AWS Certification Paths – Everything You Need To Know

AWS offers 12+ certifications across several role-based certification learning paths such as Cloud Practitioner, Architect, Developer, and Operations, and covering different levels of expertise, from foundational to specialty cloud computing topics, to demonstrate your credibility and dedication to the field.

Amazon Web Services, otherwise known as AWS, was originally launched in 2006 and is a secure cloud services platform that offers things such as computing power, database storage, content delivery, and various other helpful functionalities to grow and advance businesses.

AWS is the world’s leading cloud platform, offering over 200 deeply functional services, is extremely secure, innovative, offers operational expertise, and has millions of customers including start-ups, enterprises, and public-sector organizations.

Attaining an AWS certification proves that you have the most in-demand skills in cloud computing, which has become of core competency in many enterprises and is recognized industry-wide.

An AWS certification makes individuals much more valuable in the job market as they are able to validate their in-demand skills, leading to higher positions and better pay.

Depending on your experience level, it usually takes about two to three months to become AWS certified, including the training, studying, practice, and exam period.

In this period, individuals will enroll in an AWS class to build knowledge, read and study Exam Guides, take practice exams, and schedule the actual final exam. All AWS certifications are valid for three years, after which individuals will need to be re-certified.

This further establishes the credibility of an AWS certification as it ensures that everyone who holds it has current and up-to-date knowledge of the topic.

This article will cover all the different AWS certifications that are currently available, the details surrounding them, as well as frequently asked questions regarding how AWS certifications work.

AWS Certifications Paths

Foundational Certification: AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner

This entry-level certification is AWS’s newest credential and it validates a candidate’s general understanding of AWS cloud. It is specifically designed for students who are looking to gain a good, overall understanding of cloud computing concepts without all the technical details.

It is also useful for anyone who works in technical, managerial, sales, purchasing, or financial roles which might require a working knowledge of AWS cloud.

The certification offers a general overview of the core services offered by AWS, including security, database, management services, storage, network and cloud pricing, and available support services.

Since this is a foundational certification, many use it as a steppingstone and choose to continue onto an associate-specific certification upon completion afterwards.

Although there are technically no prerequisites for the Cloud Practitioner Certification, candidates are encouraged to have at least six months of general AWS cloud experience in any role.

Still, the Certification Preparation for AWS through Amazon’s resources is an ideal starting place for anyone looking to understand Cloud Computing from a business perspective who may not have had much experience.

The preparation consists of instructional courses such as the AWS Cloud Practitioner Essentials course, downloadable exam guides and sample questions, and the option to take a practice exam (at additional cost).

By attaining this certification, candidates are validating their skills and abilities in a broad range of areas, including:

  • Defining what the AWS Cloud is and its basic global infrastructure
  • Describing the basic AWS Cloud architectural principles and value proposition
  • Describing the key services on the AWS platform and what their common usages are
  • Describing basic security and compliance aspects of the AWS platform
  • Define the different billing, account management, and pricing models
  • Describe the basic characteristics of deploying and operating in the Amazon Web Services Cloud

The exam lasts ninety minutes and is made up of entirely multiple-choice questions. It covers the basic understanding of AWS architectural principles, value proposition of the AWS cloud, key services and their common uses, the basic security and compliance, and core deployment and operating principles.

The certification costs US$100, and is valid for three years, after which you will need to prepare for re-certification.

Associate-level Certification: AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate SAA-C02

As Amazon’s most popular AWS certificate, as well as the most common entry-point for anyone entering the cloud architecting arena, obtaining this credential proves one’s ability to effectively design and deploy solutions on the AWS platform.

This certification was created for individuals who have some experience in designing distributed applications in AWS, and who are looking to further advance their abilities to architect and deploy secure applications, define solutions based on customer requirements, and implement guidance based on an organization’s best practices.

It is recommended that interested candidates have some knowledge and experience in using computing, networking, storage, and database Amazon Web Services, are able to identify which AWS services meet given requirements, and understand how network technologies relate to AWS.

Those who do not feel confident in these areas are encouraged to partake in the Learning Path for this credential, and down the exam guide and sample questions for practice prior to the final exam.

The training courses for this certification, like Architecting on AWS and AWS Technical Essentials, make sure to prepare candidates for all the above skills, allowing them to gain a deep understanding of the information by covering all the aspects which will be tested on the exam thoroughly.

Candidates also have the option to download exam guides and take a practice exam at an additional cost. The final exam tests candidates on four different domains:

  1. design resilient architectures
  2. design high-performing architectures
  3. design secure applications and architectures,
  4. design cost-optimized architectures.

The average duration to complete the Learning Path and take the exam is 36 hours. Holding this certification demonstrates a candidate’s abilities to:

  • Effectively architect and deploy secure and robust applications on AWS technologies
  • Define a solution using architectural design principles based on specific requirements
  • Provide adequate implementation guidance based on the best practices of the organization throughout the cycle of a project

The exam consists of multiple-choice and multiple-answer question and is 130 minutes in length. The total cost for the certification is US$150.

Associate-level Certification: AWS Certified Developer

This certification proves an individual’s ability to design and maintain AWS applications. It was designed for software developers who have one or more years of experience with designing and sustaining applications on the AWS platform, with a profound understanding of at least one programming language, the ability to use AWS service APIs, AWS CLI, and SDKs, and the ability to author, maintain, and debug code modules on AWS.

This credential further demonstrates an individual’s ability to:

  • Develop, deploy, and debug cloud-based applications using Amazon Web Services
  • Understand the core AWS services in terms of uses and best architecture practices

Through this credential’s training courses, which includes the AWS Technical Essentials and Developing on AWS course, candidates will be guided through a multitude of topics which will help them gain the essential knowledge and understanding to be successful on the final certifying exam.

These categories include access management, computing, databases, storage, encryption, edge services, serverless architecture, CI/CD, and developer tools. With multiple hands-on labs, individuals are fast-tracked to a successful certification, typically taking about 41 hours to complete.

Candidates may also download the exam guide and sample questions or pay to take the practice exam for a more in-depth preparation.

The final exam for this certification consists of both multiple-choice and multiple answer questions and lasts 130 minutes in length. Obtaining the certification costs US$150.

Associate-level Certification: AWS Certified SysOps Administrator

This associate-level credential demonstrates an individual’s expertise in deploying, scaling, migrating, and managing AWS systems. It is the only certification that is directly and entirely geared towards system administrators.

There are no strict prerequisites for this certification, but candidates are still encouraged to have at least one year of first-hand experience with managing AWS cloud applications to ensure that they have a basic understanding of cloud computing.

SysOps and DevOps are very large areas of cloud computing, where the former manages all operation and development related factors, and the latter looks after elements that are related to operations and systems.

The training for this certification includes the AWS Technical Essentials and the Systems Operations on AWS courses. The training content is designed so that candidates are effectively able to:

  • Deploy, manage, and operate scalable and fault-tolerant systems
  • Select the right AWS service depending on different computing, data, or security requirements
  • Estimate usage costs for AWS and identify practical cost control mechanisms
  • Implement and control flow of data
  • Migrate on-premises workloads to AWS

Again, downloadable exam guides and sample questions are available for this certification path, as is the option of taking the practice exam, to ensure that candidates are comfortable and confident prior to their final exam.

Passing the certification exam requires technical expertise and conceptual knowledge of the AWS platform. To demonstrate thorough understanding of their knowledge, candidates are tested across seven domains, including:

  • monitoring and reporting
  • high availability
  • deployment and provisioning
  • storage and data management
  • security and compliance
  • networking
  • automation and optimization.

The exam is made up of multiple-choice and multiple answer questions, lasting 130 minutes. Obtaining this certification costs US$150.

Professional-level Certification: AWS Certified Solutions Architect

This professional-level credential demonstrates an individual’s advanced expertise in designing distributed systems and applications on the AWS platform.

A professional AWS architect should be able to effectively evaluate an organization’s requirements and make architectural recommendations in order to best implement and deploy applications on Amazon Web Services.

Obtaining this certification requires a high degree of technical skill and experience, so candidates will ideally already hold the AWS Solutions Architect Associate certification, though this is not technically a prerequisite.

It is also recommended to have at least two years of experience with designing and deploying cloud architecture for best success rates.

The training courses for this certification include Amazon’s Advanced Architecting on AWS course. The training is essential for many as it helps candidates feel comfortable architecting, securing, migrating, optimizing deployment, and managing full production prior to the exam.

After the course, candidates should be able to:

  • Implement effective cost-control strategies
  • Select the right AWS services depending on requirements
  • Design and deploy reliable applications on AWS
  • Design and deploy enterprise-wide operations on AWS
  • Migrate complex and multi-tier applications on Amazon Web Services

In order to properly demonstrate this knowledge, candidates will be tested across five different categories throughout the final exam. These domains are:

  1. design for organization complexity
  2. design for new solutions
  3. migration planning
  4. cost control
  5. continuous improvement for existing solutions

The exam itself is made up of both multiple-choice and multiple answer questions and lasts 170 minutes. The cost for this certification is US$300.

You can check out my other article if you are interested in knowing more details about an AWS Cloud Architect’s job description, salary, skills & career path.

Professional-level Certification: AWS Certified DevOps Engineer

This credential proves a candidate’s ability and knowledge in provisioning, management, security, and operations of Amazon Web Services solutions.

This advanced certificate, one of the two professional-level certifications, is designed for those who have significant experience with AWS already.

Ideally, candidates for this certification have previously obtained the AWS Certified Developer Associate certificate, though it is important to note that it is not a prerequisite for the credential.

Individuals are also encouraged to have a deep understanding of modern application development, such as agile development methodology.

The multiple training courses for this certification, including Introduction to AWS CloudFormation, Advanced Developing on AWS, DevOps Engineering on AWS, and AWS Cloud Development Kit, are all designed to prepare for the successful completion of the final exam.

Candidates of this certification are required to demonstrate a deep knowledge and understanding of a number of different areas, including being able to:

  • Define and deploy monitoring, metrics, and logging systems
  • Design, manage, and maintain tools to automate operational processes
  • Automate and implement security controls, governance processes, and compliance validation
  • Manage the continuous delivery systems and methodologies on Amazon Web Services
  • Implement systems that are self-healing on AWS

To adequately test these skills and knowledge, the final exam covers six different categories of knowledge and understanding:

  1. SDLC automation
  2. configuration management and infrastructure as code
  3. monitoring and logging
  4. policies and standards automation
  5. incident and event response
  6. high availability tolerant disaster recovery.

After completing the training course, individuals should feel confident and comfortable with their knowledge in all of these areas.

Candidates will then be able to schedule their exam, which is comprised of both multiple-choice and multiple answer questions and lasts 170 minutes. The cost for attaining this certification is US$300.

Specialty-level Certification: AWS Certified Data Analytics DAS-C01

This certification is designed for those who have a background in data analytics and some years of experience using AWS services to design and architect big data solutions.

Candidates who pursue this credential should have experience in extracting value from data using Amazon Web Services and are recommended to have at least five years of experience with data analytics technologies, and two years of first-hand experience with AWS.

Those with this credential validate their knowledge and ability to define AWS data analytics services and understand how they can integrate with each other, as well as explain how Amazon Web Services data analytics services fit in the data life-cycle of collection, storage, processing, and visualization.

This certification’s training courses include Data Analytics Fundamentals and Big Data on AWS. The final exam tests individuals across five different domains in order to ensure they have all the necessary knowledge.

These areas are collection, storage and data management, processing, analysis and visualization, and security.

Candidates can also choose to invest in related online courses or partake in the practice exam.

Those who hold this credential verify their ability to:

  • Define AWS data analytics services and understand how they integrate with each other
  • Explain how AWS data analytics fit into the data life-cycle of collection, storage, processing, and visualization

The exam is made up for both multiple-choice and multiple answer questions and has a time limit of 170 minutes. Obtaining this certification takes an average of 21 hours, and costs US$300.

Specialty-level Certification: AWS Certified Advanced Networking

This specialty certification is designed for candidates who create and execute complex networking tasks. Those interested in this credential are recommended to have a solid foundation of AWS and its offered services prior to taking the Learning Path courses or the exam.

Several years of experience and obtaining an Associate-level certification are also encouraged. On average, users can expect to spend about 24 hours and spend US$300 to obtain this certification.

The training courses for this certification are extensive and integrative, preparing candidates across six different domains through a combination of practical courses, labs, and quizzes to ensure that they excel in the exam.

The final exam focuses on advanced skills in planning and applying both AWS and hybrid IT network architectures. The six domains covered in the certification exam are:

  1. Design and implement hybrid IT network architectures at scale
  2. Design and implement AWS networks
  3. Automate AWS tasks
  4. Configure network integration with application services
  5. Design and implement for security and compliance
  6. Manage, optimize, and troubleshoot the network

There are several frequently asked questions regarding this credential and all the advanced networking domains necessary to obtain it:

Purpose of VPN?

Ultimately, VPN (Virtual Private Networks) provide the strongest security for remote and private networks that are connected to the Internet. This is ideal for those who are working from home because it allows them to access all the same services that they would be able to from the office.

What is VPC?

VPC, or Virtual Private Cloud, is a service that allows individuals to launch AWS resources in an isolated virtual network. Using AWS with the VPC allows users to access their own data center with the scalable infrastructure.

Further, Amazon VPC is comprised of eight components:

  1. Virtual Private Cloud
  2. Subnet
  3. Internet Gateway
  4. NAT Gateway
  5. Virtual Private Gateway
  6. Peering Connection
  7. VPC Endpoints
  8. Egress-only Internet Gateway.

VPN vs. VPS vs. VPC?

A VPN (Virtual Private Network) is a secure network of systems accessible through public access, which means that any user can exchange information with another user across a public network. A VPS (Virtual Private Server) is what allows users to share computer resources on a single data center, which is partitioned to create instances that function independently. A VPC (Virtual Private Cloud) is very similar to the VPS, but where the VPS uses only a single data center, a VPC uses a cloud of servers in order to offer all the necessary space requirements.

Specialty-level Certification: AWS Certified Security

This certification was particularly designed for candidates who wish to demonstrate a deep understanding of AWS security services, including the various different security mechanisms and techniques that are offered to secure infrastructures and data from internal and external threats with Amazon Web Services.

Further, this credential allows individuals to verify their skills and knowledge for multiple security topics, including:

  • data protection
  • encryption
  • infrastructure security
  • identity
  • access management
  • incident response
  • monitoring, and much more

This certification’s training, such as the AWS Security Fundamentals course, has been specially designed to take candidates through all the security service questions and domains that will be covered on the final exam with a blend of different instructional types.

Taking courses is helpful because it allows candidates to learn all the necessary information and gain the confidence needed to successfully pass the exam. Through the training, individuals will be able to:

  • Understand differences between each type of security service that AWS offers and the ways in which they can be used
  • Implement the right security services and mechanisms to reach business goals and requirements effectively
  • Understand how to properly select the most appropriate data protection techniques, especially encryption mechanisms
  • Implement the right logging and monitoring solutions in order to detect and further analyze any security vulnerabilities and potential weaknesses within infrastructures
  • Select the appropriate level of security based on the deployments and sensitivities of data

Candidates interested in this certification must have passed the AWS Cloud Practitioner certification or any of the Associate level certifications with AWS. It typically takes about 33 hours to successfully complete certification and costs US$300.

Specialty-level Certification: AWS Certified Alexa Skill Builder

This credential validates an individual’s technical expertise in effectively building, testing, and publishing Amazon Alexa skills, and is thus primarily intended for those who perform a role as an Alexa skill builder.

Interested candidates should have six months of first-hand experience with building Alex Skills using the Alexa Skills Kit and should have proficiency in at least one programming language.

Preparing for this exam is the same as preparing for the other mentioned certifications; Amazon offers a plethora of resources to help individuals prepare, including the AWS Training course Alexa for Developers.

Still, candidates can partake in many other relevant AWS Training courses that are available on the Internet, and access external resources to fine tune their knowledge and skills before taking the final exam.

Candidates should be comfortable and skilled in:

  • Explaining the value of voice
  • Designing user experience
  • Designing the architecture to build skill
  • Follow AWS and Alexa security best practices
  • Manage the skill publishing process and work with Alexa developer console
  • Develop, test, validate, and troubleshoot the skill
  • Manage skill operations and life-cycles

The exam is a mixture of multiple choice and multiple response question, delivered through a testing center or an online proctored exam. Candidates have 170 minutes to complete the exam and the total cost is US$300.

Specialty-level Certification: AWS Certified Machine Learning

This credential validates an individual’s ability to create, train, tune, implement, and maintain machine learning solutions using the AWS Cloud for given business problems. It is intended for individuals who perform a development or data science role within a company.

It is recommended to have at least one to two years of experiences with developing, architecting, or running learning workloads on the AWS Cloud prior to trying to get this higher-level certification, as well as the ability to express the intuition behind basic ML algorithms, following model-training best practices, and follow deployment and operational best practices.

Individuals should have experience performing basic hyper-parameter optimization and working with ML and deep learning frameworks.

Amazon has made preparation for the final exam of this certification easy, with free downloadable exam guides and sample questions, technical skill building virtual courses such as Practical Data Science with Amazon SageMaker or The Elements of Data Science or taking the practice exam for just US$40.

On average, it takes candidates about 51 hours to complete all training and to take the final exam. Still, it is encouraged that candidates already have hands-on experience prior to partaking in the learning courses for the most successful results.

The final exam is formatted with multiple choice and multiple answer questions, is delivered either through an online proctoring system or in a real-life testing center and lasts 180 minutes. The cost for this certification is US$300.

Specialty-level Certification: AWS Certified Database DBS-C01

Similar to the Data Analytics specialty certification, this certification was created for individuals who perform in a data analytics-focused role in their jobs.

This certification validates a candidate’s ability to understand and differentiate between the different key features of AWS database services, as well as to analyze the different needs and requirements of a business in order to best recommend and design the appropriate database solutions using AWS services.

Ultimately, candidates are building credibility and confidence in their ability to design, recommend, and maintain AWS database solutions to drive their organization’s business transformation.

Like the other AWS certifications, there is no set prerequisite to the Certified Database certification, but it is strongly recommended that potential candidates have at least five years’ experience with database technologies, and at least two years of first-hand experience working on Amazon Web Services.

This experience and expertise will help candidates be successful in their certification quicker and more effectively. Still, there are many learning opportunities that individuals can partake in as a way to prepare for the exam.

Amazon offers a downloadable exam guide with sample questions, technical skill building courses such as AWS Database Offerings and Planning and Designing Databases on AWS, which covers all five of the different elements that will be covered on the final exam.

Candidates can also choose to take the practice exam for US$40 to test their skills before committing to the final test.

The five different skill domains covered on the exam are:

  1. Workload-Specific Database Design
  2. Deployment and Migration
  3. Management and Operations
  4. Monitoring and Troubleshoot
  5. Database Security

The exam consists of multiple-choice and multiple answer questions, is delivered either online through a proctored exam or in-person in a testing center and allows candidates up to 180 minutes for completion. The cost to attain this certification is US$300

FAQ About AWS Certifications

What is the cost to get AWS certified?

The prices of AWS exams differ based on their level, with lower levels costing less and higher levels costing more. Prices for exams are as follows:

  • Practitioner: US$100
  • Associate: US$150
  • Professional: US$300
  • Specialty: US$300

Candidates may also decide to take a practice exam prior to the actual exam to test their skills and knowledge.

Practice exam costs vary depending on certification level, with lower certification practice exams costing US$20, and higher levels costing US$40.

How long does it take to get certified in AWS?

The length of time it takes is dependent on several variables, such as an individual’s level of experience and knowledge prior to starting training, their level of commitment and time they can devote each day, and so on.

Candidates with experience can typically expect to take much less time to attain certification as they will not have to devote as much time studying and learning the new material.

For those who do not have as much experience, or who choose to go through the Learning Paths, the length of time to get certified averages anywhere from twenty to seventy hours, depending on certification level.

Specific times can be found under each certification level mentioned above.

What are the levels of AWS certifications and what are the differences?

There are four distinct levels of AWS certification, which are practitioner, associate, professional, and specialty in respective order:

Practitioner: the foundational or entry-level certification, is typically the starting point for beginners and is recommended before moving on to the higher levels. This level consists of just one certification which covers the basics of AWS Cloud.

Associate: the second level from practitioner, these certifications require more experience and knowledge to attain, typically involving more problem-solving abilities. There are three certifications in this level.

Professional: the third level of certification, it is widely recommended that candidates have several years of experience with AWS before reaching this level and have attained at least one of the associate level certifications first. Requires in-depth knowledge and comprehension of various different categories to effectively run, optimize, and troubleshoot solutions with AWS. There are two certifications within this level.

Specialty: the final level of certification, are in tune with one particular domain within AWS (ex. Security, Databases). Require in-depth technical knowledge and experience with the area of expertise and are advanced in difficulty. There are six certifications within this level.

Can I get certified in AWS online?

All exams are available through an online proctored exam delivery option. Learning Paths and training can be completed on an entirely digital format as well. This makes it easy and simple to get certified wherever you are.

What is the AWS re-certification process?

Each year, there are new and updated AWS features and services, so staying up to date is essential to demonstrate valid expertise and knowledge. For this reason, certification holders must re-certify every three years (in the past, it has been every two years, so the length of re-certification periods is subject to change).

There are two ways to re-certify; candidates may choose to re-certify by either passing the professional-level exam for the same certification, or simply pass the re-certification exam for their existing certification. Either way, the re-certification exam is 80 minutes long and is available at the reduced cost of US$75.

It’s important to not wait until the certification expires, but remain proactive in learning, staying up to date with new changes and continuously testing skills. This way, when it’s time to re-certify, the process is quick and simple, no need to devote hours to relearning the material.


Ultimately, investing the time and energy into attaining an AWS certification is definitely worthwhile and productive. These certifications help anyone, from beginners to professionals, to effectively demonstrate their skills and credibility in cloud expertise.

Organizations and employers actively seek those with the industry-wide recognized credentials, significantly boosting a candidate’s chances of getting hired as well as their potential salary range at the position.

What’s more, earning an AWS certification can increase your salary at the position you already hold, with many AWS professionals receiving up to 20% salary increase after passing their certification.

Candidates open many different doors and opportunities with these credentials, building their confidence and skills while standing out from their peers.

If you are interested in training and scheduling an exam to become certified, please visit this link.


I'm a senior CS Engineer from Morocco, working as an Independent Consultant and a part-time blogger.

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