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IT professionals have long sought to distinguish themselves through additional degrees and certifications. This is even more apparent with cloud technologies, where new capabilities and services are constantly added.
Certifications provide a benchmark for managers to help choose the right job candidate. Google offers a range of cloud certification programs -- from entry level to role-specific -- that typically cost between $125 and $200. There are no prerequisites for any of the certifications, though most recommend a higher level of industry knowledge -- at least three years of industry experience and at least one year of hands-on work with Google Cloud Platform (GCP).
Evaluate these top Google certifications and what the corresponding exams cover.
Associate Cloud Engineer
Google's entry level certification program, Associate Cloud Engineer, offers a single overall assessment of the essential tasks necessary to use GCP. This course ensures competency in the basics of cloud operations, including how to plan, deploy, monitor and secure an application using the Google Cloud Console and the command-line interface.
Practitioners must understand:
- account and billing setups;
- basic component installations;
- planning and configuration through the pricing calculator;
- compute, storage and network resource selection;
- complete deployments using compute, Kubernetes, Google App Engine and other GCP services;
- resource monitoring and management; and
- proper access and security configurations.
This Google cloud certification program requires about six months of practical experience. Candidates can prepare with the practice exam and the free GCP tier.
Professional Cloud Architect
Google's Professional Cloud Architect certification is an advanced version of the Associate Cloud Engineer certification. The primary difference is the inclusion of advanced concepts and an added emphasis on business issues. Both exams share many of the same topical areas, such as design and management.
This Google cloud certification program emphasizes:
- designing, in terms of business and technical requirements;
- creating migration plans and establishing future roadmaps;
- provisioning and managing compute and storage;
- designing for security and compliance;
- analyzing and optimizing technical and business processes; and
- managing implementations and enhancing the designs for troubleshooting and reliability.
Resources and recertification
Google provides a variety of resources to help candidates prepare for the Associate and Professional exams including an exam guide, practice exam and a free tier on which to practice skills. There are also online and classroom-based training options. However, these cloud certifications must be renewed every two years. Recertification can be particularly beneficial in the cloud industry where new services and improvements to existing services are regularly added to each provider's menu of offerings.
Professional Cloud Developer
The cloud offers unique services and resources that support a new generation of software applications developed for cloud-native deployments. Google's Professional Cloud Developer certification validates a candidate's ability to create applications using Google's managed services. Additionally, the exam covers the use of Google databases, runtimes and tools -- such as Stackdriver for performance monitoring metrics.
Practitioners will learn how to:
- design applications and APIs for GCP using different design approaches, such as microservices;
- establish security in the design process;
- manage application data; and
- plan for application migrations.
The exam also covers:
- building and testing applications using CI/CD techniques;
- traditional test deployments and deployments in GCP services, including App Engine and Cloud Functions;
- integrations that connect the application with other managed services, such as Cloud SQL; and
- application performance monitoring, management and troubleshooting.
This cloud certification program does not evaluate coding skills or focus on any one coding language.
Professional Cloud Network Engineer
Networks ensure adequate bandwidth, low latency and security -- all of which are vital to modern enterprise applications. Google's Professional Cloud Network Engineer certification validates a candidate's ability to plan, implement, manage and troubleshoot networks in GCP, including GCP Virtual Private Cloud (VPC).
The exam covers elements of:
- network planning and design;
- testing and implementation covering the use of VPCs, routing, firewall use and Google Kubernetes Engine clusters; and
- configurations involving cloud load balancing, Cloud CDN, Cloud DNS and more.
Additionally, practitioners that pursue this Google cloud certification program must understand how to handle hybrid connectivity topics, including VLAN use and bulk storage transfers. In terms of security, expect to become more familiar with identity and access management, Cloud Armor policies, merging third-party devices into the virtual private server and SSL key management.
Professional Cloud Security Engineer
Enterprises prioritize application security to ensure appropriate access, maintain business continuity, safeguard sensitive data and meet regulatory compliance requirements. Organizations are paying closer attention to providers' security services and configurations as they move more applications to the cloud, increasing the need for in-house cloud security expertise.
Google's Professional Cloud Security Engineer certification measures a candidate's ability to design and implement security within GCP using a combination of best practices and GCP services. The exam focuses on:
- security implications of access through user account management;
- tools and services such as Cloud Identity and Cloud Directory Sync;
- authentication practices;
- service account management;
- data protection techniques; and
- resource hierarchies.
For this specific Google cloud certification, candidates will also study the security implications of operations tasks, including infrastructure design and deployment, application deployment and event monitoring, as well as the compliance implications of security in cloud infrastructures. There is some crossover with network security through topics such as VPC networks and shared VPCs.
Professional Data Engineer
The Professional Data Engineer certification is intended to denote IT professionals engaged in other data-intensive initiatives such as big data, IoT and machine learning. The certification validates a candidate's ability to gather, transform, process and publish data using GCP resources and services.
Practitioners on this certification track will need to prove their ability to:
- design data processing systems, including storage and compute elements;
- assemble the systems using managed services, such as Google BigQuery and Cloud Spanner;
- create and train machine learning models using services such as AI Platform; and
- establish and monitor security, compliance, scalability and efficiency.