Thinking about validating your Big Data skills?

The AWS Certified Big Data – Specialty certification could be exactly what you’re looking for. Here’s everything you need to know about how to land this sought-after accreditation.

According to our Careers and Hiring Guide, three-fifths of AWS professionals (59%) now hold an official certification. Given the fast-changing nature of cloud tech, certifications are becoming doubly valuable.

Firstly, they help professionals keep their product knowledge up to date. Secondly, they give employers confidence in a candidate’s skills and help them size up an applicant’s profile against their job spec.

With data now the world’s most vital resource, having a Big Data-related certification on your resume (especially one issued by the world’s most popular cloud service provider) can give your career prospects a significant boost.

Companies want people who can extract maximum insight from the oceans of information they and their customers generate every day.

That means tech professionals who can prove their talents in data analysis are hugely desirable, and for those working with AWS products, the AWS Certified Big Data – Specialty certification is the top prize to aim for.

About the AWS Certified Big Data Specialty certification

What is the AWS Certified Big Data – Specialty certification?

AWS certifications are split into nine sub-groups. Big Data is one of the vendor’s three Specialty certifications—the others being Advanced Networking, and Security.

As the name suggests, this badge covers all things related to big data analysis on AWS, and is aimed at professionals who’re responsible for running intricate Big Data analysis.

Broadly, the certification validates your ability to implement AWS Big Data services, design and maintain Big Data infrastructure, and take advantage of AWS tools to automate parts of the analytical process.

The exam is a multiple-choice, multiple-answer test, and you have 170 minutes to complete it. You’ll need to go to a local testing center to take it.

The AWS Certified Big Data – Specialty certification needs to be renewed every three years.

AWS Certified Big Data Specialty certification prerequisites

What are the prerequisites for the AWS Certified Big Data – Specialty certification?

There are no prerequisites required to sit for the AWS Certified Big Data – Specialty certification.

Ideally, you’ll have at least two years of hands-on experience with AWS products under your belt before you take a run at the exam, but you don’t need to have passed any other exams.

Previously, candidates for the AWS Certified Big Data – Specialty certification would’ve had to have earned a Cloud Practitioner or Associate certification before pursuing a Specialty badge. However, in the interest of providing maximum flexibility and leveling the playing field for AWS professionals, AWS removed all existing prerequisites in late 2018.

Training for the AWS Certified Big Data Specialty certification

What training is available to help me prepare for the exam?

The best way to start planning your exam prep is to get to grips with the AWS Certified Big Data – Specialty exam guide.

Though there are no mandatory courses or exams that you need to take before sitting the Big Data – Specialty exam, there is an AWS-recommended training path that budding Big Data Specialists should follow to give themselves the best chance of success.

This path begins with a free, online course covering the foundational knowledge that burgeoning data professionals need to kickstart their careers. The Data Analytics Fundamentals course is self-paced, and includes introductions to a massive range of data-related tools and techniques like data storage, processing, data structure and types, cleansing and transformation, and visualization.

Though largely broad in its coverage, it does touch on specific AWS products such as Amazon S3, Amazon EMR, AWS Glue, and Amazon Redshift.

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The second step on AWS’ suggested training path is the Big Data on AWS course. Priced at $2,095, the course is delivered over three days in an instructor-led classroom environment or via an online classroom.

Designed for solutions architects, data scientists, and other professionals who architect Big Data cloud solutions, this course is far more in-depth. It equips participants with the skills and knowledge required to work with the likes of Amazon Elastic MapReduce (EMR), Amazon Redshift, and Amazon Kinesis to analyze data and build Big Data environments.

The final recommended stage of the learning path is another online or offline classroom course: Exam Readiness: Big Data – Specialty.

Costing $350, this course aims to scrub up AWS data analysis knowledge, taking a close look at a number of Big Data use cases and getting participants ready to pass the Big Data – Specialty exam with flying colors.

If self-guided study is more your jam, you can also purchase official AWS practice exams, which cost $40 per attempt.

There are also plenty of independent training courses designed to guide you to certification success. A Cloud Guru, for example, offers a course that’s specific to this certification. Online learning platforms like Udemy, Linux Academy, and CloudAcademy have courses you can do at your own pace that include quizzes and practice exams too.

AWS Certified Big Data Specialty certification salary

What kind of salary can I expect as an AWS Big Data specialist?

The AWS Certified Big Data—Specialty certification can help launch, or advance, a range of data-related AWS careers. Here’s what you can expect to make in just a few of these roles:

Role Junior Mid-level Senior Contract (hourly)
Big Data Engineer $10


$120,000 $150,000 $130


Big Data Solutions Architect $150,000 $172,000 $200,000 $150


Data Engineer $90,000 $111,750 $160,000 $120


Data Scientist $100,000 $141,000 $210,000 $150


See more of the latest AWS salaries

Almost a quarter of our salary survey respondents reported a direct increase in their salary after passing their certification. The AWS Certified Big Data—Specialty certification was among the top three certifications that our respondents identified as most likely to result in an increased salary or career move.

AWS Certified Big Data Specialty certification cost

How much does the AWS Certified Big Data – Specialty certification cost?

The exam itself costs $300 to sit. There’s no discount for retakes; every attempt costs the same. If you do need to re-sit, you have to wait 14 days to try again, but you’ll find out immediately whether or not you’ve passed.

Once you’ve passed an exam and become AWS certified, you can get a 50% discount on another exam or recertification, as well as a free practice exam voucher to help you land your next badge.

There are certain situations, however, in which you can land a discount. If you’re a qualifying US veteran covered by a GI Bill with an education provision, you can apply for a reimbursement for the cost of AWS Certification exams. You’ll have to pay for your exam upfront, but you’ll then be able to submit a VA application to have the cost covered.

AWS Certified Big Data Specialty certification exam questions

What kind of questions will I be asked in the exam?

Big Data is no small topic. There are a whole host of data storage, management, and analytical tools available on AWS, so the list of subjects covered in the exam is sizable.

Roughly speaking, you’ll be expected to be able to define and architect AWS Big Data services, and explain where they fit into the overarching data lifecycle from collection to ingestion, storage, processing, and visualization. It’s not all theoretical knowledge either; your ability to design scalable and cost-effective data processing solutions will also be tested.

AWS publishes a few sample questions so you can get a feel for the way exam questions are delivered.

The exam is split into six knowledge domains, each taking up between 10-20% of the exam:

Make sure you know how to make the most of products such as those listed below, which are known to make an appearance on the AWS Certified Big Data – Specialty certification examination.

Broader topics you’ll need to have a good grasp of include:

Ready to start your journey to AWS Certified Big Data greatness? We wish you the best of luck. And don’t forget: once you’ve earned your cert, you’ll need a fantastic AWS Big Data job to match. Get a head start by registering with us today.

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