Is the CKAD Worth It?
| devops - Erik Mikac

Is the CKAD Worth It?

Kubernetes has taken the DevOps world by storm — as well the programming, app management, and cloud native spaces. The main reason why? Kubernetes gives developers and granular control over how apps are managed and deployed.

It's obvious that Kubernetes is becoming a must-know technology for anyone who works in software development. One of the best ways to learn Kubernetes is to get certified. And finally, there's Kubernetes-specific certification available: Certified Kubernetes Application Developer (CKAD).

As anyone who has ever earned an IT certification knows, getting certified can be a long, arduous task. Let's take a look at what the CKAD is, who should pursue it, and whether it's worth pursuing.

CKAD Exam at a Glance

The CKAD was created to standardize the expected skill set of a Kubernetes application developer. The Linux Foundation partnered up with the Cloud Native Computing Foundation to create it back in 2018.

Those who earn this certification will be able to design, build, configure and expose cloud native applications for Kubernetes. Though the exam does not specifically test the candidate's knowledge on containerization, it's expected that they will be familiar with Docker and its runtime environment. With that being said, it is important to note that Kubernetes and Docker go hand-in-hand: Kubernetes was created to orchestrate a multitude of Docker containers.

The exam cost is $300 (USD) and 30 questions long. That may seem like a small amount of questions, but they are all performance-based scenarios. That means it's all hands on. You won't find multiple choice questions on the CKAD exam. The good news is test takers get a free retake — and many of concepts covered on the exam build off each other.

A candidate is expected to use the Kubernetes command-line interface to design and troubleshoot Kubernetes yaml files. The following domains are covered in the exam, along with a (very) brief description of the domains themselves.

  • Core Concepts. Understand how to create basic pods.
  • Configuration. Understand configMaps, Secret Injection, and application resource requirements.
  • Multi-Container Pods. Understand how to orchestrate a pod that houses more than one container.
  • Observability. Understand Liveness probes, Readiness probes, logging, and more.
  • Pod Design. Understand deployments and how to perform updates. Know how to set up cron jobs.
  • Services and Networking. Understand how services interact with containers.
  • State Persistence. Be familiar with persistent state volumes, and how to make storage claims.

Who Is the CKAD For

The CKAD is for any aspiring Kubernetes professional. Most exam takers are mid-level to high-level software developers, architects, and engineers. In other words, the CKAD is tailored for those who are going to be getting their hands dirty and writing code.

Kubernetes should already be part of your day-to-day workload before taking the CKAD exam. If you are an IT manager whose developers are working in the Kubernetes environment, this may be a certification you could look into. If you have never actually worked in a cluster environment before, this is probably not the right certification to get at this time, since it is not an entry-level certification.

Pros of Earning CKAD Certification

The main benefit to earning the CKAD is the potential salary you can command.The average salary for someone well-versed in Kubernetes is roughly $115,000.  Plus, there are a couple of other reasons why a CKAD will increase the likelihood of landing a good job.

First off, the Linux Foundation and the Cloud Native Computing Foundation are both highly recognized and respected organizations. A certificate from either of these organizations is a gold-standard in the IT community. Secondly, earning a certification in Kubernetes displays a level of ambition not found in most candidates. Lastly, if two candidates are equal in standing, having CKAD certification will give you an edge.

Another pro to getting a CKAD is that it sets you up for the next Kubernetes certificate: The Certified Kubernetes Administrator (CKA). This is a more advanced certification that builds upon what is already learned in CKAD. By getting the CKA, your organization has the potential to become a Kubernetes Certified Service Provider. An organization needs at least three CKAs to become a KCSP. By getting the CKAD and subsequently the CKA, you benefit your organization and make yourself even more valuable to your bosses.

A great salary, high prospects of landing a job, and groundwork for earning the CKA are all excellent reasons for getting the CKAD. Now, let's take a look at why you may want to hold off on getting the CKAD certificate.

Potentials Cons of Getting CKAD-Certified

Perhaps the biggest downside to taking the CKAD, or any other exam for that matter, is the opportunity cost of taking and studying for the exam. For instance, this may not be the best place to start if you were a COBOL developer looking for ways to branch out into a new profession. It would be better to study for an AWS Cloud Practitioner cert or the The Linux Foundation Certified IT Associate (LFCA). These exams will assist in either getting a lateral transfer in your organization, or striking out into a new career elsewhere. The CKAD, on the other hand, is for those who already have a fair amount of experience with Kubernetes.

The last con, and this is very subjective, is that Kubernetes may not be in vogue for long. Kubernetes might get replaced by a bigger, better, and sleeker container orchestration framework. If it does, then the CKAD will be worth the paper it is printed on. Luckily, Kubernetes is gaining traction and more users everyday, so it is likely here to stay. However, these are the sorts of questions you need to ask yourself before taking the time and money needed to earn a certification.

Final Thoughts

Kubernetes is a fast growing and highly sought after skill. Whether or not it is worth it is fairly subjective. However, many companies need trained Kubernetes professionals and are willing to pay top dollar to hire them. It is no secret that the exam is difficult, but earning the CKAD is an excellent way of delivering value to your organization — and will be a great source of personal pride. Those two points make earning CKAD certification a worthwhile pursuit.

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