By Casey Wasserman
What’s the hottest area in tech? What skills are most IT pros searching for? What jobs are most in demand?
According to the 2017 Global Knowledge IT Skills and Salary Report, the answers are all the same: cloud, cloud, cloud.
One of the most popular sections of our annual Report is the list of the highest paying certifications. (Spoiler alert: AWS Certified Solutions Architect - Associate comes in third with an average North American salary of $119,085.) More generally, AWS Certified IT staff in the U.S. and Canada make 27.5 percent more than the industry average. Globally, it’s 22 percent more than the average for IT certifications and 25 percent more than non-certified IT staff.
Yes, there’s big money in AWS Certification, which tends to outpace other cloud certification salaries, but there’s more to the cloud than dollars and cents.
It’s not just about salary. There’s undeniable value in AWS Training.
How are AWS Certified professionals gaining their skills? Our Report shows 94 percent of AWS Certified IT professionals took training in the last year. The Report also noted that 78 percent of AWS Certified pros pursued certification-based training as opposed to the 53 percent of IT certified pros more generally. With so many AWS Certified professionals investing in training to build their skills, the value of training shouldn’t be overlooked. Many IT pros more generally are looking at how they can both learn skills and have those skills formally validated.
Build skills to maximize your cloud investment
To get a better sense of AWS Training, we asked five Global Knowledge AWS instructors and Subject Matter Experts to get their thoughts on our findings compared to what they see and hear in the classroom.
Our experts were all in agreement about the value of training and certification, especially when it comes to AWS. “Training jumpstarts the process of getting into the cloud, hopefully giving the student enough guidance to avoid foolish errors. Certification seeks to guarantee a common level of expertise, meaning that students and their organizations are not constantly ‘re-inventing the wheel,’” said Jon Gallagher, who holds both the AWS Certified DevOps Engineer - Professional and AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Professional certifications.
Richard Jones, who holds the AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Professional certification, was more forthright with his response: “Well, it’s one thing to use AWS; it’s another to use it effectively and in a way that creates an organized, secure, manageable and automated environment—all of which are covered in AWS Training courses.”
Then there’s also the fusion of heroism and validation. Dan Moore weighed in saying, “Depending on a student's level of expertise, AWS Training will let someone save the day by knowing about services provided by Amazon [Web Services] that can significantly lower operational efforts. Certification can also open up doors for jobs because AWS Certifications are no joke, and employers know that.” Dan can speak from personal experience as he holds three AWS Certifications at the Associate-level: AWS Certified Solutions Architect; AWS Certified Developer; and AWS Certified SysOps Administrator.
Because employers know the work that goes into the validation of skills through training and certification, it leads to a bigger financial payoff for those pursuing expertise in AWS technologies. Chad Smith, AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate, put it best when he said, “Certification proves you know how to do the job, and AWS [Certification] provides this better than most because you can't just memorize the documentation and pass.” These credentials require hands-on experience, practice and study prior to sitting for the exam.
Our experts have also seen how training and certification can help individuals and organizations with cost optimization in the cloud. “Cloud economics are different from traditional IT project and infrastructure economics. Project success depends on understanding the differences and architecting cloud solutions to meet financial goals,” said Chris Doucette, who holds all Associate-level certifications: AWS Certified Solutions Architect, Developer and SysOps Administrator.
In addition to a growing need for understanding cost optimization, one expert offered some practical advice: don’t get lost in the cloud. “It’s all just servers underneath,” said Dan Moore. “Sometimes it appears like magic, but way down there it's still physical infrastructure and sometimes the abstraction will bite you.” To best work with AWS, don’t shy away from gaining a thorough knowledge of servers.
The allure of cross-certification
Never let it be said that individuals who are AWS Certified are content to coast after an initial round of training. The Salary Report shows most of this professional demographic hold five certifications on average across all areas including infrastructure, systems-based roles and application development. According to the Report, 80 percent of AWS Certified respondents are currently involved in a certification track, and almost 60 percent of AWS Certified individuals obtained their most recent certification within the last year.
When asked about the value of cross-certification given the dominance of AWS in the cloud marketplace, our panel was largely in favor of pursing multiple certifications once an IT professional has a strong foundation in AWS principles.
“AWS is the biggest cloud provider with the most complete vision. The future is the cloud, not on-premises, so take the time to learn new skills while you still have a job. This is especially important for, especially for [entry-level] positions and those that aren’t needed (or at least far fewer needed) such as storage and virtualization administrators. Cross-certification on multiple clouds is a great idea as the landscape changes frequently, and many organizations are under some form of mandate to be in multiple clouds,” said John Hales, AWS Certified Architect - Associate and SysOps Administrator - Associate.
Jon Gallagher echoed those sentiments about AWS’ tenured status, “AWS is the leading public cloud provider and for the most part the source of innovation in the cloud. You should cross-certify once you have the skill set to create systems that leverage the cloud (e.g. micro-service, API-based, or serverless systems that scale), and you can begin to understand where each provider's strengths are.”
Bottom line: AWS Certified individuals should consider exploring new areas once they’ve achieved initial validation of their skills and knowledge in what is currently considered to be the gold standard of cloud technologies.
Three key areas for AWS skills growth
Chad Smith identified three key areas for skills growth for those seeking to take their work with AWS and the cloud to the next level: architecture, performance tuning and cost optimization. Our experts also agreed that the key to AWS is understanding the documentation and to be prepared for how quickly AWS changes.
After all, Smith said, “Migrating to the cloud is not a step function. It is a never ending journey of incremental improvement upon the implementation.” Change is inevitable, and that is why continuous training matters.
The message is clear: The best way to gain and maintain a foothold in the cloud is to learn the ins and outs of AWS through training and certification. Start today by contacting us about our AWS portfolio as well as our comprehensive cloud learning solution to help you choose providers and get a migration strategy in place.