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Reasons for Continually Obtaining All AWS Certifications, Study Methods, and Levels of Difficulty

First Published: 2023-06-23
Last Updated: 2023-06-23

I am continuously obtaining and re-obtaining all AWS certifications.
Of course, there are beneficial reasons for continuing this.
In addition to those reasons, I will introduce the study methods for AWS certification and an overview and study methods for each AWS certification.

I hope that more people will come to understand the benefits of AWS certification, and it will serve as a reference for those who are about to obtain AWS certification and those who aim to obtain all AWS certifications.

* Please note that the content of this article is purely a subjective experience and exam preparation for passing the test. It is in no way intended to guarantee a pass or to force this process or way of thinking.

Reasons for Continuously Obtaining All AWS Certifications (Benefits of AWS Certification)

First, let me introduce the reasons (benefits of AWS certification) why I continue to obtain all AWS certifications.
As mentioned on What is AWS, Amazon Web Services (AWS) provides over 200 services from data centers around the world, and has come to be used by millions of users across a wide range of industries.

Given the backdrop where AWS is widely used and technical expertise to utilize AWS is needed, it is believed that the importance of AWS certification, which proves the existence of that knowledge up to a certain standard, is also increasing.
There are various benefits to obtaining AWS certification, but I will list the benefits that I still strongly feel even after obtaining all AWS certifications.

The benefits of obtaining AWS certification for individuals can be described as follows:
  • It allows you to quantitatively prove your technical expertise in AWS
  • It is globally recognized as a vendor qualification
  • It can enhance your market value as an IT engineer
  • You can efficiently learn the related fields of the certification you are taking through the process from studying to taking the exam
  • There are many things to learn, such as realizations and new discoveries during the actual exam
  • Even if you do not know the related field of the certification you are taking, you can learn more about it through studying (You can take on unknown fields with AWS certification as a starting point)
  • You will be able to understand the conversations of AWS engineers in the related field of the certification you have passed
  • When you obtain all certifications, you can grasp the overall picture of how to use AWS, and your stock of ideas and problem-solving measures increases
  • By continuously obtaining re-certification, you can keep up with the major updates of AWS
These are the reasons why I continue to obtain all AWS certifications, as I can feel these benefits.
However, what I value is the idea that "Obtaining all AWS certifications is a mastery of AWS fundamentals, not a goal".
In other words, I cherish the sense that continuously obtaining all AWS certifications is about solidifying the foundation of knowledge to understand and utilize the rapidly changing AWS as a whole.

What is AWS Certification (Overview, Validity Period, Recertification Rules)

Next, I would like to summarize the overview, validity period, and recertification rules of AWS certification.
AWS certification is an official AWS qualification that proves that you have a certain level of technical expertise to utilize AWS cloud.
As of the end of June 2023, there are a total of 12 AWS certifications available for examination.
The validity period of AWS certification is three years.
The recertification of AWS certification is conditioned on re-taking and passing the same certification exam within the three-year validity period. If you pass the recertification, you will be given a validity period of three years from the date of passing.
Please note that the recertification of AWS certification does not extend the validity period from the expiration date for another three years.

References:
AWS Certification - Validate AWS Cloud Skills - Get AWS Certified
Prepare for your AWS Certification Exam | Training and Certification | AWS
Recertificaton Information and Policies | AWS Certification | AWS

AWS Certifications List and Their Difficulty Levels from My Perspective

Based on the AWS certifications I have obtained (12 available as of the end of June 2023, plus 2 that have been discontinued), I will introduce a list of AWS certifications in order of their perceived difficulty.
How one perceives difficulty will likely vary greatly depending on their skills and experience at the time of examination.
In my case, as I was originally an application engineer, I found the AWS certifications with many network-related questions to be challenging.
* Although I have also listed the examination fees for AWS certifications, you can obtain a 50% discount credit that can be used for the next certification exam once you pass an AWS certification, so if you can continue to pass consecutively, you can take the exam for half the price from the second time onwards.

Subjective
Difficulty
Exam
Code
Certification Name Cost
1. ANS AWS Certified Advanced Networking – Specialty 300 USD
2. DOP AWS Certified DevOps Engineer – Professional 300 USD
3. SAP AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Professional 300 USD
4. BDS (Exam Retirement *1)AWS Certified Big Data – Specialty 300 USD
5. DAS AWS Certified Data Analytics – Specialty 300 USD
6. MLS AWS Certified Machine Learning – Specialty 300 USD
7. PAS AWS Certified: SAP on AWS - Specialty 300 USD
8. DBS AWS Certified Database – Specialty 300 USD
9. SCS AWS Certified Security – Specialty 300 USD
10. AXS (Exam Retirement *2)AWS Certified Alexa Skill Builder – Specialty 300 USD
11. SOA AWS Certified SysOps Administrator – Associate 150 USD
12. DVA AWS Certified Developer – Associate 150 USD
13. SAA AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate 150 USD
14. CLF AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner 100 USD
*1) The AWS Certified Big Data – Specialty was discontinued on 2020-07-01. Those who obtained it prior to the discontinuation date, as well as those who already had it, will remain certified until their expiration date. It has been renamed and replaced in both content and name by the AWS Certified Data Analytics – Specialty.
*2) The AWS Certified Alexa Skill Builder – Specialty was discontinued on 2021-03-22. Those who obtained it prior to the discontinuation date, as well as those who already had it, will remain certified until their expiration date.

Order to Obtain AWS Certification

In October 2018, the prerequisite of obtaining lower-level certifications for attempting 'Professional' or 'Specialty' certifications was abolished. Therefore, you can now take the AWS certification in any order without any issue.

Personally, for beginners who want to learn from the basics in a reliable way, I recommend the standard method of obtaining them in the order of
'Basic(Cloud Practitioner)' → 'Associate' → 'Professional' → 'Specialty'.

On the other hand, if you already have some knowledge in a specific area of AWS or similar expertise in other clouds, it might be a good idea to attempt the 'Specialty' related to that field from the start.

Common Learning Methods for Each AWS Certification

Here, I introduce the flow and learning resources common to each AWS certification, among the learning methods I practiced until I obtained all AWS certifications. I have outlined a learning sequence from basics to applications as a reference, but this can also be adjusted according to your own proficiency level and the characteristics of each AWS certification.

Learning
Order
Learning Resources Key Points to Utilize Learning Resources Cost
At any time AWS Documentation Reading AWS Documentation is fundamental to AWS certification learning as it provides detailed knowledge about each AWS service and helps to develop reading comprehension skills necessary to interpret exam questions.
However, due to the sheer volume of it, I use it in a dictionary-like way within the following order, and if there's time left before the exam, I preferentially read the important sections and features that interoperate between services that I noticed during the learning process.
Also, it might be better to learn the overview of AWS services that are commonly used across various AWS services (AWS IAM, Amazon EC2, Amazon S3, AWS CloudFormation, AWS Organizations, Amazon CloudWatch, AWS Lambda, AWS KMS, AWS Secrets Manager, AWS Systems Manager, Amazon Kinesis, etc.) in advance using AWS documentation or other learning resources mentioned later.
Free
At any time Keyword search by search engine, questions to generative AI If there are keywords or content that you do not understand in the learning resources mentioned later, you can search them on a search engine at any time and refer to blogs and other resources that come up.
You can also ask questions to generative AI, but it is necessary to verify whether the answer is correct or not.
Free
1 Exam Guide for Each Certification The Exam Guide helps you to understand the scope of the AWS certification exam you are going to take and what kind of questions will be asked. Free
2 Sample Questions for Each Certification Solve the Sample Questions posted with the Exam Guide to understand the tendency of the questions. Free
3 AWS Skill Builder(Exam Readiness) Exam Readiness is a digital training course that summarizes key points for exam preparation.
You will understand AWS services related to the corresponding AWS certification and the tendency of the questions here.
Since it is prepared for almost all AWS certifications, if it exists when you search for it, you should take it.
Free
4 AWS Skill Builder(Exam Prep) This is a digital course to check the details of each topic area of each AWS certification and the Sample Questions for each field.
It is a recommended learning resource in the process of gaining a concrete understanding of the topics and fields that will be asked in the AWS certification you are taking and digging deeper into your knowledge.
Free
5 AWS Skill Builder(Official Practice Question Sets) This is a mock exam for AWS certification.
I recommend taking it as early as possible rather than as a last-minute drill, as it allows you to check the tendencies and key points of the questions that will be asked in the AWS certification you are going to take. If you have existing knowledge of the field you are taking, you may want to take it first.
The mock exam has become free of charge since it was transferred to AWS Skill Builder and became Official Practice Question Sets.
Free
6 AWS Skill Builder(Learning plans) Learning plans are study plans that organize digital training by field.
It is efficient to proceed with learning in the Learning plans of AWS services related to the certification you plan to obtain.
Free
7 AWS Skill Builder(Introduction, Primer, Deep Dive) Digital training like Introduction, Primer, Deep Dive may be available for each service.
I used to search for AWS services I didn't know well and take these courses if they exist to understand the key points of the AWS services.
Free
8 Knowledge Center The Knowledge Center is a compilation of answers to frequently asked questions and requests from AWS users, making it highly useful for both AWS certification and practical work.
For the AWS certification you plan to take, focus on reading about the relevant services, and at least input the knowledge from these Q&As before taking Professional or Specialty level certifications.
Free
9 AWS FAQs The 'AWS FAQs' provided for each service is also a useful learning resource, as it lists basic Q&As.
Unlike the Knowledge Center, which features practical Q&As, these Q&As are particularly effective in organizing and confirming foundational knowledge for Associate or Basic level certifications.
Free
10 Qwiklabs Qwiklabs is a service that allows you to learn through various scenarios while actually using a temporary cloud environment.
Since there are labs provided by AWS, you will learn the basic operation of AWS resources in the areas related to each AWS certification.
Particularly, starting from February 2021 in beta version, and publicly available from July 27, 2021, in "AWS Certified SysOps Administrator - Associate(SOA-C02)", Exam Labs have been added, which build AWS resources in accordance with the scenario by actually operating the AWS Management Console and AWS CLI, in addition to the multiple-choice exam. Therefore, it is expected that there will be more opportunities to test skills using actual AWS services in future AWS certifications.
By learning basic operations in Qwiklabs and the "Hands-On Tutorials for Amazon Web Services(AWS)" mentioned later, and creating your own AWS account and being careful about costs while getting in the habit of doing experiments on a daily basis, your understanding will deepen further.
0USD ~ 50USD approximately (varies depending on the course)
11 Hands-On Tutorials for Amazon Web Services(AWS) This is also an official AWS hands-on tutorial that can be used for exam labs strategies such as "AWS Certified SysOps Administrator - Associate(SOA-C02)".
The content of the hands-on is explained clearly with descriptions and screen images.
Free
12 AWS Well-Architected Framework AWS has a best practice collection called the AWS Well-Architected Framework, based on AWS's long years of design experience.
The AWS Well-Architected Framework is a practical one that is also used in actual architectural design reviews, and its content changes along with the updates of the ever-evolving AWS services, making it very useful to understand AWS design concepts.
The AWS Well-Architected Framework includes Six Pillars and a collection of best practices called Lenses that focus on how to design for each technology area. Therefore, it is recommended that you read the Six Pillars, especially for the Professional certification, and the Lenses related to the area you are taking the exam for the Specialty certification.
Free
13 AWS Blog Especially when taking Professional and Specialty certifications, collect information about problem-solving methods, architecture, case studies, and features added before the certification was newly established or revised, focusing on articles related to the AWS certification you are taking.
It's useful not only for AWS certification but also in business, so it's a good idea to make a habit of reading regularly.
Free
14 AWS Architecture Center It summarizes the case studies and reference materials of the architecture using AWS.
This is a useful learning resource if you want to understand the typical architecture of the service related to the AWS certification you are taking by referring to the architecture diagram.
Free
15 AWS Workshops This is a useful learning resource if you want to understand each service related to the AWS certification you are taking through hands-on.
However, AWS certification requires a wide range of knowledge such as architecture using various AWS services, so be careful not to focus only on one AWS service for learning.
Free
Others AWS Service-specific Materials If you understand Japanese, this is a very useful learning resource, as it focuses on material presented at the AWS Black Belt Online Seminar hosted by Amazon Web Services Japan G.K. (AWS Japan), and the key points are very well summarized. Read this material focusing on the services related to the AWS certification that you will be taking in the early stages of learning for the AWS certification and input the knowledge explained at a minimum before taking the exam. Free

What I Pay Attention to During Certification Exams

I will list some things I pay attention to during actual certification exams.
  • If unsure about a question, input a tentative answer, flag it, and review it after completing all questions
  • Ensure to solve all questions within the allotted time (there may be discoveries when reading through all the questions)
  • Be mindful of the time spent per question to leave room for review
  • Review until the end of the exam time (this can lead to new discoveries)
In particular, whether you "review until the end of the exam time" can vary greatly from person to person, so it's a good idea to find a method that suits you.
In my case, I consider the spare time during the exam as a learning time, so if I don't have any particular plans after the exam, I will check until the end.
Also, in AWS certifications including "AWS Certified SysOps Administrator - Associate (SOA-C02)", it is necessary to complete both the multiple-choice exam and Exam Labs within the allotted exam time, but once you complete the multiple-choice exam and start the Exam Labs, you cannot go back to the multiple-choice exam.
The SOA-C02 Exam Guide suggests planning to leave 20 minutes for each Exam Lab, so if you take this as a standard and build in a 5-minute buffer, allocating 25 minutes for one Exam Lab, it's easier to determine your own time allocation for the multiple-choice exam and Exam Labs, which makes it easier to allocate review time for the multiple-choice exam.
* As of March 28, 2023, the AWS Certified SysOps Administrator - Associate (SOA-C02) exam temporarily does not include exam labs.

Obtaining and Maintaining All AWS Certifications

From here on, I will describe what I have been doing to obtain all AWS certifications and maintain (re-certify) the ones I have obtained.

The approach I recommend for those seeking to obtain all AWS certifications is to establish a habit of taking an AWS certification exam at least once a month, irrespective of passing or failing, after as much study as possible within the month.
If you pass an AWS certification exam, the knowledge gained can be used in the study for another AWS certification exam a month later. Even if you fail, you can retake the same AWS certification exam a month later before your existing knowledge fades.

Maintaining all obtained AWS certifications also becomes easier by making recertification a habit.
In my case, I schedule my recertification during the remaining 1 year when the 3-year validity period is left.
Although it may seem a waste to leave the remaining 1 year of validity unused, I consider this as a buffer period taking into account busy work periods and announcements of new certifications.

Obtaining all AWS certifications is not particularly challenging if you establish a habit of regular studying, taking exams, and passing. The validity of an AWS certification is three years.
In fact, there are several engineers around me who have already obtained all AWS certifications, and they have passed in a shorter interval than I recommend above.

Obtaining all AWS certifications is no longer a rarity and it has become like a norm for those who find value in it.
Therefore, if you have the budget, time, and motivation, you should not hesitate to take the challenge boldly.
Of course, even if you do not obtain all AWS certifications, I believe there is value in the process of passing each AWS certification and that experience will never be wasted.

Utilizing AWS Certification Beta Versions

New AWS certifications are released in a form called beta versions before they are officially added, and a period is set to solicit test-takers.
The characteristics of the AWS Certification Beta Versions include the following:
  • Examination fee is half price
  • Examination implementation period is about one month
  • Can only take the exam once during the implementation period
  • Passing announcement is approximately 90 days after the end of the beta test implementation period
  • If you pass the beta version, you will be treated as if you passed the official release
References:
Coming Soon to AWS Certification

Taking the beta version provides several advantages, such as the potential to pass new AWS certifications before the official version is released, and understanding the trend of questions even if you fail.
I believe that taking the AWS Certification Beta Versions would be beneficial in order to obtain and maintain (re-certify) all AWS certifications.

Summary

I have described the reasons for obtaining and continuously re-obtaining all AWS certifications (Advantages of AWS Certification), methods of studying for AWS certification, and the difficulty level of each AWS certification.
Although there may be skeptical views about obtaining AWS certification, as an individual, I strongly feel the benefits mentioned above by continuously obtaining all AWS certifications. It has become a foundation for deepening knowledge about AWS and expanding skills for utilizing AWS.

As a result, I am an engineer who has obtained all AWS certifications and belongs to a company participating in the AWS Partner Network (APN). Thus, I have received the "Japan AWS All Certifications Engineer" (formerly: APN ALL AWS Certifications Engineer), an award system by Amazon Web Services Japan G.K. (AWS Japan), every year from 2020 to the present.
In addition, I have also received the "Japan AWS Top Engineer" (formerly: APN AWS Top Engineer) annually from 2020 to the present, which honors significant achievements and activities that demonstrate technical prowess to the public beyond the company, including blogging, publishing books, giving presentations, and educational activities.

Thus, the learning of AWS services centered on AWS certification is indeed leading to the utilization of AWS and various external outputs.
As long as I can continue to find value in AWS certification, I intend to continuously obtain and re-obtain all AWS certifications.

Written by Hidekazu Konishi


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