How to earn your AWS Cloud Practitioner Essentials Certification

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With an AWS certification under your belt, you can prove to your potential employers that you have the skills necessary to succeed in the fast-growing cloud computing market. Even better, you’ll have the chance to take advantage of all of the networking opportunities at events like re:Invent and AWS Summit, where you can learn more about how to get ahead in your career, connect with other professionals and expand your skill set even further.

What is an AWS Cloud Practitioner?

According to Amazon, An AWS Cloud Practitioner is a professional who knows how to solve business problems on AWS. The person in an IT team who works with a service like Amazon DynamoDB, Amazon Redshift, or Amazon RDS without needing direct support from an infrastructure engineer is an example of an AWS cloud practitioner. 

This person can solve problems by using services on their own and with guidance from other practitioners. With over 9 certifications now available under their belt, it’s pretty clear that they are aiming at beginner and intermediate level cloud architects with these newest additions.

Why do you need it?

The AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate, Solutions Architect – Professional, DevOps Engineer, and SysOps Administrator certifications are pretty darn hot. Not only can these skills help you land a better job, but they also can help get you a higher salary.

 According to Payscale, common job titles in an organization that uses Amazon Web Services include DevOps Engineer (81 percent more than other IT professionals), Systems Administrator (14 percent more), Development Operations Engineer (12 percent more), and IT Manager (8 percent more). These credentials are valuable assets for anyone looking to advance their career in cloud computing. But like most any other professional certification, it takes time and effort and of course money  to obtain them. 

And once you have one or all of them under your belt? You’ll need to maintain your knowledge with ongoing training. 

So what’s a person who wants to work in cloud computing to do? It turns out there is another option: You can become certified as an AWS Cloud Practitioner. 

This new credential from Amazon is designed for people who want to demonstrate their knowledge of various AWS services without having deep technical expertise on each service individually. If you’re interested in learning more about how you can become certified as an AWS Cloud Practitioner,

What are the prerequisites?

In order to qualify for certification you must have a current Cloud Compute web services associate certification. In addition, you must also hold at least one of these: (1) CSA+ AWS Certified Developer - Associate level certificate; or (2) CTA+ AWS Certified Technical Architect – Associate level certificate; or (3) CSTA+ AWS Certified SysOps Administrator – Associate level certificate. You may apply up to three years after passing any of these exams. 

You may not apply more than two years after passing any exam. For example, if you passed your developer exam in May 2015 and want to become certified as an APN, you would need to pass either your architect or sysops exam by May 2017 and then pass the APN exam by May 2018. After passing all three exams, you will be awarded an AWS APN credential and can begin using it on job postings.

How much does it cost?

The certification exam costs $40, though you can get it for free by using an affiliate code. The exam can be taken three times at no additional cost, so it’s a good idea to give yourself plenty of time before your first attempt and if you don’t pass, study up and try again. 

Be aware that, while some of Amazon’s other certifications require training classes or prerequisites, there are none for Cloud Practitioner. However, as with any certifications worth their salt, Amazon recommends that you study thoroughly (including getting hands-on experience with real cloud technology) and pass a mock test with flying colors before taking it live.

Which resources can you use to learn more about this cert?

There are a lot of fantastic resources for gaining a better understanding of cloud computing and AWS. Here are just a few we recommend. If you’re looking for general cloud computing, there’s no better place than our own Deep Dive: Cloud Computing page. 

For more specific information about AWS and its benefits, check out our Learn More About topic collection or browse all of our individual pages for each service available on Amazon Web Services. And if you have any questions along the way, be sure to reach out to us on Twitter @AWSCloudHelp. 

We love hearing from customers! You can also find AWS Certified Solutions Architects in communities such as LinkedIn and Facebook, where they host webinars, share how-to guides, discuss best practices, and answer questions. And if you want even more information on certification specifically (or other topics), head over to our Learn More About page for links to tons of articles and resources that will help get you started with earning your certification(s). Happy learning!

What are the exam topics?

AWS has broken down the exam topics into four categories: Architecting on AWS, Deploying and Scaling, Securing Resources, and Operational Management. 

The exact makeup of each category changes from exam to exam, but if you’re looking for a general breakdown of what you can expect then here it is: Deploying and Scaling covers building fault-tolerant, highly available systems as well as leveraging container services like Docker; Securing Resources is all about securing access with key management; 

Architecting on AWS focuses on security measures like Identity Access Management (IAM); and Operational Management covers monitoring systems and cost optimization.

 In short: Don’t worry too much about specific topics before taking an official practice test. Once you know which areas are giving you trouble, go back and focus specifically on those areas.

Are there any strategies to help with passing this exam?

The easiest way to pass an exam like one from Amazon would be through doing as many practice tests as possible. This will allow you to really get a feel for how these types of questions are phrased and help you know how to better anticipate them on test day.

 An important thing about knowing what to expect is that it allows you to use that information in order year, meaning more than 250,000 people. That’s a lot of potential customers! In fact, according to Statista , there were more than 1 million active users on Amazon's platform last year alone. 

That means there’s likely at least some overlap between those who have taken the certification exam and those who regularly shop or sell on Amazon’s marketplace. If you can develop relationships with those customers before they become competitors, then you could have an advantage over other sellers when you do decide to start selling your own products!

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