Your guide to the AWS Certified SysOps Administrator – Associate certification

By Danny Aspinall

Is the AWS Certified SysOps Administrator – Associate certification hard? Is it worth it? And what do you need to know so that you can smash the AWS Certified SysOps Administrator – Associate exam the first time of asking?  

Find out in this post.  

Working towards your first certification, next certification, or recertification is always a good idea. To increase your value to both your employer and the wider job market, the AWS Certified SysOps Administrator – Associate certification should be desired by any professional in or out of work in 2023.   

When we surveyed AWS professions in our Jefferson Frank Careers and Hiring Guide: AWS Edition, 22% of respondents reported currently holding the AWS Certified SysOps Administrator – Associate, and one-fifth (19%) reported it as most likely to increase your pay.  

 But that’s not to say earning it is a breeze—quite the opposite! Like all certifications, obtaining the AWS Certified SysOps Administrator – Associate requires time, effort, and dedication.   

And that’s where we come in. 

This post is an all-encompassing guide to the AWS Certified SysOps Administrator – Associate certification, covering all the important fundamental information and the study, preparation, and assessment tips you need to succeed.  

What is the AWS Certified SysOps Administrator – Associate certification?  

The AWS Certified SysOps Administrator – Associate certification is awarded to candidates who successfully pass the SOA-C02 exam.  

The SOA-C02 exam validates a candidate’s ability to deploy, manage, and operate workloads on AWS, with candidates expected to know how to: 

  • Perform operations using AWS Management Console and the AWS CLI 
  • Support and maintain AWS workloads following the AWS Well-Architected Framework  
  • Monitor, log, and troubleshoot systems  
  • Identify, classify, and remediate incidents  
  • Apply networking concepts like DNS and firewalls  
  • Implement architectural requirements  
  • Conduct business continuity and disaster recovery procedures 

Who should obtain an AWS Certified SysOps Administrator – Associate certification? 

 The AWS Certified SysOps Administrator – Associate certification is intended for system administrators in cloud operations roles.  

Typical responsibilities held by professionals in these roles include: 

  • Updating servers and applications  
  • Automating manual or repeatable processes  
  • Monitoring and optimizing performance  
  • Deploying and managing infrastructure  
  • Migrating workloads from on-premises environments  
  • Estimating and optimizing costs  

 For this certification, it’s recommended that you have at least a year’s worth of practical, hands-on experience with deployment, management, networking, and security on AWS.  

Alongside this practical experience, it will also pay to have a solid foundation of technical expertise. More specifically, candidates should have a confident understanding of the AWS Well-Architected Framework, AWS Management Console, AWS CLI, security controls and compliance requirements, and AWS networking and security services.  

That’s not to say you need to know all of this today–working towards certification is a great opportunity to build this expertise and upskill as you go. But of course, that sort of advanced general IT knowledge is required to ensure you’re not jumping straight into the deep end.  

 At a minimum, candidates should ideally have 1–2 years of experience as a systems administrator in an operations role, with experience monitoring, logging, and troubleshooting, a good knowledge of networking concepts, and familiarity with implementing architectural requirements.  

How to earn an AWS Certified Developer – Associate certification 

The SOA-C02 exam can be taken either at an in-person testing center or as an online proctored exam, and is available to sit in the following languages:  

  • English 
  • Japanese 
  • Korean 
  • Simplified Chinese  

In the current exam, you have 130 minutes to complete the 65-question exam. Each of these questions will be either:  

  • Multiple choice: with these questions, you’ll be offered a choice of four responses. Only one of the answers is correct.  
  • Multiple responses: with these questions, you’ll be offered a choice of five or more responses. At least two of the responses are correct.  

The incorrect responses, labeled ‘distractors’, will be plausible answers relevant to the topic, so be sure to evaluate each carefully to avoid being caught out! 

How is the AWS Certified SysOps Administrator – Associate scored? 

Of the 65 questions you’ll complete in the exam, only 50 are scored. The other 15 unscored questions are there to collect candidate performance data and inform future questions, but you won’t be informed of which ones these are.  

Scored on a scale of 100-1000, you need a minimum score of 720 to pass the AWS Certified SysOps Administrator – Associate exam. Unanswered questions will be marked as incorrect but there’s no penalty for guessing, so ensure you give each question a go! 

 How much does the AWS Certified SysOps Administrator – Associate cost? 

It costs $150 to take this exam, like all Associate-level certifications.  

Those currently in work should consider asking their employer whether they offer support towards these costs. Almost half (44%) of the certified employees in our Careers and Hiring Guide reported having their certifications fully funded by their employer, with another quarter (27%) receiving partial funding. 

The latest career insights from the AWS ecosystem.

Covering certification, salaries, benefits, career advice, and a whole lot more, the Jefferson Frank Careers and Hiring Guide is the ultimate resource for anyone looking to build a rewarding career in AWS. 

AWS Certified SysOps Administrator – Associate exam guide 

But what does the AWS Certified SysOps Administrator – Associate exam actually entail? 

Since March 2023, the AWS Certified SysOps Administrator – Associate exam has not featured any exam labs. Previously, candidates were given a set of tasks to perform in the AWS Management Console or AWS CLI, but this section has been removed until further notice. This is only temporary, however, while AWS evaluates the exam labs and makes improvements to provide an optimal candidate experience. 

The current exam covers six main areas, each of which is given different weighting towards your overall score: 

  • Monitoring, Logging, and Remediation (20%) – eg. implementing metrics, alarms, and filters by using AWS monitoring and logging services; remediating issues based on monitoring and availability metrics 
  • Reliability and Business Continuity (16%) – eg. implementing scalability and elasticity; implementing high availability and resilient environments; implementing backup and restore strategies 
  • Deployment, Provisioning, and Automation (18%) – eg. provisioning and maintaining cloud resources; automating manual or repeatable processes  
  • Security and Compliance (16%) eg. implementing and managing security and compliance policies; implementing data and infrastructure protection strategies 
  • Networking and Content Delivery (18%) – eg. implementing networking features and connectivity; configuring domains, DNS services, and content delivery; troubleshooting network connectivity issues 
  • Cost and Performance Optimization (12%) eg. implementing cost optimization strategies; implementing performance optimization strategies 

You can expect to be quizzed on a range of tools and technologies across all six areas of the SOA-C02 exam, including but not limited to: 

  • Compute – eg. Amazon EC2, AWS Lambada, AWS EC2 Image Builder   
  • Storage – eg. Amazon S3, Amazon EBS, Amazon Storage Gateway   
  • Analytics – eg. Amazon Elasticsearch Service 
  • Database – eg. Amazon ElastiCache, Amazon RDS, Amazon Aurora  
  • Management, Monitoring, and Governance – eg. AWS CloudFormation, AWS CLI, AWS Service Catalog 
  • Security, Identity, and Compliance – eg. AWS Detective, Amazon GuardDuty; AWS Security Hub  
  • Application Integration – eg. Amazon EventBridge, Amazon SNS, Amazon SQS 
  • Networking and Content Delivery – eg. AWS Firewall Manager, Amazon VPC, AWS Transit Gateway  
  • Cost Management – eg. AWS Cost and Usage Report, AWS Cost Explorer, Savings Plans 
  • Migration and Transfer – eg. AWS DataSync, AWS Transfer Family 

AWS Certified SysOps Administrator – Associate certification: exam preparation  

If the exam is sounding tough right now, don’t fret–you’re not the first professional to start having second thoughts! 

In fact, our Careers and Hiring Guide found that as many as 43% of AWS professionals have started studying for certification but stopped before achieving it, with common reasons including procrastination, a fear of failing, and a lack of time and motivation.  

To ensure your learning stays focused and efficient, it pays to know what’s not covered in the exam–this ensures you don’t take any detours during your research and revision, optimizing your use of time and preventing the scope of the exam from feeling too overwhelming.  

AWS states that candidates taking the SOA-C02 exam are not expected to know how to: 

  • Develop software 
  • Design hybrid and multi-VPC networking 
  • Design distributed architectures 
  • Define security, compliance, and governance requirements 
  • Design continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) pipelines 

Of course, it’s even more important to know what you will be faced with in the exam, and this is where the official AWS training resources come in handy.  

AWS Certified SysOps Administrator – Associate training material  

Through AWS Skill Builder, AWS offers high-quality training material aimed at helping you to expand your knowledge, build your confidence, and assess your exam preparedness.  

AWS training resources dedicated to the SOA-C02 exam include: 

For wider research not specifically tailored to the AWS Certified SysOps Administrator – Associate, we’d also recommend checking out AWS’ extensive selection of official white papers and documentation 

There’s also a variety of courses and training materials available online from third parties, with high-quality options including: 

  • Digital Cloud Training: led by AWS Solution Architect and IT Instructor, Neal Davis, this comprehensive course is delivered through video training, practice exams, and an ebook. Featuring 12 hours of on-demand video training, guided hands-on exercises, theory lessons, exam scenarios, cheat sheets, and even a three-week study plan to help with exam preparation, you’ll learn through plenty of engaging visualization and opportunities to put your knowledge into practice.  
  • Udemy: join best-selling Udemy instructor and AWS solutions architect, consultant, and software developer, Stephane Maarek, in an on-demand video course that contains more than 26 hours of content. Packed with practical information on how to use AWS inside and out as a SysOps, and providing a logical and in-depth progression through the core topics in the SOA-C02 exam, this course offers hands-on lectures, quizzes, and a full practice test included. And with Stephane scoring an incredibly impressive 980 out of 1000 in his SOA-C02 exam (meaning he made just one mistake), you can rest assured that you’re in good hands!  
  • A Cloud Guru: AWS Training Architect, Errol Hooper, and Senior Technical Instructor, Faye Ellis, lead this course on how to deploy, manage, and operate scalable, highly available, and fault-tolerant systems on AWS. Preparing you for everything you’ll need ahead of your SOA-C02 exam, the clear and succinct course is made up of 5-15 minute videos that can be viewed on demand, and includes quizzes, practical exam labs, and a brand new exam simulator.  

Whether it’s boosting your salary, improving your job/contract prospects, or progressing your career development, earning certification is worth it—and keeping these end goals in mind can help to keep you motivated when the going gets tough.  

The AWS Certified SysOps Administrator – Associate certification requires plenty of hard work and dedication, but by putting the time in today, you can propel your career forward tomorrow.  

On the lookout for your next AWS SysOps job?

Whether you’re on the hunt for your next contract or permanent position, find your next AWS SysOps role by searching our extensive database of opportunities today.   

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