David A Good

You're an entry-level developer. Is getting an AWS certification worth it?

July 03, 2020

This is based on a question I received from a former intern.


I saw you had completed an AWS certification. I’m looking for an entry-level software development job, and I was wondering if you think it would be worth it for me to get an AWS certification?


Context: I’m a senior engineer.

I decided to get the AWS certification for a few reasons:

  1. I didn’t have any work experience with AWS, but I was seeing a really high percentage of job postings (maybe 80%) mention AWS experience. Sometimes it’s required experience, sometimes preferred experience. So I thought the certification may open doors for me. However, I see it more of a personal bonus feature than a core feature, especially since I’m by no means an expert in anything AWS even after getting the certification.
  2. I had intended to learn AWS for many years, but I kept putting it off. Then earlier this year I realized that after working my entire professional career at Big Bank where they haven’t made significant progress beyond running on-prem VMs, and each have their own unique and proprietary ecosystems, I didn’t really have the skills to build and deploy an enterprise-scale app outside of those ecosystems. So I basically forced myself to learn AWS by committing to getting the certification.

Back to your question, I think at this point in your career, it’s less valuable to get the certification. I just doubt that many companies would expect entry-level engineers to have it. They will be focused on CS fundamentals like data structures and algorithms, and general problem solving skill. What I think would be more valuable and more hireable than the certification is to have experience building something with AWS. This will undoubtedly be more fun as well, and you can focus on something specific (e.g. serverless) as opposed to the certification where the material covered is quite broad. And then of course you can add what you built to your resume and ideally have the code on GitHub, perhaps a blog post about the experience of building it, and maybe even a URL to the running app.

Interview Prep

If I were you, I’d be studying those CS fundamentals like data structures and algorithms, doing practice coding challenges, and doing practice interviews. Then once you build up your confidence, go for FAANG or other reputable tech companies.

Practicing Coding Problems

If you’re stuck on a problem—even for a few minutes—look up the answer. Once you understand the answer, move on. Finally, make sure you save the problem and revisit it later to make sure you really internalized the knowledge of how to solve it.

It’s not a good use of your time to spend an hour working on one problem. Your goal should be to get exposure to a wide variety of problems, start building up knowledge of the typical patterns/solutions, and gain confidence and “muscle memory” which will carry you through the heat of a technical interview.

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