. While AWS Technical Essentials is more popular among our learners, AWS Cloud Practitioner Essentials is better aligned to support the Practitioner Exam.
Prerequisites if you are at the start of your journey:
Although AWS recommends six months' experience, this is very subjective. While human beings have so much in common, with learning we are all very different and it certainly is not a one-size-fits-all.
How to ace your Cloud Practitioner Essential exams
If you possess IT experience and you have attended the course, I recommend taking notes, not just for relevant work-related topics but for your areas of study for the exam.
Use your coursebook and the exam guide to brush up on any areas you’re unsure of. This will give you a much better level of knowledge and confidence for the exam.
Before booking, try the sample questions that are available to give you an idea of how much study time you’ll need. I would never endorse taking an exam on the last day (or the day after) the course. Yes, there are exceptions – I used to teach agile, where there was an exam on the last day, but they designed the course for that. However with AWS, I think your brain needs a couple of days to fuse and digest the knowledge; yet, don’t leave it too long. My thoughts: a week to a month. This gives you time to study and not too long so you forget!
Levelling up to Architecting on AWS
Following the AWS Cloud Practitioner exam (or Technical Essentials course), the next step in your journey is Architecting on AWS.
As with all the AWS courses, the focus is to give individuals training to assist in their AWS role or specialist skill. However, the architecting course provides a good grounding on the services AWS offers to allow learners to architect across services with best practices. Making the course is invaluable to help prepare you for the AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate exam.
Before taking the exam, if you feel somewhat uneasy, our Certified Solutions Architect Associate Level-Exam Preparation summarises what you can expect at the testing centre and taking the exam, and includes vouchers for mock exams.
Prerequisites for Architecting on AWS:
The recommendation is a minimum of one year of AWS experience.
When you feel ready, attend the course, make both work and study-related notes and use this as your grounding for further study. The more you can expand your knowledge, the more confident you are likely to feel.
Again, my approach that works for me (everyone is different) is to aim for a week to a month for exam study. This way you have enough time not to feel under pressure, but not too long to forget what you've learned. I can't stress enough that this is a very personal thing, we all have a different learning style and pace of acquiring and retaining knowledge.
And even though you may have to juggle other work and commitments – it is good to remain consistent! Build a cadence of study and stick to it (whether it takes two weeks or three months). This is not a race, just keep plodding like the tortoise to avoid tripping up like the hare.
Taking your next step: AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Professional
After smashing your Architecting on AWS exam, you'll want to take the next step. Here, not only should you be enjoying the courses, studying and newly discovered skills but also find the positive impact this is having on your work, which then provides the much-needed inspiration to carry on to the finish line to tackle the AWS Certified Solutions Architect–Professional.
Prerequisites for the AWS Certified Solutions Architect-Professional exam:
A minimum of two years’ experience is recommended as your depth and breadth of knowledge will need to expand significantly for this exam.
Again, be the tortoise, plan out your study and just keep going. The day you pass you’ll feel a great sense of achievement after all the effort you put in – it will mean something!
Depending on experience and confidence, I would recommend three months plus steady work building up to this. But if you need more time, remember, we are all different.
I won’t lie to you. For some, this can be one of the harder exams. This is more scenario-based (still multi-choice as all AWS exams are) but so much more to read and assess. For example, you may feel like there is more than one correct answer – but which one is right based on the scenario? Therefore, it is crucial to feel comfortable not with just the technical aspects of AWS but how to apply these services to fulfil a specific requirement.
You've made it
Your journey to AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Professional will involve a lot of hard work. However, when you get here, hopefully, you will have a great sense of achievement, learned valuable new skills, shown your employer and colleagues your ability to move forward through a continuous learning path, and your certification to validate to your employers’ that you are a valuable resource!
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 are there to help you understand and prepare you for the requirements of the exam. There's additional video-based learning with Cloud Academy. Every little bit helps to build confidence and knowledge for work and your goal – becoming professionally certified.
View a full list of our courses and available dates at qa.com/aws.
We also run several AWS events throughout the year, which can be found at qa.com/events.
We looking forward to welcoming you to our courses soon.
Good luck on your journey!
Paul entered the IT industry in 1990 contracting for ICL. Since then he has had a varied career as both an engineer and consultant. He has been involved in designing, implementing and supporting Active Directory, Exchange, SQL Server and SharePoint from small businesses to multi-national, multi-domain 50k-user-base environments. He joined QA over a decade ago and now specialises in the cloud – Azure, GCP and as primary focus, Amazon Web Services (AWS). He is now the Principal Technologist within QA for AWS.