How to become a certified Kubernetes DevOps pro

minute read

If you work in the DevOps field you will have heard of Kubernetes before. Our engineers use this technology frequently when working on client projects, so much so that we have initiated an internal programme to encourage our devops engineers to gain certifications. Here, we introduce those qualifications and explain why you might want to consider acquiring them yourself.

Before we start, however, the basics: Kubernetes is an open source container orchestration engine for automating deployment, scaling, and management of containerised applications. It sits at the very core of the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF), acting as its ‘seed technology’. But you knew that already.

Available certifications

As of July 2022, there are three primary Kubernetes certifications available via CNCF:

  • Certified Kubernetes Application Developer (CKAD), which aims to certify that an engineer can design, build, configure and expose cloud-native applications for Kubernetes
  • Certified Kubernetes Administrator (CKA), which aims to certify users who can perform the basic responsibilities of a Kubernetes administrator, including the installation, configuration and management of production-grade Kubernetes clusters
  • Certified Kubernetes Security Specialist (CKS), an advanced certification that requires a CKA certification first. It aims to certify the skills required to secure container-based applications and Kubernetes platforms during the build, deployment and runtime phases

You also have the option to sit an exam to demonstrate foundational knowledge and basic skills in Kubernetes and the wider cloud native ecosystem. The Kubernetes and Cloud Native Associate (KCNA) exam is a great first step and lays the groundwork for further certification.

Why you should consider certification

Let’s leave aside the obvious point about how learning is always a worthwhile endeavour. Becoming certified in Kubernetes has some very tangible benefits:

  • Kubernetes is a complex tool and studying for the exams teaches you not just best use cases, but also when NOT to use it
  • Exams are performance based, so you cannot memorise your way to success. It is also fairly fast paced, so you learn to think and act fast - all while maintaining accuracy and effectiveness
  • Although the certifications do not touch very complex subjects, having a thorough grasp of the basics can boost your performance on most projects

From a careers perspective, Kubernetes certifications can help you:

  • Stand out from the crowd - at the moment, Kubernetes certification is still not very common
  • Start or progress on a path towards a DevOps career
  • Land that new role by demonstrating experience with in-demand technology - even if you do not have any working experience (that old chicken-and-egg situation where you need a particular experience to be hired but unless you are hired you cannot get the experience)

It should also be noted that certified Kubernetes pros get to attend the rather awesome KubeCon each year - our team got to enjoy Spanish sunshine in Valencia in May of this year.

How to approach certification

Befitting an open source tool, there are many (many) resources available for learning Kubernetes skills and studying for the exams. At Lola Tech, we like using the following:

  • Each certification has its own online course as well as public playgrounds and sandboxes, which we’ve found very instructive as well as fun
  • The Kubernetes community runs a Slack channel where all questions are welcome
  • There is also a Discord server dedicated to the technology (of course)

A few further pieces of advice from those of our team who have passed their exams:

  • Always keep notes to easily track your progress and revise
  • Take the hands-on labs and mock exams until you pass easily and feel confident
  • Book exams to give you the right amount of time for your personal style of studying - are you a procrastinator that works best under pressure? Book it close to date. Are you unsure about juggling studying with personal life and work? Book it further in advance.

At Lola Tech, employees who want to become certified have their training and certification paid for by the company, and are given at least two hours each week to study during working hours. Not sure if your company supports Kubernetes certification? Ask them. Most employers are happy for their staff to invest time into learning a new skill that can then be used on client projects. Expanding employees’ skill sets makes business sense, after all.

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