My name is Hossein Siamaknejad and I am currently having 11 out of 11 AWS certifications. I am going to share my experience by writing some articles about how to become AWS certified, and this is the first part of my article series about AWS certification.
After passing my 11th AWS certificate, I announced my achievement as a post on Linkedin and right after, I got more than 1000 followers/connections just in 1 day. My inbox was full of messages demanding help or advice regards AWS certification. Here are the most frequent questions I have received, and I tried to give an answer to them based on my own experience.
How many AWS certificates are available?
- AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner
- AWS Certified Developer - Associate
- AWS Certified SysOps Administrator - Associate
- AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate
- AWS Certified DevOps Engineer - Professional
- AWS Certified Solutions Architect - Professional
- AWS Certified Advanced Networking - Specialty
- AWS Certified Big Data - Specialty
- AWS Certified Security - Specialty
- AWS Certified Machine Learning – Specialty
- AWS Certified Alexa Skill Builder - Specialty
AWS announces 3 Beta certificates recently which are currently in Beta period and will be released officially on March 2020
AWS Certified Database - Specialty: this is a totally new certificate which I am planning to take in March 2020 once it is officially released
AWS Certified Solutions Architect - Associate: An updated version of theAWS Certified Solutions Architect - Associate
AWS Certified Data Analytics - Specialty (formerly AWS Certified Big Data - Specialty): if you already have an "AWS Certified Big Data - Specialty" certificate, there is no need to take the new one.
Why do we need to get AWS certifications?
There are lots of reasons you should get certified. I will just mention two of them.
- In order to get certified, you need to go through many resources and materials. You need to study and explore new services. This helps you to learn how to design a system by considering the best practices recommended by AWS. Accordingly, you can deliver high-quality solutions that can be scalable, highly available and fault-tolerant.
- If you are underpaid, or due to any reasons planning to change your job, you can find a better job with a higher salary much easier using your AWS certificates than applying without them. You need to have the winning card in your hand, something special, something that others cannot easily achieve.
- Many companies are currently migrating to the cloud or will migrate soon, and they all need to hire experts who can help them with their journies. Having a number of certificates in your resume will set you apart from other candidates.
Based on my personal experience, each and every individual certificate helped me to unlock a new area of the cloud. Each of them added special value to my skill set and knowledge. I would highly recommend you to try them all if you are willing to grow.
Where to start my AWS journey?
If you are totally new to AWS or having very little exposure to it, I would recommend you start your learning path with the AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner certificate. This covers the fundamental and basic concepts of the AWS cloud and its services. This certificate is the cheapest AWS certificate and if you successfully pass it, you can get a 50% discount on your next exam, so you can save some money.
Is there any prerequisite to get a professional or specialty certificate?
No, at the moment there is no prerequisite to take any of the certificates. You can just take the professional or specialty exams without taking AWS cloud practitioner or Associate level exams. But the recommendation is to start with basic certificates such as Practitioner or Associate level exams first, before jumping in to professional or specialty exams
Which certificate should I start with?
It totally depends on your background and your experience. AWS recommends taking associate-level certificates if you have 6+ months experience with AWS cloud, and 2+ year experience for professional ones.
To me, people from different backgrounds should try different certificates.
- If you are a Solution Architect, I would recommend taking all of the certificates as each one will help you to understand one aspect of the cloud. But if you just plan to take the most required ones, then go for Solution Architect professional and DevOps professional
- If you are a DevOps Engineer, then I would recommend Developer-Associate as well as DevOps Professional certificate.
- If you are a Developer, start with Developer-Associate certificate followed by Solution Architect-Associate.
- if you are a Data Scientist or Machine Learning Engineer, then I would recommend Developer-Associate, Big Data-Specialty as well as Machine Learning-Specialty certificates
- If you are a Big Data Engineer, you can try Developer-Associate and Big Data-Specialty certificate
- If you are a Network Admin or a Security Admin, then you should try SysOps-Associate, Security-Specialty, and Advanced Networking-Specialty.
- If you are an Alexa skill builder, by right, you should go fo Developer-Associate and Alexa Skill Builder-Specialty certificates.
Please note that the above-mentioned certificates are only the minimum certifications required for those roles.
If you plan to start directly with professional or specialty certificates, please note that you can save 50$ USD by starting with AWS cloud practitioner certificate which cost 100$ USD and then get the 50% discount on your next exam, then your next exam will become 150$ instead of 300$ :)
How long would it take to get prepared for an exam?
In average, I spent 2 to 3 weeks to prepare for each exam. There isn't any specific formula to calculate how long it will take to clear one certificate. It totally depends on how long you spend each day to prepare for an exam. Most of the tutorials having 10 to 20 hours of video materials, so you can divide it by the number of hours each day you spend and estimate how long it would take for you to get prepared for a particular exam.
How much does it cost to get all the certifications?
At the moment, AWS certificates can be either 100$, 150$ or 300$ depends on the level of the certificate.
- 100$ USD: Cloud Practitioner exam
- 150$ USD: Associate-level exams
- 300$ USD: Professional and Specialty exams
Please note that, if you pass any exam, you will get a 50% discount on the next exam as well as a free coupon to try a practice exam. As I mentioned before, If you plan to directly take the professional or specialty exam, it is worth it to take the AWS practitioner first, and then take the professional or specialty ones. Because you can clear the Practitioner exam by 100$ and then take the professional one by 150$ instead of 300$, so in total, you spend 250$ to get two certificates which is 50$ cheaper than directly taking a professional exam by spending 300$
If you start with Cloud Practitioner at 100$ and get a 50% discount on your next exam and you pass all the subsequent exams without failure, at the end you would have paid almost 1,375$ instead of 2,650$ and you would have saved 1,275$ as you had used 50% discount on all your subsequent exams (passing each exam will give you 50% discount on your next exam)
Check this link To check the full list of benefits you can earn by passing your exam.
Is there any magical tip to pass the certification?
There is no magical tip except for hard work and dedication. But I can mention a few points which can help you to get certification much easier
- Take note of the slides and material, or take a screenshot of the slides and highlight the important points in the picture. review all your notes before the exam
- Book your exam in advance and make a commitment to your timeline
- Don't be afraid of failure, this is part of the success journey. I also failed solution architect professional one time, but it helped me to find out my weakness. I studied much more in-depth and took many more mock tests until I got the confidence level to take the exam for the second time and I passed easily.
- I usually watch the video materials in 2x or 1.5x speed depends on instructor speaking speed, it saved me a number of hours. you can also do the same if you can still catch them up in that speed :)
- Take mock tests or try AWS practice exams before sitting for the real exam
- Don't take the exam without preparation, you cant pass the exam by luck :)
- If English is not your first language, you can request to add an additional 30 minute time to your exam by enabling it in your AWS certification account. Please read this article about how to do that
How to find materials or courses?
There are tunes of materials, tutorials, and courses in the market, but which one you should go for? I would recommend below ones:
Udemy Pricing: You can buy Udemy courses usually in the discounted price of almost 10$
Linux Academy: The advantage of Linux Academy is its Labs. you can experiment with the tutorials in a real AWS environment. They will provide a user name and pass to login to AWS console and implement the solutions provided in the lab.
Linux Academy Pricing: almost 49$/month or yearly subscription of almost 38$/month. Please do check out their website for exact pricing
A Cloud Guru: A Cloud Guru is cheaper than Linux Academy but they don’t provide a real AWS environment. However, they have recorded videos that you can watch and implement the solutions in your own AWS account.
A Cloud Guru Pricing: 29$/month or yearly subscription of almost 21$/month. Please do check out their website for exact pricing
Breaking news on 17th Dec 2019: A Cloud Guru has acquired Linux Academy!
Whizlabs: they have both courses as well as the mock tests. You can buy each course or mock test separately. I have used their mock tests and recommend taking them before sitting for the real exam.
Whizlabs Pricing: practice tests at the moment are almost 20$ and the online course is around 10$. Please do check out their website for exact pricing
Which course did you try yourself to pass your exams?
For Cloud Practitioner, I used the Linux Academy course.
For all the Associate level exams, I used A Cloud Guru courses in Udemy. I would like to also recommend Stephane Maarek courses in Udemy as well, many of my team members passed their exam using his courses.
For Solution Architect Professional, DevOps Professional, and Big Data-Specialty certificates, I used both A Cloud Guru and Linux Academy courses, as well as trying Whizlabz mock tests.
For Security-Specialty and Machine Learning-Specialty, I studied A Cloud Guru courses.
For Advanced Networking - Specialty exam, I studied Linux Academy courses, and I also took all Whizlabs mock tests.
How about the certification validity period?
At the moment, all certifications having 3 years of validity. After 3 years, they need to be re-certified.
If you get any professional certificates or re-certify one of them, your associate-level certificates and practitioner certificates will be re-certified automatically.
If you get any associate certificates or re-certify one of them, your practitioner certificates will be re-certified automatically.
*** I hope to publish more articles soon on each certificate separately, please follow me on Linkedin and stay tuned ***
On becoming an 11x AWS certified - Part 1 - FAQs
On becoming an 11x AWS certified - Part 2 - Time Management