Unlocking salary potential: AWS Certified Solutions Architect

Jeff Peters
May 6, 2024 by
Jeff Peters

Cloud computing is driving digital transformation and growth at scale, and AWS solutions allow organizations to deploy to multiple geographic locations rapidly and at minimal cost. It’s no wonder that cloud computing skills are the largest hard skills gap in the cybersecurity industry, according to ISACA, and that AWS Solutions Architect Associate and Professional are regularly listed among the top 20 highest-paid IT certifications.  

As the landscape of IT and cybersecurity careers continues to evolve in 2024, cloud skills and AWS certification can unlock new opportunities and increase your salary potential. Let’s see how. 

Understanding the AWS Solutions Architect — Associate certification 

What is a solutions architect? Simply put, it is someone who designs and deploys solutions for tech-based problems. The certification for an AWS Solutions Architect — Associate validates the knowledge and skills of architects, engineers and developers who want to design and deploy AWS cloud solutions that are cost-effective and performance-optimized.  

A typical associate-level architect would: 

  • Build and troubleshoot cloud systems 
  • Modernize legacy systems 
  • Manage cloud migration 
  • Establish and monitor cloud security 

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Factors influencing salary 

Several factors, including experience, skill level and geographic location, can determine salary. There are also two levels of certification for AWS Solutions Architects, as there is both an Associate and a Professional level. In this article, however, we will focus on the associate level and its related roles: 

  • Experience. The on-the-job experience can greatly impact your salary — and job responsibilities. Many job roles require a working knowledge of distributed systems and familiarity with general networking, multi-tier architectures and cloud-computing concepts. 
  • Education and certifications. Although experience is frequently cited at the top of the list of qualifications for hiring managers, education and additional certifications can help validate your expertise and impact your salary potential. 
  • Geographic location. According to ZipRecruiter data, salary varies significantly based on geographic location, ranging from just under $100,000 annually in Florida to just over $160,000 annually in Washington. Since this represents a variation of up to $60,000, geographic location is a significant decision-making consideration. 

Average AWS Certified Solutions Architect salary data  

Some of the most recent available salary data from Glassdoor, Payscale and Salary.com shows associates earning salaries as high as $218,000 if bonuses and other incentives are included. However, statistics regarding base salaries indicate the range is lower, with an average of around $125,000. 

  • Glassdoor lists an average base pay of $125,750 per year; however, they indicate additional compensation of around $32,998 when including other factors like bonuses and stocks. 
  • Payscale cites an average base annual salary of $124,000 and provides a breakdown based on job title rather than geographic location. 
  • Salary.com gives an average base salary of $126,219; you can filter results by geographic location. 

Based on the sources above, we estimate an average salary of $141,822; however, as noted above, bonuses, stock options, experience and other factors can significantly impact overall compensation. 

Salaries by location 

While sources disclosing salaries by geographic location may differ, certain patterns emerge. For example, California is always in the top five, while states like Florida are either listed as average or below average. Salaries are determined by local income expectations, cost of living, industry demand, industry expectations, and more. So, when researching salary by location, be sure to include the cost of living to verify that the higher salary is indeed an advantage. 

As an example of the range, Salary.com lists the following average salaries by location: 

  • Boston, MA: $141,205 
  • Chicago, IL: $132,136 
  • Dallas, TX: $124,326 
  • Miami, FL: $121,555 
  • San Francisco, CA: $157,455 
  • Washington, DC: $140,198 

The salary must be considered withcities with the highest cost of living in the U.S. 

Salaries by experience and role 

Salaries can also vary depending on the job title and duties of the role. For example, PayScale lists the average base annual salaries for an AWS Solution Architect by job title: 

  • Software Engineer: $101,093 
  • Senior Software Engineer: $132,292 
  • DevOps Engineer: $111,764 
  • Solutions Architect: $138,672 
  • Lead Software Engineer: $141,811 

In addition, Glassdoor breaks down their total compensation (not just base salary) by years of experience: 

  • 0-1 years: $117,000 
  • 1-3 years: $130,000 
  • 4-6 years: $148,000 
  • 7-9 years: $155,000 
  • 10-14 years: $168,000 
  • 15+ years: $177,000 

The listed variations demonstrate why job experience and education are important determining factors. 

Salaries by industry 

Another factor bearing on salary is the industry. According to Glassdoor, agriculture and healthcare are some of the industries offering the highest salaries to AWS Solution Architects 

On the other hand, industries offering lower salaries are education, legal and consumer services. 

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Career opportunities for AWS Solution Architects 

The role of AWS Solutions Architect — Associate certification ranges from designing and building cloud systems to managing and monitoring systems and development projects. Understandably, salaries depend on the degree of skill and responsibility required in the various environments. Some examples to demonstrate this are as follows: 

  • Software/DevOps engineer. An engineer participating in development who has certification may or may not be called upon to use this expertise, depending on the type of project or product in development. According to PayScale, this combination seems to be on the lower end of the salary spread. However, any engineer pursuing certification may open up future opportunities for position or salary improvements. 
  • Solutions architect. This career opportunity is in the mid-range of the salary scale. As the job title indicates, the responsibilities focus almost entirely on designing, developing and managing AWS Solutions, requiring specific certification and experience. 
  • Senior/Lead software engineer. Either of these job titles implies project management and increased responsibility. This is reflected in higher salaries and perhaps additional incentives and opportunities. The next step in this career path might be to pursue Professional certification. 

In addition to the three pathways listed above, other opportunities include cloud data analyst, cloud network Engineer, cloud security engineer and systems administration. 

AWS career pathways and progression 

A logical prerequisite for a career in AWS solutions is to complete the AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner, which is the Foundational-level certification offered by AWS. The AWS ecosystem is as follows: 

  • Associate certification. This first level of certification develops and enhances a candidate’s knowledge and skills in AWS technology, covering multiple AWS services. The certificate’s focus is the design of solutions featuring optimal performance and cost-effective deployment using the AWS Well-Architected Framework. The career paths available with Associate certification are: 
    • Solutions Architect 
    • Data Engineer 
    • Developer (Testing, DevOps, DevSecOps) 
    • SysOps Administrator 
  • Professional certification. Professional certification provides advanced knowledge of the AWS Well-Architected Framework. The focus is on how to craft more complex solutions to address more complex problems, bringing together the wide range of services offered by AWS. The career paths available with Professional certification are: 
      • Solutions Architect 
      • DevOps Engineer (Applications, software, administration, network infrastructure) 
  • Specialist certification. There are three specialty certifications available with AWS: 
    • Advanced Networking 
    • Machine Learning 
    • Security 

Preparing for the AWS Solutions Architect certification 

If you are considering pursuing the Associate certification, you can expect to develop fundamental skills for developing and deploying resilient, secure and user-friendly AWS cloud solutions. Certification is based on the following exam components or domains: 

  1. Design of Secure Architectures. This section aims to design secure AWS resources, workloads and applications. Additionally, it includes determining the appropriate controls for data security. This accounts for 30% of the exam weight. 
  2. Design of Resilient Architectures. This addresses the scalability and fault-tolerance of architectures and accounts for 26% of the exam weight. 
  3. Design of High-Performance Architectures. The objectives of this section relate to the performance, elasticity and scalability of data storage and solutions in the AWS framework. This accounts for 24% of the exam weight. 
  4. Design of Cost-Optimized Architectures. Accounting for 20% of the weight of the exam, this section focuses on the cost-effectiveness of storage solutions, computing solutions, database solutions and network architecture. 

The exam runs for 130 minutes and contains 65 multiple-choice or multiple-response questions. The passing grade is 720 out of 1000 or higher. 

Candidates can choose from multiple training options, such as: 

  • An authorized live boot camp. Boot camps provide everything a candidate needs to prepare for and pass the exam. As an example, Infosec’s AWS Certified Solutions Architect Boot Camp offers live instruction, extended access to course materials, an exam voucher, and an Exam Pass Guarantee. 
  • Self-paced training options. Numerous online courses allow candidates to train at their own pace. 
  • Self-study. For those who prefer to be self-taught and feel they can prepare without guided instruction. 

Suggested prerequisites for certification candidates are AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner training, working knowledge of distributed systems and familiarity with general networking, multi-tier architectures and cloud-computing concepts. Most candidates can be ready for the exam within three to five months. Upon receiving certification, you will be well on your way to a new and progressive career path. 

AWS Solutions Architect salary conclusion 

Whether you are currently working in IT security, software development, cloud computing, or network and systems management, the attractive salaries offered to professionals with AWS Solutions Architect — Associate certification make it worthwhile to pursue certification. 

The average base salary is $141,822, but that can vary by quite a bit. By doing your research and expanding your experience, you may be able to find a position in an industry and geographic location that will maximize your opportunities. 

For more on the certification, watch our webinar on AWS Solutions Architect certification. 

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.