AWS Certified Solutions Architect: a Study Log

In this post, I want to explain my motivations to get the ‘AWS Certified Solutions Architect’ certification and the value it provides. I also want to start a study log to help future students in the preparation.

The AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate is a certification by AWS targeted to candidates with distributed systems experience and interested in designing solutions in the cloud. You can read more about it in the link.

I decided to get the certification after I joined Amazon and started to use AWS more and more often.

How to prepare

I plan to spend about 3 months to study for the certification. As I will be also working full-time, I will reserve time for studying on weekends, mostly.

Usually, for a project for this size, I start making up a study plan to track my progress and cover all the exam objectives. For this particular exam though, there is an excellent official study guide, a book recommended by many colleagues in Amazon.

The study guide is written by internal AWS architects and aims at preparing a candidate specifically for the exam. It includes 14 chapters covering different AWS technologies and architectural best practices. At the beginning of each chapter, there is a list of the exam objectives covered in the chapter. At the end of the chapter, there is a handy summary, a list with the essential points for the exam, exercises to strengthen the learned concepts, and review questions to test your understanding. Furthermore, the book comes with access to an online portal containing an assessment test, mock exams, and additional study resources.

All in all, the study guide is a terrific resource and, alongside with the AWS documentation linked in the text, makes up the complete dataset to prepare for the exam.

A study log

So why am I writing this blog post? The main reason is to put together a study log that will help future students in their preparation. For example, questions such as “How long will it take?”, “What roadblocks will I encounter?”, and “How can I study to achieve a good score?” will all be answered. This material is really rare on the web and I think it makes sense to share.

As I write this post, I have been studying for a week and I managed to go through the introduction and the first chapter. I plan to finish the 14 chapters in about two months and leave one month for the review and the exam.

Let me know down in the comments if you are interested in any specific topic.

Why becoming AWS Certified Solutions Architect?

When talking about certifications, many developers consider them useless. They think certifications do not prove your expertise in the technology. Some developers go even further and think that, if you have time to waste on a certification, you probably don’t have else much to offer.

Although there is some truth in these arguments, I think such developers miss the main points of certifications, and those are:

  • It demonstrates motivation and passion: it is harder to obtain a certification than casually reading tech articles on the web or leaving your next side project unfinished.
  • It forces you to learn the foundations of a technology: not only the bits you fancy.
  • It is an objective proof of some value: although the value might not be as high as the certification title leads to believe.

In my case, I decided to get the certification because of the second point. I have a general understanding of some of the core AWS services such as EC2 and Route53 but I played very little with others such Kinesis and CloudFront. I hope the certification gives me solid foundations in these areas.

Another benefit of a certification is the resume-booster effect. Certifications might not prove deep levels of expertise but they still add the 3 above-mentioned points to your resume. And I heard some consultancy positions require the certification (but I haven’t proved this claim yet).

So what do you think about certifications? Let me know down in the comments.