Earlier this year I got my AWS Developer Associate certificate. A few months later, after answering a bunch of questions from a few people who wanted to know what was involved and whether it was worth it, I thought I'd pull together a few thoughts.
AWS offers a number of certifications which are obtained by taking a multiple choice exam, to prove proficiency in using AWS technologies. You basically study a curriculum for a while, and sign up to sit an exam at an examination centre near you. The questions are multiple choice, covering a range of AWS services and practices, delivered via a PC screen (a bit like your driving theory test), and you find out there and then whether you passed or not.
Among the non-speciality exams, there are 3 main tiers - Foundation, Associate and Professional. The Associate tier is great for people with a year or more of practical experience with AWS, whereas the Foundation tier is a good entry point for those with slightly less experience, or just want to make sure you're covering the fundamentals to start with.
As you can also see, AWS draws a distinction between development, operations or architecture, at associate & professional level at least.
You need to decide both on the tier (Foundation, Associate, Professional) and potentially also the speciality (Ops, Developer etc.) that you want to pick.
The first decision is easy - it really depends on how much experience you have.
|Certification level||Experience required||Cost of Exam (aprox)|
|Foundation||AWS says 6 months - I'd say 3 is probably fine too, to start studying.||100 USD|
|Associate||AWS says 1 year. I'd agree!||150 USD|
|Professional||AWS says 2 years.||300 USD|
However, the exams are quite expensive and get more so the higher the level you choose, and the prep is obviously more time consuming too. Personally I'd be a bit scared of going straight for the $300 one, without "testing the water" a bit first with a cheaper one to get the feel of what is expected.
The second decision, in my view, doesn't matter so much unless you have a really specific goal in mind like becoming an AWS Operations Engineer in which case having the cert with the word Operations on it probably helps. But for most people, the certs are just a way of proving that you know what you're doing with AWS, more or less, and are not a replacement for actualy real experience, which will not map directly onto your certification anyway.
Architect and Developer are probably slightly broader than Operations, and I chose "Developer" because it looked like the broadest of the 2 and covered a lot of serverless stuff which I was interested in.
You can see the basic cost in USD in the table above (it does change and I think it depends where you're based too so that's just an approximation), but you also have to factor in other costs:
It depends on the exam, how much time you have available to study, your experience with AWS and a host of other factors. A few useful guidelines are:
Overall I spent 6 months studying, but that's because I was taking a fairly leisurely approach. I didn't study every week, and only got serious in the last month or so.
I also tend to over-prepare, and I know I could have got by with less revision.
Personally, I think the time and energy involved were worth it, as I learned a lot and I did enjoy learning about some services I hadn't had a chance to use in work. Cost-wise, I am sure that my employers have benefitted from my increased competence at least to the value of $100 so I'm sure it's been worth it for them too, although these things are hard to quantify.
Now, months later, having actually used Azure and GCP more recently than AWS at work, how much have I retained? It's really hard to tell. I have forgotten loads of specific figures that I had to memorize for the exam but my overall cloud knowledge is surely better from having gained the cert.
So far, no employer has been particularly bothered by my certifications (at least, as far as they've let me know) but if I had applied for a more backend-focussed/cloud role then I'm sure it would have been of interest.
Stephane Maarek's Ultimate AWS Certified Developer course on Udemy which I took.
Stephane Maarek's Certified Developer Practice Tests on Udemy.
acloud.guru - great site covering loads of cloud platforms and technologies.
Jayendra's Blog - links to cheatsheets, whitepapers, loads of resources on AWS.