AWS Certified Security (SCS-C02) Engineer exam overview

Jeff Peters
June 4, 2024 by
Jeff Peters

Amazon Web Services (AWS) offers 10 unique certifications, from foundational knowledge to specialty certifications, to elevate your career and validate your cloud and security expertise.

The AWS Certified Security exam allows cybersecurity professionals to distinguish themselves with this advanced specialty-level certification.

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Importance of AWS Certified Security Engineer

As organizations embrace cloud solutions, understanding how to secure those cloud solutions is essential — and AWS is the largest cloud provider in the world. The AWS Certified Security Engineer exam allows experienced individuals to enhance their skill sets in cloud architecture, databases, networking and DevSecOps.

According to ISACA, cloud computing is the largest hard skills gap in today's cybersecurity professionals. This consistent demand for cloud security skills means earning an AWS security certification may be a great option for your career.

AWS Certified Security – Specialty exam overview

The AWS Certified Security – Specialty (SCS-C02) exam is best for experienced security professionals with five years of real-life application design and implementation experience. Ideally, individuals also have two or more years of practical experience securing diverse AWS workloads. The exam covers an in-depth assessment of security solutions within AWS, including specialized data classifications, protection mechanisms, encryption methods and secure internet protocols.

  • Exam format: Online proctored exam or at an in-person Pearson VUE testing center
  • Types of questions: 65 questions; multiple-choice or multiple-response
  • Exam duration: 170 minutes
  • Passing score: 750 out of 1000

Detailed exam content outline

Take a look at this detailed overview of the AWS Certified Security exam.

Domain 1: Threat detection and incident response (14% of scored content)

Threat detection and response is one of the smaller knowledge domains within the exam and focuses on effectively identifying and mitigating threats within an AWS environment.

This domain includes a thorough understanding of:

  • Designing and implementing an incident response plan
  • Detecting security threats and anomalies by using AWS services
  • Responding to compromised resources and workloads

Domain 2: Security logging and monitoring (18% of scored content)

In domain 2, you'll be thoroughly assessed on your ability to log and monitor security events. It will assess your knowledge of AWS logging capabilities like PC Flow Logs or DNS logs and your ability to report on incident patterns and trends accurately.

It also includes an assessment of:

  • Designing and implementing monitoring and alerting to address security events
  • Troubleshooting security monitoring and alerting
  • Designing and implementing a logging solution
  • Troubleshooting logging solutions.
  • Designing a log analysis solution.

Domain 3: Infrastructure security (20% of scored content)

The largest exam domain covers designing and implementing security measures for edge services, workloads and the overall network. It validates your knowledge of different security features like load balancers or Amazon CloudFront while thoroughly assessing your knowledge of VPC security mechanisms, inter-VPC connectivity, on-premises options and more.

The infrastructure security portion of the exam also covers:

  • Designing and implementing security controls for edge services
  • Design and implementing network security controls
  • Design and implementing security controls for compute workloads
  • Troubleshooting network security

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Many of our boot camps come with an Exam Pass Guarantee: if you fail on your first attempt, we'll invite you to re-sit the course for free and cover the cost of your second exam.

Domain 4: Identity and access management (16% of scored content)

Identity and access management (IAM) ensures the right users have appropriate access to files, documents and applications within a company's network. It's one effective way of implementing strong cybersecurity policies that protect the most sensitive data from too widely available access.

On the exam, this domain covers:

  • Designing, implementing and troubleshooting authentication for AWS resources.
  • Designing, implementing and troubleshooting authorization for AWS resources.

Domain 5: Data protection (18% of scored content)

Data protection on the SCS-C02 exam tests your knowledge of different data encryption methodologies and cryptographic key materials for data in transit and at rest.

The exam covers data protection topics such as:

  • Designing and implementing controls that provide confidentiality and integrity for data in transit
  • Designing and implementing controls that provide confidentiality and integrity for data at rest
  • Designing and implementing controls to manage the lifecycle of data at rest
  • Designing and implementing controls to protect credentials, secrets and cryptographic key materials

Domain 6: Management and security governance (14% of scored content)

The final section of the exam assesses you on multi-account governance and organizational compliance.

This domain also tests your knowledge of:

  • Developing a strategy to centrally deploy and manage AWS accounts
  • Implementing a secure and consistent deployment strategy for cloud resources
  • Evaluating the compliance of AWS resources
  • Identifying security gaps through architectural reviews and cost analysis

Preparing for the exam: Tips and best practices

When preparing for the exam, the best combination of studying includes practical experience and hands-on labs. Explore self-study options or participate in live instruction from official training partners. Live boot camps like Infosec's three-day AWS Certified Security - Speciality training are helpful if you enjoy having a live, expert instructor to guide you and answer questions. If you need a more flexible option, on-demand training options exist with pre-recorded materials to work at your own pace.

Practice exams help put your knowledge to the test and help you feel comfortable with the multiple-choice and multiple-response format. Check out online free question banks for various sample questions, and even peer discussion forums like Reddit or TechExams can give you a good idea of what the day of the exam feels like.

Plan to study a few hours a week several months before your exam date so you're not cramming beforehand. If you don't pass the exam on the first try, you must wait 14 calendar days before retaking the exam. Here are a few other things to know about passing the AWS Certified Security exam.

Career pathways and opportunities

The AWS Certified Security exam is a stamp of approval for advanced knowledge in creating and implementing security solutions inside the AWS cloud. This certification is a specialization within the Amazon ecosystem, and it perfectly complements other cybersecurity certifications you may have earned from CompTIA, ISC2, ISACA or other bodies.

Pairing an AWS certification with broader, vendor-agnostic knowledge or certifications (like ISC2 CCSP) is a valuable way to diversify your cloud security skills beyond an AWS-exclusive focus.

Sample job titles for an AWS Certified Security engineer include:

  • Cloud security engineer
  • Cloud security architect
  • Cloud DevOps engineer
  • Cybersecurity engineer

Many roles require or, at minimum, prefer these types of specialization qualifications, and AWS certifications can have a significant impact on salaries, promotions and career advancement. (Read our AWS Security salary article for more information.)

Continuous learning and development are also critical for security engineers, as they'll play a more pivotal role in designing secure cloud architectures in the future. Professionals must balance sharp technical capabilities with an "always-on" approach to learning new trends and best practices.

Get certified with our Exam Pass Guarantee

Get certified with our Exam Pass Guarantee

Many of our boot camps come with an Exam Pass Guarantee: if you fail on your first attempt, we'll invite you to re-sit the course for free and cover the cost of your second exam.

Common certification questions

Still have questions? Take a look at some common certification questions and answers below.

What are the prerequisites for the AWS Certified Security - Specialty exam?

While there are no mandatory prerequisites, it's recommended that individuals have certifications like the AWS Certified Solutions Architect and real-world experience. AWS recommends five years of IT security experience and at least two years of hands-on work experience in AWS.

How does the AWS Certified Security Engineer certification compare to other cybersecurity certifications?

The AWS Certified Security Engineer certification is vendor-specific to Amazon and specializes in AWS architecture, capabilities, securities and more. Other cybersecurity certifications like the Security+ or CISSP are broad, platform-agnostic certifications that cover a variety of cybersecurity areas.

What are the best practices for maintaining AWS certification and staying current with cloud security trends?

Cloud providers constantly release new features and capabilities, especially as cyber threats evolve and become more sophisticated. Continuous learning is essential for cloud security professionals to stay on top of emerging trends and technologies.

Where can I learn more about AWS training?

For more on the AWS Security certification, watch our webinar, AWS Certified Security - Specialty: What it is and how to get certified.

Jeff Peters
Jeff Peters

Jeff Peters is a communications professional with more than a decade of experience creating cybersecurity-related content. As the Director of Content and Brand Marketing at Infosec, he oversees the Infosec Resources website, the Cyber Work Podcast and Cyber Work Hacks series, and a variety of other content aimed at answering security awareness and technical cybersecurity training questions. His focus is on developing materials to help cybersecurity practitioners and leaders improve their skills, level up their careers and build stronger teams.