A Guide to Kubernetes Certifications

A Guide to Kubernetes Certifications

In an age of virtualization and cloud computing, developers increasingly use Kubernetes’ open-source platform to manage containerized workloads and services. Kubernetes container became popular because it was impossible to define a resource boundary for multiple applications in a traditional CPU environment. Misuse of resources created an inefficient environment.

Kubernetes solves the problem by allowing applications to work as isolated containers inside a single operating system. These lightweight containers have their own filesystem, the share of CPU, memory, storage space, etc. You can move the container across clouds and OS distributions, which makes them a powerful resource. Currently, there are three different Kubernetes certifications that you can take to develop your knowledge and skills even further. Keep reading to see which one is right for you.

In this article we will cover:

Why Should I Get Kubernetes Certifications?

Kubernetes certifications create new opportunities for career growth. A recent survey by Cloud Native Computing Foundation suggests that Kubernetes is the go-to choice for more than 78% of organizations and nearly 84% of companies run containers in production. Such trends are also visible in the 2021 Red Hat OpenShift report, which states that more than half of IT companies intend to increase the use of containers in the future.

Many organizations shortlist employment candidates who hold the Kubernetes certification, so getting certified helps you stand out and often means less competition when you’re looking for a new job. Companies are also willing to pay more to K8s engineers because hiring managers realize that very few individuals are skilled in this emerging field.

What Are the Kubernetes Certifications?

The Linux Foundation manages Kubernetes certification. There are currently three certifications. These are:

  • Certified Kubernetes Application Developer (CKAD)
  • Certified Kubernetes Administrator (CKA)
  • Certified Kubernetes Security Specialist (CKS)

Depending on your interest, you can either take the developer path or the administrator path.

Developer Path: As the name suggests, a developer builds and manages Kubernetes applications. You will design, build, and configure apps. Developers can define the resources that applications will use and troubleshoot relevant issues.

Administrative Path: The administrative path focuses on managing the Kubernetes environment. Administrators may install, manage, and configure production-grade Kubernetes clusters. They’re the people behind the Kubernetes operations.

The administrative path also leads to certification as a Kubernetes Security Specialist. The CKS certification ensures best practices and covers the necessary skills to secure container-based apps and platforms from threats. It is important to note that you must hold a Certified Kubernetes Administrator license before pursuing a Kubernetes Security Specialist license.

Certified Kubernetes Application Developer (CKAD)

The Certified Kubernetes Application Developer exam is developed by Linux Foundation and the Cloud Native Computing Foundation. It’s a two-hour online exam, which tests the candidate’s ability to perform the responsibilities of a Kubernetes developer. The two-hour exam is the first step for many individuals new to the field.


There is no prerequisite to take CKAD; however, prior experience in an IT field will help candidates easily grasp the concepts. The exam will not test candidates on material related to container runtimes and microservice architecture, but it assumes that you should know these contents.

To pass the exam, you should be comfortable in:

  • An OCI-Compliant container Runtime.
  • Concepts and architectures related to Cloud Native application.
  • Knowledge of a programming language such as Java, Python, and Node.js.


The course content consists of seven domains and competencies. These include core concepts, configuration, multi-container pods, observability, pod design, service and networking, and state persistence.

The Exam

For the CKAD exam, candidates will need to score 66% or above to become certified. The exam consists of performance-based tasks that candidates need to solve in a command line. Each test is proctored online using audio, video, and screen sharing feed, allowing the examiner to view candidates’ desktops.

It will cost you $300 to take the Certified Kubernetes Application Developer exam, but you may be eligible for a bundled discount when opting for training and the exam. The certification is valid for three years.

Certified Kubernetes Administrator (CKA)

Certified Kubernetes Administrator certificate ensures that you can install, configure, and manage production-grade Kubernetes clusters. After passing the exam, you also become eligible to take the CKS exam.


This certificate does not have prerequisites, but candidates should preferably have prior experience in the IT field. The exam is specifically suited to meet the needs of Kubernetes administrators, IT professionals, and cloud administrators.

To pass the exam, candidates should be comfortable in:

  • Understanding of the key concepts related to Kubernetes networking, storage, security, and maintenance.
  • Establishing basic use cases for end-users.
  • Knowledge of application lifecycle, troubleshooting, and API object primitives.


The exam question tests candidates’ knowledge of five key subjects. Nearly 40% of the content covers storage and troubleshooting. Another 15% is dedicated to workloads and scheduling. Cluster architecture, installation, and configuration comprise almost 25% of the exam’s questions. The remaining 20% tests your knowledge of services and networking.

The Exam

You will need to score at least 66% to pass the CKA exam. The exam is proctored online, and you’re allowed to review documents installed by the distribution. Candidates can also review the exam content instructions presented in the command line terminal. The Procter will allow you to open one additional tab on the Chrome browser to access particular online assets.

The cost of the exam is $300, which includes a free retake. The certification is valid for three years. You will receive the result within 36 hours after the completion of the exam.

Certified Kubernetes Security Specialist (CKS)

The two-hour exam for Certified Kubernetes Security Specialist evaluates candidates based on the best practices required to secure the Kubernetes environment. To pass the exam, candidates must demonstrate knowledge of securing container-based applications and the Kubernetes platform during build, deployment, and runtime.


To sit in the exam, you need to pass the Certified Kubernetes Administrator exam first. You may purchase the CKS certification before the actual exam, but you cannot take the exam before completing the prerequisite.

Here are some of the important points to grasp before the exam:

  • Understand a broad range of best practices required to secure a Kubernetes environment.
  • Basic knowledge of dealing with Kubernetes and cloud security issues in a real-world environment.
  • Ability to set up clusters, run security audits, detect threats, and do static analysis.


The exam is divided into six modules. The cluster setup comprises 10% of the overall content, while cluster hardening and system hardening make up 30%. The remaining 60% evaluates supply chain security, microservice vulnerability, and managing runtime security.

The Exam

It costs $300 to register for the exam and the exam consists of 15 to 20 performance-based tasks. During the exam, you can access Kubernetes documentation, tools, and app armor. Unlike the two other certifications, CKS certification is valid for two years.

Certified Kubernetes Administrator (CKA) vs. Certified Kubernetes Application Developer (CKAD)

A lot of people are confused about the two certifications. Due to the relevancy and similarities, they can’t decide which certification to pursue. Here’s our take on the subject.

If you have basic app development experience or are new to Kubernetes, it may be better to start as a Certified Kubernetes Application Developer. The certification mainly tests your cloud-native developer and DevOps skills. In contrast, the Certified Kubernetes Administrator exam requires a thorough knowledge of the entire Kubernetes infrastructure and Linux system.

While both exams test a variety of similar features, the Certified Kubernetes Administrator takes it up a notch by evaluating your problem-solving skills in installing, troubleshooting, maintaining, and upgrading. It also means that getting CKAD certification may be a better approach for anyone relatively new to the Kubernetes environment.

What Are the Overall Benefits of Kubernetes Certification?

Containers and the cloud are rapidly changing the IT landscape. Besides a potential rise in pay, new career opportunities, and respect from your peers, Kubernetes certifications allow everyone to integrate the newly acquired knowledge into their existing environment.

Developers can use the certification to create container-based management systems. The flexible environment of Kubernetes will enable developers to use a variety of programming languages and frameworks to strengthen the existing cloud infrastructure.

Operations can use Kubernetes to bridge the gap between developers and users who are not adept at learning all the scripts and tools. Using the technology and expertise gained from certifications, the team can package an application with its required infrastructure.

Security professionals can use Kubernetes and containers to increase the development speed while keeping everything secure. The end-to-end toolchain supporting the existing cloud-native infrastructure creates an attack surface, which is often challenging to defend. Kubernetes can help solve this problem.

How To Prepare For Kubernetes Exams

A few important tips will come in handy when preparing for Kubernetes exams:

  • Review the exam guide on the official website of the Linux Foundation. It will help you get the latest updates in each domain.
  • Don’t ignore the significance of hands-on training even if you have prior experience and know-how of Kubernetes. Competent training instructors can also answer unresolved queries.
  • Master the Linux command line and practice problems using a text editor. Learn systems services because the exam environment relies on them.
  • Get used to the exam console as it is different from stand-alone platforms. Short cuts that work on other platforms may not work here.
  • You should also learn how to set up and administer a cluster from scratch. Various online resources can help you do it.
  • Maintain your speed by memorizing where you can find specific topics in the documentation. Since you only need to solve two-thirds of the questions, try skipping time-consuming questions and solve them if the time permits.