Google Cloud Platform (GCP) is one of the main players in the cloud computing market. Its certifications are increasingly becoming a goal of study and preparation for IT professionals, but Which Google Cloud certification is the best fit for me? This article provides detailed information about each of the tests, which will help you determine which one is the best fit for your professional goals.
Cloud computing is the delivery of computing services over the Internet or "cloud." These services include storage, servers, networking, intelligence, analytics, software, and databases. Cloud computing streamlines the innovation process, optimizes costs when scaling, and makes resources more flexible. According to Gartner, cloud computing remains a strong technology trend for 2023 and beyond.
For information technology (IT) professionals, obtaining cloud computing certifications can be very beneficial. This allows them to take advantage of the growing investment scenario in this area and meet the growing demand of companies for projects using cloud technologies.
Google Cloud Platform (GCP) is one of the main players in the cloud computing market. Its certifications are increasingly becoming a goal of study and preparation for IT professionals.
What are the different GCP certification levels?
Google Cloud Platform offers several levels of certification:
- Fundamentals: This is the entry-level certification for GCP. Candidates are expected to have a basic understanding of the main services provided by the platform and be able to solve business problems using this knowledge.
- Associate: Currently, only the Cloud Engineer certification is at this level. It is an ideal starting point for anyone seeking professional certifications and covers skills such as deploying, monitoring, and maintaining projects on Google Cloud.
- Professional: The professional level has a wide variety of tests, each focused on a specific role, such as data engineering, DevOps, and machine learning. The tests at this level go into great detail on the specific services relevant to each role.
This article section provides detailed information about each of the tests, which will help you determine which one is the best fit for your professional goals.
This certification is the first step in the Google Cloud catalog, designed for individuals who want to demonstrate their mastery of the basics of cloud computing and the GCP platform. It is essential to have a basic understanding of computing and the internet, as well as the ability to identify business needs and match them with appropriate cloud services. The exam covers the following topics, as outlined in the guide provided by Google:
- Digital transformation with Google Cloud (~10% of the exam).
- Infrastructure and application modernization (~30% of the exam).
- Innovating with data and Google Cloud (~30% of the exam).
- Google Cloud security and operations (~30% of the exam).
Associate Cloud Engineer
A Cloud Engineer is responsible for deploying applications, monitoring multiple projects, and maintaining Google-managed or self-managed solutions on Google Cloud. They must be proficient in using both the Console and command line. The Associate level test is not easy, and it tests foundational cloud knowledge for day-to-day tasks. It is recommended to take this exam before attempting the Professional level exams. The test guide lists the covered contents, which include the following:
- Setting up a cloud solution environment.
- Deploying and implementing a cloud solution.
- Configuring access and security.
- Planning and configuring a cloud solution.
- Ensuring the successful operation of a cloud solution.
For more information, check out the certification page.
Professional Cloud Architect
The Professional Cloud Architect exam is a crucial test at the Professional level, providing a comprehensive overview of the Google Cloud environment. Passing this exam demonstrates a deep understanding of solution architecture in the Cloud environment, making it a valuable certification. Success in this exam also indicates proficiency in other Cloud environments, such as Amazon's AWS or Microsoft's Azure, as these platforms share many similarities.
In addition to understanding GCP tools, candidates must also demonstrate knowledge of professional Cloud usage, including tradeoffs, cost management, security, and best practices for a sustainable environment.
The Professional Cloud Architect certification exam assesses your ability in a range of topics, which can be found in the official guide:
- Design and plan a Cloud solution architecture.
- Design for security and compliance.
- Manage implementations of Cloud architecture.
- Manage and provision the Cloud solution infrastructure.
- Analyze and optimize technical and business processes.
- Ensure solution and operations reliability.
Professional Cloud Developer
According to Google, a Professional Cloud Developer is someone who creates scalable and highly available applications using Google's recommended practices and tools. They possess experience with cloud-native applications, developer tools, managed services, and next-generation databases. Furthermore, they are proficient in at least one general-purpose programming language and can produce meaningful metrics and logs to debug and trace code.
The Professional Cloud Developer exam targets software engineers who wish to develop applications using Google Cloud's various services. Candidates should have a general understanding of Information Technology concepts and GCP, as well as experience with software engineering issues such as code versioning and good coding practices. The Cloud Developer role overlaps with the Professional Cloud Architect role, and developers must be able to comprehend and build cloud-native architectures.
For the exam, candidates should be proficient in managed services such as Cloud Run, PubSub, and the Kubernetes Engine.
According to the exam guide, Cloud Developer candidates are expected to have knowledge in the following topics:
- Designing highly scalable, available, and reliable cloud-native applications.
- Deploying applications.
- Managing deployed applications.
- Building and testing applications.
- Integrating Google Cloud services.
Professional DevOps Engineer
A Professional Cloud DevOps Engineer is responsible for developing operations that balance service reliability and delivery speed. This certification is intended for people in organizations who have this responsibility. For Google, the DevOps role is similar to the Site Reliability Engineer role.
The SRE function enables teams to build better software faster. This role includes important Google Cloud products such as Operations Suite tools like Cloud Logging, Cloud Monitoring, Cloud Trace, Cloud Debugger, and Cloud Trace; CI/CD tools like Cloud Build, Cloud Source Code Repository, Container, and Artifact Registry; and the subject of Infrastructure as Code with the Cloud Deployment Manager product.
The certification covers the following subjects, according to the exam guide:
- Applying site reliability engineering principles to a service
- Implementing service monitoring strategies
- Managing service incidents
- Optimizing service performance
- Building and implementing CI/CD pipelines for a service
Professional Cloud Security Engineer
This certification focuses on securing cloud environments, including identity and access management (IAM), data protection, network security, and more. Google expects Cloud Security Professionals to design, develop, and manage a secure infrastructure using Google security technologies. They should be proficient in managing identity and access, defining organizational policies, using Google technologies for data protection, configuring network security defenses, collecting and analyzing logs, managing incident responses, and understanding regulatory concerns. The exam guide lists the following topics charged by Google:
- Configuring access within a cloud solution environment
- Configuring network security
- Ensuring data protection
- Managing operations within a cloud solution environment
- Ensuring compliance
Professional Cloud Network Engineer
This certification is for those who manage network architectures on GCP. The role never deals with hardware, as the network in a cloud environment is defined by software. The Cloud Network Engineer implements and manages network architectures in Google Cloud Platform. This individual ensures successful cloud implementations using the command line interface or the Google Cloud Platform Console. Professionals preparing for this exam should have knowledge of Google Cloud and networking. The exam requires the candidate to master several topics. See the official guide for more information: https://cloud.google.com/certification/cloud-network-engineer.
- Design, plan, and prototype a Google Cloud network.
- Configure network services.
- Manage, monitor, and optimize network operations.
- Implement Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) instances.
- Implement hybrid interconnectivity.
Professional Data Engineer
A Professional Data Engineer's job is to collect, transform, and publish data to enable data-driven decision-making for an entire organization. They design, build, operate, secure, and monitor data processing systems, emphasizing security and compliance, scalability and efficiency, reliability, and fidelity, and flexibility and portability. This role also involves monitoring, maintaining, debugging, and improving pipelines, using tools such as Apache Spark, Apache Map Reduce, and SQL.
The Data Engineer certification exam covers all data-related products on Google Cloud, such as Dataproc, BigQuery, Dataflow, Dataprep, Data Fusion, Cloud Storage, and PubSub. The candidate must also be familiar with machine learning and the Vertex AI platform from GCP.
The guide states that the following topics will be covered:
- Design data processing systems.
- Ensure the quality of the solutions.
- Operationalize machine learning models.
- Build and operationalize data processing systems.
Professional Machine Learning Engineer
This certification is intended for individuals who use GCP technologies to design, build, and deploy machine learning models to address business problems. The role of a Machine Learning Engineer involves designing, building, and deploying ML models for business challenges using Google Cloud technologies and established ML models. The ML Engineer should be proficient in model architecture, data pipeline interaction, metrics interpretation, application development, infrastructure management, data engineering, and security.
The certification emphasizes the importance of "productizing" models to make them useful for the organization. The exam covers both business and practical questions about using Google Cloud projects for ML model development. In addition, the exam covers topics related to Cloud security and privacy, such as IAM and key management.
According to the guide, the following subjects are covered:
- Frame machine learning problems.
- Architect machine learning solutions.
- Design systems for preparing and processing data.
- Develop machine learning models.
- Automate and orchestrate machine learning pipelines.
- Monitor, optimize, and maintain machine learning solutions.
Professional Cloud Database Engineer
Google Cloud's latest professional-level certification, released in 2022, is for the Professional Cloud Database Engineer role. This role requires two years of Google Cloud experience and five years of overall database and IT experience. The Professional Cloud Database Engineer designs, creates, manages, and troubleshoots Google Cloud databases used by applications. They must translate business and technical requirements into scalable and cost-effective database solutions. This certification has some similarities with the Data Engineer certification, but is more focused on databases, whether relational or not. The test will include more specific questions about products like Cloud SQL, Firestore (Native and Datastore mode), BigTable, BigQuery, and migrating databases to the Cloud environment.
According to the guide for the exam, the candidate will be tested on the following knowledge areas:
- Design cloud database solutions that are scalable and highly available.
- Migrate data solutions.
- Manage solutions that can span multiple databases.
- Deploy databases that are scalable and highly available in Google Cloud.
Which Google Cloud certification is best for me?
Choosing the right Google Cloud certification depends on your use of the platform. If you're new to cloud computing, consider preparing for the Digital Leader test to gain a knowledge base to move on to more complex and specific tests.
If you already have practical experience with Google Cloud or an entry-level certification from another provider, such as Azure's AZ 900 or AWS Cloud Practitioner, consider taking the Associate Cloud Engineer test. You already understand how the world of Cloud works and can specialize in the Google platform by studying for this test.
When it comes to professional-level certifications, choose the certification closest to your current role in the company. However, I recommend taking the Professional Cloud Architect test, regardless of your position, as it provides a privileged view of the entire Cloud, both from a technical and business point of view. By studying for this test, you'll build a solid foundation to pursue any other specialization within the Cloud environment.
If you're an infrastructure professional, consider taking the DevOps, Security, and Network exams. If you work with data on a daily basis, consider taking the Data Engineer, Database, and Machine Learning tests. Finally, if you're a software engineer or developer, consider taking the Cloud Developer and DevOps tests.
Ultimately, the exams you take depend on your career goals and the knowledge you need to achieve them. I like to have a macro view of everything that makes sense for my career and what the Cloud offers. As a data engineer, I took the test focused on my role, as well as Machine Learning and Database tests, to stand out in the job market and communicate better with professionals in these careers. I also studied for the Digital Leader, Associate Cloud Engineer, and Professional Cloud Engineer tests to have a solid knowledge base of the Google Cloud Platform.
To prepare for the certification tests, it's desirable to have specific knowledge about Information Technology and its subareas of specialization, such as networks, security, machine learning, and data. Additionally, keep in mind that the value of the certification lies in the practical and theoretical knowledge you acquired while studying for the exam. It's your ability to transform your study into real value for the company through your daily work on Google Cloud that determines the success of the certification process.
I recommend the A Cloud Guru course platform and Dan Sullivan's courses on the Udemy platform for study materials. It's also important to solve various simulations to prepare for the exams, and I recommend using the Whizlabs and Exam Topics platforms for that purpose. Throughout your study process, become adept at navigating and extracting information from the Google Cloud documentation, as it will be your main source of reference about the platform in your day-to-day life.
In this article, I explained the context of each of the certification exams offered by Google Cloud. I hope these tips provide you with insights to help you become a Google Cloud Certified Professional!
Gabriel Luz is a Data Engineer at Avenue Code. He loves to learn new technologies and to work on challenging projects that impact people. In his free time, Gabriel likes to read about history and watch superhero movies and Flamengo soccer games.