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7 Valuable Certifications for Cloud Administrators

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September 10th, 2014 - by Lani Carroll

There’s not much certainty in the job market today, but if you want to make an educated guess about where tomorrow’s hot jobs will be… well, the cloud is looking awfully good.

A couple of years ago, an SAP blog post was headlined 'Cloud Computing Will Create More Jobs Than The Internet'. And it may be true. There’s a huge gap between the skills businesses need and what they’re able to get. Forbes recently stated that only five percent of the IT workforce is cloud ready, despite the fact that there’s a lot of career potential in the cloud. It’s estimated that there will be 14 million new cloud jobs available worldwide in the next few years.

Typical of the exciting job possibilities in the cloud is the cloud administrator position. These positions usually require specific cloud skills - AWS, Google, Microsoft and Rackspace, for instance. Salaries are often over $100,000.

How do you qualify for one of these lucrative jobs? The problem is, things have been moving so fast that it’s not easy to tell what training and certifications are really going to benefit your career most. It’s the Wild West in cloud training right now, with new programs springing up all the time. Fortunately, many of the cloud giants are offering certifications. Their programs focus on their own products, but they also provide cloud computing architectures basics. And there are some vendor-neutral offerings that have been around long enough to have an established track record.

Here are some possibilities for cloud administrator certification today.

Google Apps Certified Administrator

The Google Apps Certified Administrator exam is for administrators who manage Google Apps domains. Successful candidates receive the Google Apps Certified Administrator badge and certificate. It’s recommended that candidates have at least six months of experience managing a Google Apps domain with a minimum of 50 users, which, according to Google, should involve 'daily user support, troubleshooting typical user issues, adding and removing users, setting up and managing groups, managing calendars and resources, managing email routes, and managing Google Apps services by organizational unit'.

The exam is taken from the admin console of a live domain created for the exam.

AWS Certified SysOps Administrator

The Amazon Web Services AWS certification program offers three associate-level certifications, one professional-level certification, and they have plans for three more credentials.

The AWS Certified SysOps Administrator certification is presently an associate-level exam, though Amazon plans to add a professional-level exam eventually. The AWS Certified SysOps Administrator is expected to support AWS systems and services, automate deployments, follow and recommend best AWS practices, and monitor AWS metrics.

Amazon expects candidates to have at least one year’s experience operating AWS-based applications. Exam topics can include cost estimating, configuring a VPC, evaluating appropriate AWS services for specific business requirements, and concepts such as ELB, SWF, and EBS.

Amazon provides a 3-day course that’s helpful for candidates, Systems Operations on AWS. The course cost varies, but it’s ordinarily above $2,000.

Cost per Exam is $150.

AWS continues to dominate among cloud offerings, so AWS certification is one of the most popular.

CloudU Certification

CloudU is sponsored by RackSpace Hosting. It’s a free vendor-neutral program that includes a MOOC learning series about the most interesting topics in the Cloud.

CloudU grants a cloud certificate. To earn the CloudU Certificate you must pass each of ten CloudU quizzes and pass a 50 question final exam.

Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert - Private Cloud

MSCE used to stand for 'Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer'; now it means 'Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert'. The new acronym seems to signal the fact that Microsoft expects broad expertise from the people its training.

For MCSE: Private Cloud, MCSA: Windows Server 2012 is a prerequisite. The coursework is based on Windows Server and System Center 2012. There are five exams altogether — three for the prerequisite MCSA part, and two more to finish up the MCSE. The MCSE exams are: Monitoring and Operating a Private Cloud with System Center 2012 and Configuring and Deploying a Private Cloud with System Center 2012.

The two MCSE exams are $150 each; each of the prerequisite exams is $450. Classes are offered by various private venues, and can range in cost from $2,000 to $23,000 or more.

MCSE: Private Cloud is currently the only cloud certification from Microsoft, but it certainly won’t be surprising if they expand their offerings in the near future.

Cloud Credential Council - Professional Cloud Administrator Certification

The Cloud Credential Council is vendor neutral. It offers several certifications from Associate to Architect level.

For the PCA, attendance on a course is required. Course costs vary depending on the provider; the range from $2,300 to $10,000. The eBook is $200, and the exam is $300. The grandfather application test, for applicants with a great deal of prior experience, is $350.

This course is for network, systems, and database administrators. It includes cloud provisioning and all aspects of administering cloud services.

HP ATP - Cloud Administrator V1

HP offers training in several cloud specialties. These programs use HP software and hardware, but they also offer a lot of cloud theory. For this cloud administer certification, HP says it 'validates that you can manage a service centric private cloud, simplify and optimize infrastructure to application service delivery. It also verifies that you can holistically optimize infrastructure, monitor applications, and maximize uptime for your unified cloud and traditional IT services'.

Classes cost approximately $2,000.

VMware Certified Professional – Cloud

What could be more fundamental to the cloud than virtualization? And what could be more fundamental to virtualization than VMware? So it certainly isn’t surprising that VMware offers a cloud certification, the VCP-Cloud.

There are two paths to earn the VCP-Cloud:

  1. Earn the VCP5-DV (VMware Certified Professional 5 – Datacenter Virtualization) certification. Pass the VMware IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) exam.
  2. Attend a vCloud Director v5.1 or v5.5 class. Pass the VCP-Cloud exam.

Students will be expected to learn how to create and manage vApps and how to administer cloud-enabled networking and storage. Coursework covers VMware vSphere environments, public/private/hybrid clouds, multi-tenancy and cloud security.

The two vCloud Director classes mentioned above are each five days courses and each cost approximately $2,500.

Each exam is $175.

VMware offers additional certifications:

  • VMware Certified Advanced Professional – Cloud Infrastructure Design (VCAP-CID).
  • VMware Certified Advanced Professional – Cloud Infrastructure Administration (VCAP-CIA).
  • VMware Certified Design Expert – Cloud (VCDX-Cloud). The VCDX is pretty formidable; it’s likely to be an aspirational exam, for those who are really ambitious.
  • VMware Certified Advanced Professional – Cloud Governance (VCAP-CG).


The cost for each of these certifications is dependent on a number of factors. Some courses allow self-study, some insist on the candidate taking a class or series of classes. If the classes are offered through private schools, they can become quite expensive.

The many cloud certification programs we have now are no doubt only a fraction of the number of programs that will be available soon, but there are already programs to satisfy virtually any cloud interest. Clearly, the field right now is particularly rich for anyone interested in specializing in the offerings of a particular vendor, such as Amazon or VMware.

Another factor for many candidates will be price, with wide variations between qualifications. Potential candidates should do a careful analysis of the real cost (and potential benefits) of each certification. There’s already sufficient variety of programs that a suitable certification will probably be available for any interest or any pocketbook.