Definition

AWS certification

AWS certification is a level of Amazon Web Services cloud expertise that an IT professional obtains after passing one or more exams the public cloud provider offers. IT pros gain AWS certifications to demonstrate and validate technical cloud knowledge and skills.

AWS provides different certification exams for cloud engineers, administrators and architects. AWS certification lasts for two years, and IT pros can recertify their specific certification after it expires. There are hundreds of testing centers around the world in which to take the exams.

Types of AWS certifications

Cloud professionals can receive AWS certification after passing one of these exams:

AWS Certified Solutions Architect -- Associate: Demonstrate knowledge of how to design, manage and distribute applications in conjunction with AWS tools. These IT pros must be able to design and deploy highly available and scalable systems in AWS, as well as proper security, disaster recovery and troubleshooting concepts. The certification recommends IT pros have one year or more of hands-on experience designing and deploying highly available and fault-tolerant AWS systems.

AWS Certified Developer -- Associate: Prove code-level knowledge for AWS application design, development and maintenance, along with a thorough knowledge of the AWS architecture. The certification recommends having one year-plus of experience in maintaining AWS-based applications.

AWS Certified SysOps Administrator -- Associate: Provide knowledge of deployment and operations related to AWS architecture and services, including application deployment and data migration; students also possess basic system administrator skills in security, provisioning and systems management. The certification recommends one year or more of experience with AWS system operations. 

AWS Certified Solutions Architect -- Professional: For this certification level, it's a prerequisite to complete the Associate-level AWS Certified Solutions Architect certification exam and have two years or more experience designing and deploying of AWS cloud architectures. IT pros must demonstrate knowledge of complex AWS applications, including how to move applications to AWS, optimize AWS architecture for an enterprise and apply application design best practices.

AWS Certified DevOps Engineer -- Professional: This certification requires that applicants compete the Associate-level AWS Certified Developer or AWS Certified SysOps Administrator certification exams and have two or more years of experience provisioning and managing AWS architectures. Students must comprehend specific concepts involving continuous deployment (CD) and automation of AWS processes and know how to implement them into AWS architectures.

AWS also offers two specialty certifications in technical areas:

AWS Certified Big Data -- Specialty

  • Requires at least one Associate-level certification, five years of data analytics experience and a background in AWS big data tools and architecture design.
  • Confirm technical and experiential skills regarding big data architecture design, implementation and automation using AWS tools and best practices.

AWS Certified Advanced Networking -- Specialty

  • Requires at least one Associate-level certification, five years of data analytics experience and a background in AWS networking.
  • Demonstrate an advanced knowledge in network architecture across all AWS tools and services; automation of network processes; and knowledge to design, develop and deploy services in the AWS cloud.

Associate-level exams focus on these AWS areas, but expand on tools and services related to the exam's specific content:

Professional-level exams focus on these AWS areas and have a larger focus on multi-group AWS tools and services:

An Associate-level exam registration costs $150; Professional- and Specialty-level exam registrations each cost $300. Each registration fee counts for one AWS certification exam.

AWS certification exam format

The format for Associate, Professional and Specialty certification exams vary, but each features multiple choice, multiple response and sample direction questions. An AWS professional monitors each timed exam. Associate-level exams last 80 minutes while Professional and Specialty exams last 170 minutes. Exam questions focus on commonly used AWS tools, services and concepts. AWS uses a statistical analysis of an exam to determine the passing score, which varies per test and is subject to change.

After completing the exam, AWS certification results post within 72 hours under the test taker's AWS Certification Account. IT professionals who achieve a passing score receive an e-certificate and access to specific AWS-certified logos and badges for personal and professional use. IT pros who fail the test can retake it two weeks later.  

AWS provides practice exams, self-paced labs, sample questions and other study materials for a fee. Many third-party companies also offer AWS certification-prep training.

This was last updated in August 2017

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