Main image of article Amazon Web Services (AWS) Training: How to Get Started

Amazon Web Services (AWS) is the backbone of a lot of the web we use today. AWS, along with Microsoft Azure, dominates enterprise use of the cloud. As a result, it’s one of the most sought-after and lucrative cloud platform skills you can learn today. Given their market share, AWS and Azure (along with Google Cloud Platform, which is trying hard for more commercial business) are safe from disruption and serious competition at the moment. 

But what’s the best way to learn AWS? Do you need to master the entire platform to land a cloud-related job? We spoke with several experts to decode the ins and outs of AWS training. 

What is Amazon Web Services (AWS)?

For years, companies relied on in-house servers and datacenters to store and process data. With the advent of the cloud, however, they can now contract with a company for storage and compute via the internet. AWS server farms and software tools allow organizations to quickly provision and scale their web projects, sparing them the time and expense of maintaining in-house server hardware (and the tech team that goes with it).

Like its rivals, AWS offers its services on a metered basis. While this can be a positive because it allows companies to spend on only what they use in terms of storage and compute, expenses can quickly add up if a tech pro doesn’t provision correctly and keep a close eye on their usage.

Over the past decade, AWS has scaled up a variety of tools and services, from analytics and machine learning to compliance and database. These dozens of products mean that tech pros can tailor AWS to their organization’s specific needs.

Why Should Technology Professionals Choose to Learn AWS?

“AWS is in demand, and so are technologists with AWS skills,” Drew Firment, Senior vice President of Cloud Transformation and A Cloud Guru, tells Dice. “AWS was recently rated the best cloud provider by Gartner based on their broad range of services that’s suitable for both startups and enterprises.”

John Alcorcha, Department Chair of Technology at MTI College in Sacramento, California, reminds us that AWS is prevalent. “Since AWS is the leading cloud provider, learning about their services can benefit anyone in tech even if they place their focus on Microsoft, Google, or other platforms,” he says. “It cannot be denied that the number of advantages offered by cloud computing will continue to push more enterprises to extend to AWS and other providers.”

Global Learning and Development Director at Revolent Group, Ami Noble-Newton, underscores the traditional IT infrastructure is vanishing. The cloud is the future:

“More and more businesses are moving away from traditional IT infrastructure and looking to migrate to the cloud. And where there’s increased enterprise migrations to the cloud, there’s increased demand for professionals who can carry out the necessary migrations in any chosen cloud platform. The demand for professionals that are competent in AWS and migrations means those working in AWS will have monetary benefits on their side, with many of the associated jobs paying top money for even the smallest of projects.”

Maureen Lonergan, Vice President of AWS Training and Certification at Amazon Web Services, might be a touch biased, but she’s not wrong in telling Dice: “For over 15 years, AWS has been the world’s most comprehensive and broadly adopted cloud offering. AWS has been continually expanding its services to support virtually any cloud workload, and it now has more than 200 fully featured services for compute, storage, databases, networking, analytics, machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), and much more.” Lonergan cites how Airbnb, Zoom, Capital One, and Netflix all use AWS to deliver services every day—along with thousands of other, smaller companies.

What’s the Best Way to Get AWS Training?

Kevin Kelly, Director of Cloud Career Training Programs at Amazon Web Services (which include the education and training programs AWS Academy and AWS re/Start), believes that anyone who wants to master AWS and become a cloud professional must have a grasp on five core concepts:

  • Compute
  • Storage
  • Network
  • Database
  • Security

As he broke down on Dice’s ‘Tech Connects’ podcast, things get a lot more nuanced and complicated from there; for instance, an AWS professional will need to know the nuances of object and immutable storage, and how those work in the context of the cloud (and that’s just one of a thousand examples). If that seems a little overwhelming, don’t worry: thousands of people begin their AWS learning journey every year, and quickly master the concepts they need to know.

On the podcast, Kelly also discusses how to get started:

Meanwhile, Lonergan suggests that anyone who wants to begin training with AWS should go right to the source: Amazon itself. “The best place to get started is to check out AWS Skill Builder, which has more than 500 free digital courses in 16 languages, and is available in more than 200 countries and territories. Courses are self-paced and range from foundational, intermediate, and advanced trainings.”

For someone new to cloud training, Lonergan adds, “we recommend starting with AWS Cloud Practitioner Essentials, which is our most popular course and is six-hours of self-paced content designed for anyone to learn the fundamentals of the AWS Cloud. We also offer 11 industry-recognized AWS Certifications for individuals who want to validate their knowledge.”

Alcorcha adds: “Once familiar with AWS as outlined by the introductory Cloud Practitioner certification, the remaining pathways can help frame training in a variety of specialties.”

Noble-Newton suggests hands-on experience is important—perhaps more important than passing courses. “Any good training program will be made up of a mix of written material you need to read and digest and practical exercises that demonstrate the way you could use AWS in a commercial environment. It will also give you the chance to get hands-on with the platform in a real-world environment,” she notes.

Should Tech Pros Pay for AWS Training or Supplemental Courses?

Lonergan tells Dice: “Training isn’t a one-size-fits-all. For example, some individuals thrive in a classroom setting and learn better that way, while others may get what they need from a free livestreamed or on-demand course.” 

Alchorna adds: “A self-aware independent learner could get a great start solely with a Free Tier account and the AWS documentation. A less experienced learner could benefit from a structured program that will likely require payment. Some students can be challenged with a virtualized environment. The lack of physical cabling and devices adds a good deal of abstraction that can hamper kinesthetic learners. A guided learning program with opportunities for instructor-guided assistance can offer a big help for those taking their first steps into AWS cloud computing.”

Firment reminds us time is valuable, too: “Free is expensive when you value your time. While AWS builds world-class cloud services, consider a subscription to a skills development platform that is focused on your individual success.”

Noble-Newton says: “Although there are plenty of free resources out there to learn AWS, it’s important to note that experts are not going to give all of their tricks of the trade for free. So while there’s some great information you can access online without paying, you simply won’t find the same level of expertise in those kinds of courses and training as you would on a paid training program—especially one which allows you to tailor your learning experience, work one-on-one with mentors and AWS experts, and also gives you access to their own contacts to give you the leg-up you need into the world of AWS.”

All great advice distilling to one conclusion: shop around. Find training that works best for your learning style and the time you can invest. If training happens on a schedule that doesn’t suit yours, it may not be the right course for you! If it’s a video-driven course and you are a hands-on learner, find training that offers real-world experience.

AWS Comes in Handy

When we prompted our panel to discuss why someone shouldn’t learn Amazon's platform, none could offer a reasonable argument. Sure, you may need to focus on Azure or Google Cloud Platform, but AWS should be part of your skillset. Even if you’re just going to learn basics, it’ll come in handy.

Keep in mind the cloud is and always will be a series of connected services. Your platform may not be Amazon-dependent, but you can be sure a service or platform you want to work with down the line is. For that reason alone, AWS training (and familiarity) is right for all cloud professionals.

How Much Does AWS Pay?

The latest edition of Stack Overflow’s annual Developer Survey asked its respondents which technologies paid them the most. AWS made near the top of the list, with an average salary of $81,387, notably ahead of Azure ($74,651) and Google Cloud ($73,140).

Those with the right mix of skills and experience can earn far more, of course. It’s equally important to realize that AWS has a huge footprint, and it’s deeply embedded into many organizations’ tech stacks—which means new opportunities for AWS-trained tech pros for quite some time to come. The key thing is to stay abreast of the latest AWS iterations and tools.