How To Become An AWS Certified Solution Architect (Associate Edition)

Photo by Piotr Cichosz on Unsplash

A certification from Amazon Web Services is a great way to expand your career options. In Q2 of 2020, AWS holds the largest highest market share of cloud infrastructure service providers at 33%, followed by Azure (18%) and Google Cloud (9%)1.

With more organisations looking to migrate and build their infrastructure on the cloud, now is a good time to learn about cloud ecosystems take advantage of these opportunities.

Over the last 3 months, I’ve been extending and formalising my knowledge of the Amazon ecosystem, while hoping to find work building/managing data-driven SaaS products.

Becoming an Associate Certified Solution Architect felt like an important milestone along that journey, as it quantifies your knowledge of Amazon’s most popular cloud services.

Here are 3 steps to getting certified, based on my own experience.

This is arguably the most important step — figure out why you want to get certified.

The reason to any certification is to demonstrate that you have a certain standard of knowledge on a topic. The AWS Certified Solution Architect (Associate) is supposed to show you can develop secure, scalable and available solutions for the cloud at a beginner to intermediate level.

My motivation for getting certified was to expand my options — I don’t know exactly what role I want in the future, but I’d be open to trying Data Analysis or DevOps. Both of which can be achieved using Amazon’s cloud offering.

Some of the roles that typically require/desire the certification include: Solution Architect, Site Reliability Engineer, Systems Analyst or Technical Business Analyst.

You need to assess your knowledge gap — the knowledge you still need to gain in order to pass the exam.

Amazon says the certification is for people with one or more years experience using AWS, but the effort required to pass the exam will depend on your level of technical knowledge.

It took me about 3 months with intermittent study and experimentation on the platform. It might take longer if you’re not familiar with computer networking, VMs, databases and decoupled solution architectures.

Some AWS-specific resources I found helpful include:

  • This preparation course by A Cloud Guru. It costs 40 USD/month, but contains about 24 hours of content to work through and should give you a good grounding in the AWS ecosystem.
  • Amazon’s Cloud Practitioner Essentials course is a 6 hour course which gives you a basic understanding of the Amazon ecosystem. I completed it last November, the main downside is that you can’t speed up the video…
  • This preparation page provided by Amazon. It recommends that you specifically pay attention to the FAQ pages for: EC2, S3, VPC, Route 53, RDS and SQS.

The exam is multiple choice (one or many answers per question), contains 65 questions and takes just over 2 hours to complete.

You get the option to mark a question for review, which prevents it from being submitted until you allow it. This is helpful if you’re not 100% certain of the answer, because seeing the content from other questions might help you solve that question.

There’s an option to complete the exam from a remote location, rather than a test center.

If you do this (which I did), you’ll need to ensure your computer can run the required software. Also try to remove excess objects from your environment, because you’ll be required to take photos before the exam starts. Your face will recorded from the start to the end of the exam.

Depending on how you conduct the test, it’s a good idea to be available 30 minutes before the exam starts, to account for preliminary checks.

Before you book the exam, the A Cloud Guru course recommends that you be able to setup a Virtual Private Cloud from memory. This course also contains practice questions and lab videos so you can experiment with the relevant AWS technologies.

One measure of confidence is if you’re willing to pay the 150 USD to take the test. If not, you can pay for practice exams which cost 20 USD, but I just used the questions from the course above.

I’ve outlined some considerations when getting the AWS Certified Solution Architect (Associate) certification. While I think this is a great way to prove your knowledge to employers (and yourself), it won’t “guarantee you a job”.

While looking for work, it’s worth developing side projects that demonstrate your knowledge. It shows you’re interested and willing to learn.

You might even be able to monetise your projects :)

If you’re an employer looking for someone with an AWS certification and previous technical experience, feel free to send me a LinkedIn message here.

Best of luck!

  1. Richter, F. (Aug 2020). Amazon Leads $100 Billion Cloud Market. See more at https://www.statista.com/chart/18819/worldwide-market-share-of-leading-cloud-infrastructure-service-providers/

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