Daniel Ives | 15 November 2016
Throughout this blog, I will examine AWS certifications and associated benefits, the certification lifecycle, and QA training courses that will help you prepare for the exams.
AWS certifications have evolved rapidly over the last few years. There are now 5 certifications available at both associate and professional level with re-certification required every two years. Two more exams have recently been announced and will be 'coming soon': a Security Operations on AWS certification and a Big Data on AWS certification. More details when we get them.
Back to the start: Why bother getting certified at all?
I assume if you've read this far, you're interested in AWS. Perhaps you're already using it in your workplace, perhaps you're considering using it, or maybe you're using it in a personal project.
Martin Fowler summarises issues with certifications in his blog 'Certification Competence Correlation'. But even if you can't find a correlation between certification and competence, there are obvious benefits of fully understanding the technology that you're using. At QA, we offer a full range of instructor-led courses with hands-on labs in live AWS accounts included, so you can practice while you’re learning to further your understanding. But, having mastered the technology, why go the extra step of getting certified? It’s only an exam based on what you have learnt. Or is it?
I've been taking exams for almost 20 years, so I have a strict policy of not taking any more exams, unless I absolutely have to. However, being a trainer means that I actually do have to, and so I have a bunch of certifications, including 5 current AWS certifications but also going all the way back to my MCSD with Visual Basic 6. But what about the vast majority of people whose jobs don’t require certification? There are benefits both for individuals and for employers.
Benefits of AWS certification for individuals:
Certification is a matter of demonstrating your skills and establishing your credibility. Achieving credentials could open doors to get heavily involved in AWS-related projects, or present to clients as a credible subject-matter expert. Of course, if you're job-hunting, just having 'AWS Certified' on your CV won't get you hired, but it could help you get you past various gatekeepers and into an interview room. Businesses don’t always have an easy way of testing the competencies of a job applicant. Also, they may be sifting through tonnes of CVs, so having the certification certainly gets you the wanted attention. An extra bonus is the swag you receive from AWS Summits and conferences, although I'm not sure I can justify that as a reason to get certified.
Does having an AWS certification guarantee you more money is a question you may be asking. Now this is very difficult to comment on, but this year's Forbes report, which revealed the highest paying certifications (in the US) lists AWS as Number One!
Benefits of AWS certification for employers:
Having AWS-certified employees helps to identify skilled team members and reduce the risks when implementing projects on AWS. Having AWS-certified employees can also help you to build your business, as it is one of the criteria for the higher tiers of membership in AWS Partner Network (APN). Being a member of the APN gives access to a wide variety of benefits, including training subsidies, AWS usage credits, marketing support and much more. View the APN website for more details. At QA, we're already seeing a large number of delegates on our AWS courses who are planning to take the AWS certification exams as part of their employer's APN accreditation.
It doesn't stop when you get the badge!
Once on the certification treadmill, you'll find that certifications have a limited lifespan. (That VB6 certification isn't doing me much good these days). The rate of change at AWS is astonishing, so AWS certifications expire every two years.
That may seem like a short lifespan, but consider this: in the last thirty days, AWS have announced around 40 new features/services/enhancements (depending on how you count these things), including new EC2 instance types, support for Windows 2016 and a whole new region! So every day, I visit http://aws.amazon.com/new and watch my current certifications slip a little further into the past. Two more years at the same rate as the releases this month and you can see why I should take another exam.
AWS have a recertification policy for the AWS Architect Associate certification, stating it can be renewed by either passing a shorter, cheaper version of the original exam, or by upgrading to the higher-level Professional certification. Either way seems appealing when it comes to the end result of being accredited in the constant changing IT landscape.
Training courses to help prepare you
QA have a full curriculum of AWS courses to help you prepare for both the associate and professional level certifications. QA have courses to help you prepare for the Associate level certifications for Architects, System Operators and Developers. We also have Advanced Architecting and DevOps Engineering courses which support the professional certifications. The Advanced Architecting course has (literally as I write) just received a major overhaul and I'll blog about that once I've had time to assimilate the changes.
In addition, we run exam preparation workshops to help prepare specifically for the Associate and Professional Architect exams and will have a similar workshop for the System Operations Administrator Associate exam in the near future.
And if all those options are too confusing for you, QA have created a Certification in a Box offer, which is exclusive to us and includes everything you need to get AWS certified for one outstanding price. This price includes the course, exam prep workshop (where available), exam prep voucher and the exam voucher.
If you're interested in AWS training and certifications, you can find more information on our AWS training courses page.