Amazon Web Services (AWS) Certification: How To Get AWS Certification

AWS certifications

Amazon has become a one-stop shop for consumers these days. With a simple click at the button (or verbal command to Alexa), you can purchase just about anything online. Amazon also offers cloud computing services for businesses through its Amazon Web Services (AWS) platform. From database migrations to content delivery, AWS has become a one-stop cloud computing solutions provider for businesses looking to run more efficiently. If you are looking for a new IT role in your organization, or are simply looking to advance your skills and grow in your current position, then you need to earn an Amazon Web Services certification.

That said, most people still ask the questions: is Amazon Web Services basic certification worth it? Which AWS certification should I pursue? Where do I start? And are in what order should I take them?

What is AWS certification?

Whether you are just looking to grow your knowledge with this industry-recognized certification, or you are hoping to start a career as an AWS practitioner, an Amazon Web Services (AWS) Certified Data Analytics-Specialty is an important starting point. Amazon offers different types of AWS certifications depending on your learning needs and goals. However, before taking your AWS certification exam, it is important that you get the best training possible so you can pass your exam without much hassle.

Why you should get AWS certification?

Depending on industry they work in, most people grapple with the question, “should I register for formal education or opt for a hands-on AWS learning experience? After all, opting for a formal education programming is both expensive and time consuming. Before signing up for either option, it is important that you evaluate your learning needs and schedule.

If you are serious about starting or advancing your career in IT and cloud computing, then getting the right certification is very important. Specifically, getting your AWS certification can help you stand out in the job market. Not only will it help you land your dream job, it can also help you land a higher paying job. This is certainly an investing in skill improvement that is worth going for.

Benefits of getting an AWS certification

Generally, earning a certification can present you with lots of benefits. If you are undecided about getting your AWS certification, take a look at these three benefits:

AWS professionals are in high demand

Amazon controls nearly 50 percent of the cloud computing industry. Additionally, AWS is currently experiencing a 43-percent annual growth, indicating that their dominance of the cloud computing industry is set to continue even in the future. With these astounding numbers in mind, there is no denying that getting your AWS certification will place you at an advantage.

Increase in income

The average salary of an AWS-certified professional is $129,800 according to the Global Knowledge 2019 IT Skills and Salary Report. This makes AWS one of the highest paying tech certifications in the market, with AWS Certified Solutions Architect (Professional) being the best paid at an average salary of $148,000. Employers clearly recognize that professionals who earn AWS certifications know their stuff, and they also appreciate what it takes to keep these experts.

A show of commitment to your profession

It takes times, effort, commitment, and money to earn AWS certification. This degree of commitment makes for a good impression to potential employers, partners, and colleagues. If you are in the in the job marketing or planning a career change, an AWS certification can give you an edge during the recruitment process and help you land your dream job. After all, surveys have indicated that recruiting managers prefer candidates with industry certifications during the hiring process.

Why you should get AWS certification?

While there are not set rules on how you should study for your AWS certification, these five steps can help you realize your goals in a clear and concise manner.

  1. Enroll in an online AWS training course such as the ones mentioned in this post. These online AWS courses will definitely build your knowledge of cloud computing and AWS.
  2. Review any Exam or Study Guides available
  3. Invest time in reading several AWS whitepapers. Here, you will find lots of information that may answer most of your questions.
  4. Practice, practice, and practice some more Practicing exams will help you familiarize with what you should expect during the actual exam.
  5. Schedule your exam once you are fully prepared. It generally takes 80-120 hours of study and practice to prepare for the AWS certification exam based on the experience and certification you are seeking.

Which AWS certification should I take?

Currently, Amazon offers 12 certifications as discussed in the next section:

I. Foundational Certification

AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner

This is Amazon Web Services’ latest certification. It is an entry level certification designed to help a candidate gain an overall understanding of the AWS cloud.

Certification prerequisites: you will need at least six months of general AWS cloud experience in any given role (managerial, technical, or sales).

The 90-minute exam costs $100 and comes in multiple choice questions

What is covered:

  • Understanding the basics of AWS architectural principles
  • AWS cloud value proposition
  • Essential AWS services and their common use cases
  • Essential security and compliance, the shared responsibility security model
  • Core deployment and operating principles

You can prepare for the AWS Foundation certification with the following resources:

II. Associate Level Certifications

AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate

This AWS certification exam is designed for professionals who have some experience in designing distributed applications. You are expected to be able to demonstrate a clear ability to design, manage, and implement applications using tools and resources on the AWS platform. This 130-minute exam comes in multiple choice, multiple-answer format and costs $150.

What is covered:

  • Network technologies and their applications in AWS
  • How AWS-based applications work as well as how client interfaces connect to the AWS platform
  • Building secure and reliable applications on the AWS platform
  • Deploying hybrid systems – i.e systems with an on-premises data center and AWS components
  • The exam domains cover the design of highly available and scalable systems. You need to be familiar with AWS concepts and infrastructure. Other areas covered by the exam include disaster recovery techniques, implementation and deployment in AWS, troubleshooting, and AWS-related data security practices.

You can prepare for AWS Certified Solutions Architect Associate with these online courses:

1. AWS Cloud Architect - Nanodegree Program

Important note: The Certified Solutions Architect- Associated introduced a new exam version names SAA-CO2 on March 23, 2020.

AWS Certified Developer – Associate

As the name suggests, the AWS Certified Developer-Associate exam focuses on the development and maintenance of AWS-based applications. You will be expected to know how to write actual code that utilizes AWS software to access AWS applications from within the specific business applications. The 80-minute exam comes in multiple choices and multiple answers formats and costs $150.

What is covered:

  • Understanding the basic AWS architecture as well as the core AWS services
  • Hands-on experience in the design, development, deployment, and maintenance of AWS applications
  • Working knowledge of applications that utilize the essential AWS services like notifications, AWS databases, workflow services, as well as storage and change management services.

You can prepare for AWS Certified Developer – Associate exam with these online courses:

1. Cloud Developer - Nanodegree Program

AWS Certified SysOps Administrator – Associate

This is the only AWS exam that is wholly dedicated to system administrators. You need both concept knowledge as well as technical expertise of the operational aspects of the AWS platform. A previous experience in Windows or Linux administration is an added advantage.

This is an 80-minute exam that comes in multiple choice as well as multiple answer formats. It costs $150.

What is covered:

  • Applications deployment to the AWS platform
  • Receiving and sending data between AWS and data centers
  • Identifying appropriate AWS services to meet a business’ needs
  • Providing, managing, and securing systems in an AWS environment

You can prepare for AWS SysOps Administrator – Exam with the following courses:

III. Professional Level Certifications

AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Professional

A professional AWS architect specializes in evaluating an organizations cloud computing requirements in order to make architectural recommendations for deploying and implementing applications on AWS. To be a Certified Solutions Architect Professional, you require a high degree of experience and technical skill in designing AWS-based applications.

Exam prerequisites:

  • Status as AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate
  • At least two years of hands-on experience designing and deploying cloud architecture on AWS
  • Best practice knowledge of different application architectural design

This 170-minute exam costs $300 and comes in multiple-choice as well as multiple answer formats.

What is covered:

  • Best practices for designing and deploying applications on AWS
  • Identifying the right AWS service for application requirements
  • Migrating complex applications systems to AWS
  • Sound knowledge of cost optimization strategies

You can prepare for AWS Solutions Architect – Professional certification with these online courses:

AWS Certified DevOps Engineer – Professional

The AWS DevOps Engineer – Professional focuses on provision, operation, and management of applications on the AWS platform. This exam is heavily focused on continuous delivery (CD) as well as the automation process, two crucial DevOps movement concepts.

Exam prerequisites:

  • Status as an AWS Certified Developer- Associate or AWS Certified SysOps applications.
  • A sound understanding of modern application development such as the agile development methodology

This 170-minute exam comes in multiple-choice as well as multiple-answer format and costs $300.

What is covered:

  • The fundamentals of modern CD methodologies
  • Implementing CD systems
  • Setting up, monitoring, and logging systems on AWS
  • Implementing highly available and scalable systems on AWS
  • Designing and managing tools that facilitate the automation of production operations
  • A Specialty Certification.

AWS specialty certifications are designed to validate a learner’s skills in networking and big data.

Exam Prerequisites:

  • Current associate-level certification as well as five years of applicable experience

This 3-hour exam comes in multiple choice as well as multiple answer format and costs $300.

You can prepare for AWS DevOps Engineer – Professional Certification with this online resource:

AWS Certified Data Analytics – Specialty (Formerly AWS Certified Big Data – Specialty)

The AWS Certified Data Analytics –Specialty is designed for professionals with a background in data analytics and experience working with AWS services designing and creating big data solutions. It is meant to validate a candidate’s experience in using AWS services to extract value from data. This certification exam’s name and version (DAS – C01) came into effect on April 13, 2020.

What is Covered:

  • Adopting best practices for implementing core AWS big data services
  • Big data design and maintenance
  • AWS tools for data analysis automation
  • Best security practices for big data solutions
  • The AWS services covered by this certification include: Athena, Rekognition, Kinesis, and Quicksight

You can prepare for the AWS Certified Data Analytics Exam with this online resource:

AWS Certified Advanced Networking – Specialty

This AWS certification is designed to build a learner’s skills and experience in executing complex networking tasks on AWS as well as hybrid IT networking architecture as scale. The learner should have prior knowledge in architecting and implementing network solutions. An advanced knowledge of networking on AWS is a plus.

What is covered:

  • Design, development, and deployment of cloud solutions with AWS
  • Implementation of core services according to AWS architectural best practices
  • Automating AWS tasks for network deployments
  • Security and compliance design and implementation
  • Network optimization and troubleshooting

Prep Resources coming soon!

AWS Certified Security – Specialty

The AWS Certified Security- Specialty certification is designed to cover familiarize candidates with areas that security implement security fundamentals, adopt best practices, and build sound knowledge of the essential services unique to the AWS platform. It is meant to validate the candidate’s knowledge of security subjects like data encryption and protection, incident response, identity and access management, logging and monitoring.

What is covered:

  • Using different AWS solutions to identify the appropriate security level based on your deployments and data sensitivity
  • Identifying the most appropriate data protection techniques such as encryption mechanisms
  • Implementing logging and monitoring solutions to analyze and spot security weaknesses and vulnerabilities within the organization’s infrastructure.
  • AWS services including: AWS CloudTail, AWS Identity and Access Management, AWS Config, AWS Trusted Advisor, Amazon Inspector, Amazon CloudWatch, Amazon GuardDuty, and Amazon Key Management Services.

You can prepare for AWS Certified Security – Specialty exam with this resource:

AWS Certified Alexa Skill Builder – Specialty

The AWS-Certified Alexa Skill Builder- Specialty is designed to validate a candidate’s technical expertise in creating, testing, and deploying Amazon Alexa skills. The exam is designed for professionals who work as Alexa skill builders.

Exam prerequisites:

  • At least six months of hands-on experience working with Alexa Skills Kit for building Alexa skills.
  • Proficiency in a programming language

What is covered:

  • Learning the value of voice
  • User experience design
  • Adhering to AWS and Alexa best security practices
  • Creating, testing, and validating for the skill
  • Working with Alexa Developer console

Prep Resources coming soon!

AWS Certified Machine Learning – Specialty

The AWS Certified Machine Learning – Specialty certification exam is designed to validate a candidate’s ability to create, implement, and maintain machine learning solutions for a wide range of business problems. This exam is for candidates who perform development or data science roles.

Exam prerequisite:

  • One to two years using Machine Learning and/or deep learning on the AWS cloud platform.

What is covered:

  • Identifying and defending the best Machine Learning approach for a given business problem
  • Deploying the relevant AWS solutions for creating and deploying your Machine Learning solution
  • Designing and executing cost-optimized, reliable, scalable, and secure Machine Learning solutions for business applications.

You can prepare for AWS Certified Machine Learning – Specialty exam with this resource:

AWS Certified Database – Specialty

This brand new AWS certification is designed to validate a candidate’s overall comprehension of the AWS database services, as well as how to utilize database integrating and architecting to bring value to an organization. The exam is for professionals who work closely with databases in implementing database solutions.

Exam prerequisite:

  • Candidates should have at least 2 years of working experience with both AWS Cloud-based as well as on-site relational and NoSQL databases.

What is covered:

  • Database design, deployment, and migration
  • Database management and operations
  • Database monitoring and troubleshooting
  • Database security

Prep Course coming soon!

AWS Recertification and skill update

AWS is constantly updating or introducing new features and services. In order to keep up to date with your knowledge and expertise, AWS certification holders are required to recertify after every two years. To do this, you can either pass the professional-level exam for your current certification or take and pass a 80-minute recertification exam at a cost of $75.

Keep in mind that the certification broadly represents your knowledge at a specific point in time. You do not have to wait until your certification is expired to take a recertification. Rather, it is a good habit to keep your skills up-to-date as possible. Here are a few tips that can help you keep your AWS skills fresh:

  • Adopt a reading habit. Sign up for the AWS Release Notes newsletter and other resources to gain as much information as you can.
  • Learn by practicing. Consolidate your skills by getting hands-on practice through experimentation with new services in Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence.
  • Test your skills by taking AWS practice exams that are available online
  • Organize training at your workplace

AWS Certification Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

How long will I take to get my AWS Certification?

If you are in a full-time employment, or have other commitments, you will need at least 2 months to complete the 80-hour AWS certification program. It is recommended that you dedicate 120 hours or three months preparing for the certification. You can start with Amazon web services basic certification before moving on to the Solutions Architect – Associate Learning Path.

However, with commitment to your study and hands-on experience using your own “free tier” account, you can familiarize yourself with the platform’s services and pass your certification exam in a shorter time frame. The idea is to master the fundamentals before taking the exam.

How much will it cost me to get my AWS certification?

The cost of the certification exams are different based on the level of certification you are seeking. Here is a breakdown:

  • Practitioner = $100
  • Associate = $150
  • Professional = $300
  • Specialty = $300

What are the different AWS certification levels?

There are four different AWS certification levels as follows:

  • Practitioner – This is the foundation level when starting your AWS certification journey. Based on your background, it can be recommended or optional when taking an Associate level certification.
  • Associate – Associate certifications require more experience than the Practitioner. It is important that you have some hands-on experience in provisioning resources as well as problem-solving skills in AWS.
  • Professional – Wile you go for Professional level certifications right away, it is recommended that you get the Associate level certification first in order to gain crucial AWS knowledge that you need before opting for more advanced professional level certifications. Before taking a professional certification, you need to have a comprehensive understanding of the different attributes like running, optimizing, and troubleshooting solutions with the AWS.
  • Specialty – AWS specialty level certifications are meant to perfect your skills within a single AWS domain, such as “Database” or “Security.” As such, you need deep technical knowledge and experience within the said topic.

Which AWS certification is the best?

First of all, all AWS certifications are important and a great professional addition to your resume. Therefore, deciding the best AWS certification to take largely depends on your role within the organization, interests, and your career path. For instance, if you are currently working in a networking and architectural environments, then you might want to opt for the following AWS certifications:

  • AWS Cloud Practitioner
  • AWS Solutions Architect – Associate
  • AWS Solutions Architect – Professional
  • Networking Specialty

However, if you are a developer, or are leaning towards application development and hopefully work with Alexa in the future, then you might want to consider the following certifications:

  • AWS Cloud Practitioner
  • AWS Developer – Associate
  • AWS Developer – Professional
  • Alexa Skill Builder – Specialty

Are AWS certifications really worth it?

Well, any certification that demonstrates your expertise and knowledge within the IT industry is definitely worth it. In a world full of competition, being able to stand out from competition can clearly help you realize your professional goals.

It is not just about validating your knowledge. However, demonstrates your dedication, commitment, and willingness to learn, and the drive to stay ahead.

Can I get my AWS certification online?

Yes, you can definitely take your AWS certification online from the comfort of your home or office. That said, there are important points you need to keep in mind, most of which you will find online. Here is a summary of what you need to be aware when taking your AWS certification online:

  • You need to be able to communicate with an English speaking proctor. While you can take your exam in other languages, the communication with the proctor has to be done in English.
  • Only certifications are now available for residents of mainland China, South Korea, or Slovenia, Japan.
  • You need to ensure that your computer meets the system requirements for online proctoring
  • When taking your exams, you need to set up a quiet and conducive environment with no interruptions
  • Unlike in the certification center, you are NOT allowed to move away from the webcam while taking your AWS certification online.
  • Pearson VUE is the only testing center that is currently offering online proctoring


Preparation is a great idea when taking Amazon web services basic certification. It will help you to learn the basics and focus on the most fundamental topics for your field of practice. Besides preparing for the job, it will help you gain hands-on experience in this IT domain. It is important that you understand how cloud computing works before signing up for your AWS certification exam. Once you have mastered the level, getting a certification would be totally worth it.

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