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Cloud Certification, Your Career, and You

May 4, 2020 • 12 Minute Read


How many times per week do you hear businesspeople mention "the cloud" and how much money it saves their business? How often do you hear IT professionals exclaim how valuable a cloud computing skill set is to their career?

This isn’t just hype. Cloud computing is not a novelty, but instead represents the foundation of many organizations’ IT infrastructures, in whole or in part.

If you're considering a career change into cloud computing, then you've come to the right place. This guide answers common job seeker questions regarding cloud computing and cloud computing certifications.

What exactly is cloud computing?

Cloud computing involves renting computer resources from a cloud service provider.

Do you use OneDrive or Dropbox to save your professional or personal files, or G Suite or Microsoft 365 to collaborate with your team? That's cloud computing.

Businesses like cloud computing because it can save money. An organization can offload all the costs associated with maintaining on-premises infrastructure to a cloud provider. These cloud providers offer services on demand, and you're billed only for the cloud resources you consume.

Yes, cloud computing is much more complicated in practice than it might appear. However, this represents an excellent opportunity for you as an IT professional. After all, businesses that embrace the cloud need staff who know how to manage cloud infrastructure and develop cloud-native apps.

Must I have a certification to get a job in cloud computing?

An IT professional cloud computing certification represents a credible way to validate your skills with a particular cloud vendor's products and technologies. Some IT departments actually prefer IT certifications to college degrees because IT certifications are vastly more nimble than two- or four-year degrees in computer science.

Generally speaking, a professional certification is not a prerequisite to a cloud computing-centered job. That said, some businesses mandate a cloud computing credential for you to qualify for certain jobs. For example, Microsoft Azure cloud solution providers require a certain number of Microsoft-certified professionals on staff to meet Microsoft Partner membership requirements.

You may find that having a cloud certification gives you an advantage in the hiring process. Let's say you are a hiring manager for an Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud solution architect position. You've narrowed your selection process down to two candidates.

If, all else being equal, one candidate went the "extra mile" to earn an AWS certification, and the other did not, which person would you be more likely to choose?

Let's face it--the cloud computing discipline is frighteningly vast. You probably wonder which cloud vendor's technologies you want to specialize in. Azure? AWS? GCP?

Then you need to consider the enormous array of job roles that fit within a cloud vendor's technology stack.

Consider Microsoft, who aligns their Microsoft Azure certifications with job roles. Here is an incomplete list of these certification-aligned roles:

  • Administrator
  • Database Administrator
  • Application Developer
  • IoT Developer
  • Architect
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) Engineer
  • Data Engineer
  • Data Analyst
  • Data Scientist
  • DevOps Engineer

Studying for any particular cloud computing solution represents an excellent opportunity to dive into a technology, any technology. For instance, you may spend time at Pluralsight reviewing beginner-level cloud computing courses and determine you are most comfortable with Microsoft Azure.

Excellent! You are ready to broaden and deepen your Azure skill set, potentially earn certification credentials, and develop your career trajectory.

Which cloud vendor certification should I pursue?

As of April 2020, the "big three" public cloud service providers are:

Gartner lists the other leading public cloud providers as:

As you would expect, each of the "big three" cloud vendors publish professional job role-based certification programs:

Next we have hardware and software vendors that maintain certification programs that include a cloud computing component. Two big players in this arena are:

If you are already proficient in a public cloud vendor's technologies, and you enjoy the work, then it makes sense for you to pursue certification with that vendor.

But if you are new to the public cloud, then you may want to start with a vendor-neutral cloud certification instead.

What vendor-neutral cloud certifications are available?

Vendor-neutral cloud certifications are a great fit for IT newcomers or industry veterans who need to skill up quickly on cloud computing. Each of the following vendor-neutral certs enables you to demonstrate foundational cloud knowledge independent of any particular cloud vendor's products:

Two potential downsides to vendor-neutral cloud certifications include:

  • Some IT departments consider vendor-neutral cloud computing certifications to be either too elementary or too vague to suit their requirements.
  • Some businesses with vendor partnerships require their staff to possess vendor-specific certifications.

How much does a person with a cloud certification make after they land a job?

According to Zip Recruiter, the average annual compensation in the United States for a cloud computing job is $117,000 per year.

This premium income associated with cloud computing skills reflects the following factors, at least in part:

  • Increasing business need for cloud computing services
  • Relative scarcity of qualified cloud computing professionals
  • Complexity of the subject matter

That third bullet point deserves a bit more consideration. Yes, you can earn "the big bucks" by earning a job in cloud computing, that's true. Nevertheless, the crucial question you need to ask yourself is "Do I actually enjoy the work?" If not, then you're in for a long, hard road.

The cloud computing industry remains in constant, daily flux. To remain current and viable in the industry, you need to commit yourself to constant research.

That educational overhead, coupled with long work hours, may not be worth earning a six-figure salary, and that's okay. After all, isn't it best to understand the truth about yourself?

What soft skills do I need to pair with a cloud certification to be valuable to a company?

Success in the cloud computing field requires that you commit to being an eternal student, ever-learning and sharpening your cloud computing skill set.

Another crucial soft skill for cloud computing professionals is the ability to communicate clearly, accurately, and succinctly. Regardless of your cloud computing job role, you must explain your ideas and proposals to colleagues who may not have any idea what cloud computing means. Thus, as a cloud professional you'll need to be a teacher as well as a perpetual student.

Lastly, to succeed in cloud computing means you must be willing to go beyond your IT "comfort zone" and adapt to expanding job roles.

Consider this example: You work as a systems administrator for your company. The company plans to gradually migrate the majority of its infrastructure to Microsoft Azure and appointed you as the team lead.

Over the next year, as you shepherd the company through the cloud migration, you develop familiarity with Azure infrastructure-as-a-service (virtual machines), platform-as-a-service (hosted web apps), serverless computing (functions), machine learning, and DevOps. Wow--you've expanded your resume considerably! This skill set expansion is not uncommon when you work on cloud computing projects.

You'll find that public cloud providers alter the typical silos in local IT. The good news is that as long as you're committed to being a perpetual student, embrace change, and communicate effectively, you should find yourself growing professionally and personally at a rate beyond which you ever thought possible.

How can I prove to a prospective employer I can do the work for which I'm certified?

Over the years, some IT certification programs developed a bad reputation because the industry veterans exclaimed, "Anybody can cram to pass a multiple-choice exam. These 'paper tigers' get into the industry and they don't know how to do the work!"

To obviate that legitimate argument, many contemporary cloud computing certification exams include a practical, hands-on lab component. This means that you either know how to do the work and you pass the exam, or you don't.

If your work touches development at all, you might want to get your name out in the technical community as an open-source contributor on GitHub. Fork repositories from vendors and people you admire, clone them to your local workstation, and get creative!

Even if you aren't a "developer" as such, you can still make a name for yourself as an open-source contributor. For example, both Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services publish their product documentation on GitHub.

You are free to make corrections and expansions to that cloud computing documentation and submit those changes to the vendor as pull requests. If the vendor decides to merge your changes, then congratulations--you contributed to a cloud computing industry leader's public documentation!

Checking your Skill IQ and pursuing a Role IQ at Pluralsight is another concrete way to determine where your cloud computing aptitude lies and document your skills to employers as you build them.

Pluralsight's skill assessments enable you to identify your knowledge gaps and strengths. Skill IQ results guide you towards particular learning paths, which in cloud computing means job roles.

The Pluralsight Role IQ shows you, your team members, and prospective employers your progress to gaining role mastery. Check it out and let us know what you think!


We hope this guide gave you a clearer idea of your next step in your cloud computing career journey. In subsequent installments of this series, we'll deep-dive into Microsoft's, Amazon's, and Google's cloud computing certifications. We'll also provide you with a practical roadmap to help you reach your certification goals.

Tim Warner

Tim W.

is a full-time author with the Pluralsight IT Ops division. He's worked with Windows Server since NT 4.0, and is totally in love with Windows PowerShell. Follow him on Twitter @TechTrainerTim.

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