4 cloud certifications that will help you stand out

Software developers and other technology professionals often look to certifications to advance their careers or open doors to new job opportunities. Hiring managers use certification as an important screening tool to help them quickly identify candidates with the skills needed for a role. Whether you regularly use cloud technologies in your current role or you are looking to expand your skill set, holding one or more cloud certifications is a great way to stand out among a large pool of applicants. It also matters which cloud certs you hold, as some are more impactful than others.

Why cloud certifications matter

Cloud certifications impact the hiring process in a few ways. First and foremost, holding the right certifications enhances your credibility with the hiring manager. “Certifications provide validated proof of skills and knowledge,” says Armando Franco, director of business modernization services at TEKsystems, a global provider of technology and talent services.

“This is especially true when looking for a specific technical skill,” Franco says. Certifications from cloud providers such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, or Google Cloud Platform signal to employers that a candidate has met a high level of expertise, he says.

Certifications confirm an individual’s depth of knowledge in specific areas of cloud computing, such as architecture, development, security, and administration. “This validation is critical for gaining credibility and recognition in the tech community,” Franco says.

Having a certification can also give a job candidate an advantage in the market. “In a competitive job market where many people are available for work with similar job experiences, certifications can differentiate one candidate from another,” Franco says. “Getting certified requires staying up to date with the latest technologies and best practices. This continuous learning helps professionals grow and evolve, ensuring they remain competitive in the tech world.”

Certification helps you stand out

A 2023 survey of 135 professionals worldwide by the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) showed that more than half of the respondents said pursuing training and certifications helped them land a new job.

Certifications can often be tiebreakers between candidates with similar experiences, says Vit Koval, co-founder at Globy, a talent search firm that focuses on developers from Latin America and Europe.

“When it comes to the impact of cloud certifications on the hiring process, they serve as a significant indicator of a candidate’s dedication to their professional development and expertise in the cloud domain,” Koval says. “They reassure us that the candidate is up to date with the latest technologies and practices in cloud computing, which is critical in our fast-evolving tech landscape.”

Certification can lead to higher pay

Certified professionals often command higher salaries compared with their non-certified peers, Franco says, and they can help individuals gain credibility among their peers.

The CNCF survey showed that 36 percent of the respondents said they received higher pay as a result of completing a new training or certification.

“Of those who made more money, 53 percent received pay bumps of more than 11 percent,” says Christophe Sauthier, cloud native training and certification lead at CNCF. “In addition, cloud certifications can reinforce your membership within the cloud native community, especially for holders of multiple Kubernetes-related certifications.”

Certification is a stepping-stone for professional opportunities

Additionally, obtaining cloud certifications can be a stepping-stone for enhanced career opportunities and advancement within an organization, says Andy Baker, chief people officer at Nerdio, a provider of technology services and consulting.

“Our company supports professional development in this way by providing our engineers and sales engineers with access to a training platform, practice exams, and paying for certification fees,” Baker says. “Likewise, the certification builds an employer’s confidence that the individual possesses the knowledge and skills required to be considered for a role at a higher level.”

Benefits for hiring managers

From the perspective of hiring managers, cloud certifications can also be screening tools, acting as a filter to quickly identify candidates who have specific skills needed for a role.

“Cloud certifications can speed up the hiring process because they help us screen candidates for roles that require certain degrees of technical expertise,” says Jen Curry, senior vice president of managed services at IT services provider DataBank.

“Used in conjunction with technical tests, they provide a more accurate picture of the competencies a candidate has,” Curry says. “Not only this, but certifications also demonstrate the candidate’s dedication to professional development and their ability to work effectively with cloud technologies.”

Certifications also help with allocating human resources, Curry says, as different cloud certification reflects strengths and preferences in different areas.

“For instance, people who would like a cloud architect role may prioritize obtaining certifications such as the AWS Certified Solutions Architect or Azure Solutions Architect, as opposed to someone interested in a cloud security role who will have certifications like the AWS Certified Security Specialty or Azure Security Engineer,” Curry says.

Certifications and compliance

In some industries, particularly those that are heavily regulated, having certified professionals on staff is essential to meet legal or compliance requirements, Franco says. For consultancy roles or positions that involve managing IT infrastructure, certifications can help build trust with clients. “They assure that the professional adheres to best practices and compliance requirements,” he says.

Cloud certifications “become particularly compelling when they align with specific vendor requirements stemming from our partnerships, effectively serving as a bonus that not only benefits the candidate’s profile but also aids the organization in meeting its strategic objectives,” says Jesus Shelby, director of cloud services at IT services and consulting firm eGroup.

Platform specialization and competencies

At eGroup, which has a strong partnership with Microsoft, certifications specific to Microsoft technologies are particularly desirable. “They signal a candidate’s willingness to invest in their growth within this ecosystem and potentially fulfill program requirements tied to our Microsoft alignment,” Shelby says.

However, this preference doesn’t diminish the importance of certifications from AWS, Google, Cisco, or other providers, Shelby says. “These certifications suggest that while a candidate might need more time to adapt to our specific work requirements, they bring valuable experience and perspectives from competing or complementary technologies, enhancing our team’s versatility and problem-solving capabilities,” he says.

IT executives and teams can also benefit. “Having a team with certifications allows me to easily understand where our strengths and weaknesses lie,” says Kevin Miller, CTO of enterprise software provider IFS North America. “It allows me to compare our competencies with those of our competitors and the industry standards to ensure we remain competitive.”

Many IFS customers and partners “also recognize cloud certifications and we demonstrate our commitment to delivering solutions that meet the highest standards by hiring professionals with the right skills,” Miller says.

Certification is one piece of the puzzle

As with other technology certifications, cloud certifications alone will probably not get you hired—or even interviewed for a position.

“Certifications are one piece of a larger puzzle when it comes to making hiring decisions,” says Toby Brown, contract recruitment director at global workforce management firm Airswift. “I wouldn’t say that a certification alone would make me immediately want to set up an interview.”

Other important factors are corresponding work experience in an area that’s at least tangentially related to the job, and/or a college degree related to IT, technology in general, or the hiring company’s industry, Brown says.

“What I will say is that having a certification can make a candidate stand out from others who have similar work experience and education,” Brown says. “Since these programs are undertaken independently, having a certification shows the applicant is proactive and committed to continuous improvement and learning, which I always take as a positive sign.”

Seeing cloud certifications on a candidate’s resume “shows you the specific areas in which they have expertise,” Brown says. “There are a wide variety of platforms and skill sets within the broader field of cloud computing, and not every professional will have experience with all of them. Certifications are a way to niche down and gauge where the candidate fits within this broader landscape.”

Cloud certifications and continuous learning

Cloud certifications are one of many factors organizations take into account when hiring cloud talent, says Anay Nawathe, principal consultant with global technology research and advisory firm ISG.

“Because most cloud certifications, outside of ‘professional’ or ‘expert’-level certifications, do not require significant hands-on experience, the certifications do not translate to success in a given role and cannot land candidates a job,” Nawathe says. “However, cloud certifications are particularly valuable for entry- or mid-level candidates.”

All of the major software platforms also offer a range of certifications in their specific domains, which are desirable for companies using those systems, Brown says.

This includes certifications offered by AWS such as Certified SysOps Administrator, Certified Solutions Architect, or Certified Professional. Google also offers a similar array of certifications under the Google Certified Professional (GCP) program, Brown says, and the Microsoft Certified program offers certifications in Azure.

For many professionals, “cloud certifications are a valuable mechanism for continuous learning, allowing experienced individuals to learn about the latest services or specialize in specific cloud capabilities like security or machine learning via an industry-recognized and marketable channel,” Nawathe says.

In-demand cloud certifications

The cloud certifications IT managers are most frequently looking for are from the major cloud computing services: Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud. The following four were widely recommended.

AWS Certified Machine Learning—Specialty

The AWS Certified Machine Learning—Specialty certification helps organizations identify and develop talent with critical skills for implementing cloud initiatives, according to AWS. Earning this certification validates an individual’s expertise in building, training, tuning, and deploying machine learning (ML) models on AWS.

AWS Certified Solutions Architect—Professional

The AWS Certified Solutions Architect—Professional credential helps certified individuals showcase advanced knowledge and skills in providing solutions to complex problems; optimizing security, cost, and performance; and automating manual processes. The certification is a means for organizations to identify and develop talent with these critical skills for implementing cloud initiatives.

Google Certified Professional Cloud Architect

The Google Certified Professional Cloud Architect credential shows that an architect can design and plan an architecture for Google Cloud; manage and provision the cloud solution infrastructure; design for security and compliance; analyze and optimize technical and business processes; manage implementations of cloud architecture; and ensure solution and operations reliability.

Microsoft Certified: Azure Solutions Architect Expert

To achieve the Microsoft Certified: Azure Solutions Architect Expert certification, candidates must be able to demonstrate skills such as the ability to design solutions for identity, governance, and monitoring; data storage; business continuity; and infrastructure. Candidate must also have advanced knowledge of IT operations including networking, virtualization, identity, security, business continuity, disaster recovery, data platforms, and governance.

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