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AWS certification types with the most street cred

Passing an AWS certification exam is often a top benchmark on a cloud pro's resume. These AWS certifications are considered the most difficult -- and valuable.

Many IT job seekers believe AWS certification training will improve their career prospects. And there are a range...

of AWS certification types for newcomers and skilled IT professionals alike.

IT administrators place emphasis on hands-on experience, and some AWS certification types require extra degrees of effort and expertise to pass. IT professionals can get a leg up on their peers by obtaining advanced certifications. 

The AWS Certified Solutions Architect - Professional certification is the toughest to gain, said Dan Robinson, senior engagement manager at TriCore Solutions, a consultancy based in Norwell, Mass. This certification validates advanced technical skills and experience needed to design distributed applications and systems on the AWS platform.

Kevin Clements, CTO at SHI International, a provider of information technology products and services based in Somerset, N.J., also put the Certified Solutions Architect - Professional at the top of the certification hierarchy.

"This certification ... requires you to choose solutions that optimize around the customer's individual priorities," he said. For example, each business places different levels of priority on saving money, time to delivery and application performance, resulting in vastly different workloads.

The AWS Certified DevOps Engineer - Professional certification, which tests technical expertise to provision, operate and manage distributed application systems on the AWS platform, is probably just as challenging to achieve. AWS suggests that those seeking this cert have two or more years' experience provisioning, operating and managing AWS environments before undergoing AWS certification training. They also should have requisite associate certifications.

Managed services providers test their AWS mettle

The sprawling AWS ecosystem is built on the talent and capabilities of thousands of partner organizations. And those partners also need to acquire AWS certifications to keep pace with competitors and be able to help IT enterprises solve their problems.

IT administrators place emphasis on hands-on experience, and some AWS certification types require extra degrees of effort and expertise to pass.

Some AWS certification types hold extra value in the AWS Marketplace, where managed services providers (MSPs) and technology vendors are listed. AWS' Managed Service Program and competency programs put vendors to the test to earn AWS benchmarks.

"[Certifications] help customers understand that the partner has a validated capability to be able to provide a given set of services, giving them confidence that they're talking to vendors who are able to work on a particular space," Clements said. The audit requirements are thorough and help set a baseline for customers looking for MSPs, he explained.

MSPs hire certified AWS professionals with particular skills to fit the diverse needs of their enterprise customers, said Randy Streu, VP of business development at Sumo Logic, a cloud-based log management and analytics service based in Redwood City, Calif. "From the partner perspective, achieving AWS certification helps us to co-educate our customers who are already using or thinking about using AWS in a given category," he said. For example, AWS is rolling out three new specialty certifications around advanced networking, big data and security.

AWS vs. Google: For the love of cloud providers

You're in the market for a new cloud provider, and you have an idea of your 'perfect match,' but do your wants and needs match up to what's available? Take this quiz and find out. "The full suite of AWS services is now so large that even the professional-level certifications don't guarantee that someone is experienced with the specific workloads or tools needed for a specific business workload," he said.

For example, an IT pro can have experience building complex web platforms to deliver SaaS without any actual experience using Elastic MapReduce to run Hadoop or Spark, or in architecting complex hybrid network deployments. "The new specialty certifications make it easier to validate expertise [of a MSP] and for customers to find them and make sure they've found the right people for their specific project," he said.

Next Steps

Skills outweigh certifications for AWS job seekers

Go beyond AWS to enhance your cloud skills

Get hands-on with AWS labs

This was last published in May 2017

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Which certifications do you require when hiring an AWS cloud admin?
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AWS Solution Architect is the one we consider
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