3 min read

4x or 1x Certified - Does it matter?

What is more important to showcase? Quantity or type of certifications? This post looks at how I view the number of certs people highlight on social platforms.
4x or 1x Certified - Does it matter?

I often see in peoples LinkedIn headline is stats around how many certifications they hold such as 6x AWS | 4x AZURE | 2x GCP . The question is what does this actually show? Does someone with 7 certificates have more knowledge than someone with 4? What about those without any certifications?

Numbers don't always add up.

The problem with just comparing the numbers mathematically is that not all certifications are equal. 4x does not always equal 4x!

Unless over 4 certificates, all of these could be the practitioner and associate certifications. This is often how people learning journey goes, and a good route to learn AWS. However, some people can have worked with AWS for years and just go straight for Professional and Specialty certifications. For them the 4x would be 2x Professional and 2x Specialty certifications. This is clearly a higher level of knowledge the 4x foundation certifications. Also, If someone only had the Solution Architect Professional (SA Pro) certification this single 1x on their profile is clearly worth the same as a 3x on someone who has Cloud Practitioner,  SA Associate and SA Pro. So in this case 1x equals 3x.

So unless the number is 7x or higher I'm going to have to look at which certifications you hold. Why 7x? Well in even if you were methodical and went level by level at 7x you would have to hold 3 professional/specialty exams. At this point I know you have some of the more challenging certifications and unless I am looking for a specific specialty I don't have to dig in and see which you hold.

Numbers aren't always the answer.

Just because someone does not hold any certifications does not mean that they have no knowledge?

At the start of my AWS journey I completed multiple training course and even a bootcamp at re:invent 15.  However i only completed my first certification because i was in the job market. I know many organisations that does this because they are willing to train bur don't care about the certification. Does that mean after about 7 years of working on AWS, with production systems, that someone with SA Associate had more knowldege than me? My employer would have certainly hoped not.

While I am not against certifications as a way to showcase the level of your knowledge, I'd prefer people see certifications as a learning path and way to validate knowledge. I also don't see value in certifications alone. I have come across people with professional and speciality certifications who have very little understanding of the wider cloud landscape or business values. Certifications always need to be put next to experience and a balance found. On thier own the two can be meaningless but by looking at both you will see the true extent of someones abilities.

So what's the answer?

Maybe we shouldn't use x as a notation such as 1x or 3x, maybe we should just state the highest, or maybe not put anything.

So use something instead of x?  Maybe I should put 3a, 2p, 2s to signify I have the different quantity of each level. This would signify what my 7x is made up of. This would quickly allow people to compare 4x (cp, 3a) to 4x (2p, 2s) without further digging. There are obviously problems. First is that it doesn't look as impressive and some people want quantity over quality/depth. Second, if you don't know AWS Certification you wouldn't understand the difference. For me I would ask do both of these matter. If I am in the AWS sphere I would know what the notations mean and if I am looking for credibility I would dig into the actual certifications anyway so you wouldn't be any worse of, if anything better as I value honesty.

Maybe we should just put the highest certification(s). I see a lot of people just state AWS Solution Architect Pro, or AWS Security Specialist. To me this is a great option. Yes numbers are nice but if I am searching for specific certifications or skills this will improve your chances of being seen. It also means those with no AWS knowledge can also understand your skills and how they could translate to other roles. Again a great option if you're looking for work and apply for a Cloud Architect as this could be cloud agnostic but you'd still be showing up in searches.

And maybe, and most controversially, we could put nothing in relation to certifications. If you take a look at my LinkedIn headline it states:

Senior Technical Architect | AWS Engineer | Continual Learner

It says nothing about my certifications, I hold 9 by the way, but more about my skills. I've chosen words that show I have architectural skills, AWS (SA Pro)  as well as wider Tech Arch, AWS engineering skills (DevOps Pro) as well as my mindset to continually learn new skills and technologies.

What's right for you?

Only you will be able to answer that. You may decided that you just leave the default 'job at company' title. You may decide at a particular point in you career you put quantity and other points level. What ever is right for you at a particular point will be up to you but hopefully this is food for thought.