Which Kubernetes Certification is Right for You?

It’s hard to imagine a single software revolutionizing the IT industry. So much so that there are thousands of jobs across the world that require a Kubernetes certification. So what is Kubernetes and how did it change how companies manage their resources? 

Imagine you want to try hundreds of different applications and processes at once. If you run them all within a single system, there is no way you can control the resources allocated to each. The most logical solution would be to use different servers for each. This would also be the most cumbersome solution! As a result, virtualization within a computer CPU was introduced where we can compartmentalize or contain different applications within a fixed set of resources. These are known as virtual machines. Every VM unit can access all the features and capabilities of the CPU.

This idea is what ushered in “Container Deployment”. Today, the container deployment system is much smoother, portable, scalable, and extensible, thanks to platforms like Kubernetes. 

What is Kubernetes? 

Named after the Greek word for Pilot, Kubernetes allows an agency to run containerized workloads in production. Google was already using this revolutionary system for as long as 15 years, before finally releasing Kubernetes as an open-source platform in 2014. 

Kubernetes or K8s offer many advantages over traditional containers or virtual machines. Firstly, being a cloud application, one can access it anywhere, anytime. Secondly, Kubernetes allows automatic load balancing, self-healing, bin packing, storage orchestration, and configuration management. Just like Google’s own system, it can run billions of containers per week or just thousands, depending on your agency size. 

Top Kubernetes Certifications

According to a survey by the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) in 2019, 78% of agencies have already adapted to using Kubernetes. As a result, the need for developers, security specialists and administrators with Kubernetes certification is increasing. To manage this, the CNCF offers 4 different types of Kubernetes certification depending on the person’s career path. 

These are in the form of online exams with long-type, practical questions. Here are some of the top Kubernetes certifications from the CNCF. 

Certified Kubernetes Administrator (CKA)

The CKA program measures a candidate’s competency in a command-line environment. As such, it is an entry-level exam for beginners and can help them to establish themselves. CNCF has made the curriculum available on their platform and there are various companies that offer training. Kubernetes themselves have various webinars that aspiring candidates can explore. 

The exam presents multiple codes that candidates will have to solve or correct. The main weightage is given to Troubleshooting, followed by Cluster Architecture, Installation & Configuration. The course was created by the CNCF in collaboration with The Linux Foundation who also have introductory classes on their site. 

Certified Kubernetes Application Developer (CKAD)

A step ahead of the CKA program, people who have passed the CKAD program will have proved their ability to themselves design, build and configure the Kubernetes ecosystem. To pass this exam, you will need to be proficient in the following languages: Python, Node.js, Go, or Java. Apart from this, you must know how to run an OCI-Compliant Container Runtime and be familiar with cloud architecture. 

The syllabus gives maximum weightage to Pod Design, followed by Observability and Configuration skills. All answers will have to be written and processed in a command line. This Kubernetes certification is suited for intermediate level users who already have the CKA certification or are familiar with the Kubernetes ecosystem. 

Certified Kubernetes Security Specialist (CKS)

The Kubernetes ecosystem started with only two certifications. The CKS certification is one of the newer ones, recently introduced at the KubeCon 2020. Meant only for experts, to apply for the CKS exam, you must have completed the CKA certification as a prerequisite. The CKA license should still be active when the candidate applies for the CKS exam. The CKS exam simulates a real-world environment and the questions are related to various cloud security systems. 

20% of the questions are related to Supply Chain Security, followed by 15% from Cluster Hardening and System Hardening each. The CKS exam is extremely competitive and one must stay abreast of every new development and modification in security systems.

The fee for all exams includes one free retake in case you cannot attend the first slot. 

  1. Certified Kubernetes Service Provider (KCSP)

The KCSP is a company-level certification. To apply for this, the company must meet the following criteria:

  • There should be three or more engineers in the company with CKA certification
  • Have a business model in place to run this
  • Add a Kubernetes-specific landing page to their website
  • A CNCF membership

As a KCSP certified company, you can provide Kubernetes support and provide training to other organizations looking to teach their employees how to use the platform. Certified companies are featured on the Kubernetes partners’ page. 

Which Certification Should You Pursue?

Each Kubernetes certification caters to a different career path and industry level. Currently, Kubernetes has two distinct pathways:

  • For Developers: This includes the Kubernetes certification of CKAD. The developer path is meant for those who enjoy coding, building, and design programs. With these certifications, you could someday build your own Kubernetes! The CKAD tests users on their knowledge regarding various languages and service deployments. If you envision yourself in the future as a DevOps engineer, Software developer or Deployment expert, then this is the path for you. 
  • For Administrators: This includes the Kubernetes certification of CKA and CKS. There is a team that manages and maintains the Kubernetes ecosystem. If you are someone more inclined towards administrative or managerial tasks, then this could be the path for you. The CKA and CKS programs focus more on the operational role of the candidate. You could become an expert on security features, system hardening or troubleshooting without actually coding the software. 


Kubernetes’ increasing popularity has led to many cloud-service providers providing Kubernetes-based or Kubernetes-supported services. As an emerging and constantly developing platform, it has a lot of potential for growth and opportunities. Getting a certification can be the first step to establish yourself as a verified professional in the industry. 

Bansal Neelima

Neelima Bansal is a passionate blogger. She writes about her life experiences in the form of words. She had done masters in E Business & working with a leading technology organization as an analyst.

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