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8 Steps to the Ultimate AWS Certification Plan for 2021!

February 5, 2021 by Michael Forrester
Category: AWS

What are the 8 Steps to Creating the Ultimate Meaningful AWS Certification Plan in 2021?

Amazon AWS certification is HOT! With cloud now nearing 15 years old, there is now a strong push in even the most conservative companies that IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS in all its flavors are here to stay. In my engagements with Redhat, Thoughtworks, Booze Allen, and others, the cloud has always been a critical strategy.   Even in a more conservative manufacturing and distribution business, I have personally witnessed key initiatives to use AWS and cloud services in general as the primary way we approach infrastructure. To that end, this article provides a step-by-step guide to a meaningful Amazon AWS certification plan for 2021. What do I mean by meaningful?  I mean MORE than just passing the AWS Certification exam or certification of your choice, but the actual ability (not paper certification) to do on AWS what the AWS certification implies. Paper certifications weaken the industry and create mistrust between businesses that expect technical skills from tech workers when they claim these certifications. If you cannot architect on AWS, then why do you have the certificate? This Amazon AWS certification plan avoids that. Let’s get started!

Here Are the 8 Steps to Create the Ultimate Meaningful AWS Certification Plan for 2021!

steps to amazon aws certification
  • Step 1:  A Compelling Why!
  • Step 2:  Which Amazon AWS Certification?
  • Step 3:  Mapping out a plan
  • Step 4:  Schedule it to do it
  • Step 5:  Get more hands-on
  • Step 6:  Practice AWS Certification exam questions
  • Step 7:  Take the AWS Certification exam
  • Step 8:  Continual Mastery


This article is part of the “8 Steps to the Ultimate Amazon AWS Certification Plan” series.

Part 1 – In this article, we will take a look at the first 4 steps. Part 2 – We will provide a link to Part 2 here when it becomes available. Bookmark this page now!

Step 1: Have a Compelling Why!

Often when we start a new endeavor, we are all focused on the tools and the strategies. Do I have the right shoes? Where will I workout? What workout strategy will I follow? These are the right questions (in terms of certification and study), but they come second to the most crucial question of all… Why are you seeking expertise and Amazon AWS Certification? The who, when, what, how, and where all come second to that question. For myself, I wanted to further my technical capability, but I also wanted to teach, and that required certification. Since my primary mission in life is to elevate people when the opportunity arose, this not only fits with my technical mission of teaching, but it aligns with my core mission of advancing people when I can. So, step 1 is to find your compelling reason for achieving your Amazon AWS certification and expertise. Write that down if you haven’t done so as Step 1.


Which Amazon AWS Certification is Right for You?

Watch now and gain a starting point to choose your learning goal and get pointers on the knowledge requirements and which training to take to achieve your desired Amazon AWS Certification!

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Step 2: What Amazon AWS Certification are you going to do first?

You may say to yourself, why is this important? If I don’t have an Amazon AWS certification, wouldn’t I go for the lowest one? Namely, the Cloud Practitioner certification? Not necessarily! The cloud practitioner accreditation is genuinely for someone who has less than six months of fundamental knowledge of AWS cloud and industry knowledge. So, you wouldn’t necessarily start here unless you had never run a workload of any type in AWS and you were new to the industry. If you are a five year or above veteran in IT, then AWS Certififed Solutions Architect Associate or AWS Certified Developer Associate may be more appropriate, especially if you have some exposure to running workloads in AWS. Regardless, pick your path. This point is your destination. Write this Step 2 down.

What Are The AWS Certifications?

amazon aws certifications

Learn more about Amazon AWS Certifications and the AWS Certification Exams

  If you decide to go for a specialty AWS Certification exam directly, the recommendation is to take AWS Certified Solution Architect – Associate first and then go Specialty. AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate will give you broad context, which will help with the Specialty AWS Certification exams. My recommendation is to start there if you are chasing a Specialty accreditation and you have not run a workload on AWS before. Note also that you can jump straight to a Professional-level AWS Certification exam with no Associates a few years ago. Still, I would highly recommend that you have at least two years of deploying, designing, and supporting (depending on which Pro) before you go straight for those two Professional exams. If you don’t know where to start, start with Cloud Practitioner and go to AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate. This will give you a foundation to figure out what to chase next.

Step 3: Get Yourself a Map That Gives You a Plan.

AWS publishes a ramp-up guide to prepare for the certifications’ role or the technology, except two of them, below. Yes! This means AWS is giving access to all the free and paid resources to help you achieve an Amazon AWS certification, as well as the experience and expertise in AWS you require to be successful.

** Note – that these two guides are the same, but the difference is how far you go down the guide for associate versus professional. *** Note –  that Developer and Sysops both feed into DevOps Professional. **** I don’t know if AWS hates Networking or Alexa, but they have created many “extra” guides for, say, Media or Migration, but they don’t have their certifications covered. These are AWS Certification exam guides that do not nearly provide the value that the ramp-guides provide. All these links are here at http://bit.ly/ramp-up-guide. There are way more guides than I listed here, including IoT, Gaming, and more.

Step 4: Schedule Your Daily Study Time and Study.

Once you have your study guide for your destination, it will recommend specific web pages, white papers, and other training you need to prepare for the exam and the role the certification represents. Schedule this out! I learned this little gem in the last ten years. You will do what you have scheduled as long as the schedule has room for error. So, if the study guide says that you will need to read a ten-minute web page and then study a 2-hour whitepaper covering an Overview of AWS (Ramp-up Guide for Architect), you need to schedule some daily time, preferably 30 minutes a day, to study. How long will it take to achieve an Amazon AWS certification? My experience in helping hundreds of individuals certify on AWS varies widely depending on background and experience, but usually 20-40 hours of study and 30-60 hours of labs and projects.

Amazon AWS Certification Training Courses

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With these steps alone you have a plan for what and how to study, but to truly approach mastery for the role and the Amazon AWS certification you will need a little bit more. There’s a whole lot more to cover – keep an eye out for the next article in this series! Next up is how to get more hands-on experience, practicing for the AWS Certification exam, and staying relevant after you have achieved AWS certification. Stay tuned! End of Part 1!

Now It’s Your Turn!

Get started with Amazon AWS Certification Trainingtoday!

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