How to efficiently learn Amazon Web Services (AWS)

Adrian Cantrill

I run an AWS training school at which focusses on a skills first approach - certs are important, but the focus should be on learning real skills you can use to get a job #skillsnotcerts.

A common point of confusion is which cert makes the most sense when starting out. The answer is simple, everyone should start with the AWS Certified Solutions Architect Associate, if you care why then read on 👇

SKIP: the Cloud Practitioner

In a rush?: It's far too simple and abstract. It's a waste of your time and effort. It's not well known or regarded by employers.


Detail: The Cloud Practitioner hasn't always been available. It's marketed by AWS as the introductory certification and in some ways it's an easy starting point. The problem is apart from being a gentle way in, it offers very little value. It's very abstract, won't really give you skills you can use within an employer, and won't help you gain a job/promotion. It's just too abstract to be useful, and I've only met a small number of employers who know that it exists.

My AWS Solutions Architect course was created so that people can skip this cert. It starts with the basics, meaning that even people with no AWS experience can benefit. It contains all the knowledge you need for both cloud practitioner and Solutions Architect Associate, while saving you significant time.. you can study once instead of twice.

Counter Opinions: 1) Cloud Practitioner is a gentle introduction, 2) it gives you exam experience and 3) completing it gives you a 50% off exam voucher which can be used for the Solutions Architect Associate. All of these things are true, but you can get all of these benefits, by my "study once and get both" approach. My students often skip practitioner, go straight onto architect associate and often pass both exams for the price of one.

Do yourself a favour, save the time and effort and gain a broader set of knowledge which is more attractive to employers.

ALWAYS: do the Solutions Architect Associate First

In a rush?: Architecture is a superpower. Architecture bleeds into everything else, making it easier. There is a big overlap at the associate level, meaning the developer and sysops will be much less work after completing architect.

Detail: I talk with many students who have an operations or development background. They get advice from colleagues to start with the Developer or SysOps associate. Students might also be aiming for the DevOps engineer professional because it feels like an in-demand skill, and so they default to skipping Solutions Architect Associate. My advice, DON'T. There are many reasons which this is a bad idea ... even if your end goal is DevOps, or you work as a developer or operations engineer. It's almost always the right choice to start with Architect Associate.

Architecture is one of the most important concepts in cloud. Knowing how a product works, and how to utilise it within your development projects or operational implementations is a super power. Developers or Operational engineers who start with Solutions Architect achieve a more optimal outcome. In most cases I've found students even complete their certification and skills journey quicker by starting with Architect, because everything after that is quicker and more efficient.

There's another important reason for starting with Solutions Architect, the significant overlap between it and Developer and Sysops streams. This differs depending on the courses you use, but I've designed by associate courses to actively take advantage of this overlap.

Instead of studying three courses one (100%), by one (100%), by one (100%) you can study Architect Associate (100%) and then the non overlapping bits of developer (40%) and sysops (40%) - 300% 😾 vs 180% 😺

Start with architect first, it's a better experience.

You can optionally use my courses to save some time. And even use my bundle and save some money.

DON'T SKIP: the fundamentals

In a rush?: Cloud abstracts things, it makes a lot of things easier. You can be an 'ok' engineer/architect/developer without a good grasp of fundamentals. But if you REALLY want to excel, get the nice projects and earn the big $$ then you HAVE to understand low level components.

I do my best to encourage people who are new to IT or AWS to get started and learn a fun and rewarding set of skills. Ironically, it's the experienced IT professionals who have an under appreciation of technology fundamentals. AWS makes it easy to deploy infrastructure at scale using a functional web console UI .. or the command line. It makes things appear simple, so simple that anyone could do it. You can get by without knowing how physical networking works and still be an "OK" architect. You can get by without understanding encryption fundamentals and be an "OK" developer. You can even implement storage within AWS as an operational engineer without understanding NAS, SAN, IOPS, Block Size and Throughput. Missing or under appreciating fundamentals will stop you rising to the top, they are a super power and even if you only ever use AWS - if you are the person who knows how things really work - you will get picked over your peers.

Make sure whatever content you use, you focus on any additional fundamentals you need.

If you use my training, I have you covered, all my courses include a technical fundamentals section to get you started .. no students left behind.


Deciding to study isn't what gets you results. Attitude isn't (sadly) all that matters. You need to commit to a long term learning journey, have a good attitude and perfect your technique and approach. I want to help, if you need any advice then feel free to connect with me on linked in, comment below or join the learning community, it's free and has ~19k members all looking to focus on skills 1st ...#skillsnotcerts

Anyone can do this, everyone has the resources to change their lives and I want to help!

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