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Are AWS certifications worth it? Here’s how DevOps specialists can benefit

Tomasz Janiczek

Tomasz Janiczek

Head of DevOps

Disclaimer: it’s not a paid promotion. As the Head of the DevOps team, I’m engaged in the recruitment process, workshops, negotiations with clients, and much more. I’ve witnessed first-hand what difference AWS certifications made for our company, my team and DevOps engineers personally. I just want to send the message out to DevOps specialists who are stuck with their personal development and wonder “Are AWS certifications worth it? Will certificates change anything for my career?” Spoiler: yes, they probably will. 

What is AWS certification anyway?

In a nutshell, AWS certification is a document stating that you know what you’re doing as far as Amazon Web Services products are concerned. You can publicly show it off and anyone interested in hiring you can check its authenticity. Ain’t that complicated.

By issuing such a paper, AWS basically states: “We hereby confirm that this person knows our technology and is able to use it decently in software development projects”.

The decently part is the key here, as the certification confirms you have the required knowledge and basic skills to apply that knowledge in real projects. It won’t tell in detail though how good you are or how fast you work. So please bear that in mind, no matter if you’re an employee or an employer.

Having said that, I need to mention that there are different levels of the AWS certificates confirming the degree of initiation into Amazon Web Services. What’s more, there are various “specializations”. So you can either prove you’re great with AWS in general and additionally proficient in specific areas.

AWS certifications available. via: aws.com

How to get AWS certification?

I’m not going to explain this topic in detail. There’s a ton of great info at the official AWS certification website, so you probably want to take a look there.

It’s not rocket science though:

  • You decide which certification you need,
  • You pay,
  • You take the exam (online or in person, that’s up to you),
  • You pass and receive the document.

Congratulations! 🎉

How much does AWS certification cost?

Yes, it costs money but if you’re a part of a software development team, then maybe your company’s training budget covers it? No harm in asking, and only benefits to gain. But I’ll talk about this later.

AWS certifications are between $100 – $300.

If you compare a few hundred bucks (tops) to certifications from other organisations – which sometimes cost thousands of dollars – the AWS exams start to look like a quite good deal.

Sometimes people say that  AWS is simply making money on those certificates so there’s no value in acquiring the papers. I mean, they are not wrong on the money-making part but I don’t think that’s anything surprising, as nowadays virtually every official certification is a paid one. The world we live in. 🤷‍♂️

Is it hard to pass the certification?

Let me answer in the most Project Management manner I know – IT DEPENDS. 

If you have any technical background and have worked with the cloud in general (and AWS in particular), then the entry-level certification exams are quite easy.

I’d say on average, if you have experiences with AWS you’ll invest around 4-5 hours of self-learning to pass the AWS certifications exams with flying colours. If you’re a greenhorn, then it will probably take a little more studying, say 30-40 hours?

However, if you want to acquire higher-level certificates, the difficulty significantly rises. And the higher you go, the harder it gets. As it should, honestly.

To pass the exams, you will have to prove theoretical knowledge and practical experience. And it’s not like you will have to code something in real-time, no.

The exams are based on case studies, sometimes quite difficult ones, and if you have never struggled with a problem “on production”, you probably won’t be able to solve them. To be clear, I’m not saying it’s impossible. If you manage to do that, wow, good for you – you might be a natural! But in my experience (and I’ve helped many of my DevOps specialists and developers prep for their AWS certifications exams), it will be a challenge.

aws certification meme

I don’t need a piece of paper to tell me that I’m awesome!

Obviously, you don’t, but that’s not the purpose of and the case with AWS certifications. There are many ways to prove you’re a specialist or top expert and taking the certification path is only one of many. Nothing beats showcasing your extensive project portfolio, your regularly updated GitHub account and your successful career path.

That said, software development is rarely an individual effort and more of a team sport. Sometimes it’s impossible to pinpoint which part was yours. And sometimes you won’t be able to practically showcase certain projects you’ve done because of NDAs

So why not prove your cloud knowledge in an extremely easy way (if you’re such a pro), and get it on paper? With that document, no one will be able to question your merits and skills.

💡 Here's some tutorials from our AWS certified Head of Node.js:

What’s your excuse?

It’s my job to convince and help our tech specialists to get their AWS certification and have already heard every possible excuse. Let’s debunk them!

The chance you’ll have to pay for your AWS certifications is minimal – software companies gladly cover that cost. You don’t need to know how to prepare for AWS developer certification because you barely need to study (you’re awesome and done those things million times already, remember?). The exams take an hour or two, so it’s not the lack of time that’s stopping you. So what’s the problem?

Here we arrive at the central – and probably most controversial – part of my post.

In my experience, the most common excuses are fear or simply… laziness.

Now that I’ve got your attention, let’s dive deeper into that statement.

Fear

Some people are afraid they aren’t as good as they think and are terrified that they will be exposed as a “fraud” one day. Impostor syndrome at its finest.

Others are scared that they don’t know enough to get the AWS certifications because they didn’t have the chance to work with all the AWS services and technologies that a given certificate covers. Quite honestly, one rarely does because the world of cloud is so vast that I’m not sure if even AWS creators discovered all the tricks. So it’s perfectly normal to be a bit anxious.

You can easily overcome fear and get more confidence but that means studying a little. Maybe you can get some help from your colleagues, experiment with some services yourself, go through online tutorials and so on.

But that requires some effort and here we get to reason number two…

Laziness

Nobody is all-knowing and to pass the more advanced and complicated certifications you just need to study outside the basic cloud curriculum.

I get that some people feel comfy where they are right now, working only with services they know very well. So why bother with more work?

I bet you’ve talked more than once about “growing” and “learning new things” to “find new challenges” (job interviews, anyone?).  But a certificate? Nah, not this way. Maybe something less demanding? Less… definitive?

I know, I’m being sarcastic but it’s only to prove my point. Also, surprise, I’m talking about myself – it’s exactly how I felt not that long ago. I thought of every nidicolous pretext NOT to engage in AWS certificates but it was just a coverup for leaving my comfort zone and levelling up.

And maybe, just maybe my coming-from-a-place-of-love sarcasm got you thinking.

Don’t underestimate AWS certification benefits for you and your software company

Ok, enough with the home-grown psychology. Let’s talk numbers, let’s talk facts. Maybe that will persuade you more than my lowbrow sense of humour (sorry for that).

AWS certification benefits for YOU

  • You (usually) don’t have to pay for it

Like I’ve said before, software companies are more than eager to cover the costs of the AWS certifications. It’s a great benefit for them too (as you’ll learn in a moment) so I doubt it very much you’ll have to pay from your own pocket.

  • Structuring what you already know

You’re such a pro that the AWS certification preparations won’t teach you anything new. That’s okay but it will, at the very least, help you to organize your knowledge in theory and practice and apply some structure to it. And who knows, maybe you don’t know everything after all… 😉

  • Expanding your knowledge

In most cases, people do learn new, sometimes insanely interesting things. Maybe you’ll get acquainted with AWS services you haven’t worked with before. Maybe you won’t use them in your future work, maybe you will. No one knows. But when the time comes, you’ll be ready to get down to work straight away. Also, it’s worth being at least aware that they do exist, to prove that they pale in comparison to your battle-tested solutions.

  • No more proving you know your cloud

If you have certification in anything, the chance of you being interviewed in detail about the scope covered by that certificate is minimal. If you’ve passed the exam, no one can undermine your knowledge or competencies anymore. And even if you’re asked for some technicalities, it will be most likely be “just to be sure” or “let’s hear from the expert” thing.

  • Rising your personal value

The chance of you being able to negotiate a higher salary with a few certifications under your belt is significantly higher than doing the same without them. Especially in bigger companies, that’s just a fact. The company will make more money on you, so you should get your piece of the pie too.

  • Boosting the esteem in the community

We can deny it as much as we want, but it won’t change the fact that having some AWS badges on your profile (especially the higher ones), will get you some extra kudos from others in the software development community.

aws certifications meme

AWS certification benefits for your software company

  • Higher hourly rates

If the company offers someone as experienced as an AWS Certified DevOps Engineer, then that specialist’s cost will be higher than the hourly rate for a comparable employee without that certification. That means more money in the company!

  • Marketing advantage

Being able to brag about having a lot of employees with the official AWS certifications is massive. It can give the organisation an edge and help beat the competition, as clients do consider that factor when entering a contract. I’ve seen that a lack of official AWS partnership being a deal-breaker in my career before. Shame to lose a project over something so easy to get.

  • Eliminating the need to prove the skills over and over

A trivial and strictly practical thing – clients often want to talk to the people they will be working with. If those DevOps engineers have some AWS exams passed, the whole process will be a lot quicker because the clients will rarely doubt their qualifications.

  • The benefit vs cost ratio is high

As an employer, if you compare how much you have to spend on the AWS certification exams versus how much you can potentially earn from having them, it’s almost always a no-brainer. It’s worth it, as the ROI is quite high. 

Are AWS certifications worth it? It’s an exemplary win-win situation and makes sense both for you personally and for the company you work in.

Speaking from my own experience, I can confirm that getting some AWS certs helps to interact with the clients better:

  • They love to work with someone who has been officially blessed by AWS.
  • Onboarding new people into a project is much faster, as they don’t go through the full and lengthy process of validating their skills from the ground up.
  • More than once a prospective client was choosing between us and another company. When they went with us, they openly stated that it’s because our DevOps specialists were officially certified and the competition’s weren’t. 

TL;DR: Are AWS certifications worth it? YES!

As we’ve already established, you don’t need a glorified piece of paper to be a great DevOps Engineer. No one ever claimed that to be the case. I know there are a lot of people out there who do have AWS certifications and are, well… not so good at their jobs. On the other hand, there are people who don’t have a single certificate and are astonishing at what they do. I personally know both types.

But if you have the skills and knowledge, what’s stopping you from getting the AWS certificate(s)? Absolutely nothing! It’s a multiple win situation for any DevOps engineer – from better pay to better jobs and better opportunities for the future. It won’t solve all your problems but it won’t hurt either. So stop making excuses and get on with it!

We already have over a dozen certified IT specialists who can help you with anything AWS-related! ⛅

No matter if you struggle with AWS certifications, or looking for cloud experts to support your software project, we’re here for you! Click below to book 1-hour, free consultations (no strings attached 🙏).

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