A Guide to AWS Certifications

What is AWS Kinesis?

Why Should I Get AWS Certifications?

If you’re interested in cloud computing, AWS certifications are one of the most rewarding paths to a dynamic career. As a worldwide leader in cloud infrastructure service, Amazon prepares certified experts who are highly sought after by IT organizations around the world.

Did you know that 94% of organizations use a cloud service and 30% of their IT budgets are allocated to cloud computing? Getting an AWS certificate is an opportunity to enhance your cloud computing skills, start a lucrative career, and get some of the highest-paid jobs in the IT industry.

In this blog we will cover:

What Are the AWS Certifications?

Offered by Amazon Web Services, the 12 certifications are one of the most in-demand cloud computing qualifications in the IT industry. Based on Amazon’s cloud service platform, each certificate demonstrates a shared understanding of the platform, best practices, and terminology.

To get certified, you must pass a multiple-choice exam based on real-life scenarios. A firm knowledge of the exam content, hands-on experience, and prior IT experience can increase your chances of passing the test. Based on a candidate’s skills and experience, industry veterans often divide these certifications into four distinct categories: practitioner, associate, professional, and specialty certificates.

Here is a brief overview of each certification:

Certified Cloud Practitioner

The AWS Certified Cloud Practioner is a foundation-level certificate that tests your overall knowledge of the Amazon cloud. Most individuals use it as a stepping stone to more advanced certifications.


Anyone can take the exam, however, prior knowledge of IT and various types of cloud platforms should help. Candidates who have at least six months of experience in a field related to Amazon cloud will likely feel more comfortable.


The following are some of the major topics covered in the exam:

  • Value of the shared responsibility model.
  • The best practices, costs, billing, and economics of the AWS infrastructure.
  • Description of concepts such as storage, network, and database.

The Exam

There are 65 multiple-choice and multiple-response questions on the exam, and you’ve got 90 minutes to attempt those. Results are reported in the range between 100 and 1000. Anyone who scores at least 700 is certified.

Here is the breakdown of questions:

  • 26% – Cloud Concepts
  • 25% – Security and Compliance
  • 33% – Technology
  • 16% – Billing and Pricing

The cost of the exam is $100. You can also take a practice exam.

Certified Solutions Architect – Associate

The AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate certification will test your knowledge of building and deploying robust applications on the cloud. This license is suitable for someone in a solutions architect role.


It is an associate-level course that demands at least one year of experience working with some sort of cloud infrastructure.


The exam mainly tests your ability to:

  • Define a solution for customers based on Amazon’s architectural design principles.
  • Provide directions to an organization on how to implement a reliable architecture based on best practices.

The Exam

The exam consists of 65 multiple-choice and multiple-response questions. You have 130 minutes to complete the exam. The maximum score is 1000 but you need 720 to pass the test.

Here is a breakdown of the content:

  • 30% – Design Resilient Architectures
  • 28% – Design High-Performing Architectures
  • 24% – Design Secure Applications and Architectures
  • 18% – Design Cost-Optimized Architectures

You need to pay $150 to take the exam. A mock test is also offered at an additional price.

Certified Solutions Architect – Professional

The AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Professional certification is recommended for individuals who perform a solutions architect role. You’re tested for advanced technical skills in designing distributed applications.


There is are prerequisites to take the exam. However, two years of prior experience on the Amazon platform is highly recommended before attempting this test.


You should have the knowledge and the ability to:

  • Design and deploy scalable applications.
  • Migrate multi-tier applications on the Amazon platform.
  • Implement cost control strategies.

The Exam

The professional-level exam consists of 75 questions that should be completed within three hours. To pass, candidates must score at least 750 out of a maximum of 1000 points.

The exam consists of five domains:

  • 12.5% – Design for Organizational Complexity
  • 31% – Design for New Solutions
  • 15% – Migration Planning
  • 12.5% – Cost Control
  • 29% – Continuous Improvement for Existing Solutions

The exam fee is $300. You can also take a practice exam for $40.

Certified SysOps Administrator – Associate

The AWS Certified SysOps Administrator – Associate certification checks your knowledge of administrating, managing, and operating the Amazon cloud platform and related applications.


This is an associate-level course without any prerequisites. It is more suitable for individuals who have some experience in managing Amazon web services.


The exam will test your knowledge of:

  • Operating and maintaining the infrastructure.
  • Implementing security control and troubleshooting the system.
  • Applying networking concepts and implementing architectural requirements.
  • Identifying incidents and performing disaster recovery procedures.

The Exam

The exam consists of 65 multiple-choice and multiple-response questions. You have 130 minutes to complete the exam. Candidates must score at least 720 to complete certification requirements.

Following is a list of main content domains and their weightage in the exam:

  • 20% – Monitoring, Logging, and Remediation
  • 16% – Reliability and Business Continuity
  • 18% – Deployment, Provisioning, and Automation
  • 16% – Security and Compliance
  • 18% – Networking and Content Delivery
  • 12% – Cost and Performance Optimization

The total cost of the exam is $150. You can also take a practice test.

Certified Developer – Associate

The AWS Certified Developer – Associate certificate is geared towards developers. The exam checks candidate’s ability to develop, deploy, and troubleshoot Amazon cloud-based applications.


There are no official requirements or preconditions. However, you may feel more comfortable if you have at least one year of prior experience working with Amazon-based applications. In-depth knowledge of at least one high-level programming language is also useful.


During the exam, you are tested for your ability to:

  • Demonstrate knowledge of Amazon cloud infrastructure and related applications.
  • Develop, deploy and debug applications.
  • Understand cloud-native applications to write codes.

The Exam

The exam consists of 65 multiple-choice and multiple-response questions. You have 130 minutes to score at least 720 to pass the test.

Here is an overview of test domains and their respective weightage:

  • 22% – Deployment
  • 26% – Security
  • 30% – Development with AWS Services
  • 10% – Refactoring
  • 12% – Monitoring and Troubleshooting

The exam fee is $150. To prepare for the exam, you may also take a practice test, which costs $20.

Certified DevOps Engineer – Professional

The AWS Certified DevOps Engineer – Professional certification is mainly intended for individuals who can manage continuous delivery systems according to the best practices of the Amazon cloud infrastructure.


You’re likely to feel comfortable taking the exam if you’ve at least two years of experience in the development of Amazon cloud-based services. Strong knowledge of at least one programming language is highly recommended as well.


The exam will validate your ability to:

  • Implement, manage, and automate various methodologies, continuous delivery systems, security control, and governance processes.
  • Define, deploy, and implement systems that are scalable and self-healing.
  • Design and maintain tools to automate the entire process.

The Exam

Candidates have up to three hours to attempt a mix of 75 multiple-choice and multiple-response questions. You’ll need to score at least 750 to pass the exam.

The exam’s content is divided into the following six modules:

  • 22% – SDLC Automation
  • 19% – Configuration Management and Infrastructure as Code
  • 15% – Monitoring and Logging
  • 10% – Policies and Standards Automation
  • 18% – Incident and Event Response
  • 16% – High Availability, Fault Tolerance, and Disaster Recovery

There is a $300 fee to take the exam. You may also take a practice test.

Certified Security – Specialty

The AWS Certified Security – Specialty certificate will test your ability to secure and troubleshoot the Amazon web services platform.


Before attempting the exam, it’s recommended to get at least two years of work experience with the Amazon cloud infrastructure. Most candidates also have extensive IT experience.


Exam topics mainly focus on:

  • Understanding of specialized data classifications, data encryption methods, and secure Internet protocols.
  • Knowledge and deployment experience of using security services related to the Amazon platform.
  • Decision-making ability regarding cost, security, and deployment complexity of the platform.

The Exam

This is a multiple-choice or multiple-response-based exam constituting 65 questions. You have 170 minutes to get at least 750 points out of a maximum of 1000 points.

Following are the five test domains and their respective weightage:

  • 12% – Incident Response
  • 20% – Logging and Monitoring
  • 26% – Infrastructure Security
  • 20% – Identity and Access Management
  • 22% – Data Protection

The exam costs $300. Candidates also have the option to take a practice test by paying an additional fee of $40.

Certified Database – Specialty

The AWS Certified Database – Specialty certification validates experience in a range of AWS database services. The license ensures that you’re able to build and manage a reliable database for your organization.


This is an advanced level certification, which is suitable for candidates who have at least two years of experience working in the relevant field. Since you’re expected to perform a database-focused role, it’s recommended to get plenty of experience with database technologies before attempting this exam.


Candidates are tested for:

  • Knowledge of key features of Amazon cloud-based database services.
  • The ability to design and recommend changes to the existing database.

The Exam

The exam has 65 multiple-choice and multiple-response questions. You will have three hours to complete the test. The minimum passing score is 750 out of 1000.

Major topics covered by the exam are:

  • 26% – Workload-Specific Database Design
  • 20% – Deployment and Migration
  • 18% – Management and Operations
  • 18% – Monitoring and Troubleshooting
  • 18% – Database Security

You will need to pay $300 to take the exam. To prepare, you can take a practice test before the exam.

Certified Machine Learning – Specialty

The AWS Certified Machine Learning – Specialty certification is intended for individuals who want to implement machine learning solutions to businesses.


There are no prerequisites to take the exam. An ideal candidate would have one to two years of experience in machine learning and the Amazon cloud platform. In-depth knowledge of data science is a plus.


The certification ensures that you’re proficient in:

  • Understanding AWS service in the context of a machine learning environment.
  • Designing scalable ML solutions for organizations.
  • Justifying your ML approach to a business problem.

The Exam

The exam consists of 65 questions that are either multiple-choice or multiple-response. You have 180 minutes to achieve a passing score of 750.

Here is a breakdown of four test domains:

  • 20% – Data Engineering
  • 24% – Exploratory Data Analysis
  • 36% – Modeling
  • 20% – Machine Learning Implementation and Operations

The exam fee is $300. To test your knowledge, you can also take a practice exam, which costs $40.

Certified Data Analytics – Specialty

The AWS Certified Data Analytics – Specialty certificate validates your proficiency in using the Amazon cloud computing services to build and maintain analytics solutions.


Candidates can attempt the exam comfortably if they have at least five years of experience with data analytics technologies. Ideally, you should also have a minimum of two years of experience with Amazon cloud infrastructure.


The content of the exam mainly tests your knowledge in:

  • Understanding and defining Amazon data analytics services.
  • Explaining how data analytics fits in the life cycle of a specific project.

The Exam

You have 180 minutes to attempt a mix of 65 multiple-choice and multiple-response questions. The passing score on this exam is 750.

The exam consists of five domains:

  • 18% – Collection
  • 22% – Storage and Data Management
  • 24% – Processing
  • 18% – Analysis and Visualization
  • 18% – Security

It costs $300 to sit in the exam. Candidates may also take a practice test to prepare for the certification.

Certified Advanced Networking – Specialty

The AWS Certified Advanced Networking – Specialty certification checks your ability to perform complex networking tasks using a variety of Amazon cloud-based solutions.


While prior certification is not required, it’s recommended that you hold at least one of the associate-level certificates. Prior hands-on experience and extensive knowledge of implementing network solutions are advised.


The exam validates your ability to:

  • Understand advanced concepts related to most types of networking.
  • Design, maintain, and automate the Amazon cloud-based network architecture.

The Exam

You have 170 minutes to attempt 65 multiple-choice or multiple-response questions.

There is no pass or fail. Unlike other such exams, your answers are scored against a minimum standard established by professionals.

Following is a list of the main content domains and their weightings:

  • 23% – Design and Implement Hybrid IT Network Architectures at Scale
  • 29% – Design and Implement Networks
  • 8% – Automate Tasks
  • 15% – Configure Network Integration with Application Services
  • 12% – Design and Implement for Security and Compliance
  • 13% – Manage, Optimize, and Troubleshoot the Network

Candidates must pay $300 to take the exam.

What Are the Differences Between the Professional and Associate Certifications?

Associate certifications are often seen as a stepping stone towards professional certifications. Under certain circumstances, you may be able to pass an associate-level exam after reading the content, but a professional-level certificate requires deep knowledge and work experience dealing with the Amazon cloud infrastructure.

Before attempting the professional-level exam, it’s normal for individuals to have at least one associate-level certificate and at least two years of experience. This experience is necessary because the scope and the depth of knowledge are much extensive compared to the associate certifications.

How Do the Specialty Certifications Differ From the Others?

Specialty certifications test a candidate’s knowledge of specific subjects. While they are somewhat similar in scope to professional certification, the content focuses heavily on a particular specialty such as networking, data analytics, databases, security, and machine learning.

Specialty certifications are often regarded as top-level certifications because you will likely need at least two to five years of experience before attempting the test. Due to the expertise required to take the exam, it’s recommended to pass the relevant AWS foundation and associate-level certificates before applying for specialty certifications.

What Are the Overall Benefits of AWS Certifications?

The certifications offer bright career prospects, recognition, and typically a higher paycheck. Amazon is a market leader in cloud technology and it will continue to dominate the landscape. Pursuing a certificate related to the Amazon cloud platform gives you the option of a variety of career opportunities in both the public and the private sectors.

You may gain appreciation and acknowledgment from your peers and industry experts and invitations to regional appreciation summits and events will allow you to expand your professional network. Credentials also look good on the resume.

Regarding salary increments, various surveys indicate that certification improves your salary by almost 15% to 25%. Getting certified also opens various opportunities to supplement your income through freelancing and third-party contracts.

How To Prepare For Each Certification?

You can’t walk into an examination center and expect to breeze through the test. Therefore, it’s important to give yourself ample time to prepare for the exam. Try to get hands-on experience by registering for training labs. The live environment offers real-world scenarios, which is a great starting point for the test.

You can also study FAQ and Whitepapers on the official website and learn test-taking strategies from third-party websites. After you’re ready, register for a practice test on the official website.

Here are some general steps to help you prepare for AWS certifications:

Review the exam guide: AWS provides exam guides for each certification, which outline the exam’s objectives, format, and recommended preparation resources. Review the exam guide thoroughly to understand what you need to learn for the exam.

Take training courses: AWS offers various training courses and workshops for each certification. These courses cover the exam’s topics and provide hands-on practice with AWS services. You can take courses in person, online, or self-paced. Additional resources include: the AWS partner network, AWS in-person events, third party training providers, and the AWS online community.

Use practice exams: Practice exams help you assess your readiness for the exam and familiarize yourself with the exam format. AWS offers official practice exams for each certification, or you can use third-party practice exams.

Join study groups or forums: Join study groups or online forums to connect with other candidates preparing for the same certification. You can share study resources, ask questions, and discuss challenging topics.

Review AWS documentation and whitepapers: AWS provides comprehensive documentation and whitepapers that cover each service’s features, best practices, and use cases. Review these resources to gain a deeper understanding of AWS services and concepts.

Once you feel confident in your knowledge and skills, schedule the exam. This will give you a deadline to work towards and help you stay focused on your preparation.

Whether you’re a cloud architect, developer, security professional, or data analyst, there’s an AWS certification that can help you stand out in your field and demonstrate your proficiency with AWS services. With the growing demand for cloud skills in the job market, earning an AWS certification can also help you advance your career and increase your earning potential.

Originally published April 29, 2021. Updated March 2023