DEV Community

Cover image for Navigating AWS Certifications in 2024

Navigating AWS Certifications in 2024

If you are an AWS certificate aficionado like myself then you may already know where this is going. If you're normal then don't scroll away just yet. You may still find value here!

Brief History

AWS Certs

The AWS certification landscape has always, to me, been very simple to navigate. There certifications are divided into 4 levels.

  1. Foundational: Building the Bedrock

    • Laying the groundwork with essential, non-technical knowledge.
  2. Associate: Bridging the Gap

    • Mastering intermediate-level, broad knowledge to bridge foundational and advanced concepts.
  3. Professional: Elevating Expertise

    • Scaling heights with advanced-level, broad knowledge, demonstrating mastery in complex AWS scenarios.
  4. Specialty: Fine-Tuning Focus

    • Sharpening expertise with advanced-level, specialized knowledge in specific AWS domains.

These Associate and Professional certifications are role-based and are related. Elaborating the Solutions Architect Professional (SA Pro) exam is similar to to the Solutions Architect Associate (SAA), yet elevated in every way. The SA Pro exam is much broader (the number of unique services/features covered) and much deeper (the level of detail required for specific services/features). This relation and progression is natural; expected.

Unlike the role-based paths, the Specialty certifications are built around a strategic area. These are often sought after by experts in the fields they target. That networking wiz you work with may be studying for the Advanced Networking Specialty exam at this very moment. That makes sense, as Enterprise companies may expect that their domain leaders be accredited by AWS as "experts" in those fields they work in. Still I find candidates struggling to comprehend how difficult these exams may be.

If your only goal is to acquire a specialized certification you may not see the need in sitting the Foundational or Associate level exams beforehand. I would implore you to consider a learning path that uses these easier exams as a stepping stone that will solidify core AWS knowledge that could appear on any exam. A few of these critical services are EC2, IAM, S3, and VPC.

Recent Changes

Before you finalize your 2024 goals you may want to consider the recent changes that AWS has been making to their certification program.

In November 2023, AWS announced the new Data Engineer Associate certification. At the same time they marked the Data Analytics Specialty for retirement. These two exams had a similar exam scope so the common perception was that the Data Engineer Associate is a scaled back version of the Specialty exam. After all the Data Analytics Specialty earned a reputation for being difficult.

  • CBT Nuggets said, "an advanced, challenging certification exam and requires extensive knowledge of data analytics technologies and solutions".
  • Constantin Lungu "found it legitimately hard".
  • and many more similar stories.

Given the feedback this change is welcoming, in my opinion. Although, I wish the changes would've stopped there.

Today, AWS announced two more certifications are retiring! 😲

  • Database Specialty
  • SAP on AWS Specialty

AWS Expiring

The Golden Jacket Club

Gold Jacket

If you didn't know there is a large number of people that have earned all of the AWS certifications, like myself. Many of these people have been given a golden jacket that they boast about on LinkedIn.

Personally I can't help, but feel distraught about these recent announcements. For many others who trained diligently in this epic quest I would bet the feeling may be mutual. It's unclear if these changes indicate that we can expect new exams soon like we saw with the Data Engineer Associate. Alternatively, it could mean that the gaps in the AWS certification curriculum will surely grow. I can reference that there was already a sizable gap in AWS IoT services before these changes.

Part of me is afraid that if a slew of more exams are dropped it will feel like starting over just to get back to where I am now. Maybe I will grow through the journey? Maybe not. Yet if the gaps are left then I fear what that would do. Would Enterprise companies be forced to forego AWS services that don't have accredited training around? Independent companies could validate skills in these areas, but it won't carry the same weight Amazon has. What incentive does a candidate have to study services that they won't be tested on over those they definitely will be?

I wonder if these exams were retired due to lack of participation in these strategic areas, or was it something else? The SAP on AWS Specialty, is shocking to me, since it was announced recently in April 2022.

Looking Ahead

With these recent changes I am almost certain that Amazon is not done yet. I suspect we will see more certification changes announced in the coming months for some of the reasons I covered in this post. It would be nice if the Training and Certification team could tune us into their broader picture. If they did that we could better arrange our AWS training goals for 2024.

Until then you should study cautiously. Keeping in mind that the certification you're targeting may go away before you're ready to sit your exam. That SA Pro at the end of your road map may not be the last stop.

If you liked this content maybe you would like to Buy Me a Coffee or connect with me on LinkedIn.

Top comments (0)