Is the AWS Solutions Architect – Associate Worth It?
| certifications | cloud - Ross Heintzkill

Is the AWS Solutions Architect – Associate Worth It?

Amazon Web Services (AWS) is easily one of the most pervasive technologies in the world. It's hard to imagine a company or organization in any industry that doesn't need solutions that AWS provides. That's why the men and women who are trained and certified in using AWS to implement technical solutions for an organization are becoming some of the most valuable resources any company can have.

An AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate is someone certified by Amazon in dreaming up, designing and deploying secure and reliable applications in AWS. Someone with their AWS Solutions Architect – Associate can be trusted to uncover the right tools for the job – they can be trusted to get to the bottom of a hairy technical implementation problem and make it go right. Earning the AWS Solutions Architect – Associate will prove your AWS competence.

What is the AWS Solutions Architect – Associate?

The AWS Solutions Architect – Associate is a certification straight from AWS that validates individuals who are able to plan and design custom AWS solutions for an organization. Like the name suggests, a certified Solutions Architect Associate understands AWS well enough to envision what a company needs from the platform, then can lay out how to go about building the architecture while anticipating potential problems. The certification's emphasis is on designing resilient, high-performance, secure, and cost-optimized architectures.

The AWS Solutions Architect – Associate is a certification for IT professionals whose job responsibilities include looking at an organization's "big picture" and dreaming up creative solutions. Many organizations don't realize how many of their problems could be solved with a clever application of AWS tools and opportunities. Certified Solutions Architects recognize what their organization needs, think about what AWS tools and resources could provide it, and plan the architecture which will make it possible.

Earning the AWS Solutions Architect – Associate certification requires passing only one exam: the SAA-C02 exam.

What Does the AWS Solutions Architect – Associate Test?

The SAA-C02 is the lone necessary exam for earning the AWS Solutions Architect – Associate certification. There are four major sections of the exam, which AWS refers to as "Domains".

  • Domain 1: Design Resilient Architectures
  • Domain 2: Design High-Performing Architectures
  • Domain 3: Design Secure Applications and Architectures
  • Domain 4: Design Cost-Optimized Architectures

It's notable that two words appear in each domain: "design" and "architectures". Obviously, each domain's internal content of resilience, scalability, security, and cost are important, but the overall emphasis of the certification is the ability to take all those factors into account when designing holistic architectural solutions.

How Much Does the AWS Solutions Architect – Associate Exam Cost?

It costs $150 to take the AWS Solutions Architect – Associate (Exam SAA-C02), and it's the only exam you need to pass in order to earn the AWS Solutions Architect – Associate certification. AWS has removed prerequisites for all its certs, so if you feel ready to take the exam, $150 is the total cost.

Although the AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner certification does come earlier in AWS' recommended certification track – and having it may help you with the SAA-C02 – it's not a prerequisite.

What Experience Do You Need for the AWS Solutions Architect – Associate?

AWS recommends at least one year of hands-on experience before attempting the AWS Solutions Architect – Associate certification exam. In their own words, a candidate should have one year of experience "designing available, cost-effective, fault-tolerant, and scalable distributed systems on AWS." The SAA-C02 tests a broad array of hands-on knowledge related to designing AWS architectures and optimizing them on a case-by-case basis.

Probably not surprisingly, two of the most important things you'll need to pass the AWS Solutions Architect – Associate are familiarity and comfort with AWS services. AWS has compute, networking, storage and database services that successful candidates will need to know very well. In addition to that, you'll want to know AWS deployment and management tools and services.

Much of the exam covers practical, working knowledge of AWS services and tools. But technical knowledge of AWS applications and what services meet given technical requirements is also necessary. Last, having a good sense of architectural principles – not just of building in the AWS Cloud, but also of the AWS and non-AWS global networking infrastructure – is vital to passing the SAA-C02.

Who Should Take the AWS Solutions Architect – Associate?

The AWS Solutions Architect – Associate certification isn't AWS' entry-level certification, and they recommend at least one year of hands-on experience before attempting the exam. The certification is probably best suited for solutions architects early in their career, network architects, and systems administrators who are responsible for a wide array of responsibilities.

AWS Solutions Architect – Associate for Solutions Architects

If you already hold the job title of "Solutions Architect", but haven't yet earned your AWS Solutions Architect – Associate, kudos to you. If you've been holding the position for several years, it actually may be that you don't need the Associate-level certification, and AWS' Professional-level cert is right for you. But if you're relatively new to the job of Solutions Architect and you feel like the foundational certification, AWS Solutions Cloud Practitioner, is too easy or generic for you, the Associate is how you can prove and validate your skills in AWS.

If you've already been working as a Solutions Architect, you should go to the AWS website and look through their practice questions and exam outline. Exam prep like that might illustrate parts of the job you might've looked over so far. Maybe there are tools and services you excel at, and other tools that you know about but haven't ever had the chance to use. The certification is the perfect way to demonstrate that your rough edges are rounded out and you have a solid grip on all AWS' services.

AWS Solutions Architect – Associate for Network Architects

For network architects, the AWS Solutions Architect – Associate certification should be a no-brainer. If your job responsibilities include – in any way – identifying or defining technical requirements for computational, storage, networking or database problems, this cert is AWS' way of guaranteeing that you know every AWS solution to every potential problem.

With the AWS Solutions Architect – Associate, your employer (or future employer) can be confident that you understand AWS' suite of tools and services, and that you know how to combine them together with their company's unique problems.

AWS Solutions Architect – Associate for Systems Administrator

The AWS Solutions Architect – Associate is pretty specifically aimed at IT professionals working with a wide array of AWS tools and services to address a company's diverse problems. If you work for a relatively smaller company or organization as one of the few – or only – systems administrators on staff, the associate-level AWS certificate could help make sure you're broadly capable and familiar with all the ways AWS can help your organization.

There are other AWS Cloud certifications to consider if the AWS Solutions Architect – Associate is too broad. But if you're a systems administrator with broad – and maybe poorly defined – job responsibilities, it's a good certification for making sure you know AWS' ins and outs.

Is the AWS Solutions Architect – Associate Worth It?

It's a pretty fair bet to say that the AWS Solutions Architect – Associate certification is well worth the time, effort and money that would go into earning it. While it may not be perfect for highly experienced and specialized IT professionals, for architects or sysadmins who do or could work every day with AWS, it's a great cert. If it's already your job to solve problems and implement solutions using AWS Cloud, it's one of the best certs for making sure – and stating clearly – that you know every aspect of AWS' many tools and services.

Using AWS Solutions Architect – Associate to Learn Skills

Since the cert is basically a test of your knowledge of all things AWS, studying and preparing for the AWS Solutions Architect – Associate exam – SAA-C02 – is a great way to identify what areas of AWS you're familiar with, and which areas you might be lacking in.

Maybe you're the office's go-to person for setting up compute services, but you've never had to work with storage. As you proceed through prep for the certification exam, you'll spot all your weak areas and get the chance to work on them.

Using AWS Solutions Architect – Associate to Validate Skills

The other obvious reason people have for earning certs is to prove or validate their skills in an area. The AWS Solutions Architect – Associate is an industry standard for validating someone as a highly skilled AWS operator. The certification exam covers every aspect of planning and implementing AWS services for any number of diverse problems. With the cert in hand, you'll be recognized as a reliably competent AWS guru.

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