This content is part of the Essential Guide: Pave a lasting AWS career path

Professional-level AWS certifications pay off for cloud vets

To gain a Professional-level AWS certification, AWS requires at least two years of experience with its platform. But will it help your career, or is it just a notch in your belt?

Associate-level AWS certifications are great steppingstones for IT professionals about to start their cloud careers. In addition to a quick ROI, this certification type can provide a boost to those who seek entry-level AWS positions at a company.

On the other hand, the perks of Professional-level AWS certifications -- which the cloud provider describes as its highest-level, technical role-based certifications -- are not always obvious, or even relevant, to those in the IT community.

AWS Professional-level exams, including those to become a Certified Solutions Architect or Certified DevOps Engineer, are difficult, and you will undoubtedly learn a lot when you prepare for them. Amazon requires that you have two or more years of hands-on AWS experience and that you hold a relevant Associate-level certification before you attempt to achieve the Professional level.

The opportunities that AWS Professional-level certifications present, however, depend completely on the companies for which you plan to work. For example, startups generally don't place as much weight on AWS certifications; instead, they tend to value direct experience. This also applies to many other companies, even larger enterprises, which don't ultimately benefit from your certification; they benefit from your job skills.

On the other hand, many larger enterprises have some sort of partnership with AWS, which requires them to maintain a certain number of certified AWS professionals on staff. These are the companies in which you can especially benefit from Professional-level AWS certifications. Many of these large enterprises also cultivate more complex cloud environments that include multi-tier applications, high levels of automation and other more advanced technical components. Professional-level certifications attempt to test IT professionals on these concepts. The Solutions Architect exam even quizzes test takers on cost control strategies. If you pass the test, you can demonstrate your ability to save an enterprise money -- and potentially even negotiate a higher salary.

The bottom line is that, if you have already cleared the Associate-level exam and have hands-on experience with AWS, the Professional-level certification is worth a look. If you decide to pursue it, it's time to roll up your sleeves and get to work.

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