Prepare for your first AWS Certification

Prepare for your first AWS Certification

If you are in a developer/engineering role and have decided to pursue your first AWS certification, I am here to assist you with the following:

  • Choosing the right certification

  • Identifying the courses/resources you will need

In most cases, the first confusing part of certification for engineers/developers is whether to go for Solution Architect Associate or Developer Associate.

Now, some of you may wonder why I did not consider AWS Cloud Practitioner. There are two reasons for this:

  • This Cloud Practitioner certification suits marketing roles more than developer roles.

  • I assume you are a developer who has been using AWS services for at least a year.

Now, before you proceed, this article is not suitable for you if:

  • You are not using AWS services regularly.

  • You are more interested in obtaining a certificate than gaining hands-on experience.

Assuming you are still here, the perspective of having a certificate is to validate your existing knowledge. One key point to remember is that while you validate your knowledge, AWS acts as a marketing agent to sell its products and services.

Before we proceed further, what are my credentials to write this article? Okay,

  • I hold two AWS certificates (Both AWS CSAA and CDA).

  • I am a senior software engineer with over 5 years of experience.

Which certificate should I go for?

For the first certificate, we have two options, both at the associate level:

  • AWS Certified Solution Architect - Associate (CSAA)

  • AWS Certified Developer - Associate (CDA)

Now, although in my case, I took the CSAA first, I encourage you to go for CDA.

Reasons why I discourage going for CSAA:

  • It requires knowledge of networking to a certain degree.

  • Comparing study content, it is larger than the CDA.

  • Challenges knowledge on migrating on-premise services to AWS Clouds, which is not a regular job for a developer role.

  • Tons of hands-on work on the AWS console.

And why I prefer CDA for the first certification:

  • This includes serverless services, which are pretty common for developer roles, as we use them in on-premise servers.

  • Most of the hands-on work is related to existing development tasks.

  • We have already used most of the tools and services in open-source versions (or from different vendors).

Overall, as developers, we use a lot of open-source tools/services. In the CDA exam, we will become familiar with the AWS versions of these tools. For example, for CI/CD, we use Jenkins, GitHub Actions, Travis CI, etc. Here, we will find the AWS versions of these tools. In our daily jobs, we develop APIs, build UIs, and deploy them. In the course curriculum, we will get used to AWS services for these tasks.

So AWS CDA is not just comparatively easier but also an interesting choice for the first certification.

However, if you are involved in building infrastructure, managing security, handling networking stuff rather than raw coding, I would suggest going with AWS CSAA first.


Stephane Maarek, Neal Davis, Adrian Cantrill, Jon Bonso, Wizlab have created great resources for both CDA and CSAA certifications. However, if you want a bold outline with minimum resources, you can go with the following:

Courses for AWS CDA

Courses for AWS CSAA


Video Course

Video courses are the most boring but impactful resource for the exam. Personally, I could not concentrate for more than 5 minutes on video tutorials. To reduce this issue, I did the following:

  • Ran these videos at 1.5x speed

  • Paused and took personalized notes

  • Went to the AWS console and played with the services

  • Tried practice exams and to clarify specific exam topics watched the related video (or video section)

Practice Exam

Practice exams help identify the boundaries of the course. When I found multiple questions on a single topic, I put additional concentration on these topics' video courses.

During practice, even if you are sure about the answers, read the explanation part to learn additional information about the services.

In my real exam, I found around 10 questions pretty close to the practice exam. Although the practice exams are comparatively more challenging than the original exam, try to revisit them until you score over 80% in each exam.


Hands-on experiences are the keys to learning, experimenting, and memorizing the services. For CSAA, the most important hands-on part is creating a custom VPC that includes public and private subnets. Run servers in these subnets along with ALB, ASG, IG, NAT Gateway. This will help to cover a major portion of the syllabus.

For CDA, build a serverless application with SAM, API Gateway, Lambda, and DynamoDB. Use Code Pipeline to deploy code to the EC2 instance (or Beanstalk) using Code Build and Code Deploy. Play with different deployment configurations. This will not just cover the exam syllabus but also keep the certification journey interesting.


This is a personal opinion based on my journey with these two certifications. For queries, comment below or shoot me an email. Good luck on your cloud journey.