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4 reasons to study a cloud cert even if you don’t sit the exam

Got the opportunity to study for a cloud certification? It’s a great opportunity, even if you don’t sit the exam. The real value isn't in the bit of paper.

Jun 08, 2023 • 5 Minute Read

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  • Learning & Development

Got the opportunity to study for a cloud certification? It’s a great opportunity, even if you don’t sit the exam. In this article, Mattias Andersson explains why the real value of a certification is something else entirely.

So, you’re thinking about studying for a cloud certification. However, you’re not sure you’ll be able to sit the exam. Whether it’s time constraints, cost, confidence, or something else, you’re not sure you want to start something you can’t finish. After all, without the piece of paper, what’s the point, right?

However, the act of sitting the exam actually matters very little, and here’s why.

1. Certifications don’t solve problems, knowledge does

Imagine your company’s website has gone down. Do you yell, “Don’t worry, I’m certified!”, proceed to wave your certification at the website, and it goes back up? 

No, of course not! While certifications certainly give you the confidence to go into the real world and feel capable about solving problems — and this confidence absolutely has value — it’s the knowledge you have that is really important, and actually helps you out. 

By studying for a cloud certification, you become aware of the tools that are available to solve certain business problems. You also understand how to use those tools in an efficient and effective way to solve those problems, so you can add value. All of this is something you get without sitting the exam.

The real takeaway is that you get a cohesive and complete understanding of the knowledge represented by that certification, and then you can use that day to day to do real things. It’s all about what you take away in your brain, not what they email you after the fact. 

2. Certifications get interviews, knowledge gets jobs

I was having a conversation with a cloud vendor and speaking to someone who was responsible for making certifications - defining them, scoping them, and making sure they have valuable content. They told me they want the certifications to be strongly representative of real world value, which is of course great for everyone involved.

So I asked the question, “Does that mean, then, if you have one of these certifications, that you would not interview the person, and you would say ‘Oh, you start work on Monday, come on right by.”

They laughed, and said “Of course not. That’s not the way it works. They’re an indicator, but not a replacement for other measurements.”

So often, I’ve heard people say “A certification can get you an interview, but it can’t get you a job.” And if you do get a job, it won’t keep you a job. The certification has value in that it communicates a level of potential competence to other people, but that’s not the primary point of it. 

However, the knowledge you get from studying for a certification absolutely helps you in an interview. When you get in there, you are able to communicate about the things you understand, because you’re not just talking about things that are hypothetical — you’re talking about things you’ve studied and actually understand well enough to be able to use. 

3. Studying for a cloud cert empowers career choices

When you’ve studied for a cloud certification, you’re better able to assess job postings by looking at them, whether or not they’re a good fit for you, and how much they’d reasonably be asking for you to do. You’re also better able to communicate through resumes and cover letters what value you might offer, because you understand the business problems those people might be facing.

4. Cloud foundational certifications are universally useful

Cloud vendors such as AWS, Azure, and GCP offer foundational-level cloud certifications. There’s a very specific type of person who should take these, and that specific person is everyone!

These certifications are broadly valuable to all the different roles within an organization, regardless of their level of technical expertise. If you don’t know anything about technology, it forces you to get a really strong baseline of technology, which is really helpful. Everything else builds on that foundation.

However, let’s say you are super technical. You’ve been working with technology for decades, and you really understand this stuff. You’ve even potentially been working with the cloud since its inception. So what would be the value of a foundational certification?

For someone who is highly technical, a foundational certification addresses blind spots. You don’t know what you don’t know until you learn about it. There are new things to learn each day—and while you may know eighty percent of the subject matter, the remaining twenty percent is actually really important, too. 

If you’ve been using cloud since it came out, there is a trap you can fall into: of still making decisions based on an earlier version of the cloud. You want to take advantage of today’s higher abstraction technologies that make things more efficient. It’s much like someone who has been programming for decades, but all they understand is assembly language programming. It doesn’t matter how good they are with it, if they’re trying to build a website, they’ll be beaten by anyone who knows how to use Javascript. 

By doing foundational certifications, you get more knowledge about what new solutions are available—and that allows you to add business value.

Don’t get me wrong, certifications are still great!

If you’ve read this article and taken away “Well, certifications aren’t important”, then that is absolutely not the message. As stated above, they can make a real difference when going for a job, and improving your salary. For instance:

  • In a recent 2021 Open Source Jobs Report, 88% of hiring managers responded that certifications are important when evaluating resumes. 
  • In A Cloud Guru’s State of Cloud report, 52% of people said cloud certifications expanded their career opportunities.
  • Likewise, one report found IT pros who gained new skills and/or certifications received an average raise of $12,000 to $13,000.

The point is just that the lion’s share of value in a certification is in what you learn. And the certification exam is just a marker that others can use to judge you if they don’t have the capacity or time to judge those skills themselves. The valuable knowledge in your head is correlated with the certification exam pass marker, but not caused by it.