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This article is part of our Essential Guide: Pave a lasting AWS career path

AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner exam tests the essentials

Even if you're not an IT pro, you can learn the basics of AWS. Break down the communication walls between nontechnical staff and cloud experts by obtaining this AWS certification.

As they come from the dominant provider of public cloud services, AWS credentials are increasingly important in...

the IT world. That logic appears to apply to the new AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner certification, which is a relevant qualification for experienced cloud professionals and newcomers alike.

"We've found value in this certification and encouraged our employees to achieve it, as it will help them in their dealings with our customers and partners around their AWS cloud adoption," said Kevin Downs, principal cloud architect at New Relic.

AWS designed the Certified Cloud Practitioner certification as a way for nontechnical professionals to learn the basics of AWS, which can help them overcome collaboration barriers with their cloud engineers.

The exam is a good starting point for anyone new to AWS or the cloud in general, said Ryan Kroonenburg, chairman and founder of A Cloud Guru, which provides cloud training services. "We see cloud fluency being the No. 1 differentiator between candidates of otherwise equal skill," he said. "So, whether you're a project manager wanting to better understand the technical details of your project or you're an engineer looking to level up your skills, AWS certifications are key to your success."

Keep up with the AWS portfolio

Rather than require specialized knowledge of how any particular service works, the AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner exam tests knowledge across the spectrum of AWS' cloud offerings. "I think the value of the certification is in learning the full breadth of services available in AWS and how to think about what value or role those services could provide in a solution," said Craig Knighton, vice president of U.S. operations at MentorMate, a software services firm. The Certified Cloud Practitioner certification, he said, provides the best way to get current with AWS' constantly growing platform.

The exam left a good impression on those who have taken it so far. James Dawson, director of IT at GlobalMed, a company that helps implement telemedicine, achieved his first certification as an AWS Certified Solutions Architect -- Associate in 2014. He later gained the AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner certification, which he pursued to help him train others in his organization about foundational cloud topics.

"I wanted to ensure that I could effectively speak to the level that a technical sales professional or a product manager would need to understand, without drowning them in the detail that a developer or IT professional would need to know about the same topic," Dawson said. "This [Certified Cloud Practitioner] exam serves very well as a mechanism to establish a common language and mindset between departments who have less involvement with the technical components."

Jay Tillotson, senior director of global cloud services at Sungard Availability Services, who also recently completed the exam, sees the benefits of the more generalized certification. "While the AWS Technical Professional and Business Professional accreditations offer good foundational knowledge, the Cloud Practitioner training is more comprehensive and covers a wider range of AWS services, as well as security and compliance, architecture, pricing and support," he said. "Within my organization, I believe the certification is valuable for those within product management, program management, sales, marketing, finance and legal."

Senior leaders and executives at similar companies might also benefit from the training, whether they are actively involved with AWS on a daily basis or not, Tillotson said.

Helpful or full of hype?

How much can the AWS certification boost a professional's career? It could enable involvement in new opportunities. For example, the Cloud Practitioner certification could enable a salesperson to more effectively sell public cloud and hybrid cloud solutions.

Or it could serve as the starting point for a new career path, Tillotson said. An entry- or junior-level person who pursues this certification could pursue new roles within product, program or service management.

Or an IT professional could use it as a cloud knowledge steppingstone.

 "The AWS Cloud Practitioner certification, coupled with a Solutions Architect, SysOps or DevOps certification, would certainly result in career advancement," he said. But you need a solid understanding of AWS basics to achieve one of these technical certifications.

On the other hand, Dawson said, the AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner exam might seem like "low-hanging fruit" for IT operations professionals but quite a bit more challenging for someone in a technical sales or marketing role. In his opinion, the exam should focus more on the common misconceptions about AWS. "For example, you'll learn about autoscaling as you study for the exam but may not realize that the ability to auto scale depends on your application," he said. This fact would likely be "obvious to any developer or IT professional" but could confuse someone unfamiliar with the subject.

This was last published in April 2018

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