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Which cloud certification is right for you?

By Vlad Catrinescu    |    May 21, 2021

Cloud computing is used by almost every single organization in the world, and the need for IT professionals is growing at a rapid pace. IT certifications can help you give more professional credibility in a certain technology, provide more value to your organization and let us be honest, the best part is increasing your chances of a salary increase and job promotion. But with so many cloud certifications out there, which one is the right one for you?

      Which cloud vendor do you want to specialize in?

There are numerous cloud providers out there, but we will focus on the three most popular cloud providers:

  • Amazon Web Services (AWS)
  • Microsoft Azure
  • Google Cloud (GCP)

Some of you reading this are not yet specialized in a single technology, whether that’s because you’re starting off in IT fresh from school or switching careers. If this is you, consider the vendor-neutral cloud certification CompTIA Cloud Essentials+. CompTIA has a very long history of being one of the most recognized vendor-neutral certification providers, and its A+ certification is often the first IT pros get (myself included). It covers the base cloud concepts that will be valid for all cloud work and vendor you want to specialize in after.

      I’ve already chosen my cloud vendor. What’s next?

Great! Next up in figuring out the best cloud certification for you is understanding role-based certifications. There are not many things that Amazon, Microsoft and Google all agree on. Luckily, however, they all follow very similar certification patterns. In the past, a lot of IT certifications were based on specific products. For example, some of my personal certifications are:

  • Microsoft Certified IT Professional - Windows Vista Configuration (No, I haven’t done many deployments of this one)
  • Microsoft Certified IT Professional – SharePoint 2010 Configuration
  • Microsoft Certified Solution Expert – SharePoint Server 2016

As workloads move to the cloud, there is an industry understanding that IT professionals and developers do not work with a single product anymore. Instead, they work with several and need a broader grasp and knowledge of multiple cloud products for a certain role. This allows them to understand which cloud solution is the best for a certain workload, and have the know-how required to work with multiple products as part of the main solution.

Something else that the three major cloud providers mostly agree on are the different certification levels for their programs. Certifications are split across four different levels:

  • Foundational (AWS / GCP) / Fundamentals (Microsoft)
  • Associate
  • Professional (AWS/GCP) / Expert (Microsoft)
  • Specialty (AWS/Microsoft)

Now that you know the basics about role-based certifications and levels, let’s take a look at the most popular cloud certifications per vendor.

      Amazon Web Services cloud certifications

Amazon Web Services has 11 certifications split across four different levels and you can see an overview in the image below.

  • 1 Foundational
  • 3 Associate
  • 2 Professional
  • 5 Specialty
AWS certifications overview


       AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner - Foundational

The AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner certification is where you should get started with your AWS Certification journey. It will validate your overall knowledge of the basics of AWS cloud, and it’s also a great way to get use to exams. While not mandatory for other certification, it’s a recommended step towards achieving an Associate or Specialty certification.

       AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate

Are you an architect designing available, cost-efficient, fault-tolerant and scalable distributed systems on AWS? If yes, the  AWS Certified Solutions Architect - Associate certification is intended for you. AWS recommends two or more years of hands-on experience for this one.  

       AWS Certified SysOps Administrator – Associate

If you are a System Administrator and specialize in deployment, management and operations on AWS, the AWS Certified SysOps Administrator – Associate examination is a good choice for you.  AWS recommends one year of experience before going for this certification.  

       AWS Certified Developer – Associate

If you are a developer with more than one year of hands-on experience creating applications on AWS, you should check out the  AWS Certified Developer - Associate certification.  

       AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Professional

Stepping up to the Professional level, the  AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Professional certification is for professionals with more than two years of hands-on experience managing and operating systems on AWS.

       AWS Certified DevOps Engineer – Professional

If you’re a DevOps engineer and you bridge the gap between developers and system administrators, you’ll want to take a look at the AWS Certified DevOps Engineer – Professional certification.

While AWS abandoned prerequisites in 2019, meaning your first certification could be a Professional level one, I highly suggest following the Foundational – Associate – Professional path. This will make you more confident with each exam (as they become tougher), as well as show your progression to your current and potential employers. While not mandatory, I would suggest getting an associate or a professional-level certification before earning the specialty certifications.

      Google Cloud Certifications

Google Cloud is the vendor with the fewest certifications in its portfolio (at the time this blog post was written), with 10 possible certifications split across three categories, and you can also see a high-level overview in the image below.

  • 1 Foundational
  • 1 Associate
  • 8 Professional
Google cloud certifications overview

Let’s take a look at five of most popular ones!

       Cloud Digital Leader

The Cloud Digital Leader is the entry-level certification in the Google Cloud and requires no hands-on experience with Google Cloud. It validates your fundamental knowledge of the Google Cloud and what business challenges it can solve.

       Associate Cloud Engineer

If your work is deploying applications, monitoring operations and managing enterprise solutions, the Associate Cloud Engineer certification is for you. Google recommends 6+ months of hands-on experience.

       Professional Cloud Architect

If you have more than three years of industry experience (with at least one of them in the Google Cloud) designing and developing solutions, the Professional Cloud Architect is a certification you should check out.

       Professional Cloud Developer

If you’re a developer that builds amazing apps on the Google Cloud, you should definitely check out the  Professional Cloud Developer certification.  You must not only learn how to build, but also how to debug and manage your applications.

       Professional Collaboration Engineer

The cloud is not only about back-end code and scripting; it’s also about enabling end users to be productive. If configuring Google Workspaces, increasing adoption and managing e-mail is your specialty, the Professional Collaboration Engineer is the certification for you.

You can check out the rest of the Google Professional certification details on their website at: Similar to Amazon Web Services, the Google Cloud Certification program doesn’t have any prerequisite for exams. However, it’s in your best interest to complete them in the order of Foundational – Associate – Expert route.

      Microsoft Certifications

Last, but definitely not least, is Microsoft Azure. Microsoft is by far the cloud provider with the most certification (45 currently), so we will not cover each one of them in detail. (That would turn this blog post into a book.) The reason for all of these certifications is that the Microsoft cloud is not solely focused on IaaS and PaaS solutions, but also has so many productivity solutions (SharePoint, Teams, Exchange), CRM Solutions (Dynamics), as well as low code development solutions (Power Platform). Microsoft certifications are split across five main portfolios:

  1. Azure (3 Fundamentals, 9 Associate, 2 Expert, 3 Specialty)
  2. Microsoft 365 (1 Fundamentals, 5 Associate, 1 Expert)
  3. Dynamics 365 ( 2 Fundamentals, 9 Associate, 1 Expert)
  4. Power Platform (1 Fundamentals, 4 Associate, 1 Expert)
  5. Security, Compliance, and Identity (1 Fundamentals, 5 Expert)

You can always view the full list of Microsoft Certifications in the Certification Poster. We’ll review the top five most popular Microsoft certifications you can get today.

       Microsoft Certified: Azure Fundamentals

This certification is the most popular Microsoft Certification today, mostly due to Azure’s popularity across the globe. The Azure Fundamentals certification will test your foundational knowledge of Azure cloud services and it’s intended for everyone who wants to get started with the Azure Cloud. Other Fundamental Certifications include:


       Microsoft Certified: Azure Administrator Associate

If you want to take things to the next level and have hands-on experience managing Azure and making sure everything is performing just right, the Azure Administrator Associate certification is one you should definitely check out.

       Microsoft 365 Certified: Teams Administrator Associate

Remote working needs great technology to keep people connected and productive at home, but that technology also needs administrators to make sure it’s configured just right. Teams is one of Microsoft’s most popular tools right now, and if that’s what you specialize in, definitely check out the Microsoft Teams Administrators certification.

       Microsoft Certified: Azure Developer Associate

If you are a developer building custom solutions in Microsoft Azure, check out  the Azure Developer Associate certification. You don’t only need to know how to code, but also all phases of cloud development from requirements, definition, and design; to development, deployment, and maintenance; to performance tuning and monitoring.

       Microsoft Certified: Power Platform App Maker Associate

Low-code is becoming an emerging trend that enables developers to create solutions faster and business users to create applications faster. The Power Platform App Maker certification is the first step in showing that you can create awesome apps using the Power Platform, whether you’re a business user or a seasoned developer.

It was very hard to pick only 5 of 45 certifications to showcase in this blog post, so I really encourage you to check out the Become Microsoft Certified Poster that Microsoft has updated almost monthly over the past few years. Something that is unique to Microsoft is that most expert level certifications have a prerequisite for you to pass an associate level certification before. While I always recommended this path, it’s a must if you want to get Microsoft certified at the expert level.


Cloud computing is something that is used by every organization in the world, and getting certified will not only motivate you to master a certain technology, but it will also give you the credentials needed to find a new job or get a promotion.

 All three vendors have great documentation and even some free learning paths, but you can always find quality certification courses on Pluralsight that takes it to the next level.

About the author

Vlad Catrinescu is a SharePoint and Office 365 Consultant specializing in SharePoint and SharePoint Online deployments as well as hybrid scenarios. As a Pluralsight Author, Microsoft Certified Trainer, and recognized international speaker, Vlad has helped thousands of users and IT Pros across the globe to better understand and to get the most out of SharePoint. Vlad is also a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) in SharePoint since 2013 and has his own blog at and he often shares his knowledge by speaking at local conferences and community events. Vlad also blogs at CMSWire as well as Computerworld and is often featured in other Microsoft sites such as Redmond Channel Partner. In Addition, Vlad is the recipient of the "Top 25 Office 365 Influencers" award, showcasing him as one of the most influential Office 365 specialists in 2015 demonstrating his expertise and passion for Microsoft's shift towards the cloud in the past years.