AWS Certified Solutions Architect Associate: A Study Guide

Want to take a really impactful step in your technical career? Explore the AWS Solutions Architect Associate certificate. Its new version (SAA-C02) was released on March 23, 2020, though you can still take SAA-C01 through July 1, 2020. This post will focus on version SAA-C02.

The AWS Solutions Architect – Associate Certification (or Sol Arch Associate for short) offers some clear benefits:

  • Increases marketability to employers
  • Provides solid credentials in a growing industry (with projected growth of as much as 70 percent in five years)
  • Market analysis shows it is the highest paying AWS IT certification in 2020

If the AWS Solutions Architect – Associate is your next certification, you’re probably wondering where to start in your preparation. What do you need to learn? How long will it take? Don’t worry. At Cloud Academy, we’ve got you covered with this complete AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate study guide. Our Learning Path contains everything you need to know for this certification, organized step by step. This article explains how to use our Learning Paths, and how much time it takes to prepare for the exam.

AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate Study Guide: What is a Learning Path?

Cloud Academy offers a wide variety of video courses, quizzes, and Hands-on Labs on different areas of cloud computing. Our Learning Paths help you get from where you are to where you want to go. The Sol Arch associate learning path is essentially your AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate study guide.

Our Solutions Architect – Associate Learning Path contains all of the courses, labs, and quizzes you need to help you pass the AWS certification exam.

Each type of content on the Learning Path serves a different instructional purpose:

  • Video courses provide guided lectures on key areas of the exam, with examples.
  • The Hands-on Labs provide direct access to AWS services to help you put theory into practice.
  • A preparation exam gives you the opportunity to assess your knowledge and readiness before taking the real exam

The Solutions Architect – Associate Learning Path focuses on 4 different domains, each carrying a percentage weighting in the exam:

  1. Design Resilient Architectures (30%)
  2. Design High-Performing Architectures (28%)
  3. Design Secure Applications and Architectures (24%)
  4. Design Cost-Optimized Architectures (18%)

Using the Learning Path

An essential element of the AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate study guide involves understanding the gaps in your knowledge.

The Solutions Architect – Associate Learning Path naturally builds from AWS fundamentals to more advanced areas. For the best approach, start at the beginning with the first course and continue step by step. Complete each activity in order to ensure that you’re familiar with many of the foundational services covering Compute, Storage, Databases, Networking and Security. As you progress through the learning path you will be presented with hands-on labs to apply your knowledge that you have learned from the courses.

How long will it take?

This is a natural question. Passing the exam requires being well prepared, and how long that takes depends on your own level of experience and knowledge.

On average, we recommend approximately 35-40 hours of preparation for the Solution Architect – Associate Exam, as long as you have some AWS experience. This includes study across all of your resources, including our Solutions Architect Learning Path, and any other resources that you choose. With a full-time job and other commitments, investing 40 hours of study can take between 6 – 8 weeks.

If you are entirely new to AWS, we recommend approximately 50-60 hours or three months to prepare, allowing you to revisit some of the courses and labs more than once in areas you feel weakest.

Where to focus your time

How much of the Solutions Architect – Associate exam connects with your current or previous work experience? This will give you an idea of where to focus your time on learning new topics. We’ll discuss some basics below. If you’re taking the SAA-C01 version of the exam, I recommend this webinar where I discuss with Andy Larkin on how to prepare yourself for the certification exam. We breakdown study strategies that can be applied to any process like a cert learning path.

Looking at the learning path itself, I want to breakdown the topics and service coverage for each domain so you have an understanding of what to expect:

Domain 1: Design Resilient Architectures – 30%

  • AWS Global Infrastructure (Regions, Availability Zones, Edge Locations, Regions Edge Caches)
  • Multi-tiered architectures within a Virtual Private Cloud (VPC)
  • Amazon Route 53
  • Amazon CloudFront
  • Disaster recovery and business continuity strategies
  • Decoupled and event-driven architectures
  • AWS storage services

Domain 2: Design High-Performing Architectures – 28%

  • Auto-scaling and application and network elastic load balancers
  • Amazon EC2, ECS, and Elastic Beanstalk
  • Storage performance with the Elastic File System and Amazon S3 features
  • VPC Networking components: Subnets/ENIs/ENA’s/NACLs/Security Groups/NAT Gateways/ Bastion hosts/VPC Endpoints/VPN/Direct Connect/Transit Gateway/AWS Global Accelerator
  • AWS Databases
  • High availability across Amazon DynamoDB and Amazon Aurora
  • Amazon DynamoDB Accelerator (DAX)

Domain 3: Design Secure Applications and Architectures – 24%

  • Deep dive on AWS Identity & Access Management
  • Amazon Cognito for web & mobile security
  • AWS Organizations – Service Control Policies (SCPs)
  • Protecting application with AWS WAF, Firewall Manager, and Shield
  • Understand AWS logging mechanisms
  • Audit, monitor and evaluate with AWS Config and AWS CloudTrail
  • Data encryption using the AWS Key Management Service (KMS)

Domain 4: Design Cost-Optimized Architectures – 18%

  • AWS storage costs across Amazon S3, Glacier, EFS, Storage Gateway, AWS Backup
  • Savings plans and reserved instances for compute instances
  • Cost optimization across the network infrastructure

Putting it all together

Ultimately, where you decide to focus your time and how much time you spend depends on you. The best approach to our Learning Path is to delve deeply into any unfamiliar territory and to follow each and every step.

  • Watch and rewatch the videos (and post your questions as comments – we will respond!).
  • Take your time in each Hands-on Lab to get comfortable with the different services in AWS.
  • Finally, explore the AWS documentation links in the content provided.

We don’t want to tell anyone to spend more or less time preparing for the exam. Therefore, you will want to consider your areas of expertise and how they relate to this certification. Finally, if you already have AWS experience, you can use 35-40 hours of study as a starting point and adjust your strategy from there. The best approach takes the best practices and advice from many sources and is tailored to fit your experience, goals, and schedule.

Good luck!

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Written by

Stuart Scott

Stuart has been working within the IT industry for two decades covering a huge range of topic areas and technologies, from data center and network infrastructure design, to cloud architecture and implementation. To date, Stuart has created 100+ courses relating to Cloud reaching over 120,000 students, mostly within the AWS category and with a heavy focus on security and compliance. Stuart is a member of the AWS Community Builders Program for his contributions towards AWS. He is AWS certified and accredited in addition to being a published author covering topics across the AWS landscape. In January 2016 Stuart was awarded ‘Expert of the Year Award 2015’ from Experts Exchange for his knowledge share within cloud services to the community. Stuart enjoys writing about cloud technologies and you will find many of his articles within our blog pages.


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