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9 best free DevOps certifications and training courses in 2021

Application development today focuses on DevOps practices and principles. DevOps skills are in demand -- skills that you can develop with free courses and certifications.

DevOps skills are in high demand, and DevOps engineers command excellent salaries. But before you land a DevOps job, you need the necessary expertise and skills.

DevOps certifications training programs can get you on the road to a rewarding DevOps career. These offerings can help you learn and demonstrate DevOps expertise, regardless of your background.

There are plenty of opportunities for DevOps certifications and training courses that are easy to access. Here are some of the free programs.

What is DevOps?

At its core, DevOps is a methodology that emphasizes collaboration between IT engineers and developers. The goal of DevOps is to eliminate the functional silos that traditionally separated IT teams from development teams and made it difficult for them to communicate or reinforce each other's efforts.

When an organization adopts a DevOps approach, IT engineers and developers work closely together to determine what software is developed, how it's deployed, and how problems that arise after deployment are resolved and inform the next development cycle.

DevOps is a philosophy, rather than a rigid set of tools and practices. However, a variety of technologies and methodologies enable or enhance DevOps processes. They include techniques such as continuous integration/continuous delivery (CI/CD), which means implementing and pushing out application updates quickly and continuously. They also extend to the use of tools such as Git to perform source control, making heavy use of cloud computing to build more flexible and scalable software environments. Automated configuration management tools are also used to speed software deployment and environment provisioning.

Why is DevOps important?

By streamlining software delivery processes and removing the friction between development and IT teams, DevOps unlocks benefits for businesses and their customers. For example:

  • Application updates are faster and less expensive to implement within a CI/CD pipeline. This enables organizations to react more quickly to changes in the market and deliver cutting-edge features to users on a regular basis.
  • Automation tools that DevOps teams frequently use help to reduce costs while increasing the reusability and repeatability of configurations and environments, which helps businesses scale.
  • DevOps practices enhance security by helping to standardize software delivery practices reduces the risk of oversights that could lead to security vulnerabilities.

Engineers also benefit from DevOps. Because the DevOps concept strongly encourages automation, working as a DevOps engineer means spending less time on tedious work -- such as manually configuring a server or deploying an application release -- and more time performing tasks that are more creative and original -- such as planning updates to an application architecture or evaluating a new cloud service.

DevOps can also make the lives of engineers easier by making it faster and simpler to fix problems. If there is a bad application release, engineers can fix it quickly by pushing an update out through their CI/CD pipeline.

By gaining DevOps skills, engineers can increase their value to businesses, while at the same time positioning themselves for jobs that are more enjoyable.

DevOps certifications worth having

When you set out to take a DevOps course or gain a DevOps certification, you'll notice that they fall into three main categories:

  • Introductory courses and certifications. These focus on DevOps basics.
  • Advanced courses and certifications. These cater to more sophisticated types of DevOps skills and tools, but do not focus on a single platform or company.
  • Courses and certifications tied to practicing DevOps in a specific context. Examples of these types of courses include using a particular public cloud or a specific container orchestration platform.

Your goals will help you decide which type of certification or course to pursue.

If you are totally new to DevOps and don't know where to start, you'll get the greatest benefit with an introductory course or certification. These will help you demonstrate to management that you can work in a DevOps environment, even if you have not yet acquired expertise with specific DevOps-related tools that the organization uses.

If you are totally new to DevOps and don't know where to start, you’'ll get the greatest benefit with one of the introductory courses and certifications.

If you are already familiar with DevOps but want to sharpen your skills, an advanced general-purpose DevOps training course or certification is a good alternative. This approach may be useful if you already work in DevOps but want to position yourself for a promotion to a role such as lead DevOps engineer.

Finally, if your company uses a specific DevOps tool set, consider a DevOps course or certification that is tailored to the platforms or the tools within it. A variety of DevOps courses and certifications are available for the major public cloud platforms, as well as for popular DevOps-oriented tools, such as Jenkins and Kubernetes.

How to prepare for a DevOps certification

There's no rigid set of prerequisites for gaining a DevOps certification. Although many candidates have academic credentials in application development or IT and may also have practical experience in these fields, most certification programs allow anyone to participate, regardless of their background.

The resources you need to prepare for a DevOps certification are also typically readily available. If it's a certification offered by a cloud provider or tool vendor, read through the company's white papers and technical resources to understand how the company approaches DevOps and which best practices it recommends. For general-purpose certifications, follow the latest news and conversations about DevOps to keep yourself up to date with current trends, tools and methodologies.

9 best free DevOps certifications and training courses

When you're ready to start your certification or training, consider one of the following offerings:

1. Continuous Delivery & DevOps

Course details: Taught by a University of Virginia professor, this beginner-level DevOps course covers topics such as DevOps roles, automation testing and how to build and improve a CI/CD pipeline. The course itself is free, but for a fee you can gain a certificate upon successful completion.

Who should take this course: Beginners looking for a primer on DevOps.

Prerequisites: None, but a general technical background is helpful.

Duration: 8 hours

2. DevOps Culture and Mindset

Course details: This course focuses on DevOps as a concept. If you want to learn the ins and outs of DevOps principles and are less concerned with learning about specific tools, this course is for you. The course is free to take, with an optional certificate that you pay for.

Who should take this course: Engineers who already know how to use technical tools but want a primer on the DevOps philosophy.

Prerequisites: None, but the course assumes some familiarity with technical tools and processes.

Duration: 15 hours

3. Introduction to Jenkins

Course details: This course teaches the basics of Jenkins, one of the most popular CI/CD tools for DevOps. The course is free; an optional certificate costs $149.

Who should take this course: Beginning to intermediate practitioners who understand basic DevOps concepts but want to get started building a CI/CD pipeline.

Prerequisites: Basic development and IT administration skills.

Duration: 10 weeks, at 2 to 3 hours per week

4. Kubernetes: Getting Started

Course details: This course provides an introduction to Kubernetes, including what it does and how to administer it. Although this free course doesn't focus on DevOps specifically, it can be useful for DevOps engineers who need a fast way to learn about Kubernetes.

Who should take this course: Engineers who already understand DevOps concepts but want to operationalize them through Kubernetes.

Prerequisites: General familiarity with containers.

Duration: 4 hours

5. Docker Essentials

Course details: Like the Kubernetes course, this one provides an introduction to Docker, including both core Docker tools and the Docker Swarm orchestrator.

Who should take this course: Engineers who want to work with containers as part of their DevOps responsibilities.

Prerequisites: General familiarity with application development and deployment.

Duration: 3 hours

6. Getting Started with DevOps on AWS

Course details: This course explains basic DevOps concepts and how to apply them in the AWS cloud. The training is free, but it can be a first step toward preparing for a paid certification, such as AWS Certified DevOps Engineer.

Who should take this course: Technical practitioners who have at least a basic understanding of DevOps but want to learn more about the AWS DevOps tools and services.

Prerequisites: Background in development and/or IT operations.

Duration: 60 minutes

7. Preparing for Google Cloud Certification: Cloud DevOps Engineer Professional Certificate

Course details: A hands-on training course for DevOps on the Google Cloud Platform (GCP). Free to audit; certification requires a fee.

Who should take this course: Experienced practitioners who want to learn more about DevOps tools and services on GCP.

Prerequisites: Experience administering cloud environments -- not necessarily GCP -- and familiarity with DevOps in general.

Duration: 6 hours per week for 3 months

8. Microsoft Certified: DevOps Engineer Expert

Course details: This extensive training program covers a variety of DevOps topics, including source control and continuous integration to security. The course focuses on Microsoft- and Azure-related technologies, but it also touches on core DevOps concepts that apply to any type of environment. Online training is free, but the Microsoft Certified: DevOps Engineer Expert certification exam requires a fee.

Who should take this course: Practitioners seeking deep expertise in working with DevOps tools, especially in Microsoft-centric environments.

Prerequisites: Basic familiarity with Microsoft Azure, as well as with development and IT administration.

Duration: 60 hours

9. Developing Cloud-Native Applications with Microservices Architectures

Course details: Delivered as a set of videos, this Red Hat course is a concise way to learn the essentials of building and managing cloud-native applications through a DevOps pipeline. It touches on a variety of DevOps tools -- such as Docker, Kubernetes and Jenkins.

Who should take this course: Practitioners seeking deep dive into leading DevOps technologies, with a focus on how they can be applied in the real world.

Prerequisites: Moderate to advanced development skills.

Duration: 30 days

Next Steps

How to start DevOps: A step-by-step guide

A DevOps developer should be adaptable, creative

Run a DevOps Dojo to improve training and culture

Build a DevOps culture using these key principles

Evolving DevOps roles demand Kubernetes, CI/CD skills

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