Should You Get an AWS Certification?

Written by Michael Catford

October 31, 2017

The short answer, if you’re an IT worker who comes into contact with cloud computing at least, is simple.

Yes.

Don’t want to take my word for it? Thankfully, you needn’t – it’s all there in the numbers. Amazon commands a 33% share of the cloud computing market – 3x more than the next biggest competitor, Microsoft (11%). On top of that, AWS is currently achieving year-on-year growth of 43%, meaning that they’re likely to not just maintain, but enlarge this market share into the future.

Numbers tell one side of the story, but what’s the state of play in the real world? To find out exactly why achieving AWS (Amazon Web Services) certification is a wise move, and to learn how to get the most out of your certification experience, we spoke to three experts with their fingers very much in the cloud computing pie – Malcolm Duncanson, the CEO and Cofounder of Cloudten, Matt Flannery, DevOps Lead at Deloitte and Ashley Hull, DevOps Engineer at Versent.

The Benefits of AWS Certification

So why should you be aiming to achieve some form of AWS certification? There are many reasons, but three stand out.

       1. It’s a badge of quality

“AWS certifications are valuable for demonstrating AWS expertise to our customers” says Duncanson, whose company, Cloudten, was recently awarded Public Sector Partner status by Amazon. “It serves as a gold standard, and helps to maintain credibility with clients while staying on top of AWS developments. Personally, when I passed the Professional Certified Solutions Architect exam it became a ‘badge’ of my understanding of AWS cloud architecture, and opened the doors to deeper cloud conversations with AWS and clients.”

While currently uncertified himself, Flannery agrees – “I know that DevOps is not all about certificates, but AWS certification programs do provide an excellent path for self-improvement which is recognised, so as an individual it will always be important.”

       2. You’ll earn more

This year a Global Knowledge survey revealed some truly astonishing numbers regarding the impact of an AWS certification on salary. Polling a variety of IT workers and managers throughout the US and Canada, an AWS cloud technology certificate was found to boost the salaries of such professionals by an incredible 25.9%. Certified respondents had an average income of US$113,932 per year, while their uncertified counterparts earnt US$90,512.

       3. AWS is the past, present and future

As this article from TechCrunch so eloquently outlines, AWS – and Amazon as a whole – isn’t exactly going backwards. In fact, it’s careering towards total dominance. As far as anyone can tell the influence of AWS in the cloud computing sphere will only get greater into the future, and gaining access to the work that this monopolisation will generate is made far easier if you have proof of your credentials.

In short, an AWS certification will allow you to get more work with better pay for years to come.

Some Handy Hints on AWS Certification

For those who have committed to becoming certified, there is work ahead. But thanks to Amazon, this work has recently been made far easier to complete. Earlier this year Amazon announced its very own training and certification program. As this AWS blog post outlines;

“Previously, you had to rely on multiple websites to find and manage training and certification offerings. Now you have a central place where you can find and enrol in AWS Training, register for AWS Certification exams, track your learning progress, and access benefits based on the AWS Certifications you have achieved.”

So what tips do our experts have in terms of the AWS certification process?

       1. Be prepared to fully commit

Versent’s Hull quickly found out that you can’t be half-hearted in your AWS certification efforts. “My first exam shortly after joining the company was not a pass,” he says. “I took this as a message that I needed to dedicate considerable time to learning/understanding as much of the AWS offerings as possible.” And that’s exactly what he did.

“I spent a lot of my personal time over 12 months working to fill in the gaps of my knowledge – practice exams are available and gave me a good indication of how I was progressing. I spent 9 months using the AWS platform on a day to day basis, and once I was ready to commit I started reading the AWS Blog and white papers. I took advantage of two of the online video courses as well as reading the official study guide. I also gave myself time between exams to allow myself to focus on the parts of the exams I found challenging.”

       2. Use resources

There are plenty of resources out there to capitalise on, say our experts; it’s just a matter of choosing the ones that appeal to your learning preferences and offer you the greatest value.

“Technical Bootcamps are a great way to stay on top of developments,” notes Duncanson. “Led by AWS knowledge experts, they provide hands-on learning and help us maintain expertise that we can apply to our customer designs.”

“The Official AWS blogs https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/aws/ are updated daily with excellent articles on new features, new products, best practices and concepts. These articles are generally very interesting and written by AWS engineers for AWS engineers” Hull adds, citing a recent example where he was able to utilise a new NLB (Network Load Balancer) just hours after Amazon had announced it on their blog.

       3. Attack problems the AWS way

Hull found that you really need to get into an AWS mindset for the exams – “They include a lot of practical scenarios, and many are subtly trying to push towards the correct answer, with a mention of performance, cost, or global reach. As with any technical problem, there are multiple solutions depending on the tools and resources available to you. AWS offers plenty of options, but you need to figure out not only what the exam question is asking, but what the ‘AWS Way’ of answering the question is.”

       4. Finding the right time

With greater opportunity and a generous pay rise at stake, it might be tempting to rush into the AWS certification process. But rushing into it might do more harm than good. Certification is a big commitment; thus it’s important to undertake it at the right time in your professional life.

For him, says Flannery, “AWS certification isn’t absolutely necessary at the moment. I have been using AWS for more than five years in a variety of ways, and have developed implementation techniques that are industry leading. I constantly push the limits of what the platform as a whole offers in current and new product sets.

“For me, this has simply been a matter of timing. I do plan to sit the certification path for DevOps Professional in the near future however.”

At the end of the day, gaining AWS certification represents a wise move for almost anyone in the IT space. But doing so requires your full commitment, so finding an appropriate time to undertake the training is just as important as deciding to do it in the first place.

One thing’s for sure – AWS isn’t going backwards, and with certification on your side, neither will you.

Written by Michael Catford

October 31, 2017

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