Cloud computing certifications are exploding and are useful for many tech-related jobs ranging from sales and marketing to engineering and programming.
With cloud computing experiencing a significant increase due to the explosion of work-from-home jobs since the COVID-19 pandemic, jobs in this area have been more in demand. This trend is expected to continue over the next several years.
Since now is the time to explore employment opportunities in cloud computing, it’s also time to consider obtaining one or more cloud computing certifications. Getting cloud computing certifications includes validating your expertise to potential or existing employers, increasing your earning potential, or helping you stand out among candidates in a growing field.
Amazon Cloud Computing Certifications
Amazon Web Services (AWS) offers a range of cloud computing certifications, from foundational and associate to professional and specialty levels. Certifications are intended for individuals with varying experience levels, from six months to five years.
Certifications cover everything from the fundamental use of AWS cloud technologies to the design, operation, implementation, and troubleshooting processes and solutions regarding the AWS Cloud. Specialty certifications validate expertise in technical areas such as networking, database, data analytics, security, and machine learning.
To earn any AWS cloud certification, you must pass a comprehensive examination. Depending on certification level, exam fees are between $100 and $300.
While there are no specific courses or programs to enroll in to prepare for AWS cloud certification exams, AWS offers exam preparation resources, such as digital guides and self-paced labs. These resources are free.
AWS cloud computing certifications include:
Google Cloud Computing Certifications
Like AWS, Google offers different levels of cloud certification. The Cloud Digital Leader certification requires no experience and passing a proctored online exam. You can take free online courses designed to prepare you for this exam. Courses contain short videos, typically from one- to eight minutes in length, and practice quizzes. There are a few modules per course, a total of four courses. You can also review an exam guide. The cost of this exam is $99.
The associate-level certification, Cloud Engineer, is recommended for those with at least six months of experience using Google Cloud. Free Google training and free courses (courses with labs will require a paid subscription or credits for access). The type and length of a cloud computing course can vary depending on the learning path chosen. Some courses can take a few to several hours, while others take an entire day.
Professional certifications require three or more years of experience, including at least one year working with Google Cloud. These certifications include:
The registration fee for Google professional cloud certifications is $200. Like other certifications, you can prepare for professional certifications by choosing from various courses, as little as one class, or a learning path consisting of several courses and labs.
Microsoft Cloud Computing Certifications
Since 2008, Microsoft has used the Azure cloud platform to offer cloud services, such as analytics, networking, and storage. Microsoft offers cloud certifications at the fundamental, associate, and expert levels.
- Microsoft Certified: Azure Fundamentals: for those with an understanding of fundamental cloud computing and services, particularly those provided by Microsoft Azure.
- Microsoft 365 Certified: Fundamentals: validates knowledge of modeling and implementing the Microsoft 365 cloud service.
- Microsoft Certified: Azure Developer Associate: meant for those with 1-2 years of experience with the Azure platform. Reflects knowledge of the design, testing, and maintenance of Azure cloud applications and services.
Free exam preparation is available from Microsoft. You can choose from different learning paths, taking as little as one module to several. One module could be as short as 45 minutes, while others could take eight hours to complete. Paid, instructor-led online courses are also offered, taking one to multiple days to complete.
Microsoft certification exams cost between $99 – $165, based on level.
CompTIA Cloud Computing Certifications
This non-profit trade association offers several professional certifications in infrastructure, cybersecurity, and data and analytics.
Top cloud computing certifications are:
CompTIA Cloud+: described as “the only performance-based IT certification that views cloud-based infrastructure services in the context of broader IT systems operations regardless of the platform,” this certification validates experience in security, operations, architecture, troubleshooting, and deployment. Training options for this certification exam, taken online or at an in-person testing center, including study guides, exam practice materials, self-paced online learning, or instructor-led training sessions. The time commitment for this training varies; for instance, self-paced online training has over 30 hours of content, while instructor-led training is 20 days of Monday – Friday classes. Costs for these training options range from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. The cost of the exam is $348.
CompTIA Cloud Essentials+: meant to validate the knowledge of fundamental cloud operations, concepts, and principles, this cloud computing certification offers the same type of training options and formats as the CompTIA Cloud+. This exam can also be taken online or in-person, and the exam fee is $130.
Other Cloud Computing Certifications
The network-based Cisco Cloud Certification Program consists of two certifications: the Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) Cloud and Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP) Cloud credentials. The former is meant to enhance the skills of cloud engineers and administrators and guide network engineers into the cloud. At the same time, the latter is designed for cloud professionals who design, implement, and troubleshoot Cisco Cloud Solutions. Preparation for the exams can be purchased through Cisco and consists of e-learning and classroom learning formats through lectures and labs.
The Certified Cloud Security Professional (CCSP) certification can be obtained through (ISC)², an international information security association. It is meant for cloud administrators, architects, and others who already have professional experience. This and other (ISC)² certifications are globally accredited and recognized.
The exam covers data security, cloud security operations, cloud architecture, and cloud application security, and the fee to take this exam is $599. You can download a free guide to learn more about the certification and why you might get it.
Training for the CCSP certification exam is offered in three formats: online self-paced, online instructor-led, and in-person classroom cloud computing courses. Costs apply to each format, and registration is necessary to schedule this training.
Cloud Computing Certification Training and Exam Preparation
Many of the training courses and programs associated with these certifications are conducted online, as are courses offered through other sources, including open online course provider Coursera and the technology training platform Cloud Academy. Online studies and training provide flexibility in ways that in-person learning may not, as some of these courses and modules are accessible at any time. This might be an attractive option should you need to adhere to your work or school schedule or other obligations.
Courses and labs offered through AWS, Google, Microsoft, and CompTIA are all structured similarly, using videos, online lectures, and documents to teach and review details about cloud infrastructures, design, and more. Often, hands-on labs are attached to these courses, allowing you access to real-world cloud applications so you can apply concepts covered in the courses. Practice questions and quizzes measure your knowledge and mastery of the material.
Classes that comprise a certificate or associate’s degree program in cloud computing are also an option to prepare for certification exams. Many of these programs are conducted in-person, though you might find some provided in an online format. Topics you are likely to find addressed in certificate or associate’s degree programs that would help you build the knowledge needed to pass certification exams include cloud data center migration, data storage, networking, deployment, system integration, cloud architecture, cloud security tools, routing concepts, and virtualization.
In some cases, course descriptions for classes focusing on cloud computing may indicate that some courses help prepare students for industry certifications. Some programs declare that they are designed to prepare students for specific certifications, aligning their curriculum to AWS, Google, or other resources. Certificate and degree programs at colleges and universities are typically eligible for financial aid options such as grants and loans.
If you pursue a bachelor’s degree in this field, it might be easier to find four-year degree programs online. A degree could also be necessary to obtain employment in cloud computing; jobs as a cloud engineer or DevOps Engineer, for instance, generally require at least a four-year degree. At the bachelor’s level, you could expect to take courses providing more in-depth studies in cloud architecture, cloud platform solutions, cloud system administration, data analytics, cloud security, and machine learning.
Career Track for Cloud Certified Professionals
Once they have obtained a degree or certification, individuals seeking a career in cloud computing most often become cloud engineers, developers, or cloud architects. These job titles essentially encompass designing, planning, managing, maintaining, and implementing cloud infrastructures.
A cloud developer and cloud architect might be more heavily responsible for designing cloud infrastructures. In contrast, cloud engineers take on daily roles of managing, maintaining, and repairing any issues with these infrastructures. All three of these roles generally earn more than $120,000 per year.
By most indications, cloud computing jobs will see ample growth in 2022 and beyond. In the three years between March 2018 and March 2021, cloud computing jobs saw an incredible 42% increase. It is predicted that 95% of new digital workloads will be deployed on cloud platforms by 2025, up from 30% in 2021.
While many details about cloud computing certifications, including types, preparation courses, and costs, have been covered here, you might still be seeking some additional information. This section addresses any further questions you might have regarding these professional certifications.
Initially, you could obtain a job in cloud computing without any certification. But a certification could help you earn a higher salary or advance in the field.
While reviewing preparation materials before taking any could computing certification exam is highly recommended, it is not required.
The retake policies for the major cloud computing certification exams vary. For AWS, it’s 14 days before retaking the exam; no limit on exam attempts. For Google, it’s 14 days before retaking the exam, 60 days after the second time, 365 days after the third. For Microsoft, it’s 24 hours before retaking the exam the first time, at least 14 days after the second time, 14 days between fourth and fifth attempts. Any exam cannot be taken more than five times in 12 months. For CompTIA, there’s no waiting period between first and second attempts; at least 14 days between subsequent attempts. Finally, applicants must wait five days before retaking a written exam for Cisco. For an online, un-proctored exam, the waiting time is 48 hours. In all cases, exam fees are paid each time an exam is taken.
As of August 2021, the top-paying cloud certification is the Google Certified Professional Data Engineer ($171,749), followed by the Google Certified Professional Cloud Architect ($169,029) and the AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate Certification ($159,033).
The AWS cloud platform is the most widely used, and AWS certifications are the most sought-after by those in the field.
The AWS cloud platform is considered the easiest to learn, with more online learning materials available. The level of difficulty for cloud computing certifications could be based on your background and prior learning and training. Azure might be easier if you are more familiar with Microsoft products, while AWS or Google could be easier if you have training in or have worked with Java, Linux, or Red Hat.