By now, you’ve probably heard a ton of statistics about AWS Certified Solutions Architects – the salary, the number of job openings, and more. And if you hadn’t heard it on your own, you’ve probably heard it from us. We talk about certifications because they’re important – certifications provide tangible proof of your skill set. We also believe they are an excellent way to boost your career. Getting AWS Certified is one of the best career moves you can make, so let’s talk about why there’s such a high demand for Solutions Architects.

Supply and demand for Solutions Architects

This is economics 101. The less of something is available, the more people will pay for it. According to Forbes, the average salary for individuals with the AWS CSA certification is more than $125,000 per year. And those numbers only show salary data for the Associate level. Clearly the demand for Solutions Architects exists, so where is it coming from?

The answer will probably not surprise you – companies are paying top dollar for Certified Solutions Architects because those individuals have proven they have the skills companies are looking for.

If this still seems obvious, let’s break down the reasons why the AWS CSA certification is in such high demand right now.

The skills gap

To understand demand, let’s go back to thinking about economics. There is a demand for Solutions Architects because they are in short supply – but more specifically, their skills are in short supply. Businesses often refer to this as a skills gap. According to the Rightscale State of the Cloud Report from earlier this year, more than two-thirds of IT decision makers reported a gap between the skills their current employees have and the skills they need to meet their goals.

This might seem like it’s just a business problem, but remember, businesses are run by people. How many times have you had to work late because you or your team got stuck on a critical issue? No one likes to stay at the office all night – we’d all rather get home to spend time with our families. These kinds of situations can be avoided with the proper training. The better your skills, the faster you can solve problems. And that means more time for the things you enjoy.

What does this mean for you? It means that employers are willing to pay more for people with the skills they need. If you can prove that you have those skills, you’ll have a great deal of leverage in getting that job or promotion you’ve been looking for. Not to mention fewer cancelled dinner plans.

What’s so special about Solutions Architects?

You might be thinking:

This sounds great, I’d love to have marketable skills. But how do I know what skills employers are looking for?

Let’s turn back to the data for an answer. The cloud is getting crowded – Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud are growing faster than ever. But what’s interesting is that Amazon Web Services still holds 57% of the market share, and that number hasn’t changed since last year. If you want to become an expert on one specific cloud platform, AWS is clearly the way to go.

But doesn’t AWS offer multiple certifications? Why shouldn’t you get the Developer or SysOps certification instead? This really depends on your current role and skill set. The Solutions Architect certification has the highest average salary, but the value of other certifications can be higher in certain scenarios. For example, if you’re a software engineer, the Developer certification might add more value to your company. If you’re in operations, SysOps might be the way to go.

However, if you’re not sure where to start, the Certified Solutions Architect exam is our recommendation. It provides the broadest range of skills on AWS so that you can get up and running with the platform right away. And because the skills it covers are so broad, it gives you a better starting point if you are looking to get a new job working with AWS.

From a business perspective, this makes sense. Specialized positions usually require fewer people, and the Developer and SysOps certifications are definitely more specialized. But companies that run on AWS can never have too many people with a general understanding of the platform. So if a business is hiring people to work with their infrastructure, they can’t go wrong with Solutions Architects.

So why do you need a certification?

If you have 10 years experience in IT, you may just prefer to let your work speak for itself. Maybe your resume is already full of accomplishments and projects you’ve completed. If that’s the case, great! But ask yourself this – how well do those achievements stand out to a recruiter who is probably going to spend less than 10 seconds looking at your application before deciding if you get an interview?

Certifications are a great way to make a hiring manager think twice before throwing your resume in the trash. It draws attention to you – if certifications were easy to get, then everyone would have one. Showing that you put in the work sets you apart in a way that a list of projects sometimes does not.

On the other hand, maybe you’re totally new to the tech industry, and are looking to get your first job. This is definitely a situation where a certification can boost your resume to the top of the pile. As more and more people read the salary statistics, companies are getting flooded with applications for tech positions. After all, who doesn’t want to make that kind of money? A lot of these applicants will list AWS under their skills sections, but let’s be honest, some of them don’t have the real skills to do the job.

This goes back to what we talked about earlier. Having an AWS Solutions Architect certification will get you noticed. Sure, there are plenty of people who watch a few videos and get “paper certified” – but if it comes down to one application with a cert and one without, who do you think is getting an interview?

How to be in-demand

When you get a job, you make a tradeoff. Your employer pays you, and you use your skills to help them meet their business goals. Again with the economics: the better skills you have, the more your employer will be willing to pay you.

Hopefully it’s clear by now that there’s a huge demand for Solutions Architects. And hopefully it’s also clear that you can leverage this demand into an exciting new job working with AWS systems.

The key is to be in-demand. Build projects. Work with new services. Polish up your resume. But most importantly, start working toward that certification. Getting AWS Certified is tough, and we’re not here to tell you that it’s easy and you can do it in a couple weeks. We’re not even going to guarantee that you will pass on your first try. But what we will say, and what we’ve been saying for years, is this: it will pay off if you put in the work.

How in-demand are you? Take our AWS practice quiz to see if you’re ready to get Certified:

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2 responses to “Why is there such high demand for Solutions Architects?”

  1. Faruk says:

    Thanks Phil, I totally agree with your comments: a certification will get you noticed by recruiters, but won’t necessarily get you a job. I’m talking about those of us who are working towards certification but don’t have the real-world experience – “paper-certs” – as you call us. But how do we get the real-world hands-on skills (part from the labs)? My thinking is maybe do some ‘projects’ – any ideas? Or approach companies and offer to work on a voluntary basis for a limited time/project? What do you think, Phil?

    • Phil Zona says:

      Hey Faruk, great question – one way get that experience is to build personal projects or migrate existing ones to AWS. If you have a personal website, see if you can get it running on EC2, then set up some redundancy (you can tear it all down once you’re done – high availability can get expensive). Or if you don’t have any projects already, download something from Github and see if you can get it to work. Coming up with project ideas can be tough, and we’re trying to publish more hands-on, practical guides to give you some ideas (we might even have something coming out later this week…). For now, here’s a list of free, open source projects that you can host yourself.

      As for voluntary projects, I don’t think I would recommend that. It devalues your skills, the skills of other solutions architects, and most importantly, you should never have to work for free – it isn’t fair. Christophe did an excellent post about how to get a job when you don’t have that real world experience, check it out here.

      Hope that helps!

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