Types, Costs, Benefits: What Is an AWS Certification? cover image

If you have recently taken an interest in starting a career in IT or advancing it further from the entry-level position you have occupied for a while, chances are, you have already spent some time looking into ways to polish your resume. Everything helps: education, work experience, completed projects… And if you can prove you have professional expertise in using popular and widely-used digital systems or platforms by getting certified – even better!

AWS certifications are among the most popular and appreciated IT-related certifications in the world – and for a good reason. But what exactly is an AWS certification, and what advantages does it provide in a job hunt? How long does it take to become AWS certified, and how hard do you need to work on it? How much does one AWS certification cost, and is it actually worth it? Finally, what is AWS certification owner’s salary like once they land a cloud-related position? Let’s find the answers to all of these questions – and more.

What Is AWS (Certification Aside)

Before we dive into explaining what is an AWS certification exactly, we need to clarify the background a little. As the name itself implies, these certifications are focused on using the AWS platform. The name stands for Amazon Web Services, and there are currently more than 175 services in total. However, the main thing you need to know is that AWS is a cloud computing platform used by over a million companies all over the world.

Storing your data in private physical servers is neither convenient nor easy: the hardware is pricey, takes up a ton of space, and requires constant ventilation and other safety precautions. Moreover, if a server is destroyed (e.g., in a flood) and you don’t have a backup somewhere safe, you’re pretty much doomed. Forgoing all this trouble and opting for cloud solutions instead has multiple advantages for a company: not only does it save space and money, but it can also be sure the data is safe at all times.

For multiple years in a row, AWS has been the absolute world leader in the sector of cloud computing. In addition to that, its market share is still growing – as well as the number of companies worldwide that are in desperate need of AWS experts. Therefore, if you’re thinking about what an AWS certification is useful in, the first and foremost answer is job hunting: a proof that you are familiar with the AWS system, its infrastructure, key principles and services is something that’s quick to attract the attention of recruiters and employers.

What Getting Certified Actually Means

To get an AWS certification and improve your resume, you need to take an exam in a testing center or online. If you thought the latter option makes the process easier, think again: you would have a proctor assigned to monitor you till you complete the exam. The precautions guarantee there is no cheating, so recruiters can be sure that every certified specialist actually knows the AWS system inside and out. The certification is valid for three years – after the time passes, you need to get recertified and make sure your knowledge is up-to-date.

To understand what an AWS certification is, we need to go through the whole list of options. There are four categories of certifications: 

  • Foundational (Cloud Practitioner)
  • Associate (Solutions Architect, SysOps Administrator, and Developer)
  • Professional (Solutions Architect, and DevOps Engineer)
  • Specialty (Advanced Networking, Security, Machine Learning, Data Analytics, Database, and Alexa Skill Builder)

As the names imply, each certification is role-based, except for one: the AWS Cloud Practitioner is the Foundational-level certification that covers the basics of using AWS and cloud computing overall, so the knowledge it proves you have is applicable in many different positions.

There are no prerequisites for taking any of the exams – while it used to be mandatory to be certified as an Associate to pursue a Professional or Specialty-level certification, this rule has been made obsolete to give the candidates more flexibility in planning their career in cloud computing. There is also no mandatory training you need to complete before heading to your exam – however, it is highly recommended (e.g., you could take a professional, exam-oriented AWS training course on BitDegree Academy). Depending on the exam you choose, the AWS certification cost can be up to $300, and while it’s not that much when you consider all the benefits you gain, it’s definitely not a sum you would want to waste. The recertification exam is half the price of the certification. And speaking of money…

Benefits of an AWS Certification 

What is an AWS certification going to help you with, you ask? We have already stated it’s a reliable proof of your AWS expertise that improves hireability by attesting to your skills without a need for any additional testing. However, that’s not all: statistics show that certified specialists usually earn more than their uncertified colleagues as well. 

According to Forbes, an AWS certification can boost your salary by $12,000 a year on average. The total sum a certified professional receives in a year is more than enough to lead a comfortable lifestyle – for example, an AWS Certified Associate Solutions Architect can earn close to $150,000. If you needed any more motivation to study harder for your certification exams, knowing exactly what an AWS certification owner’s salary is like can be a great motivator: investing in your professional growth pays off big time!

How Long Does It Take to Become AWS Certified? 

There are two ways to answer this question. Depending on the exact certification, the exam itself can take from 90 (for a Cloud Practitioner) to 180 (for a Professional-level certification) minutes. However, the process of learning and preparing takes a lot longer than that – and there is no exact number of weeks or months we could specify. No candidate is the same: we all learn at a different pace, and the amount of time we can dedicate to studying each day varies greatly.

If you look at what is recommended on the AWS Certification website, you will see pretty precise numbers: six months for the Cloud Practitioner, a year for an Associate, and two for a Professional or a Specialty certification. However, they’re far from being set in stone – with well-planned training and determination, you could slice that time in half or make it even shorter. In the discussions about preparing for the AWS exams in Quora and similar tech-focused forums, most members state it took them a few months. Keep in mind that this includes hands-on practice with the AWS system, too – not just memorizing the facts!

A Solid Step in Your Career

Now that you know precisely what an AWS certification is and why you would need one, it’s time to choose one that fits your expectations for the future best and get down to studying! The time and effort you put into it will translate to excellent professional opportunities – furthermore, it will inspire you to strive for more and keep going forward for years to come.

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Vaida Jėčienė