5 Cloud Certifications to Start Your Cloud Career in 2021

Written by Coursera • Updated on Oct 12, 2021

With the acceleration in cloud technology adoption, knowledge of working with the cloud is poised to become a valuable asset for IT professionals. Cloud certifications to consider come from several different cloud service providers.

Man searches for cloud certifications

Cloud computing—using the internet to store data and services instead of a computer hard drive—is growing. Increased internet access, the reduced cost of using the cloud, new technology, and a pandemic-driven digitization of many services have each accelerated the adoption of cloud technology. Business advisory firm Gartner predicts that cloud will make up 14 percent of all global enterprise IT spending in 2024, up from nine percent in 2020 [1].

Should you get a cloud certification?

Like many IT professions, hands-on experience can often speak louder than a certification by itself. That said, a certification can be useful in indicating your abilities to hiring managers, and help you build out experience where you might be lacking. 

Cloud computing is a heavily in-demand skill. The average salary for cloud computing professionals in North America was $153,655, according to a 2020 report by Global Knowledge. That's much higher than the average for the overall industry, which was $115,906 [2]. Global Knowledge also listed two cloud professions—cloud administrator and cloud architect—among their top ten recession-proof IT jobs [3]. If you have some experience in IT or computer programming and want to gain experience in cloud computing, or want to integrate cloud into your career, a certification can certainly be beneficial. If you're just starting to explore the IT space, you might want to consider an entry-level IT certification.

Cloud Certifications

The following certifications are often recommended for those trying to position themselves for entry-level cloud-related jobs. Prices listed are as of April 2021.

1. Amazon Web Services (AWS) Solutions Architect - Associate

The AWS Solutions Architect - Associate certification involves a multiple-choice exam that tests your ability to deploy, manage, and use various services in AWS, the leading platform in the cloud market. The certification shows your proficiency in the basic technical concepts of AWS cloud engineering that can position you to qualify for related jobs. 

Just starting out with AWS? The AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner certification is designed for candidates with a few months of experience, and can be a way to build up experience for the AWS Solutions Architect - Associate certification. Or consider taking some courses in AWS Fundamentals on Coursera.

  • Cost: $150

  • What’s being tested: Compute, networking, storage, and database AWS services; deployment and management; basic architectural principles of building in AWS; global AWS infrastructure; network technologies in relation in AWS; among other subjects 

2. Microsoft Certified: Azure Fundamentals

With the second largest market share in the cloud space, Azure can be a useful cloud platform to learn. The foundational certification for Azure involves the AZ-900 exam, and is designed for those with both technical and non-technical backgrounds. It’s a solid certification to get you up to speed with fundamental Azure knowledge. From there, you can go on to get the Azure Administrator Associate or Azure Developer Associate certifications, though it’s not a prerequisite. 

  • Cost: $99

  • What’s being tested: The differences between cloud services like IaaS and PaaS; benefits of using cloud services; core Azure services like virtual machines (VMs), containers, Kubernetes and database services; understanding of Azure core solutions and management tools; basic security, include network security; and other subjects

Prepare for the AZ-900 exam through Microsoft’s Azure Fundamentals AZ-900 Exam Prep Specialization. You’ll get a 50-percent discount on the exam cost if you complete it in full.

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3. Google Associate Cloud Engineer

Getting certified as a Google Associate Cloud Engineer will mean showing competency in basic aspects of working with Google Cloud. This includes setting up a cloud solution environment, managing storage and databases, and configuring access and security, among other things. 

  • Cost: $125

  • What’s being tested: Setting up cloud solutions by creating projects, managing users in Cloud Identity, and managing billing configuration; planning and configuring compute resources, data storage options, and network resources; deploying Google Kubernetes Engine, applications; managing a virtual machine (VM); and more

To get started, you can take a course in Google Cloud Product Fundamentals, which can be the first step in getting the Cloud Engineering with Google Cloud Professional Certificate

Want a more holistic introduction to IT work? Take a look at the Google IT Support Professional Certificate.

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4. IBM Certified Solution Advisor - IBM Cloud Foundations V2

IBM cloud services take up less market share than the others, but can still be useful in industries that use IBM cloud platforms. The IBM Certified Solution Advisor - Cloud Foundation V2 is the foundational certification for IBM cloud. If you work at a place that primarily designs solutions based on IBM cloud, or hope to do so in the future, this certification can make sense. There are several more advanced levels of IBM cloud certifications, like the IBM Certified Application Developer - Cloud Solutions v3.

  • Cost: $200

  • What’s being tested: Understanding of cloud deployment; differences between SaaS, PaaS and IaaS; knowledge of Kubernetes service, Red Hat OpenShift, and Virtual Private Cloud; file and cloud object storage; analytics and database options; among other things

5. Cloud Security Alliance: Certificate of Cloud Security Knowledge (CCSK)

The CCSK is issued by the Cloud Security Alliance, a vendor neutral certification provider. This means that the things you learn from getting a certification can be applied to different cloud platforms. The CCSK focuses on the fundamentals of cloud security. There are other advanced certifications, like the CCSP from (ISC)2, that indicate a professional level of mastery of cloud security.

  • Cost: $395

  • What’s being tested: Cloud computing concepts and architecture; governance and enterprise risk management; legal issues and contracts; data security; virtualization and containers; and more

Which cloud certification should you get?

If you decide to get a cloud certification, it’s a good idea to look at what cloud platform is often used in your geographical area and target industry. Government agencies often use Azure; financial companies might use IBM or AWS.

As of May 2021, Amazon Web Services, or AWS, had the largest market share of cloud infrastructure providers, followed by Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, and IBM [4]. 

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Getting started on Coursera

Becoming a cloud professional in IT might mean working in an in-demand field that can lead to lucrative salaries. If you have a basic understanding of IT concepts, you can take a course in cloud basics like Google Cloud Product Fundamentals, IBM’s Introduction to Cloud Computing, or AWS Fundamentals.

Looking for a broader introduction to the IT world? You can learn the essential skills required for an entry-level IT job with the Google IT Support Professional Certificate. Plus, the first week is free.

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Article sources

1. Gartner. "Gartner Forecasts Worldwide Public Cloud End-User Spending to Grow 18% in 2021, https://www.gartner.com/en/newsroom/press-releases/2020-11-17-gartner-forecasts-worldwide-public-cloud-end-user-spending-to-grow-18-percent-in-2021." Accessed May 4, 2021.

2. Global Knowledge. "2020 IT Salary and Skills Report, https://www.globalknowledge.com/us-en/content/salary-report/it-skills-and-salary-report/." Accessed May 4, 2021.

3. Global Knowledge. "Top Recession-Proof IT Jobs, https://www.globalknowledge.com/us-en/resources/resource-library/articles/top-10-recession-proof-it-jobs/#gref." Accessed May 4, 2021.

4. Kinsta. "Cloud Market Share—a Look at the Cloud Ecosystem in 2021, https://kinsta.com/blog/cloud-market-share/." Accessed May 18, 2021.

Written by Coursera • Updated on Oct 12, 2021

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.

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