Which Certifications Should I Get?

As we mentioned in an earlier post, the old AWS slogan, “Cloud is the new normal” is indeed a reality today. Really, cloud has been the new normal for a while now and getting credentials has become an increasingly effective way to quickly showcase your abilities to recruiters and companies.

With all that in mind, the specific question we’ll be trying to answer in this blog is: “Which certifications should I get?” You have only a set amount of time to spend on studying and professional development, and we’re going to help focus on the most important certifications in the cloud space.

To answer the question, it’s good to remind yourself about the general state of the cloud – let’s recall that its components and services are in everything from mobile computing to IoT and email campaigns. At the same time, there is still a large skills gap when it comes to finding the right competencies in the workforce. As companies embrace a hybrid or multi-cloud environment, there is a growing demand for fluency across a variety of platforms.

If you are a professional who wants to add cloud experience to your resume, or if you’re just starting out, you may be wondering which certifications to get. In this post, we’ll look at some of the most popular certifications across the three major platforms: Amazon Web Services (AWS)Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform, as well as other certifications for Kubernetes, Security, etc.

Which certifications should I get? The major platforms

So, which certifications should you get? The answer depends on a range of factors, from your background and experience to the sector you’re working in (or plan to work in), and your long-term goals.

While many companies have already committed to a platform, there is an increasing trend for a multi-platform approach. In the beginning of your training, choosing a platform will help you focus your training efforts. However, it can’t hurt to have versatile cloud skills, especially if you look at how the cloud sector is growing.

As the most mature cloud platform, Amazon Web Services has a solid lead in the public cloud market and is continuing to grow. At the same time, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform are also ramping up and gaining market share. According to a report by Synergy Research Group for Q2 2019, AWS has 33% market share, with 16% for Microsoft Azure, and 8% for Google.

To know which certifications you need, let’s take a closer look at the cloud platforms and the certifications that they currently offer.

Amazon Web Services — 12 certifications

Some Cloud Academy AWS certifications

AWS started in 2006 and has grown to a leader with more than 70 services for everything from compute, storage, and databases, to analytics and IoT applications. Customers include Netflix, Intuit, Capital One, and GE. For some perspective, in 2016 AWS brought in $12B of revenue, and that number has jumped to over $25B.

AWS certifications stand out for their thoroughness and rigor for critical cloud engineering positions. They emphasize solid conceptual knowledge of the entire platform and hands-on experience with the AWS infrastructure and its many unique and complex components and services.

Simply put, an AWS certification shows that you have the skills and the knowledge to design, deploy, or manage applications on Amazon Web Services. If you’re AWS-certified, it tells potential employers that you have what it takes to build and manage AWS solutions for them. And, because they are so widely recognized, AWS certifications can open the door to cloud opportunities, even for other platforms. Also, the process of training and learning required to pass the exams allows you to strengthen your knowledge in a variety of areas and scenarios.

AWS introduced certifications in 2013 and currently offers 12 total certifications. The certification tracks have grown to cover four main levels: Practitioner, Associate, Professional, and Specialty. As of July 2020, these are the current AWS certifications:

  1. AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner
  2. AWS Certified Developer – Associate
  3. AWS Certified SysOps Administrator – Associate
  4. AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate (SAA-C02)
  5. AWS Certified DevOps Engineer – Professional
  6. AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Professional
  7. AWS Certified Data Analytics – Specialty (coming soon)
    *Note: this is a new certification name and exam version debuted on April 13, 2020 (formerly AWS Certified Big Data – Specialty)
  8. AWS Certified Advanced Networking – Specialty
  9. AWS Certified Security – Specialty
  10. AWS Certified Alexa Skill Builder – Specialty
  11. AWS Certified Machine Learning – Specialty
  12. AWS Certified Database – Specialty

If you’re already considering the AWS platform and thinking about which certifications you need to get started, the Certified Solutions Architect – Associate (SAA-C02) wouldn’t be a bad choice. According to a survey of the 10 top-paying IT certifications for 2019 by Global Knowledge, the AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate offers the fourth-highest annual salary on their list (and highest of the AWS certifications that made their top 10):  $132,840. Let’s take a closer look at this certification.

The AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate certification (the most popular of AWS’s certifications) is for those who design and deploy distributed applications. It covers network technologies; AWS-based applications; how client interfaces connect to the platform; building secure and reliable applications; and deploying hybrid systems (those with on-premises data centers as well as AWS components).

The exam domains include designing highly available and scalable systems (requires familiarity with AWS infrastructure and concepts), AWS implementation and deployment, related data security practices, disaster recovery techniques, and troubleshooting.

AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate certification is a pre-requisite for the professional-level certification, AWS Solutions Architect—Professional. This certification requires two years of hands-on AWS experience and covers network design, storage, security, scalability and elasticity, cloud migration and hybrid architecture.

At Cloud Academy, we have a lot of great resources for learning everything you need to pass any of the AWS certification exams, as well as great study and preparation strategies on our blog.

Check out this post to learn more about the different AWS certifications and discover which one is right for you.

Microsoft Azure — 12 certifications

Some Cloud Academy Azure certifications

According to Microsoft, “80% of the Fortune 500 is on the Microsoft Cloud.” Microsoft Azure is Microsoft’s cloud computing platform. Its growth in adoption and the strength of its end-to-end hybrid cloud offering are good indicators for continued growth for Microsoft Azure, especially inside the enterprise.

Microsoft has grouped its certifications into a role-based structure, including fundamental, associate, and expert levels. Users have 12 exams to choose from:

  1. Microsoft Certified: Azure – Fundamentals Exam AZ-900
  2. Microsoft Certified: Azure AI – Fundamentals Exam AI-900 (beta)
  3. Microsoft Certified: Azure Data – Fundamentals Exam DP-900 (beta)
  4. Microsoft Certified Azure Administrator – Associate Exam AZ-103
  5. Microsoft Certified: Azure Developer – Associate Exam AZ-203
  6. Microsoft Certified: Azure Security Engineer – Associate Exam AZ-500
  7. Microsoft Certified: Azure AI Engineer – Associate Exam AI-100
  8. Microsoft Certified: Azure Data Scientist – Associate Exam DP-100
  9. Microsoft Certified: Azure Data Engineer – Associate Exams DP-200 and DP-201
  10. Microsoft Certified: Azure Database Administrator – Associate Exam DP-300 (beta)
  11. Microsoft Certified Solutions Architect – Expert Exams AZ-300 and AZ-301
  12. Microsoft Certified: Azure DevOps Engineer – Expert Exam AZ-400

Google Cloud Platform — 8 certifications

Images and a link to Azure certification Learning Paths

Although it’s third behind AWS in the overall cloud market, GCP has made major strides, especially in providing solutions to help you integrate their services in multi-cloud deployments.

Customer wins have also helped raise the profile of the Google Cloud – Spotify announced that it was working with the Google Cloud Platform team to provide platform infrastructure. To scale with its huge volume of content, Spotify made numerous software architecture design changes to take full advantage of GCP. This includes replacing Apache Kafka with Cloud Pub/Sub for its more reliable persistent queue, and moving from batch processing to streaming with Dataflow to improve the end-to-end latency. As well, Apple announced that it would be using the Google Cloud to provide some infrastructure services for iCloud and other cloud-based services, in addition to continuing to use AWS.

Google Cloud Platform currently offers eight certifications, categorized by Associate and Professional:

  1. Associate Cloud Engineer
  2. Professional Cloud Architect
  3. Professional Cloud Developer
  4. Professional Data Engineer
  5. Professional Cloud DevOps Engineer
  6. Professional Cloud Security Engineer
  7. Professional Cloud Network Engineer
  8. Professional Machine Learning Engineer – Beta

DevOps and More

Some Cloud Academy DevOps and Security certs

Lots more options exist for valuable certifications. Are you in the DevOps field? Then check out the Certified Kubernetes Administrator (CKA) and Certified Kubernetes Application Developer (CKAD) certifications. If you’re into Security, you have some truly helpful (and marketable) options, such as the (ISC)² CISSP Certification, which is one of the most globally recognized certifications in the information security profession.

What’s next?

If you’re still wondering which platform or certification path is right for you, the Cloud Academy blog is a rich resource of insight from a variety of viewpoints, from new cloud users to developers and instructors who have experience on each of the cloud platforms referenced here. Just search the blog for the platform of your choice and see what our contributors have to say.

Joe Nemer

Written by

Joe Nemer

Joe is a Technical Researcher at Cloud Academy and works to help readers connect concepts in ways they haven't thought of before. Side interests include all sorts of waves — ocean waves, sine waves, just not goodbye waves.


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