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GCP Certifications Path
Jaroslav Pantsjoha

GCP Certifications Path for 2021

Want to get Google cloud certified? Google Cloud Platform (GCP) is a rising star in the cloud services market and an official certification can help get you ahead in your career.

Today we’re going to walk you through the certifications paths on offer for Google Cloud Platform in 2021, their prerequisites, finer details such as costs, as well as some excellent training resources to help you pass that exam the first time around.

What Is GCP Certification?

GCP Certification is the official certification from Google Cloud Platform that allows you to demonstrate knowledge and applied skills across various aspects of the cloud services platform.

While study methods for exams vary, the exams themselves can be sat worldwide via independent testing centres, or online remotely, so long as you satisfy the testing criteria.

Certification exams cover all different levels and areas of expertise, from foundations through to in-depth roles such as machine learning engineer and cloud security engineer. Whether you’re fresh to GCP or years’ deep, there’s a certification for you.

Why Get GCP Certified?

In Flexera’s State of the Cloud 2021 report, it found that among the top three public cloud providers, Google experienced the most growth in enterprise over 2020, now with half of the market adoption rate.

If you are looking to set yourself aside from the competition, then GCP certs may give you a boost over the more popular AWS certification or Azure certification. With plenty of well-known brands working on a huge range of GCP projects, these aren’t niche certs to have under your belt, they’re serious assets.

Certification can help:

  • When applying for competitive roles
  • In gaining promotions
  • When seeking a higher salary
  • To represent your workplace professionally
  • For personal achievement

With a Google Cloud recognized badge available on passing your exam, you’re able to display it proudly on your CV, LinkedIn, or personal or professional website.

How Long Does GCP Certification Take?

Each GCP certification will take a different amount of time, plus this will vary from person to person and the materials you use! For a basic course with little experience, you can expect to put in between 10-20 hours of study before sitting your exam. For more in-depth courses, this can range to upwards of spending time every day preparing over approximately a month, or around 5 hours a week over 3 months.

Don’t rush into taking your exam! Make sure you’ve gone over the courseware enough for it to stick (and don’t forget about practical application), and complete a practice exam to gauge your readiness. Google provides practice exams, but there are other resources online which will have more questions, too.

Career Prospects After GCP Certification

A Google Cloud Platform certification is a good way to give you a bit of an edge in your career. If you pick a role-specific certification, such as the Professional Machine Learning Engineer, then it can help nudge you into those sorts of positions. Regardless of which certification you get, simply having a GCP badge means that you’re dedicated to ongoing professional development with popular technologies. This can also be appealing for hiring companies.

If you’re already in a role, getting certified can help in leverage for promotion or salary increases.

While it’s all well and good to get these badges, they aren’t going to be a panacea for your career. Advancing in your career is always going to be more about your experience, drive, personality, and background - but these little ticks along the way help to stand out from the crowd.

GCP Certification Costs

GCP certifications range in price from $99 for the lowest level certificate, to $200 for the Professional levels. This makes it an affordable choice, whether you’re doing your own professional development or being sponsored through your work.

How to Choose the Right GCP Certification

I am getting started with GCP

Choose Cloud Digital Leader and/or Associate Cloud Engineer.

I am a developer

Associate Cloud Engineer, Professional Cloud Developer, Professional Cloud DevOps Engineer, (optionally) Professional Data Engineer, (optionally) Professional Cloud Architect.

I am in DevOps

Associate Cloud Engineer, Professional Cloud Developer, Professional Cloud DevOps

I am an architect

Associate Cloud Engineer, Professional Cloud Architect, (optional) Professional Cloud Security Engineer, (optional) Professional Data Engineer.

I am an administrator

Associate Cloud Engineer, Professional Collaboration Engineer

I am a data worker

Associate Cloud Engineer, Professional Data Engineer, (optional) Professional Machine Learning Engineer, (optional) Professional Cloud Developer, (optional) Professional Cloud Architect.

I am in security

Associate Cloud Engineer, Professional Cloud Security Engineer, (optional) Professional Cloud Network Engineer, (optional) Professional Cloud Architect.

GCP Certification Prerequisites

For your GCP Foundational exam, there is absolutely no prior experience necessary, newbies are welcome but will need to work harder to learn the material. Associate certification requires around 6 months of practical experience and Professional certs require around 2-3 years of industry experience including 1 year in the relevant vertical.

Do note that these are recommendations rather than compulsory prerequisites - there are no hard and fast rules here.

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GCP Certifications Path


GCP Cloud Digital Leader

Best for: Administrators or newbies to Google Cloud Platform

GCP Certification Cost: $99

Recommended practical experience: None necessary

Study guides:

The GCP Cloud Digital Leader certification is a generalist title that shows baseline knowledge and use case assessment under Google Cloud Platform’s suite of popular cloud services.

The exam covers; generalist cloud knowledge including infrastructure, management, and cost details, Google Cloud knowledge including hierarchy, cost, and compliance topics, and overviews of Google products and services including VMs, containers, serverless compute, data management, machine learning, and more.

This is a brand new course in June 2021, so study resources are only just being built out.


GCP Associate Cloud Engineer

Best for: Administrators

GCP Certification Cost: $125

Recommended practical experience: 6+ months hands-on experience with GCP

Recommended study guides:

If your role (or desired role) includes the day-to-day administration of a Google cloud environment, then the GCP Associate Cloud Engineer certification is a natural fit. This exam is designed to show your proficiency in cost-effective and security-conscious development and management of GCP environments. Command-line knowledge is essential!

The exam will cover topics such as setting up your GCP environment, billing, and accounts, choosing and configuring a set of GCP services including cost planning and security setting, deploying and managing a cloud solution including container monitoring and logging, plus the management of running cloud services.


GCP Professional Cloud Architect

Best for: Cloud Architects

GCP Certification Cost: $200

Recommended practical experience: 3 years of professional experience or 2 years hands-on, including 1 year implementing GCP solutions

Recommended study guide:

What was the top-paying certification among surveyed professionals according to the Global Knowledge 2020 IT Skills and Salary Survey? That would be the GCP Professional Cloud Architect.

GCP Professional Cloud Architects design new cloud environments for organizations and assist in the initial configuration, but may not be involved in the day-to-day operation of the environment. You should be able to perform these tasks and optimize technical and business procedures.

The exam for this course is new as of May 2021, so many of the resources you find online could be out of date, meaning they don’t cover the new case studies. A Cloud Guru is coming with a new version of their courseware in Q3 2021, but you can check out their older versions in the meantime.

GCP Professional Cloud DevOps Engineer

Best for: DevOps Engineers

GCP Certification Cost: $200

Recommended practical experience: 2 years of professional experience, including 1 year of DevOps/SRE with GCP

Recommended study guides:

GCP Professional Cloud DevOps Engineers are the fine people toeing the line in codifying operations, whether it’s in a DevOps or Site Reliability Engineering (SRE) capacity. If this is your role (or desired role) then this is the certification for you.

To be able to pass this exam, you’ll need to build and deploy software delivery pipelines using GCP products, optimize for speed and reliability, and redesign/correct where necessary. It has an SRE focus, unlike other professional DevOps certifications, so make sure you’re up to date with concepts and applications. For this reason, Google’s Site Reliability Engineering book is an excellent resource for the knowledge required to pass this exam.

GCP Professional Cloud Developer

Best for: Developers

GCP Certification Cost: $200

Recommended practical experience: 2 years of professional experience, including 1 year of development using Google Cloud

Recommended study guide:

For developers wanting to show their proficiency with Google Cloud products, the GCP Professional Cloud Developer certification is the ideal way to go. The exam for this certification judges your ability to be able to design, build, test, deploy, and monitor cloud-native applications with the GCP set of services, as well as ensure they’re highly scalable and with high availability.

You should have solid experience in the entire development process through ongoing performance management, to ensure you’re able to pass this exam.

GCP Professional Cloud Security Engineer

Best for: Security Professionals

GCP Certification Cost: $200

Recommended practical experience: 2 years of professional experience, including 1 year of security using GCP

Recommended study guide:

Security management is more important than ever in the modern organization, however, a lot of security has now been transferred over to cloud platforms to reflect the migration in infrastructure. The GCP Professional Cloud Security Engineer certification can show that you’re able to do this with proficiency with Google’s services infrastructure.

The exam will cover IAM, network configuration, operations management, data protection controls, and compliance activities and areas.

GCP Professional Machine Learning Engineer

Best for: Machine Learning Professionals

GCP Certification Cost: $200

Recommended practical experience: 3 years of professional experience or 2 years hands-on, including 1 year of machine learning with GCP

Recommended study guide:

Does your role involve building, running, and managing Machine Learning (ML) models with Google Cloud services for the purpose of solving business problems? Then the Professional Machine Learning Engineer is the track for you. The Professional ML certification is about the nuts and bolts of data analytics which requires experience with the full problem space under the Google Cloud banner.

The exam will require you to show that you're adept at designing ML solutions, preparing and processing data, working with GCP ML pipelines, and managing and optimizing running projects.

GCP Professional Data Engineer

Best for: Data Workers

GCP Certification Cost: $200

Recommended practical experience: 2 years of professional experience, including 1 year of data administration with GCP

Recommended study guides:

All cloud professionals work with data workloads, however, not all cloud professionals focus on the data itself. The Professional Data Engineer certification deals with data management, from ingress to processing to archival to deletion, and how to keep the data secure, complete, and reliable with a focus on scalability and flexibility.

In the exam, you'll be expected to demonstrate thorough knowledge of Google Cloud services that deal with data management as well as industry-standard data tools like Hadoop and SQL. You'll also need to know how to manage ML data workloads with existing models.

GCP Professional Cloud Network Engineer

Best for: Network Administrators

GCP Certification Cost: $200

Recommended practical experience: 3 years of professional experience or 2 years hands-on, including 1 year of network administration with GCP

Recommended study guide:

Software-defined networking part of your role? Then the Professional Cloud Network Engineer certification needs to be on your bucket list. This person is able to architect, implement, manage, and optimize virtual network configurations and endpoints using Google Cloud Platform.

This exam will require you to put your practical working knowledge of the command line and UI console to use in configuring services - with a security focus.

GCP Professional Collaboration Engineer

Best for: Systems Administrators

GCP Certification Cost: $200

Prerequisite courses: None

Recommended practical experience: 2 years of professional experience, including 1 year of Google Workspace (G Suite)

Recommended study guide:

Ever heard of a collaboration engineer? The GCP Professional Collaboration Engineer title is designated for coordinators in organizations running Google Workspace for user management, mail, productivity, and other services.

If you’re a systems administrator or involved in user management then this certification can show your proficiency in Google services.

This exam is certainly a lot less in-depth than many of the other GCP Professional certifications, so if you have been working in-depth with Google Workspace for over a year, just brush up on your concepts, sit a practice exam or two, and then you’re ready.

Best Way to Prepare for GCP Certification Exams

Go through the materials provided by Google! Each certification has its own “learning path” you can click through in order to access the docs and other materials offered by GCP. While there aren’t quite as many third-party learning materials published for GCP as there are for AWS - and they may be outdated as courseware changes often - Google does also publish exam guides with each certification. This breaks down the content of the exam so that you will at the very least be able to hunt down learning resources yourself for each small section.

You'll need plenty of practice yourself with the GCP services that are applicable to each exam - and you may not have access to everything you need at work. That means it's best to sign yourself up for a trial account.

You have a few options when it comes to trials. While you can head over to GCP and simply sign up for their 90-day, $300 Free Trial, you might like to instead choose a courseware provider who offers sandboxed GCP products. A Cloud Guru has included sandboxing as a part of their Personal Plus monthly/yearly plans - although be aware that not all certification courses are offered on this platform.

When you feel like you’re getting pretty familiar with the course materials, take a practice exam or two to check that you’re passing comfortably.

GCP Certification Guides

Want more resources for studying for your GCP certification? Here are the best of what’s on the web:

As GCP training is relatively new, there are fewer resources to choose from than you’ll find with Azure or AWS - however they’re still out there. Google also likes to switch things up regularly, so you may find that courses or Google products are outdated. However the exam layout, the number of questions asked and preparation process would largely remain the same. Make sure to check that you’re using an up-to-date official Google Documentation to avoid any surprises come exam time. See the troubleshooting sections for the main google cloud subject matter areas, in particulars which sometimes feature exam-related gems.

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