On the Cloud Academy community, “where to start” or “how to prepare for AWS Associate certifications” are some of the most common topics that we see when it comes to AWS certifications. The reasons why are varied; some people want to change their career or get a promotion (and earn more money), others want to be able to build a new project in the cloud.

Community is a place where people feel at home. It’s where they feel comfortable asking questions because they know they’ll get answers they can trust. It’s also a great way to connect with peers and discover new and interesting things. Being a community guy myself, I believe that it’s in our nature to give and receive help, especially on the topics that we’re most passionate about.

Regardless of where you’re coming from, in our conversations on the Cloud Academy community and on forums like Reddit, Hackernews, StackOverflow, Gitter, etc., there is a clear need for some guidance.

So, whether you’re new to cloud computing or would like to add an AWS certification to your resume, this post on AWS Associate certifications is for you.

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Why AWS?

In the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Cloud Infrastructure as a Service published in June 2017, you can see that the market for cloud IaaS is dominated by two leading service providers, Amazon Web Services, and Microsoft. As the most mature platforms in this space, both platforms continue to lead the way by pushing out ever new services and technologies and are used by some of the world’s largest organizations. (This report does not cover other aspects of the cloud such as cloud storage, platform as a service (PaaS), software as a service (SaaS), or cloud service brokerage.)



Start from where you are

AWS offers certifications for several different roles within the cloud at the associate level. While not necessarily a fixed requirement, being certified proves that you possess (at a minimum) a certain level of knowledge and skills around the use of a cloud service. The different certifications offered by AWS appeal to professionals with different backgrounds and skill sets. And, you can use certifications to reach different goals, from gaining a deeper understanding to solve real problems on the job, moving to the next skill level, or to be able to command a higher salary.

Joseph, Andrius, Aaron, and Kevin are just a few examples of people I can think of who relied on Cloud Academy to prepare for one (or more) AWS certification(s). Even though they each came from different backgrounds, they all asked themselves the same question: How do I get started?

For an IT professional with 10+ years experience in the cloud and defined goals that you have to meet at the end of the quarter, the path is a bit more specific and clear.

However, if you’re new to cloud computing and want to embrace a new career and learn how to master, manage, and architect all AWS features and services, you’ll see yourself more similar to people like Robert, Varun, or others who post in the Cloud Academy community.

No matter where you’re coming from in terms of experience, it’s important to understand how to get started. In the following sections, we’ll show you how to chart your path to AWS certification.

New to the cloud

If you want to learn more about the cloud ecosystem, I recommend the following learning paths to build and strengthen your cloud knowledge on some of the foundational cloud concepts, technologies, and platforms:

  1. Introduction to the Public Cloud Platforms
  2. Considering a Career in Cloud Computing
  3. Cloud Computing for Business Professionals


  1. Introduction to the Public Cloud Platforms (4 courses, more than 3 hours of content)

This is an overview of the three major players in the public cloud arena: AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform. You’ll learn about the strengths and weaknesses of each platform and how they align with your goals. I also recommend it for learning more about some of the modern IT aspects of the Cloud: Platform as a Service (PaaS), Serverless, container orchestration support, telemetry, application support, data engineering, geographies, pricing, and more.

  1. Considering a Career in Cloud Computing (3 courses, 1 quiz session, more than 1 hour of content)

This is extremely helpful if you’re trying to answer the following questions:

  • Do you need any experience to learn cloud computing?
  • What area of cloud computing is most interesting for you?
  • What are your goals?
  • What are the market’s requirements for the cloud?

In this learning path, you’ll learn about the some of the main roles that companies are hiring for as they move their companies to the cloud, and you’ll get a closer look at the skills required and the responsibilities for each position. Once you have completed this learning path, you’ll have more insight into the next steps for your career.

  1. Cloud Computing for Business Professionals (5 courses, 2 quiz sessions, more than 4 hours of content)

As more and more companies migrate to the cloud, it’s important that the impact of cloud computing is understood even (and especially) outside IT as it will influence a number of key business decisions. In this learning path, you’ll learn about the different deployment and service models, how to determine if cloud migration is right for you, and we’ll explore some use cases for cloud technology.

No experience with AWS

Even if you don’t have any experience in AWS, the AWS Solutions Architect Associate level certification is a great way to get your foot in the door by learning the main AWS service offerings and functions.

Our AWS Solutions Architect Associate learning path has 8 courses, 5 quiz sessions, and 18 hands-on labs that cover the exam curriculum. Andrew Larkin, the AWS Content Lead at Cloud Academy, did a fantastic job creating this learning path, which has more than 30 hours of content.

You’ll gain a full understanding of these four main areas:

  1. Designing highly available, cost efficient, fault tolerant, scalable systems
  2. Implementation/Deployment
  3. Data security
  4. Troubleshooting

And, you will learn how to perform essential functions such as creating your first Amazon EC2 instance and your first S3 storage bucket, to more advanced services such as Amazon DynamoDB, creating your first RDS database, and more. The learning path also includes an exam primer and study guide to help you prepare.

Note: I also recommend watching the summary of the content covered because it includes many useful tips for the exam.

Dev experience + Experience with AWS

If you have some experience as a developer and a background in AWS, the AWS Developer – Associate certification is a good choice because you’ll have an immediate connection with what you already know. There is a natural overlap in some topics with the AWS Solutions Architect certification, so this is a great way to build on that initial certification. This certification covers the following areas:

  1. Designing, developing, and deploying cloud based solutions using AWS
  2. Identifying fundamental components and effective designs
  3. How to code a proper cloud solution using appropriate techniques plus how to implement the right architecture for development, testing, and staging environments
  4. Implementing secure procedures for optimal cloud deployment and maintenance (CloudFormation, S3, Elastic Beanstalk, DynamoDB, SQS)

Note: Cloud Academy hands-on labs (more than 50 on AWS) are great for learning how the AWS console works. Our step-by-step approach guides you through each task. In addition to the AWS Developer learning path, I also recommend the following courses:

SysOps experience + Advanced AWS experience

Because it covers such a large range of topics, the AWS SysOps certification is often chosen once you have successfully passed a couple of the other associate-level certifications. It’s worth mentioning that if you pass the AWS Solutions Architect Associate exam, you have a good chance of passing the AWS Developer and SysOps exams because it gives you a good foundation of knowledge for that next step. However, as we mentioned on this webinar, for some people (depending on your experience and skills), SysOps might also be a bit more advanced path. After completing your preparation you will be able to:

  1. Understand the core services of AWS
  2. Design for high availability
  3. Understand security best practices

Note: The AWS SysOps is your final step of the AWS associate-level certifications currently available. With AWS SysOps certification, you should be able to install/configure and use the AWS Command Line Interface (CLI), monitor the most common AWS services with CloudWatch, create IAM policies, make a security assessment in an AWS environment, use CloudFormation with the CloudFormer tool to create templates, and configure a software VPN between on-premise and a VPC.


This is far from being the ultimate guide for AWS Associate-level certifications, however, I hope that it will help you zero in on a starting point based on your experience and goals. Based on the questions I receive daily on the AWS community forum, I know that figuring out where to start can be a real stumbling block, so I hope that you will find this helpful.

Here are a few more general resources that I would like to recommend:

I encourage everyone to watch this playlist on the official Cloud Academy YouTube channel to learn more about what cloud computing is (it’s an amazing course by Stuart Scott). Lecture number four (Key Cloud Concepts) is especially useful.

Security is an important topic in cloud computing. To be able to reach such an outstanding level of quality and maintain their status as a leader in the cloud industry, AWS has placed cloud security as a priority for its research department. AWS is rated the most mature, enterprise-ready provider with the deepest capabilities for governing a large number of users and resources. I recently sat down with Stuart, security expert and AWS trainer here at Cloud Academy, to talk about the evolution of cloud computing, AWS, and cloud security. You can listen to the conversation here.

AWS is quickly evolving, with many new updates and services released every month. We keep up with the latest releases and services so that you can too. Check out our public content roadmap to see what’s next.

If you’d like more specific tips and tricks from an AWS Certified – AWS Community Hero, I recommend this webinar with Cyrus Wong, Data Scientist from Hong Kong. He’s fantastic!

Cloud Academy helps thousands of developers get prepared for AWS certification every year, and your feedback can help us continue to improve our product. Please, continue to engage with us in the community, we’d love to have your feedback. (Our AWS Meetup members around the world have been very helpful in this regard, thank you!).

Don’t be afraid to be human, or to make mistakes. Creativity is uniquely human and perfection is for machines, right?

Good luck with your AWS certification!