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Stephen Sennett
Stephen Sennett

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AWS Data Engineer Associate Certification - Coming Soon

The AWS Certified Data Engineer - Associate has been announced with the beta exam is opening in Q4 2023, with the final release due in Q2 2024.

Let's break down the new certification, analyze what it's going to look like, dig into what it means for AWS professionals.

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📋 Knowledge and Skills Covered

AWS Certification Exams categorize skills and knowledge into distinct domains, each focusing on key concepts of the subject.

Breakdown of the domains in DEA-C01

Here's a quick overview of some prominent services within each domain, providing insight into the certification's scope. They focus heavily on the Analytics service family, although it really does cover services across all steps of the data cycle.

Interestingly, AWS CDK and SAM are both explicitly mentioned. While CDK broadly addresses Infrastructure as Code, SAM is highlighted for its role in developing serverless data pipelines - a hugely underrated concept.

For more details, check out the DEA-C01 exam guide available from AWS.

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🗺 Certification Pathway

This certification opens a new pathway to broaden expertise in AWS's data services; great news for those with data-centric backgrounds.

Potential certification pathway for AWS Certified Data Engineer and beyond

This serves as an ideal stepping stone for individuals without data backgrounds aiming to delve into advanced Specialty topics. Conversely, for data professionals, this certification provides an excellent opportunity to expand their AWS knowledge within a familiar context using specialist services they're likely acquainted with.

While it was always possible to acquire these skills without certification, the introduction of a structured pathway incentivizes learners to pursue certification and encourages training providers to fill the skill gap.

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💻 No Practical Assessments

The AWS Certified Data Engineer - Associate exam reverts to the traditional Multiple Choice format, devoid of any practical hands-on assessment.

Since first introducing exam labs in 2021 for the SysOps Associate exam, AWS has temporarily suspended the lab component as of March 2023, pending changes to the platform.

This removal of exam labs is temporary while we evaluate the exam labs and make improvements to provide an optimal candidate experience. With this change, the exam will consist of 65 multiple-choice questions and multiple-response questions, with an exam time of 130 minutes.

This is disappointing, especially at the Associate-level where testing practical skills adds a lot to the value of a certification. But from experience with other vendors, a bad experience is far more damaging. Still, I am hoping we see this feature return in 2024.

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📚 Preparing for the Exam

Right now in September 2023, there are no courses yet available for the exam since it's just been announced, although I'd expect some to be available around the time of the final release. The beta exam will be available soon, but I have a big tip:

Wait until after March 2024 to sit the exam.

Beta exams are notoriously tough and prone to issues. Plus, you have to wait for weeks or even months for your results. Unless you're a trainer or otherwise just extremely eager, it's generally wiser to wait for the final release.

Visualization of an island surrounded by data


Certifications are strategic tools for vendors, directing attention to specific subjects. Given the current data and AI landscape, an Associate-level certification focused on Data is a logical step.

However, AWS's persistent focus on role-based certifications at the Associate and Professional levels, such as "Data Engineer", is a point of critique. It might be more constructive to center these certifications around broader disciplines or knowledge areas. This approach not only lays a solid foundation for advanced skills but also minimizes confusion about job roles (looking at you, Solution Architect - Associate).

If you're considering furthering your AWS knowledge, this new certification is worth contemplating, and its creation is a positive move by AWS.

Sorry future-golden jacket holders.. But at least this has more universal relevance than the SAP Specialty 🙃

Top comments (1)

wheeleruniverse profile image
Justin Wheeler

Thank you Stephen! I would think that for those that will sit the beta it may be worth practicing the Data Analytics Specialty since a lot of these topics are overlapped there. Ideally this associate level beta will still be easier than the notoriously difficult Data Analytics exam.