How to Hire an AWS Developer in 2022

by | Mar 30, 2022 | AWS, Blog

Telling someone you work in recruiting is a surefire way to generate sympathy these days. Telling them you’re trying to hire for an in-demand position like an AWS developer is bound to elicit shrieks.

Alright, maybe things aren’t that bad, but it’s hard work hiring AWS developers! If you’re in a rush, sign up to create an employer profile on our software-defined staffing platform, Nerdly. It’s free to join. 

If you prefer a different approach, read on for our advice on hiring an AWS developer.

Table of Contents

  1. What is an AWS developer?
  2. Screen candidates for the right skills
  3. Making sense of AWS certifications
  4. Cost of hiring an AWS developer
  5. Interview questions for AWS developers

What is an AWS developer?

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AWS developers write software to build and maintain web-based applications on the AWS platform. They should have a firm handle on:

  • Managing or working with cloud infrastructure
  • The various services and tools AWS offers, like Lambda, EC2, S3, and CloudFormation
  • At least one high-level programming language, like Node.js or Python
  • Using APIs to develop software
  • Building applications on a serverless computing execution model
  • Communicating with both technical and non-technical stakeholders

This is by no means an exhaustive list. An ideal developer’s skills, certifications, and experience will depend on the organization and role, but most developers share these basic attributes.

Developer vs. solutions architect

If you’re new to recruiting AWS developers, a note on job title terminology:

  • An AWS certified developer develops cloud-based applications, while an AWS solutions architect architects cloud infrastructures
  • A developer builds software to run on cloud infrastructure, while an architect makes the blueprint for building that infrastructure, using cloud components like hardware, operating systems, containers, and virtual machines

One person builds the proverbial house (AWS cloud infrastructure), and the other builds the refrigerator, washing machine, toaster oven, and television (cloud-based applications on the AWS infrastructure).

There is some overlap between the two professions. For example, both developers and solutions architects have a deep understanding of core AWS services, like S3, Lambda, and CloudFront. But these roles perform distinct functions—best not to confuse them.

Benefits of hiring an AWS developer

An AWS developer specializes in developing software for the AWS platform. As such, you’ll see significant benefits in hiring an AWS developer over a more generalist software developer. Such benefits include:

  • Better security. AWS developers are knowledgeable about identity and access management (IAM), making them well-suited to minimize security risks that can arise from AWS bugs
  • Faster deployment. AWS developers can work with and educate other software developers to deploy software faster on the AWS platform
  • Cost optimization. AWS is a complex service ecosystem that requires some experience to navigate for the best results at the most reasonable cost
  • Facilitating digital transformation. More and more organizations are moving to the cloud, and having an AWS developer on board can help smooth that process

To maximize these benefits, look to hire AWS certified professionals (more on that in a bit).

Screen candidates for the right skills

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What skills should a good AWS developer have? It depends on the specific role you’re trying to fill, but here are some basic skills to include in the job description:

  • Mastery of at least one high-level programming language, like Python or Node.js
  • Experience deploying code using a tool like RedHat Ansible, AWS CloudFormation, or AWS CodeDeploy
  • Knowledge of the AWS security model and identity and access management (IAM)
  • Serverless computing tools like Lambda and API Gateway
  • Debugging
  • Database migration and familiarity with database tools like Amazon Aurora and Amazon RDS
  • Familiarity with the AWS Software Development Kit (SDK)

Though technically not a skill, it’s a good idea to look for someone with at least several years of experience, especially if you have a smaller development team.

Making sense of AWS certifications

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With a plethora of services to choose from, AWS offers certifications to help candidates stand out and give employers some peace of mind that they aren’t hiring a master of none. At the time of publication, AWS offers 11 different certifications, grouped into four categories:

  1. Foundational
  2. Associate
  3. Professional
  4. Specialty

Some of the most common certifications are:

  • AWS Certified Developer – Associate
  • AWS Solutions Architect – Associate
  • AWS DevOps Engineer – Professional

When hiring an AWS developer, make sure all your top candidates have attained an AWS Certified Developer – Associate certification. These candidates will have at least one year of experience using the AWS Cloud, and they will have passed the AWS certification exam—no walk in the park.

Depending on the role you’re looking to fill, you may also want to look for some specialty certifications, like Security, Machine Learning, or Advanced Networking.

Cost of hiring an AWS developer

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When trying to estimate the cost of hiring an AWS developer, remember that you have a few options:

  • Recruit using internal resources
  • Contract a third-party recruitment agency to fill positions on your behalf
  • Hire contractors through a freelancing website

Beyond salary or hourly rates, keep in mind that recruiting comes with other costs:

  • Recruiting software tools often require you to purchase job listing credits once you exceed a certain number of active job listings
  • Recruitment agencies usually have minimum spend requirements that can run into the tens of thousands of dollars
  • Job board sites encourage employers to pay to promote posts for better results or to gain access to special features

Not to mention the cost of paying your own internal recruiters and the opportunity cost tied to positions that take a long time to fill. Make sure to think beyond your future developer’s compensation when estimating recruitment costs.

Average AWS developer salaries

Being in-demand and highly-skilled, AWS developers don’t come cheap. According to Global Knowledge, the average salary in 2021 for an AWS Certified Developer – Associate was $159,767. That number creeps up to $161,409 for an AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Professional.

A December 2021 Glassdoor report is more conservative, estimating total salary for AWS developers to be around $115,000, while ZipRecruiter lists the national average salary as $122,799 for developers in the US.

Recruitment agency costs

If you opt to hire the services of a recruitment agency for AWS professionals, set realistic expectations for candidate search fees.

Pricing structures vary depending on which vendor you choose, but it’s not uncommon for monthly candidate search rates to start at around $25,000 for junior developers. That number goes up by several thousand dollars per month once you start looking for mid-level and senior developers.

Average hourly rates for freelance AWS developers

The aforementioned ZipRecruiter report puts the average hourly rate for an AWS developer at $59 an hour. But a quick scan of a popular freelancing website shows hourly rates ranging from roughly $50 an hour to upwards of $150 an hour.

Hourly rates can vary drastically on freelancing sites, depending on a freelancer’s experience, skills, certifications, and location. Developers based in countries with a lower cost of living usually charge less than developers based in countries with a higher cost of living. For instance, you might find that developers based in Turkey charge lower hourly rates than developers based in Canada.

Interview questions for AWS developers

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Like most software roles, a typical interview for this position will consist of a mix of technical, experience-based, and situational questions. Here are some ideas to get you started.

1. Explain AWS to me

This may seem too obvious, but it’s a commonly-asked question to ensure a candidate has a firm grasp on the basics before moving forward. Just as importantly, it’s a good way to get a feel for a candidate’s non-technical communication skills.

You should hear something like this: “AWS is Amazon’s cloud computing business. It delivers a number of different services like compute, data storage, development, analytics, and security over the internet using its reliable, scalable, and affordable cloud infrastructure.”

2. When would you need to use an AMI?

AMI stands for Amazon Machine Image. You would use an AMI to launch an instance on Amazon EC2, a compute service from AWS that lets you manage virtual instances (virtual machines).

3. What are some of the main AWS compute services?

AWS offers over 200 different services, and they’re organized into categories like compute, database, and content delivery. Here’s the full list of compute services:

  • EC2
  • Lambda
  • Fargate
  • Lightsail
  • Outposts
  • Batch

4. List some best practices for managing servers in Lambda.

This is a trick question! One of the main benefits of Lambda is that it’s a serverless compute service, meaning AWS handles server management so developers can focus on running code. The best practices for managing servers in Lambda is to let AWS take care of it.

5. What’s the difference between a public and a private subnet?

If your organization runs a public-facing web application on a virtual private cloud (VPC), AWS recommends using both a public and private subnet. The main distinction between public and private subnets is that a public subnet is attached to an internet gateway—a private subnet is not.

6. Technical questions

We aren’t providing a specific technical question to ask because these will vary greatly by role and organization. You might be hiring an AWS developer to specifically code in Java, Python, or another programming language. For help with this section, it’s best to include a colleague like a senior software engineer or the manager the new hire will report to.

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About Forrest Brown
Forrest Brown is the Content Manager at NerdRabbit. He lives in Atlanta with his wife and two cats.

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