If one thing is certain in IT, it’s never too late to cash in on the cloud. As the cloud becomes more critical to IT and the business at large, demand for cloud skills will only grow. But proving you have the right skills and knowledge in a competitive job market can be difficult. If you’re looking for an extra edge in landing a new job or promotion, cloud certification can be a great option.
Certifications measure knowledge and skills against industry benchmarks to help you prove to employers that you have the right mix of cloud skills, knowledge, and expertise. If you’re looking for more general, across-the-board knowledge, a vendor-neutral certification can provide a broad overview of key concepts and foundational expertise. If you’re looking to specialize, whether in your current job or because you’re angling to land a new role, consider specializing in one or more vendor-specific certifications, such as AWS or VMware.
No matter which direction you choose, cloud certifications are sure to take your career to the next level. Here’s our round-up of the most sought after cloud computing certifications you should consider.
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AWS Certified Solutions Architect
Amazon Web Services Certifications recognize IT professionals that possess the skills and technical knowledge necessary for designing, deploying, and operating applications and infrastructure on AWS. There are associate and professional level certifications aimed at architects, developers, and operations professionals, as well as specialty certs in big data and advanced networking. The AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate requires one or more years of hands-on experience designing with AWS, while the AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Professional builds on that cert with two years of hands-on experience.
How to prepare: Amazon offers study materials, practice exams and introductory, advanced and specialized courses and training on its website.
Certificate of Cloud Security Knowledge
The mother of all cloud computing security certifications, the Certificate of Cloud Security Knowledge certification is vendor-neutral and certifies competency in key cloud security areas. The test is based on the Cloud Security Alliance’s “Security Guidance for Critical Areas of Focus in Cloud Computing v3” and the ENISA’s “Cloud Computing Risk Assessment.”
Organization: Cloud Security Alliance
How to prepare: The best way to prepare is to study the CSA’s Security Guidance for Critical Areas of Focus in Cloud Computing v3, and the ENISA report “Cloud Computing Risks Assessment” (linked above).
Certified System Administrator in Red Hat OpenStack
Red Hat’s certification for System Administrators in Red Hat OpenStack measures professionals’ ability to design, build, deploy and manage private clouds based on the Red Hat OpenStack platform. IT pros with this certification can install and configure Red Hat OpenStack, manage users and projects, and manage storage using Swift and Cinder.
Organization: Red Hat
How to prepare: Red Hat says the best way to prepare for the exam is hands-on, real-world experience. The exam is also a live, real-world test of skills and competency, requiring candidates to perform tasks on a live system.
Cloud Certified Professional
CloudSchool.com offers a number of vendor-neutral cloud certifications, each based on a one-day course module and aimed at competency in specific areas of cloud computing. There are certificates for Cloud Architects, Cloud Technology Professionals, Cloud Governance, and Cloud Security, among others.
How to prepare: Cloud School offers self-study kits as well as on-site and remote workshops and study sessions and instructor-led workshops to help prepare applicants for the exams.
Cloud Credential Council
The Cloud Credential Council (CCC) is an international body that drives standards training and certification for cloud computing pros. The CCC is independent and vendor-neutral, and members come from the public sector and academic institutions, cloud providers, cloud consumers, cloud brokers, professional associations and international certification bodies from across the world. The certifications are geared toward cloud consumers, cloud vendors or cloud solutions and services providers who want to improve their skills in defining, choosing, building, operating and managing cloud services. Currently, CCC offers one Cloud Technology Associate certification and five Professional Level cloud certifications, ranging from the Professional Cloud Administrator to the Professional Cloud Solutions Architect.
Organization: Cloud Credential Council
How to prepare: The Cloud Credential Council offers courses and preparation material on its website.
Cloud Genius offers certifications in Cloud Technologies, Cloud DevOps, and Cloud Architecture and Design. The bootcamp-based program is heavily focused on hands-on experiential learning. The coursework requires twice-weekly on-campus attendance, as well as team collaboration on real-life projects. The program also offers a solid foundation in cloud technologies, modern devops practices and some basic programming in Ruby and Chef.
Organization: Cloud Genius
How to prepare: Each certificate requires, at minimum, 24 classroom hours (3 hours, twice a week for four weeks). In addition, the program directors suggest devoting additional time to view video lectures, working on group projects and practicing materials you've learned.
Cloud Institute Certifications
The Cloud Institute Certification program is based on the findings and recommendations of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) of the U.S. Department of Commerce, which is geared toward greater and faster cloud adoption in government and public service verticals. The program also includes a focus on security and privacy challenges. There are currently two online certification programs, Certified Cloud Architect and Certified Cloud Professional, and one open assessment available.
Organization: Cloud Institute
How to prepare: Cloud institute advises certification candidates to use the publications offered by the NIST as a basis for study, and to use the free open exam to identify areas where more work is needed. The Institute also recommends candidates have working experience in enterprise cloud technology, SOA design or development, cloud-related services and application- and/or storage-centric services.
According to Rackspace, CloudU is a vendor-neutral curriculum designed for IT professionals and business leaders that covers and certifies knowledge of the fundamentals of cloud computing. CloudU content is available to any professional at any time, but if you want a formal recognition of your knowledge about cloud computing, you should complete the courses and requirements for a certificate.
How to prepare: Study each CloudU lesson whitepaper, and then successfully complete each of 10 CloudU lesson quizzes based on the whitepaper’s content. Successfully complete a 50-question final exam drawn from materials covered in the 10 CloudU lessons.
CompTIA Cloud Essentials
According to CompTIA, the Cloud Essentials certification covers the basic fundamentals of cloud computing and shows that individuals understand cloud computing from both a business and a technical perspective. In addition, the certification covers migration to the cloud and governance of cloud computing environments.
Organization: Comp TIA
How to prepare: CompTIA offers study and training materials, and while it’s not required, CompTIA recommends that individuals taking the exam have at least six months experience working in an IT services environment.
Exin Cloud Computing Foundation
Exin offers two certification levels, Cloud Computing Foundation and Cloud Technologies Advanced. The programs cover the main cloud computing concepts as well as what's involved in planning, procurement and management. The certification is geared toward devops professionals responsible for making the business case for cloud solutions, evaluating vendors and systems and then integrating them with legacy technologies.
How to prepare: Exin offers exam preparation guides and sample exams as well as ebooks covering these concepts. These materials are available on Exin’s website.
Google Certified Professional Cloud Architect
The Google Certified Professional Cloud Architect certification is for professionals seeking to demonstrated that they can design, develop, and manage solutions using Google Cloud. The exam must be taken in person at one of Google’s testing centers. Real-world, hands-on experience is the best preparation, according to Google.
IBM Certified Cloud Solution Architect v2
IBM offers a number of cloud-specific certifications, including the IBM Certified Solution Architect v2. Solutions architects will demonstrate the design, plan, architecture, and management capabilities for IBMs cloud computing infrastructure once they’ve completed the certification requirements. According to IBM, the mission of the solution architect certification is to “Provide a reliable, valid and fair method of assessing skills and knowledge; provide IBM a method of building and validating the skills of individuals and organizations; and to develop a loyal community of highly skilled certified professionals who recommend, sell, service, support and/or use IBM products and solutions.”
How to prepare: You should have a working knowledge of key cloud computing fundamentals, as well as basic knowledge of IBM cloud computing essentials, and will be required to confirm that knowledge by passing a certification exam.
Salesforce has a number of certification tracks, including ones for Administrators, Developers, and Architects. The Certified Technical Architect credential is considered the pinnacle cert for those designing solutions for the Salesforce platform, and it builds on specializations, such as the Development Lifecycle and Deployment Designer certification, as well as domain architect credentials.
How to prepare: According to Salesforce.com, the certification tests real-world knowledge as much as book learning, and each certification track offers a variety of ways to prepare for the exams. There are individualized programs available aimed at every level of Salesforce professional.
VMware Certified Professional
VMware offers cloud-specific certifications, ranging from those targeted at associate level to expert. These tracks certify knowledge and expertise in a variety of cloud technologies and methodologies, including cloud management and automation, hybrid cloud, and advanced tracks for architects and admins and engineers.
How to prepare: Study and preparation materials are available through VMware, and real-world experience with cloud and virtualization are also highly recommended.