Let's Be Real: Are AWS Certifications Worth It? cover image

The tech sector seems to grow bigger and more powerful every day – and so does the competition in it. It's only natural: everybody wants to get into the hottest industry, contribute to building innovations that will shape the future, and, of course, receive an impressive paycheck at the end of each month.

There are various options for candidates to stand out – nevertheless, some are more effective than others. For the last few years, a lot of industry rookies have been eyeing Amazon Web Services (AWS) certifications as an effective way to define and prove their professional expertise. Are AWS certifications worth it – the time, the effort, the money? Will they help you find a job easier, and will the pay rise be sufficient to compensate for your efforts? Is AWS worth learning at all, and how relevant is it in 2020? Let's try to answer these questions one at a time.

Cloud Practitioner – The First Level of AWS Certifications

Is it worth getting an AWS certification? To reach your verdict, you need to first understand there are multiple types of these certifications, and each of them can offer a different set of advantages. As of now, Amazon has twelve certification badges available – one foundational, three Associate, two Professional, and six Specialty certifications.

AWS Cloud Practitioner Certification is the most basic and also the most universal option. It focuses on the fundamental knowledge of working with the AWS Cloud and is therefore useful to not just the tech roles, but also those working in management, sales, finances, etc. While it's not required to take this step before heading for Associate-level or Specialty certifications, it is recommended as a great way to get the basics down.

Are AWS certifications worth it if you are not aiming for a highly technical role? We'd say it definitely is. As of 2020, cloud computing is virtually omnipresent in various industries, and almost half of the global cloud infrastructure market belongs to Amazon. Therefore, understanding the AWS platform, its architectural principles, account management, and key services is a skill sought by thousands of companies worldwide. 

A cloud practitioner is precisely what the name of the certification suggests – not a developer, not an architect, but rather a skilled practitioner. The certification acts like a proof that you have all the fundamental skills needed to use the AWS platform on the professional level. If you're applying for a job in a company that uses AWS on a daily basis, it's more than likely your potential employer will appreciate your knowledge in this specific area.

Now, is AWS certification enough to get a job? As for the AWS Cloud Practitioner Certification, we wouldn't go that far. It's a great addition to a good resume, but not an alternative for it by any means. All in all, it's just a proof of you being comfortable with a specific platform, and it's highly unlikely that's all a job position would require. Now, if we speak Associate, Professional, or Specialty certifications…

A Certification That Defines Your Career Path

Unlike that of a cloud practitioner, higher-level AWS certifications are not that universal career-wise. Instead, they are focused on individual positions: you can get certified as a solutions architect, SysOps administrator, developer, or DevOps engineer, as well as an expert in advanced networking, security, database management, machine learning, data analytics, or Alexa skill-building. Are these AWS certifications worth it? Let's find out.

With Amazon's impressive and ever-growing market share, it's no surprise the demand for AWS experts is rather high. While you could be familiar with the platform due to independent research and experience, employers and recruiters would have no way of knowing your skill level. It's especially true with HR specialists, who might not be familiar with the cloud infrastructure enough to ask the right technical questions. An AWS certification is a clear proof that your knowledge is of a sufficient level: by measuring up to a universal industry standard, you convey a clear message about your expertise.

While the answer to the question 'is AWS certification enough to get a job?' is still not a 100% yes, one way to improve your chances is to aim at companies that participate in AWS Partner Network (APN) programs. Among the other requirements they have to meet to keep the Partner status, they need to have a certain number of certified employees (cloud practitioners not included). In such cases, having a Professional-level certification can significantly improve your chances of getting employed. 

Not only is AWS worth learning in terms of career prospects, but it's also a great option for those who enjoy seeing hefty numbers on their paychecks. According to the Global Knowledge 2019 IT Skills and Salary Report, three of the AWS certifications are among the ten highest-paying certifications in the US, with certified specialists earning almost $130,000 a year on average. In addition to that, some companies offer one-time bonuses or even cover the exam fees for their employees. Speaking of exam fees, they can reach up to a few hundred dollars. Are AWS certifications worth it? If you are serious about an AWS-related career, there's no doubt about it.

Bonus Things Your Certification Says About You

The tech market is notorious for its constant improvements, innovations, and initiatives – and it's only natural most employers prefer candidates who possess traits compatible with these values. The question is, is it worth getting an AWS certification to score some personal karma points? We'd argue that it is!

Passing the AWS certification exam is not a child's play: you need to spend a lot of time preparing – exploring the platform, studying the materials, doing practice exams. It's no wonder that during the process, a lot of people start questioning – are AWS certifications worth it? Actually, if they were easily obtained by just anyone, they would not hold that much value. Not giving up and eventually getting certified shows dedication and commitment – qualities that every employer will appreciate. If you're willing to invest your own time and effort into growing professionally, it means you will be open to new challenges and opportunities in the workplace as well. Plus, you can make the task easier for yourself by choosing a reliable learning course – say, AWS training from BitDegree Academy, – too!

Not only are AWS certifications worth it in terms of proving your expertise and dedication, but they are also a guarantee your industry knowledge is not outdated. There are certain types of professional certifications in the market that have no expiration date – however, in the world of tech, the knowledge you gained years ago is close to worthless. With AWS, your badge is only valid for three years – after that, you need to go through a recertification process to maintain it. Thus, recruiters can always be sure a certified person is familiar with the newest features, techniques, and best practices of using AWS.

The Verdict

So, all in all – are AWS certifications worth it? Let's be realistic: it's not a magic wand that will turn a person with an empty resume into the best candidate for any job – however, it can definitely be a valuable addition to an already strong foundation. AWS certification is not enough to get a job, but it's a strong advantage and possibly even a deciding factor. Even if you’re not looking for a new job right now, it can help you improve your performance at your current one, get a promotion or a pay rise.

If you have some industry knowledge and experience, getting certified by a reliable and successful industry leader such as AWS is an excellent way to advance your career. By proving you have sufficient and up-to-date skills, you will make a strong and lasting impression on recruiters, potential employers, and colleagues!

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Vaida Jėčienė