An Introduction To AWS Certificates: The Top 11 You Need to Know

Written By

Anthony Neto


As a whole, the world is going through a digital revolution that shows no signs of slowing down any time soon. One of the main reasons for the ongoing digital transformation is the growth of cloud computing. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated this growth to new highs as physical businesses, nonprofits, and entrepreneurs have been forced to adapt to the new climate and embrace a fully online way of working and providing products and services.

Essentially, lower maintenance, electricity, and storage costs, together with greater reliability, speed, and cost-effectiveness, make migrating from the costly and clunky physical servers to the thin, elastic, and multiplatform cloud incredibly appealing to every type of business or entrepreneur.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) is one of the big three cloud computing giants alongside Google Cloud Platform (GCP) and Microsoft Azure. For Software Engineers, mastery of AWS Cloud is one of the most attractive niches in the market today. The competition may be larger, but it's still not top-heavy, and leadership positions are still reasonably attainable for those wishing to put the time and effort into it. For this reason, taking AWS courses represents the best route to career growth in this industry. 

Table of Contents

           1. AWS Foundational Certifications

               AWS Cloud Practitioner

           2. AWS Associate Certifications

               AWS Solutions Architect – Associate

               AWS SysOps Administrator - Associate

               AWS Developer - Associate

           3. AWS Professional Certifications

               AWS Solutions Architect - Professional

               AWS DevOps Engineer - Professional

          4. AWS Specialty Certifications

               AWS Advanced Networking - Specialty

               AWS Data Analytics - Specialty

               AWS Security - Specialty

               AWS Machine Learning – Specialty

               AWS Database - Specialty

Why Should I Get an AWS Certificate?

Credibility, industry recognition, proving expertise, are some of the benefits you can gain from pursuing an AWS course. However, the most tangible effect of having an AWS certification is simple. You will be considerably more valuable to companies hiring AWS professionals, which translates directly to a better salary, benefits, and positions at the best cloud computing companies.

Certifications earned from AWS training courses might not be everything, but they ensure that you have extensive knowledge in the areas that your certification covers and will make you considerably more apt to answer questions in interviews. Also, recruiters look more favorably towards candidates that show they have comprehensive knowledge in the subjects and technologies covered by AWS certifications. Now, let's take a look at each of the benefits of taking an AWS training course in a little more detail.


As companies embrace technology to reach more customers, they need means that allow them to be online in an efficient, fast, and safe way. At the same time, since companies and businesses are always looking to make the most profit, cloud computing offers the best Return-on-Investment (ROI). However, skilled professionals are a necessity for them to make the most out of Amazon's resources, systems, and technologies.

Taking an AWS course to become a certified professional highlights your commitment to cloud computing to employers and recruiters. Furthermore, it demonstrates that you are well-versed with the best practices employed by Amazon, and shows a more profound and comprehensive understanding of the technologies used in AWS. Overall, certifications such as those awarded after completion of AWS certification exam mean a smoother job interview, with less time spent trying to understand if you can do what the job demands. Instead, you can spend more time judging if the prospective job and company fit your profile.

Industry Recognition

An AWS course certification sends a strong message about your dedication and knowledge in the area. AWS courses provide very complex, challenging, and thorough tests that require proper preparation for successful completion.

For instance, the AWS Cloud Practitioner exam is available at a premium of $100 while Professional and Specialty level exams can go as high as $300. Consequently, professionals that hold these AWS certifications demonstrate that they have prepared extensively for the exam and are ready to work in real-life situations.

Career Advancement

‍AWS as a speciality area is characterized by intense competition since the talent pool ranges from self-taught professionals to professionals with college degrees and experience. As a result, professionals putting in the monetary investment and effort into obtaining an AWS certification will stand out the most. Pair that with experience, and you become one of the most sought-after professionals in IT.

Once you are inside a company, holding an AWS course certification gives you a lot of leverage and sway when climbing up the ladder to seniority and leadership positions. The amount of professionals that hold an AWS certification is small in comparison to what the market offers. This gives you an incredible advantage when asking for a raise as well. Recruiters will fight to have you for their clients, translating into overall bigger salaries and better benefits in the long run.

Personal Development

Our AWS Salary Guide for DevOps Engineers demonstrates that professionals with an AWS course certification earn more than those without it. The data can be found in multiple sources such as ZipRecruiter, PayScale, and GlassDoor. A steady increase in salary, ease of finding new jobs, and greater bargaining power are a sure way to develop your career steadily.

Are AWS Certifications Worth It?

AWS is one of the big three cloud computing service providers. What this point means is that companies expect a lot more from professionals working with it. Being older in the market means the competition is tougher, and having an AWS certification is worth it since it helps you to set yourself apart from other candidates.

In a world where Omni-clouds, hybrid-cloud, and multi-cloud strategies are common amongst medium to large businesses, AWS certified professionals play an essential role in the achievement of the desired outcomes. Furthermore, having an AWS certification doesn't make your worth any less. On the contrary, AWS is the leading player in the cloud computing business, and the demand for skilled professionals to handle their cloud and AWS applications is high in the market currently.

Statistically, Amazon Web Services still leads the pack amongst the big three, with a 32% market share and a growth rate of 49% over the competition. Having more time than any other competitor in the market is the core reason for its considerably dominant position. Commendably, Amazon used this time wisely by constantly improving performance, building better and more flexible applications, and creating an incredibly advanced system. Additionally, Amazon's constant expansion to new locations gives their customers the best network and physical placement for their servers. As such, AWS is a difficult competitor to beat even for giants such as Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform.

Another important factor to keep in mind is that hiring professionals with AWS certifications is the only way companies can maintain partner and competency status with Amazon. For this reason, certified professionals, especially those holding Associate or Professional certifications are in high demand since partner companies report a strong preference for professionals who take AWS training courses. Primarily, when evaluating similar candidates, those who are AWS certified have an edge over professionals who haven’t completed any AWS training course.

What Types of AWS Certifications are Available?

Currently there is a total of 11 AWS certificates available. Essentially, these AWS training courses are divided into four different levels of expertise, from lowest to highest as follows: 

  • Foundational
  • Associate 
  • Professional 
  • Specialty

AWS Foundational Certifications

For folks who have a basic understanding of cloud migration, what cloud computing entails, or working with AWS, but want to keep things primarily entry-level, the foundational level course does not touch on implementation. Consequently, it's the best place to begin your AWS journey. A Foundational level AWS certification exam costs $100 plus taxes. It's recommended to have at least six months of AWS and industry knowledge in related positions before pursuing it.

AWS Cloud Practitioner Course Certification badge- Foundational

AWS Cloud Practitioner

The Foundational AWS Cloud Practitioner exam assesses your ability in:

  • Basic AWS architectural foundation.
  • Most used AWS services.
  • AWS security and compliance standards.
  • Fundamental deployment and operating principles.

AWS Associate Certifications

For those aiming to work with AWS in their day-to-day job or professionals working with AWS in any capacity, having an associate degree can be beneficial. Although it is still an entry-level certification, associate-level, builds upon everything foundational level was about and gets your hands dirty. An Associate level AWS certification exam costs $150 plus taxes. It's strongly recommended to have at least one year of experience working with AWS, implementing solutions, and solving AWS-related issues.

AWS Solutions Architect Certification Course badge - Associate

AWS Solutions Architect – Associate

The AWS Solutions Architect - Associate exam assesses your ability in:

  • Network technologies and using them inside AWS.
  • Building reliable and safe applications within AWS.
  • Inner workings of AWS applications and how clients interact with AWS.
  • Deployment of hybrid systems.
  • Designing scalable systems.
  • Disaster recovery techniques and strategy.

AWS SysOps Administrator Certification Course badge - Associate

AWS SysOps Administrator - Associate

The AWS SysOps Administrator - Associate exam assesses your ability in:

  • Deploying applications in AWS.
  • Sending, receiving, and working data between the regular data center and AWS.
  • Understanding how to choose the best services and applications for your company.
  • Managing, securing, and preparing systems within the AWS environment.

AWS Developer tCertification Course badge - Associate

AWS Developer - Associate

The AWS Developer - Associate exam assesses your ability in:

  • Understand the foundational architecture and services used in AWS.
  • Ability to deploy, develop, design, and maintain applications.
  • Your knowledge when using important AWS services: Storage services, AWS databases, and change management services, to name a few.

AWS Professional Certifications

For folks already experienced with AWS after a few years of working with it, the Professional level is all about diving deeper into AWS technologies and understanding most of its systems and technologies. It provides fundamental knowledge that can't be obtained at the associate level. Professional certificates go much more in-depth and are larger in scope. These certification costs $300 plus taxes. It's strongly recommended to have a minimum of 2 years of extensive experience in AWS, with an in-depth understanding of operating, troubleshooting, and designing AWS solutions before taking a Professional level AWS training course. 

AWS Solutions Architect Certification Course badge - Professional

AWS Solutions Architect - Professional

The AWS Solutions Architect - Professional exam assesses your ability in:

  • Amazon’s best practices and methodologies for designing and architecting applications on AWS.
  • Advanced knowledge of cost optimization strategies.
  • Migration and maintenance of complex application systems to the AWS environment.
  • Knowledge of the correct services required to run a specific AWS application.
AWS DevOps Engineer Certification Course badge -Professional

AWS DevOps Engineer - Professional

The AWS DevOps Engineer - Professional exam assesses your ability in:

  • Implementation of CD systems.
  • Logging, setting up, monitoring loggins systems using AWS.
  • Introduction to CD methodologies and best practices.
  • Designing and managing tools to automate production operations and application deployment.

AWS Specialty Certifications

If you're already highly skilled in a specific area of AWS and want to have the certification to prove it, this is the certification for you. Specialty certifications have a narrow scope, with a total focus on depth. This is the most challenging level, and it's highly recommended to have years of professional hands-on experience in the subjects approached. The Specialty level certification costs $300 plus taxes. Candidates trying to obtain this certification need at least 2 to 5 years of direct, intensive, and advanced knowledge of AWS solutions in the desired area of expertise.

AWS Advanced Networking Certification Course badge - Specialty

AWS Advanced Networking - Specialty

The AWS Advanced Networking - Specialty exam assesses your ability in:

  • Network optimization and troubleshooting.
  • Security and compliance in design and implementation of networks.
  • Developing, designing, and deploying cloud solutions using AWS systems.
  • Development and maintenance of automation solutions and tasks for network deployments.

AWS Data Analytics Certification Course badge - Specialty

AWS Data Analytics - Specialty

The AWS Data Analytics - Specialty exam assesses your ability in:

  • Monitoring, designing, and maintaining big data.
  • Knowledge of automation tools for data analysis.
  • Best security practices to handle big data.
  • Covered services: Kinesis, Athena, Rekognition, and Quicksight.

AWS Security Certification Course badge - Specialty

AWS Security - Specialty

The AWS Security - Specialty exam assesses your ability in:

  • Choosing and using numerous AWS services to select the correct level of security, taking into consideration the sensitivity of the data.
  • Knowledge and selection of the appropriate data protection techniques, such as encryption.
  • Implementation of log and monitoring solutions to help detect and analyze possible vulnerabilities within the infrastructure.

AWS Machine Learning Certification Course badge - Specialty

AWS Machine Learning – Specialty

The AWS Machine Learning – Specialty exam assesses your ability in:

  • Picking the best approach using ML to solve business problems.
  • Implementing cost efficient, reliable, and secure ML solutions.
  • Choosing the best AWS solution to develop and deploy ML solutions.

AWS Database Certification Course badge - Specialty

AWS Database - Specialty

The AWS Database - Specialty exam assesses your ability in:

  • Deployment Migration.
  • Database Sanitization.
  • Security Practices.
  • Operations and Management.
  • Database Design and Optimization.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Do AWS Course Certifications Expire?

Yes. All AWS certifications are valid for three years, after which the candidate must go through the process of recertification to keep the certificate valid.

How Can I Verify if a Professional is AWS Certified?

To check if someone holds an AWS certification, ask the candidate for their AWS Certification digital badge link. Said link is unique and will display all the certification information of the candidate. Alternatively, you may ask for their validation number, found in the bottom right of the certificate. Once you have it, head to the validation page to obtain the certificate information.

Which Certification is Better, AWS or Azure?

This is a difficult question that would need its own article to answer. Thankfully, we have prepared both AWS and Azure (upcoming)  salary guides that go in-depth on each platform's advantages, differences, and market. Make sure to check them before making your decision.

Is There a Free AWS Certification?

No. Amazon currently offers no options for free AWS training courses. AWS certifications cost $100 for Foundational, $150 for Associate, and $300 for Professional and Specialty level certifications.


Now that you have a better understanding of what AWS certifications are, what they entail, how much they cost, and what having a certificate will do for you, we want to take it a step further.

Up next, we'll dive into the most popular AWS training courses and how to prepare for them with up-to-date quality courses, helping you develop your career and become one of the most sought-after cloud computing professionals.

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