How to Earn the Google Cloud Professional Cloud Architect Certification

May 13, 2024 | Activate Learning | 6 min read

Google Cloud certifications are some of the most in-demand, especially the popular Professional Cloud Architect, which is the highest-paying IT certification in the United States.

Skillsoft’s annual IT Skills and Salary survey collected more than 5,700 responses from professionals worldwide, including 703 who hold Google Cloud certifications. Worldwide, the Professional Cloud Architect certification is the most popular from Google.

The demand for Google Cloud certifications stems from a sustained need for professionals with skills in this domain. Today, there are too few, leaving organizations vying for a limited talent pool amid an increasing need to either migrate to the cloud or more effectively manage the environment (or environments) they have today. 

Google Cloud’s Professional Cloud Architect is a rigorous test of one’s knowledge in developing solutions that meet both business and technical requirements — a skill set highly coveted in today’s market.

But the question remains… how do you earn it? 

Read Also:What Does a Cloud Architect Do? A Day in the Life - Skillsoft

What Is the Professional Cloud Architect Certification and Why Earn It?

The Professional Cloud Architect certification from Google Cloud validates a professional’s ability to build cloud solutions that meet business objectives and technical requirements, including both security and compliance. 

Many seek this certification because it commands respect in the field due to the rigor of the exam and the demand for the skills it validates. It can also earn professionals a generous salary. 

Earning this certification — or any for that matter — also comes with ancillary benefits, like a boost to one’s confidence and credibility at work, faster resolution times and higher quality solutions. All of these can help lead professionals toward a bump in pay or even a promotion, according to Skillsoft’s report. 

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How Much Do Cloud Architects Earn?

$146,212 $200,960 $140,408 $92,192* $90,849

Who Should Get Professional Cloud Architect Certified?

Those with this certification can design scalable, highly available solutions on Google Cloud. They work cross-collaboratively in their organizations to implement and maintain their planned architecture, considering what could be in store. Constantly, these professionals have efficiency in mind and strive to optimize the solutions they create. 

Common roles that benefit from earning this certification:

  • Solutions, Cloud Architect
  • Systems Administrator
  • Software Engineer
  • Cloud Engineer
  • Data Engineer

Are There Prerequisite Certifications? How Much Experience Should I Have?

According to Google, there aren’t any formal prerequisites for this certification. However, Google offers an associate-level Cloud Engineer certification that some take before trying for this one. 

It’s a credential best suited to those who manage enterprise solutions on Google Cloud. These professionals set up environments, deploy applications, manage access and security, and more. The recommended experience for this certification, versus the Professional Cloud Architect, is just six months. 

Most of Google Cloud’s professional-level certifications call for at least three years of professional experience, with at least one working in the platform. Browse Google’s current certifications to see which may work best for your current role and future aspirations. 

What’s on the Professional Cloud Architect Exam?

The current exam spans six sections. Each section is broken down into subsections that test a prospective cloud architect’s knowledge of a range of concepts, including designing solutions based on business and technical requirements, considerations for security and compliance, migration and future-state planning, and more. 

Those who sit the exam will also face questions that challenge them to apply concepts to realistic scenarios. Up to 30% of the exam comprises these fictitious case study questions. Google offers four case studies, which test-takers can view on a split screen during the exam. 

The exam ranges between 50 to 60 multiple-choice and multiple-select questions, costs $200 USD, and lasts up to two hours. It’s offered in English and Japanese. 

Here’s what a now-certified Professional Cloud Architect said about the exam on the Google Cloud subreddit

“My thoughts on the exam itself: Tough, but fair; it's the best-written exam I've taken in a very long time... I feel it really tested my understanding, and not just my ability to recall facts. Certainly, you'll answer a bunch of questions really wondering if you picked the "best" answer, and that mirrors real life pretty closely!”

Training Resources to Help You Pass

Those who’ve successfully passed often consume a breadth of resources to familiarize themselves with the concepts, platform, and the exam. The official study guide authored by Dan Sullivan goes deep into what a candidate must know and study before taking the test. It’s $39 on the Google Play store. 

Global Knowledge offers live, instructor-led training to help candidates prep for the exam. Skillsoft also offers self-paced certification training for the Professional Cloud Architect. Recommended courses include: 

Then, there is Google Cloud’s Learning Path for the certification. It’s made up of 17 labs and courses that each take several hours to complete. Courses include: 

  • Preparing for your Professional Cloud Architect Journey
  • Reliable Google Cloud Infrastructure: Design and Process
  • Cloud Architecture: Design, Implement, and Manage

Those who’ve posted about their experience on social media or forums emphasize the importance of closely studying Google-provided materials. It may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s worth spending quality time with them and reviewing them often leading up to the exam. “Google Cloud Platform official docs and architect guides, I cannot stress this enough this was a lifesaver in terms of detail,” wrote a recently certified Professional Cloud Architect on the Google Cloud subreddit

Searching the web, you’ll find people who have taken and passed the exam using resources from several other vendors as well. All have pros and cons — including quality, availability, and price — that you should carefully weigh for your personal and professional situation. 

Section 1: Designing and planning a cloud solution architecture ~24%
Section 2: Managing and provisioning a solution infrastructure ~15%
Section 3: Designing for security and compliance ~18%
Section 4: Analyzing and optimizing technical and business processes ~18%
Section 5: Managing implementation ~18%
Section 6: Ensuring solution and operations reliability ~14%

You’re *Officially* a Google Certified Professional Cloud Architect! …Now What?

First, celebrate. 🎉 Pat yourself on the back for a hard-won certification. Some say they study for six months or more before attempting the exam. Dedicating that kind of time — on top of everything else, like work, home and so on — calls for celebration. 

And make sure you tell your friends, family, and network! Add the certification to LinkedIn and your resume, post about it on social media, and brag about it at work. Let your peers and managers know you’ve reached the top of the mountain. 

But it’s important to not let the hard work go to waste. Make sure you maintain your certification. 

Your certification will expire if you don’t act. This certification stays valid for two years, at which point it’ll expire. To keep it valid, you must recertify by retaking the exam up to 60 days before the expiration date. 

Before then, it’s ideal to sit courses or review material to keep the exam information fresh in mind.