Cloud Certifications for Beginners (Where to Start in 2024)

Cloud Certifications for Beginners

It's not easy choosing where to start your cloud journey. Between the different cloud services and specialties, which of the dozens of certifications should you begin with? We aim to answer that in this article.

Together, we'll look at the best cloud certifications for beginners. We'll cover both vendor neutral certifications and those offered by the top cloud providers. If your goal is to pursue a career in cloud security, we'll also look at some of the beginner-friendly cloud security certifications you can prepare for.

Let's take a guesswork out of which cloud certifications for beginners are worth examining and help you choose the best fit for your goals.

Understanding the Cloud

Cloud computing refers to the overarching delivery of computing services over the internet from remote servers. These services can include storage, processing power, databases, networking, software, and analytics. The majority of the time, these services come from a third-party provider such as Amazon Web Services, Google, or Microsoft.

Cloud computing can be accomplished in three different setups: on-premises, off-premises, and hybrid.

  • On-Premises (On-Prem): computing resources are owned and maintained within an organization’s physical location.
  • Off-Premises (Off-Prem): computing resources are solely outsourced from a third-party service provider and delivered over the Internet.
  • Hybrid: the cloud environment combines both on-prem and off-prem resources.

As previously mentioned, Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google, and Microsoft are the top three players in the cloud landscape. Currently, AWS leads the industry with a reported market share of over 30% in 2022, followed by Azure with over 20% and Google at 10%, as reported by AAG.

Cloud Certifications for Beginners

Although there are dozens of certifications for cloud computing, we will look at a few of the most popular beginner-focused cloud certifications available currently. Here are the certifications we will examine:

CompTIA Cloud+

Vendor

CompTIA

Details

CompTIA Cloud+ is a vendor-neutral certification that focuses on forming a solid foundation of cloud knowledge. The primary domains taught in this certification are:

comptia cloud plus domains

The certification lasts for three years and can be renewed by successfully retaking the exam or submitting Continuing Education Units (CEUs).

Requirements

The Cloud+ exam is a 90-minute proctored test consisting of a maximum of 90 questions. Questions can be multiple-choice or performance-based. The passing score is a 750 based on a scale of 100-900. CompTIA recommends two or three years of experience in systems administration or networking.

Cost

The CompTIA Cloud+ exam currently costs $358 USD.

Why Would You Get It?

CompTIA is a well-known organization with other popular certifications like the Security+ and CASP+. Achieving a CompTIA certification can add name recognition to your resume/CV. Additionally, the vendor-neutral approach can allow you to understand a wider breadth of cloud-specific information that can be easily pivoted off of whether your future employment uses Microsoft, AWS, or Google technologies.

Certificate of Cloud Security Knowledge (CCSK)

Vendor

Cloud Security Alliance (CSA)

Details

CCSK is a vendor-neutral certification based on validating a practitioner’s cohesive understanding of how to secure data in the cloud. The CCSK certification training consists of 14 knowledge domains:

  • Cloud Computing Concepts and Architecture
  • Governance and Enterprise Risk Management
  • Legal Issues, Contracts, and Electronic Discovery
  • Compliance and Audit Management
  • Information Governance
  • Management Plan and Business Continuity
  • Infrastructure Security
  • Virtualization and Containers
  • Incident Response
  • Application Security
  • Data Security and Encryption
  • Identity, Entitlement, and Access Management
  • Security as a Service
  • Related Technologies

The certification is valid for two years. Training is available in either self-paced, on-demand, or instructor-led (via virtual or in-person) delivery.

Requirements

The CCSK exam is an open-book, online exam held within a 90-minute limit. It consists of 60 multiple-choice questions randomly selected from the CSSK question pool. The minimum passing score for CCSK is 80%.

Cost

The CCSK certification exam currently costs $395 USD.

Why Would You Get It?

The CSA is a fully cloud-focused training organization giving it a leg up on other competitors with its depth of information taught during training. Like CompTIA, CSA also benefits from having a vendor-neutral approach allowing for the flexibility in your cloud knowledge to incorporate vendor-specific technologies in future roles.

AWS Cloud Practitioner

Vendor

Amazon

Details

The AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner certification validates a foundational high-level understanding of AWS cloud services. This certification is the starting point in AWS cloud certifications and a career in AWS-specific cloud technologies. When reviewing the exam topics, AWS reports the following exam domains:

AWS Cloud Practitioner Domain

Requirements

To earn the AWS Cloud Practitioner certification, you must pass a 90-minute, proctored exam consisting of 65 questions about the AWS cloud platform. These questions can be either multiple-choice or multiple-response. AWS reports no required prior experience or prerequisites in order to successfully complete the certification training or exam.

Cost

The AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner certification exam currently costs $100 USD.

Why Would You Get It?

With AWS’s significant market exposure, achieving an AWS-specific certification can add a significant name recognition boost to your resume/CV. It also statistically serves as the most likely cloud technology to be deployed in organizations you might apply to when pursuing future employment, which can provide a leg up on employment competition.

Microsoft Certified Azure Fundamentals

Vendor

Microsoft

Details

The Microsoft Certified Azure Fundamentals certification serves as a cloud practitioner's first step in becoming an Azure pro. This certification covers a foundational cloud knowledge base and then builds upon that foundation with Azure-specific knowledge points. The certification training covers three overarching knowledge domains:

Azure Fundamental Domains

Requirements

There are no hard requirements to sit for the AZ-900 exam. This exam is proctored through Pearson VUE with a passing score of 700 on a scale of 1-1000. The exam consists of an undisclosed number of multiple choice questions.

Cost

The Microsoft Certified Azure Fundamentals exam currently costs $99 USD.

Why Would You Get It?

Like AWS, the name recognition of Microsoft-specific certifications is substantial compared to vendor-neutral certifications. Microsoft also offers an extremely in-depth learning path for all Azure technologies, and students can use this certification as a jump point to greater Azure skills and, in turn, career prospects.

It is also worth recognizing that more and more Microsoft services are moving to the cloud, particularly in terms of Active Directory and security. Previous on-premesis Active Directory certifications have been retired and replaced with Azure/AD versions. This makes learning Azure harder to avoid if you wish to pursue a career in systems administration.

Google Associate Cloud Engineer

Vendor

Google

Details

The Google Associate Cloud Engineer is the foundational cloud certification for the Google Cloud platform and its technologies. This certification dives head first into core cloud knowledge and how Google Cloud plays a part in the cloud market. Students also learn more technical concepts at this level, such as Kubernetes, compared to other certifications. Google reports the following domains covered in this certification:

Google Associate Cloud Engineer Domain

Requirements

To achieve this certification, students must pass a two-hour, 50-60 question exam via either online proctoring or onsite at a Kryterion testing center. The exam consists of multiple-choice questions. The Associate Cloud Engineer certification is valid for three years after successful achievement. Google recommends six or more months of hands-on experience with Google Cloud technologies for this certification.

Cost

The Google Associate Cloud Engineer exam currently costs $125 USD.

Why Would You Get It?

This certification reports arguably the most vendor-specific technical knowledge domains compared to all other certifications listed so far, making it extremely attractive to those wanting to maximize their vendor-specific knowledge gained during training.

Passing this certification is a strong indication of practical Google Cloud experience, a desirable skillset in the current cloud job market. It is worth noting that currently Google’s marketshare is low compared to Azure and AWS.

GIAC Cloud Security Essentials Certification (GCLD)

Vendor

GIAC

Details

The GIAC GCLD certification is a relatively new cloud certification to hit the market. GCLD is a highly technical, vendor-neutral cloud certification that focuses heavily on the security side of cloud computing. This includes areas such as security monitoring, secure computing, and incident response. The partnered training for this certification, hosted by the SANS Institute, reports a large list of knowledge domains:

  • Attacking the Cloud and Responding to Intrusions
  • Cloud Account Fundamentals
  • Cloud Automation
  • Cloud Logging Fundamentals
  • Cloud Networking Technology
  • Containers and Cloud Storage
  • Discovering and Storing Sensitive Data
  • External Access and IAM Best Practices
  • Frameworks for Built-in Security
  • Network Security Monitoring in the Cloud
  • Risk Management and Compliance
  • Secrets Management
  • Secure Compute Deployment
  • Securing Cloud Networks
  • Understanding Shared Responsibility and Threat Informed Defense
  • Using Sensitive Data

Requirements

To achieve the GCLD certification, students can choose to either take the GIAC certification directly or attend the partnered SANS training bundle and receive an exam attempt via that delivery. The exam consists of 75 questions, advertised as multiple choice, to be completed in two hours. The current passing score is 61%, and the exam must be written via digital or on-site Pearson Vue proctoring.

Cost

The costs associated with the GIAC GCLD certification are $8,525 USD for the accompanying SANS Institute training or $979 USD for the exam attempt.

Why Would You Get It?

Within the security certification world, GIAC holds one of the most prestigious names in security certifications. For students wanting to become proficient in the security side of cloud computing, no other cloud certification can stand against the GCLD.

EC-Council Cloud Security Engineer (C|CSE)

Vendor

EC-Council

Details

The EC-Council Cloud Security Engineer (C|CSE) certification is a vendor-neutral cloud certification focusing on the security side of cloud computing. C|CSE covers incident response, governance, and forensics topics. This certification serves as a great resource for proving cloud computing knowledge from a security implication viewpoint. EC-Council reports the following domains for the C|CSE certification:

  • Vendor-neutral and vendor-specific concepts
  • Best practices to secure cloud infrastructure
  • SOAR for incident response
  • Governance, risk management, and compliance in the cloud
  • Forensic methodologies for cloud infrastructure
  • Standards, policies, and legal issues in the cloud

Requirements

To achieve the C|CSE certification, students must pass a four-hour exam consisting of 125 questions. These questions are multiple-choice and are proctored through the EC-Council exam portal. Current passing scores range from 60% to 78%, depending on how many non-scoring questions are included in a student's specific exam.

Cost

The EC-Council C|CSE certification currently costs $2,199 USD for the certification training and exam bundle.

Why Would You Get It?

EC-Council is well known for its other popular certifications, like CEH. The C|CSE is also one of the only other vendor-neutral security-specific cloud certifications but has a much lower price point compared to something like the GIAC GCLD. C|CSE can serve as a great security certification for those without the heavy funding requirements of a GIAC certification.

Conclusion

Achieving a cloud-specific certification can improve a candidate's chance at landing employment in the field and successfully performing the duties required of them once employed. Luckily, there are many cloud certifications for beginners to choose from. These beginner certifications have a low bar for entry and many are fairly affordable.

If you’re looking for guidance on planning your career in cloud, consider the StationX Accelerator program. We offer custom career and certification roadmaps, access to mentors to assist you in your journey, study groups, and courses for the most popular certifications on the market.

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