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CertMag Salary Survey Confirms Rise of AWS

By - Source: Toms IT Pro

AWS Certified Solutions Architects (Associate) are generally older and more experienced than you might think, but demand for them is on the rise.

Credit: Gil C/ShutterstockCredit: Gil C/ShutterstockAmazon is flexing its muscles all over the place. Besides its commanding position in online e-commerce, Amazon also occupies major market positions in web services, cloud computing, grocery delivery (and even physical grocery stores, thanks to the recent Whole Foods acquisition) and more. A recent Forbes article also grants Amazon strong, if not commanding positions, in gadget installation, movie and TV content, music streaming, social media and healthcare IT as well.

But cloud computing in general, and Amazon Web Services (AWS) in particular, is a market in which Amazon occupies the top market position, with chief competitors Google (Google Cloud Platform) and Microsoft (Azure) trailing somewhat behind. In fact, a recent Certification Magazine story produced some numbers to back up this idea.

MORE: AWS Certification Guide: Overview and Career Paths

High Value for AWS Certified Solutions Architect (Associate)

Certification Magazine identifies this certification as a "hot potato" and puts it in 14th position in its top 75 credentials. For an associate level certification, the salary figures are pretty eye-popping, too: the average salary for people who held this credential in 2016 was $134,320, with a median value of $126,670. Most AWS Certified Solutions Architect (Associate) –AWS-CSAA for short (it's not an official acronym) – are older than average. Thus, they have more on-the-job experience, and are likely earning more simply by sheer dint of time spent working and knowledge acquired along the way. The age distribution for AWS-CSAA holders fell out like this:

  • 35.3 percent: Aged 45 to 54
  • 26.6 percent: Aged 35 to 44
  • 20.6 percent: Aged 25 to 34
  • 4.4 percent: Aged 24 or younger

The survey doesn't actually call out workers order than 54 (55 and older, that is), but by process of elimination that group must represent the remaining 13.1 percent needed to bring the total to 100 percent. It is a distribution that favors those at the middle or more senior stages of their careers. As I have already observed, that probably accounts for the high salary for an associate level certification, which normally adorns individuals at earlier career phases.

Educational attainment for AWS-CSAA holders also bears this out:

  • 32 percent: Master's Degree
  • 35 percent: Bachelor's Degree
  • 17.6 percent: some level of technical training beyond high school, but no degree
  • 11.8 percent: high school diploma only

The missing remainder, 3.6 percent, probably reflects those with PhDs or other more advanced degrees beyond the Master's level. If so, that indicates a total more than 70 percent for those with a degree of some kind also earning the AWS-CSAA. Here again, this shows a preponderance of highly-educated certification holders, which is in keeping with the higher age and pay grades reported for this certification credential.

The real clincher for this finding is that more than half of survey respondents claimed more than a decade of experience in working with cloud services (52.9 percent, in fact) with an additional 18 percent reporting working in the general field between 9 and 10 years. Here again, around 70 percent have some serious time in the niche to go along with their education and certification (and relatively more advanced age). All this adds up to some big numbers for pay, primarily to recognize all the many milestones reached along the way to that kind of career situation.

If You Get an AWS-CSAA, Will You Get the Big Salary, Too?

The answer to that question starts with "That depends…" Sure you will, if you've also got the grey hair, the experience and the education that goes along with the typical AWS-CSAA holder's reported stats.

If you're younger, less educated and less experienced, earning the AWS-CSAA won't hurt your career prospects or employability (an astonishing 95 percent of all such certification holders reported themselves to be gainfully employed). But it may not automatically put your salary in the $125 to $135K range that sits around the median and average salaries reported for the CertMag survey. That's because employers are paying people on the job for more than just the certification under consideration.

For many respondents, it's highly likely that they hold multiple other certifications in addition, and those will undoubtedly factor into their pay grade as well. Though earning (and maintaining) certification has value, and AWS is a great environment on which to become certified, there's nothing inevitable about the pay that results from earning the AWS-CSAA. A certain amount of healthy skepticism, along with an understanding of what the demographics mean, should help steer interested IT pros into more realistic expectations if they head down this road. And whatever shows up in your pay envelope, do your best to focus on areas you find engaging and interesting: these feelings will sustain you long after Parkinson's Law kicks in and you boost spending to catch up with the raise that more and better skills and knowledge will provide.