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The Ultimate Guide to Cloud Certification in 2024

Cloud computing has quickly become the backbone of modern businesses, but most businesses lack the skills and cloud certifications to capitalize on the cloud. Nearly 75% of IT decision-makers report gaps in IT staff skills, and the gap is only growing wider.

“Over the next few years, cloud computing will continue to evolve from being an innovation facilitator to a business disruptor and, ultimately, a business necessity,” say the experts at Gartner.

One of the best ways to jump on this trend is by securing a cloud certification—it’s essentially a badge that validates your skills and helps you stand out in the job market. This is a chance to learn valuable skills, advance your career, and set yourself up with job security for the foreseeable future.

Below, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about cloud certifications to find the best options on the market and help you climb the career ladder in the fast-evolving world of cloud computing.

What is cloud certification?

A cloud certification is a professional credential that validates an individual’s expertise and skills in cloud computing technologies and services. It typically involves passing an exam that tests knowledge of specific hyperscaler cloud platforms, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, or Google Cloud Platform (GCP).

These certifications are often offered by the cloud service providers themselves or by independent organizations specializing in IT certification. Cloud certifications can enhance career prospects, demonstrate proficiency to employers, and help professionals stay current with rapidly evolving cloud technologies.

Benefits of cloud certification

While there’s a growing IT-skills gap, that doesn’t mean the industry isn’t competitive. You’ll still need to do your part to stand out from other candidates.

Here’s how cloud certifications help you do that:

  • Career advancement: Cloud computing certifications boost your career prospects by making your resume stand out to potential employers. They prove you have the skills to handle complex cloud environments. Certified professionals often find it easier to secure promotions and higher-level positions.

  • Skill validation: These certifications formally acknowledge your cloud computing skills. They demonstrate to employers and peers that you have the technical competencies to design, deploy, and manage cloud solutions.

  • Increased marketability: Holding a cloud certification increases your value in the job market. Employers are more likely to hire certified professionals because they trust the standards set by reputable certifying bodies. This trust translates to better job opportunities and potentially higher salaries.

  • Networking opportunities: A cloud computing certification often grants access to exclusive communities, forums, and events. These networking opportunities can connect you with other cloud computing professionals in the field, opening doors to collaborations and job opportunities.

Types of cloud certifications

You’ll find cloud certifications for varying roles and expertise levels. Here are a few of the main categories:

Vendor-specific certifications

These certifications are offered by cloud service providers and focus on their specific platforms. Some of the most popular vendor-specific certifications include:

  • Amazon Web Services (AWS): Certifications such as AWS Certified Solutions Architect, AWS Certified Developer, and AWS Certified SysOps Administrator.

  • Microsoft Azure: Certifications like Microsoft Certified: Azure Fundamentals, Azure Administrator Associate, and Azure Solutions Architect Expert.

  • Google Cloud Platform (GCP): Options include Google Associate Cloud Engineer, Professional Cloud Architect, and Professional Data Engineer.

Role-based certifications

Role-based certifications meet specific job functions within cloud computing. They help individuals specialize in particular areas by providing the skills needed for more specific roles. Common role-based certifications include:

  • Cloud architect: Focuses on designing and implementing cloud solutions.

  • Cloud developer: Concentrates on developing applications and services for the cloud.

  • Cloud administrator: Emphasizes managing and maintaining cloud environments.

  • Specialized roles: Includes certifications for security, DevOps, and data science roles within the cloud.

General certifications

General cloud certifications cover broader cloud computing concepts and practices. They’re an excellent option for individuals looking for a comprehensive understanding of the field. These certifications are often platform-agnostic and provide foundational knowledge that applies across different cloud services. Examples include:

  • Certified Cloud Security Professional (CCSP)

  • CompTIA Cloud+

  • Cloud Credential Council (CCC) Cloud Technology Associate

5 best cloud certification providers

A quick search for cloud certifications will lead you down an endless rabbit hole that provides more questions than answers:

  • What courses are legitimate?

  • Which certifications offer the most value?

  • Do companies and hiring managers prefer certain providers?

  • What are the prerequisites for each certification?

  • Which certification aligns best with my career goals?

  • Are all certifications created equally?

We’ll help you navigate these questions. We’ve narrowed down the leading cloud certification providers based on their industry recognition, comprehensive training programs, and overall value.

1. Amazon Web Services (AWS)

AWS certifications validate the expertise of cloud professionals in using AWS services. Employers who build their products on AWS like to see candidates with these types of certifications.

Popular cloud certifications:

  • AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate: Validates your ability to design and deploy scalable systems on AWS. It covers architectural best practices, cloud cost management, and application deployment. It’s ideal for cloud architects and solution architects who want to demonstrate proficiency in AWS architecture.

  • AWS Certified Developer – Associate: Focuses on developing and maintaining applications on the AWS platform. It includes topics like AWS SDKs, debugging, and application lifecycle management. It’s suited for software developers working on AWS-based applications.

  • AWS Certified SysOps Administrator – Associate: Confirms your expertise in deploying, managing, and operating systems on AWS. It covers monitoring, automation, and security concepts. It’s best for system administrators and operations personnel managing AWS environments.

  • AWS Certified Solutions Architect—Professional: Verifies your ability to design complex AWS architectures. It covers advanced topics like hybrid architectures, multi-tier applications, and cost optimization. It’s designed for experienced cloud architects who want to deepen their AWS expertise.

2. Microsoft Azure

Microsoft Azure’s certification program provides a foundational understanding of cloud services and how Microsoft Azure operates. Courses cover entry-level topics and everything related to Microsoft’s cloud platform.

Popular cloud certifications:

  • Microsoft Certified: Azure Fundamentals: Provides a foundational understanding of cloud services and how Microsoft Azure operates. It covers core Azure services, security, privacy, compliance, and trust. It’s perfect for individuals to start their journey in cloud computing and understand the basics of Microsoft Azure.

  • Microsoft Certified: Azure Administrator Associate: Focuses on managing Azure cloud services. It covers implementing, monitoring, and maintaining Microsoft Azure solutions, including major services related to cloud compute, storage, network, and security. It’s a great option for administrators who manage cloud services within Microsoft Azure.

  • Microsoft Certified: Azure Solutions Architect Expert: Validates your expertise in designing and implementing solutions on Microsoft Azure. It covers advanced topics like networking, virtualization, identity, security, business continuity, disaster recovery, data platforms, and governance. It’s designed for experienced IT professionals who design and implement solutions on Microsoft Azure.

  • Microsoft Certified: Azure DevOps Engineer Expert: Confirms your ability to combine people, processes, and technologies to deliver valuable products and services. It includes DevOps development processes, continuous integration, continuous delivery, dependency management, and application infrastructure. It’s best for professionals involved in DevOps practices (including developers and IT operations professionals).

3. Google Cloud Platform (GCP)

Google Cloud Platform’s certification programs provide a strong framework for professionals looking to advance their careers in cloud computing (especially in Google’s cloud services).

Popular cloud certifications:

  • Google Cloud Digital Leader: Validates your knowledge of the foundational principles of cloud computing and how to use Google Cloud products and services. It covers digital transformation, cloud infrastructure, application modernization, and data management. It’s ideal for individuals in non-technical roles who need to understand the capabilities of Google Cloud.

  • Google Associate Cloud Engineer: Demonstrates your ability to deploy applications, monitor operations, and manage enterprise solutions. It covers configuring access and security, managing cloud resources, and deploying and monitoring applications. It’s great for individuals who plan to work on the Google Cloud Platform.

  • Google Professional Cloud Architect: Focuses on designing and planning cloud solution architecture. It covers designing and planning a cloud solution architecture, managing and provisioning the cloud solution infrastructure, and guaranteeing solution and operations reliability. It’s best for experienced architects who design and manage solutions on Google Cloud Platform.

  • Google Professional Cloud Developer: Confirms your ability to build scalable and highly available applications. It includes topics like application monitoring, cloud performance testing, and deployment strategies. It’s a good fit for developers who build and maintain cloud-native applications on GCP.

4. IBM Cloud

IBM Cloud’s certification program teaches everything from cloud computing and infrastructure management fundamentals to advanced topics like AI integration, data analytics, and cybersecurity best practices.

Popular cloud certifications:

  • IBM Certified Technical Advocate - Cloud v3: Confirms your ability to engage with clients and provide technical guidance on IBM Cloud solutions. It covers cloud architecture, cloud services, and client requirements. It’s ideal for professionals who interact with clients and need to demonstrate a deep understanding of IBM Cloud offerings.

  • IBM Certified Solution Architect - Cloud Pak for Data v4.x: Focuses on designing and planning solutions using IBM Cloud Pak for Data. It covers data integration, data governance, and AI lifecycle management. It’s best for solution architects who design and implement data solutions on the IBM Cloud.

  • IBM Certified Application Developer - Cloud Platform v2: Verifies your ability to develop and maintain applications on the IBM Cloud Platform. It covers cloud-native development, containerization, and DevOps practices. It’s for developers who build and manage applications on IBM Cloud.

  • IBM Certified Solution Advisor - Cloud Pak for Automation v20.0.1: Validates your expertise in recommending and planning IBM Cloud Pak for Automation solutions. It includes topics like business automation, workflow management, and decision management. It’s designed for professionals who advise clients on automation solutions using IBM Cloud technologies.

5. Oracle Cloud

Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI) provides certifications for next-generation skills in managing infrastructure in the cloud. Certifications cover cloud architecture, cloud database management, application development, cloud security, and advanced networking solutions.

Popular cloud certifications:

  • Oracle Cloud Infrastructure Foundations Associate: Provides a foundational understanding of Oracle Cloud Infrastructure services. It covers basic OCI services, foundational OCI concepts, and core OCI services. It’s excellent for individuals starting their cloud journey and looking to gain a solid understanding of OCI.

  • Oracle Cloud Infrastructure Architect Associate: Focuses on designing and implementing solutions on Oracle Cloud Infrastructure. It covers OCI core services, security, and network infrastructure. It’s best for professionals who architect and manage solutions on Oracle Cloud.

  • Oracle Cloud Infrastructure Developer Associate: Confirms your ability to develop and deploy applications on Oracle Cloud Infrastructure. It covers OCI developer services, deployment automation, and cloud-native development. It’s a fit for developers who build applications using Oracle Cloud services.

  • Oracle Cloud Infrastructure Architect Professional: Validates your ability to design complex solutions on Oracle Cloud Infrastructure. It covers advanced topics such as advanced cloud networking, hybrid cloud solutions, and multi-cloud strategies. It’s designed for experienced cloud architects looking to deepen their expertise in Oracle Cloud.

Different certification paths and career roles

Whether you’re a developer, an architect, or someone looking to specialize in security, there’s a certification for you. Think about what excites you most and where you see your career heading. Here are some different certification paths and the career roles they support.

Cloud architect

Cloud architects design and implement cloud solutions that meet organizational scalability, security, and performance requirements. They work closely with stakeholders to create cloud architectures that align with business goals.

Cloud engineer

Cloud engineers design, develop, and maintain cloud-based applications. They use cloud-native technologies and frameworks to build scalable applications.

Cloud administrator

Cloud administrators manage and maintain cloud infrastructure for optimal performance, security, and availability. They handle tasks such as provisioning, monitoring, and troubleshooting cloud resources.

DevOps engineer

DevOps engineers bridge the gap between development and operations. They focus on automation, integration, and continuous delivery. They streamline the software development lifecycle and guarantee efficient deployment.

Data engineer

Data engineers design, build, and maintain data pipelines and infrastructure. They make data accessible, reliable, and ready for analysis to support data-driven decision-making processes.

Security specialist

Security specialists protect cloud environments from threats and vulnerabilities. They implement security measures, conduct risk assessments, and maintain compliance with regulatory standards.

This is by no means a comprehensive list of cloud career paths, but it should give you a starting point in considering your future.

How to prepare for cloud certification exams

Found the right cloud certification? Now, it’s time to earn it. Here’s how to prepare for your cloud certification exam to pass it the first time:

1. Understand the exam structure and content

Familiarize yourself with the exam structure and content. Each certification exam will have specific topics and formats, so make sure you know what to expect. Check the official certification page for detailed exam guides. AWS, Azure, Google Cloud, and other providers offer comprehensive exam blueprints that outline the topics covered.

2. Use official training resources

Most cloud providers offer official training resources for their certification exams. These resources are a great starting point for your preparation. Use hands-on labs to practice real-world scenarios. Platforms like AWS Cloud Labs, Microsoft Learn Sandbox, and Qwiklabs for Google Cloud offer interactive labs.

3. Supplement with third-party resources

Websites like Coursera, Udemy, and A Cloud Guru offer courses specifically designed for cloud certifications. These often include video lectures, quizzes, and practice exams.

4. Join study groups and online communities

Join study groups and online communities to share knowledge, ask questions, and get support. Sites like Reddit, Stack Overflow, and official cloud provider forums have active communities where you can discuss exam topics and share resources.

Schedule your exam and create a study plan

Set a date for your exam and work backward to create a realistic study plan. Set aside regular study sessions and stick to your schedule. Short, focused study sessions work better than long, occasional ones.

5. Practice, review, and revise

Simulate the exam environment with timed practice tests. Review your answers and understand any mistakes. Go over key concepts and areas you found challenging. Use flashcards, summaries, and mind maps to reinforce your knowledge.

Build on the cloud with DigitalOcean

While cloud certifications can be valuable, DigitalOcean offers a simpler path to mastering cloud infrastructure. Our user-friendly platform allows you to learn and grow your skills hands-on, without the need for formal certifications.

At DigitalOcean, we provide:

You can dive right into building and managing your cloud infrastructure. Our straightforward products make it easy to get started:

  • Droplets: Scalable virtual machines for hosting websites and apps

  • Kubernetes: Managed container orchestration for complex applications

  • App Platform: Fully managed PaaS for deploying and scaling apps

  • Spaces: S3-compatible object storage for your data and assets

  • Managed Databases: Worry-free database hosting for MySQL, PostgreSQL, and more

Start your cloud journey today with DigitalOcean. No certification required—just your curiosity and willingness to learn. Explore our resources and create your first project to experience the simplicity and power of our cloud platform.

Sign up with DigitalOcean today to start exploring our cloud solutions.

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