AWS Certification: Associate vs. Professional vs. Specialty

All AWS certifications are either Associate or Professional. Here are the differences, read before selecting one.

  • Associate is for entry-level which requires very limited knowledge and understanding to pass; Professional is for more skilled people.
  • Associate exams are shorter in time, with fewer questions.
  • Associate exam questions and (especially answers) are mostly short and easier to digest; Professional exam questions and answers are much longer and require reasonably reading speed and probably some strategies to eliminate options quickly.
  • Associate exam questions usually focus on definitions of a service, as well as covering some basic usages that you can directly identify answers in service documents; Professional exam questions are mostly scenario based which involves combinations of multiple services and subtle differences among solutions.
  • Associate exams require lower passing scores.
  • Associate exams are much cheaper than Professional ones.
  • Associate and Professional certificates have different colors (silver vs. gold).

Overall, it is much easier to speed-pass an Associate exam, but Professional exams need more thoughts and probably more hands-on experience.

As a result, Professional certificates are of much higher value in job market.

Specialty certificates is somewhere in between Associate and Professional. They limit themselves mostly within a domain. As a result, they cover less topics with more depth, but are easier to prepare for.