Solution Architect vs Developer Associate
AWS Certified Developer and the AWS Certified Solutions Architect exam are associate-level certification exams offered by AWS — and are popular first exam choices for IT pros who want to transition into cloud-related careers.
If you are new to the cloud or the AWS ecosystem, it can be confusing to pick the best starting point. And despite their names, these certificates alone won't help you get a job as a solution architect or a developer. The good news is the skills you develop as you prepare for the exams can open a variety of career paths for you.
While there is an overlap of topics between AWS Certified Developer and the AWS Certified Solutions Architect exams, there are meaningful differences between these two exams — and how they help further your career in the cloud. This article will help you pick the right first exam for your career goals.
Choosing the Right AWS Exam
There are a combination of factors that will help you decide which AWS certification to pursue first. The most important ones are your current skill set and your desired career.
Both the solutions architect and developer exams test your knowledge of core AWS services and best practices. However, these exams are sufficiently different in many regards. Also, both exams help you build foundation for a range of AWS careers spanning from hands-on development work to advisory role.
If you have experience with traditional IT functions such as networking, security, server management, Linux or Windows administration, your background will help you understand how these services work. In this case, the solutions architect exam would be a better place to start as your experience will help you understand how cloud environments operate, which is one of the key topics in the exam.
On the other hand, if you have experience with scripting, programming or performing QA activities, the developer associate exam is the better choice for you. While preparing for this exam, you will learn about the developer tools that AWS offers — and build confidence in building using AWS.
In general, if you have experience writing code, you should prepare for the developer exam as it will help you gain familiarity of tools needed to develop and deploy solutions in AWS. If you are interested in pursuing a career as a cloud engineer or cloud architect, the AWS solutions architect exam will help you build the foundation needed for those careers.
Factor in Your Career Goals
Regardless of your background, you might have specific career goals that motivate you to learn AWS, which can help you select the right AWS exam for you.
If you are more interested in writing code, there are several jobs that require varying ranges of programming or coding skills. These include writing serverless functions and programmatically managing AWS resources. If this interests you, you should prepare for the developer exam. As you prepare for the developer exam, you can consider careers related to cloud automation, DevOps, and development.
If you are more interested in the big picture and working with a range of AWS offerings, you should study for the solutions architect exam. As you prepare for the solutions architect exam, you will develop an understanding of key topics such as how users and AWS services get authorized to use AWS services, building optimal AWS architectures. The knowledge you gain while preparing for the solutions architect exam can lead to roles in AWS operations, governance, and administration.
Consider your Personality
Finally, if you do not have a specific career objective, you should understand your temperament which can help you choose a career path which can then help you decide on which of the solutions architect or the developer exam might be the best starting point for you.
If you are able to digest a lot of information across several topics, you should first attempt the solutions architect exam. As you prepare for the exam you will learn how to design highly-available, performant, elastic and cost-effective enterprise-grade architecture.
But if you desire roles that allow you to specialize, you should first sit for the Developer exam. You will learn how to develop, deploy and monitor applications in AWS without diving deep into operations and governance.
In preparing for either the developer or the solutions architect exam, you learn valuable skills that will prepare you for several positions in cloud computing as long as you approach the exams smartly. This approach includes working on hands-on projects, reading AWS whitepapers and similar publications, understanding AWS' well architected framework, and building a holistic understanding of AWS services and best practices.
Are AWS Developer Exams Difficult?
Another consideration before deciding between the solutions architect and developer exams is their difficulty. The AWS Developer exam is predominantly fact-based, whereas the AWS Solutions Architect exam focuses on scenario-based questions.
Several questions on the solutions architect exam force you to think through the prompt and select the most accurate answer, and this requires understanding of the breadth of AWS services and how they interact with each other. Taking the developer exam can actually be a part of preparation for the solution architect exam, as it familiarizes you with time management and the exam format for AWS certification exams.
A career in cloud computing can be very rewarding and there are several ways to gain skills that will help you to build a career in cloud computing. AWS certifications can be a great way to learn and demonstrate your skills in cloud.
If you carefully evaluate your current skill set and your career goals, you can pick the exam that will help you benefit the most. If you do not have a career goal in mind, you should consider if you want to be a generalist or a specialist as you progress during your career.