Few would argue that cloud certifications are on the rise. There's an increasing number of job opportunities for those with skills in cloud architecture and infrastructure for both Amazon AWS and Azure. A recent market report highlighted that cloud giant Amazon's AWS certification will net you a guaranteed $100K a year salary in the US (the equivalent of £70K in the UK).
Let's take a look at both...
The AWS platform now comprises a number of exceptional suites and tools with the most popular being EC2 hosting, S3 Content Delivery and Dynamo DB. It's possible to develop, build and scale powerful applications entirely in AWS using a range of mature frameworks and SDK's.
The Amazon AWS certification lends itself nicely to a wide range of tech professionals simply because it welcomes a range of languages and platforms such as .NET, PHP, Java and both Linux and Windows operating systems.
Closely followed by Microsoft's Azure certification, the AWS Certification is a relatively new addition in the certification world; infact it's only been going since 2013. AWS is certainly picking up steam through and there are now five certifications to choose from:
- AWS Certified Solutions Architect - Associate
- AWS Certified Solutions Architect - Professional
- AWS Certified Developer - Associate
- AWS Certified SysOps Administrator - Associate
- AWS Certified DevOps Engineer - Professional
The most popular of these is the Solutions Architect path followed by the Dev, SysOps and DevOps certs - which could explain the ordering on the AWS website. Exams are open to anyone but there's a clear set of expected experience and skill levels that you should meet before attempting them.
Details for all AWS exams can be found at: https://aws.amazon.com/certification/
Let's take a look at the trends for AWS...
Percentage of Jobs Over Time
The number of cloud roles doubled between 2014 to 2016 with Amazon AWS now consuming over 3% of all the tech jobs. Within the cloud category, Amazon AWS makes up more than 30% of the total roles and is equaling the number of roles that mention Microsoft Azure.
Salary Over Time
Despite a huge spike back in 2010 and 2011, the average salary for Amazon AWS roles has remained fairly consistent at $100K, rising around 5% year on year. It hasn't exploded but considering the huge increase in the number of roles available, banking a new role using AWS is more achievable than ever before.
Microsoft's Azure cloud platform is relatively new compared to Amazon AWS but it's certainly still as popular and with their massive foothold in enterprise companies worldwide, Microsoft has a big advantage.
Azure integrates with almost every Microsoft product you can think of and the cloud is now considered the mainstream roadmap for all Microsoft technologies. Indeed the new Windows 10 certifications include large chunks of cloud content for Intune and Office 365.
Developers will also know only too well the benefits of hosting solutions in the cloud for immediate access to scalable resources. Visual Studio integrates natively with Azure for pushing builds to test deployments and live servers with minimum effort.
The only real disadvantage for Azure is that it's really tailored to Microsoft technologies. It does offer support for Open Source choices but this is not to the same degree as AWS.
Microsoft offers three certifications for Azure, one for Visual Studio web developers, one for architects and another for Linux. The Linux path includes one exam which is provided by the Linux Foundation rather than Microsoft. MCSD: Web ApplicationsMCSD: Azure Solutions ArchitectMCSA: Linux on Azure
Let's take a look at the trends for Azure...
Percentage of Jobs Over Time
As you can see from the graph above, the % share of "cloud services" jobs mentioning Azure has sharply increased in the last 2 to 3 years, this follows a similar trend to AWS. However, the actual number of jobs mentioning Azure has quadrupled in the last two years! That's double the growth rate of AWS therefore you could argue that Azure will overtake AWS in the near future.
Salary Over Time
The salary figures for Azure closely match those for AWS. A similar peak is clearly evident in 2010 signifying the start of the Azure demand. At that time few professionals possessed the necessary Azure skills (a skills drought) and thus companies were forced to offer exceptionally high salaries to grab talent.
Over the last few years the salary average for Azure has closely followed the $100K scale shown by AWS.
Interest over timeAzure (Red), AWS (Blue)
Most of the job market trends are usually mirrored by online trends and this remains true for AWS. For many years Amazon AWS had dominated the cloud market, even going back as far as 2006. This lasted until around 2010 when Microsoft launched Windows Azure.
In the last couple of years Microsoft has played an immediate game of catch up, as you can see from the red line on the graph above. The reason for this is the shift from client to cloud for almost all of Microsoft's enterprise products and their drive for more cloud certifications.
For some unknown reason Amazon took many years to release their AWS certifications and it wasn't until 2014 that the first architect exam appeared. Demand for AWS skills has since increased with many employers now asking for an AWS Certification for some of the highest paying jobs on the job boards.
Which certification to choose?
If you are looking to move into a high paying architect role then both AWS and Azure offer some of the best salaries in the tech industry. Both certifications will easily offer you a 100K salary and the demand for both skills is high.
AWS and Azure offer very similar services with neither one being truly better than the other. Both support CDN's, VM's, Databases, Auto Scaling, Load Balancing and many other common cloud functions.
The cost of each certification works out at roughly the same. Even though Amazon have fewer Solution Architect exams, the high tier is more expensive to account for its longer duration and thus additional questions. Microsoft typically have a set price for every exam across the board.
If you asked me which certification would I go for, I would probably sway towards Azure purely because I work more with Microsoft technologies. If you're a Visual Studio developer then integrating with Azure instances and the bonus of Azure SQL makes Azure an obvious choice. Conversely, PHP and Java developers will probably want to opt for AWS instead to utilize the better support for Linux builds.