AWS Certified Solutions Architect (SAP-C02) exam overview

Jeff Peters
June 4, 2024 by
Jeff Peters

The surge in cloud adoption has created a booming demand for skilled professionals who can design, deploy and manage secure and optimized cloud solutions. For cloud professionals, the AWS Certified Solutions Architect certification proves to employers that you're an expert at designing secure, high-performing and resilient architectures on Amazon Web Services (AWS).

This guide will explore why this certification is more relevant than ever in 2024. We'll also navigate through the exam's content, with details on each domain, provide tips on passing the exam and highlight some possible career paths for certified individuals.

AWS Solutions Architect

AWS Solutions Architect

Learn all you need to get started using Amazon Web Services (AWS), including the AWS Management Console, S3 buckets, EC2 instances, database services, security in the cloud, and the costs associated with AWS.

Why AWS certification?

There is a market opportunity for anyone looking to solidify their cloud expertise, particularly regarding the industry leader, AWS. Here are some of the reasons why:

  • Cloud computing is on the rise. Spending on cloud infrastructure grew 21% in the past year. Businesses are rapidly migrating their operations to the cloud because they want cost-efficient and secure solutions that can be deployed quickly and scale rapidly. This increased demand for cloud solutions translates into a booming job market for skilled cloud architects.
  • AWS reigns supreme: There's no denying AWS is dominant in cloud computing. They are the leader in market share (31% in 2024), making them the go-to platform for countless organizations. Earning an AWS certification ensures you have the knowledge and skills relevant to the industry's leading technology.
  • Security in the cloud: As companies move to the cloud and cybercriminals step up their game, security concerns become even more important. Cybersecurity professionals with a strong understanding of cloud architecture are in high demand. The AWS Certified Solutions Architect certification validates your ability to design secure cloud environments, making you a valuable asset.

AWS Certified Solutions Architect - Associate exam overview

The AWS Certified Solutions Architect exam is an ideal credential for IT professionals with at least one year of experience in designing cloud solutions or for those with a strong foundation in cloud concepts who are eager to transition into this field.

The exam focuses on understanding the AWS Well-Architected Framework, a collection of best practices for designing cloud architectures. By demonstrating proficiency in these areas, you prove your ability to:

  • Select the most appropriate AWS services for various cloud scenarios.
  • Design secure and reliable cloud architectures.
  • Optimize your cloud deployments for cost-effectiveness.
  • Implement solutions that meet specific business needs.

The current iteration of the AWS Certified Solutions Architect - Associate exam (SAA-C03) was introduced at the end of 2022, replacing the older SAA-C02 exam. Changes included:

  • An increased focus on security
  • An increased focus on cost-optimized architectures
  • Slightly less focus on high-performing architectures and resilient architectures

Here are some details on the current exam format:

  • Number of questions: 65
  • Question types: multiple choice and multiple response
  • Duration: 130 minutes
  • Passing score: 720 (scaled score out of 1000)

Detailed exam content outline

The AWS Certified Solutions Architect — Associate exam covers a comprehensive range of topics, all designed to assess your ability to design effective cloud solutions on AWS. Here is an overview of each domain:

Domain 1: Design secure architectures

This domain focuses on the tools and techniques for building secure and reliable cloud infrastructure. You'll need to understand concepts like access control, data encryption and identity management to ensure your solutions are protected from unauthorized access and vulnerabilities — and comply with relevant regulations and industry best practices.

This domain covers:

  • 1.1: Design secure access to AWS resources.
  • 1.2: Design secure workloads and applications.
  • 1.3: Determine appropriate data security controls.

AWS Solutions Architect

AWS Solutions Architect

Learn essential AWS terminology, concepts, and services and get prepared to pass the AWS Certified Solutions Architect — Associate exam.

Domain 2: Design resilient architectures

This domain emphasizes designing cloud solutions that can withstand disruptions, recover from failures and maintain service levels during planned and unplanned events. Here, you'll explore concepts like redundancy, fault tolerance and disaster recovery to ensure your applications can stay up and running even during disruptions and learn how to plan for them proactively.

The task statements included in this domain are:

  • 2.1: Design scalable and loosely coupled architectures.
  • 2.2: Design highly available or fault-tolerant architectures.

Domain 3: Design high-performing architectures

This domain is all about optimizing your cloud environment for peak performance. You'll explore topics like load balancing, caching and content delivery networks (CDNs) to ensure your applications can handle high traffic volumes, scale effectively and deliver a seamless user experience.

In this domain, you'll learn:

  • 3.1: Determine high-performing or scalable storage solutions.
  • 3.2: Design high-performing and elastic compute solutions.
  • 3.3: Determine high-performing database solutions.
  • 3.4: Determine high-performing or scalable network architectures.
  • 3.5: Determine high-performing data ingestion and transformation solutions.

Domain 4: Design cost-optimized architectures

In business, getting the most out of your cloud investment is crucial. This domain equips you with the skills to design cost-effective solutions by leveraging features like Amazon Reserved Instances, pricing models and cost-saving strategies. With these skills, you can align architectural decisions with cost considerations and business requirements.

This domain's task statements include:

  • 4.1: Design cost-optimized storage solutions.
  • 4.2: Design cost-optimized compute solutions.
  • 4.3: Design cost-optimized database solutions.
  • 4.4: Design cost-optimized network architectures.

Preparing for the exam: Tips and best practices

Conquering the AWS Certified Solutions Architect - Associate exam requires dedication and a well-rounded study plan. In the first stage of your journey, you'll want to assess your training options and choose your study materials. Here are some options:

Also, make sure to get some practical experience. AWS offers a free tier with limited resources, allowing you to experiment with core services and solidify your understanding. Take advantage of this to incorporate hands-on practice into your study plan. Many training providers, like Infosec, also incorporate hands-on labs into their curriculum.

Polish your exam readiness with practice exams that mirror the format and difficulty of the real test. Use resources like the AWS Official Practice Exams to gauge your knowledge and identify areas for improvement. Infosec also provides practice exams through its AWS Boot Camp.

Don't underestimate the help your peers can offer. Online communities like Reddit's r/AWSCertifications or Infosec's TechExams provide valuable peer discussions where you can share experiences, ask questions and learn from others on the same journey.

Then, on exam day, use the following tips to tackle the questions:

  • Manage your time: The exam allows 130 minutes for 65 questions. Develop a time management strategy during practice exams to ensure sufficient time for each question.
  • Read carefully: Many exam questions rely on subtle details. Read each question and answer choices thoroughly before selecting your response.
  • Flag and review: Don't waste time if you encounter a challenging question. Use the flag feature to revisit it later after completing the other questions.
  • Stay calm: Maintain a positive attitude and trust the knowledge you've acquired through your preparation.

Career pathways and opportunities

The AWS Certified Solutions Architect - Associate certification unlocks many career paths in cloud computing. Here's how this valuable credential empowers you to excel in IT and cybersecurity:

  • Fortified cloud security: With a deep understanding of security best practices in AWS, you'll be equipped to protect sensitive data and mitigate cyber threats.
  • Solid cloud infrastructure: You'll have the skills needed to build resilient, scalable applications that meet business's changing demands.
  • Cloud compliance: Your knowledge of AWS services positions you as a valuable resource for navigating complex compliance requirements and managing cloud-related risks.

Here are some of the many roles that you can pursue with your AWS certification:

  • Cloud architect
  • Cloud security engineer
  • DevOps engineer
  • Solutions architect
  • Cloud engineer

And because this valuable credential demonstrates your commitment to professional development and positions you as a highly sought-after candidate in the job market, being certified as an AWS Solutions Architect can significantly increase your earning potential throughout your career. (Read our AWS Solutions Architect salary article for more information.)

AWS Solutions Architect

AWS Solutions Architect

Learn essential AWS terminology, concepts, and services and get prepared to pass the AWS Certified Solutions Architect — Associate exam.

Common certification questions

What is the difference between the Associate and Professional levels of the AWS Certified Solutions Architect exam?

The Associate level validates your foundational knowledge and ability to design secure, cost-effective and scalable solutions on AWS. The Professional level is geared towards experienced architects who can design complex, enterprise-level solutions and make strategic recommendations.

How often should I renew my AWS certification?

The AWS Certified Solutions Architect - Associate certification is valid for three years. To maintain your AWS certification, you must pass a recertification exam before the expiration date or the Professional-level exam.

Can AWS certification help me transition into a cybersecurity career?

Definitely! The security focus of the AWS Solutions Architect certification equips you with a strong understanding of cloud security best practices. This knowledge base is highly valuable in the cybersecurity field, where securing cloud environments is a top priority.

Where can I learn more about AWS training?

To learn more about this certification, check out our webcast, AWS Certified Solutions Architect: 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.