How to Become a Cloud Engineer

by | May 18, 2022 | Career

Updated December 19, 2022

Learning how to become a cloud engineer can propel your career as organizations continue to move on-prem workloads to the cloud. In this article, we’ll explore what cloud engineers do, how to become one, and possible career paths you might explore. Let’s jump in!

What is a cloud engineer?

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According to Northeastern University, a cloud engineer is someone who develops software applications for the cloud, maintains cloud resources, and works with various different cloud services. They should have experience with at least one of the Big Three cloud providers: AWS, Azure, or GCP.

“Cloud engineer” is not a one-size-fits-all title, as there are many different kinds of cloud engineers. Instead, it’s more of a blanket term that includes job titles like:

  • Full stack developer
  • .NET developer
  • Cloud migration consultant
  • Solutions architect
  • Security expert
  • Database administrator
  • Machine learning engineer

Cloud engineers work for all kinds of organizations in a number of different capacities. Some are full time employees, while others prefer to work as freelancers, picking up hourly or contract jobs. A formal education isn’t necessary for this career, but many cloud engineers have a degree in computer science.

How to become a cloud engineer

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A formal education isn’t the only way to become a cloud engineer, especially with the advent of elearning sites like Coursera, edX, and Udemy. That being said, here’s a common path many people take to become a cloud engineer.

Step 1: Get a bachelor’s degree

Most cloud experts start their career with a bachelor’s degree in an IT-related field, such as computer science, software engineering, or information systems and technology. Whatever bachelor’s program you choose, it should have an emphasis on the technical aspects of computing, computer systems, and software. Your bachelor’s degree lays the technical foundation for your career in cloud engineering and also prepares you for more advanced degrees if you choose to pursue them further down the line.

Step 2: Master programming languages

Learning relevant programming languages is essential. Cloud computing requires experience in data-oriented programming languages like Python, Java, and Clojure. To learn these languages, you can make use of online and offline courses, videos, blogs, and other free resources on the internet. A few online resources you can get started with include Codecademy, Code Avengers, freeCodeCamp, and Coursera.

Step 3: Earn cloud certifications

On top of learning programming languages, you’ll also need to develop an understanding of mainstream cloud services, like AWS and Azure. These cloud providers offer online resources to help you master their platforms. Earning certifications is a great way to do this, plus it adds credibility to your resume.

Step 4: Gain relevant experience

Put everything you’ve learned from your bachelor’s degree and relevant certifications to use with real-world experience. Whether through internships, open-source projects, or full time roles, gaining experience in cloud computing will help you build a portfolio of work that you can pull from in future job interviews as evidence of your expertise. You’ll also learn valuable skills through hands-on experience that will be extremely helpful when job searching.

Step 5: Consider pursuing a master’s degree

Cloud professionals with master’s degrees find more job opportunities because of their advanced education. If it suits you, consider a graduate program in a specialized technical field that compliments your experience in cloud computing. A master’s degree will help you gain more in-depth knowledge about information technology, development, and programming.

Average salary for a cloud engineer

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Now to answer a burning question: what kind of salary do cloud engineers make?

> Why You Need DevOps Skills on Your Resume

According to research from Indeed, the national average salary for a cloud engineer is $122,798 per year. For contract work, it’s common for junior cloud engineers to charge at least $100 an hour.

Similar salary research shows these average base salaries for the following job titles:

  • AWS Solution Architect – $152,043 (per ZipRecruiter)
  • Cyber security expert – $145,189 (per Salary.com)
  • Cloud database administrator – $106,407 (per Glassdoor)
  • Machine learning engineer – $129,742 (per Indeed)

However, salaries can vary depending on job title, where you live, and how many years of experience you have.

For example, a cloud engineer with a master’s degree who is several years into their career will make more than a recent undergraduate getting started in cloud engineering. Likewise, cloud engineer jobs in cities with a high cost of living like San Francisco or New York will pay more than ones in Austin or Atlanta, where the cost of living is generally lower.

Cloud engineer job description

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Cloud engineers are responsible for the technological duties associated with cloud computing. This includes designing, planning, maintaining, managing, and supporting cloud infrastructure. A job description may include responsibilities like:

  • Building and implementing policies for the cloud environment
  • Establishing security within the cloud environment
  • Ensuring the appropriate services are available
  • Overseeing the migration from a physical environment to a cloud environment
  • Developing web services within a cloud environment 
  • Collaborating with technical teams to implement cloud solutions
  • Troubleshooting and solving issues with the cloud infrastructure
  • Managing requests for new technology
  • Staying up to date with new technologies and industry trends

Note that cloud engineer is a general term that encompasses a few different roles, including cloud architects, cloud software engineers, cloud systems engineers, cloud network engineers, and cloud security engineers. More on what these roles do in a bit!

Possible career paths for a cloud engineer

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As previously mentioned, “cloud engineer” is a catch-all term that might include any of the following job titles:

  • Cloud architect. Cloud architects are responsible for overseeing an organization’s cloud computing strategy, which includes application design, adoption plans, and cloud management. 
  • Cloud software engineer. Cloud software engineers are responsible for building and maintaining software features and functions, as well as databases and applications for cloud technologies.
  • Front-end/back-end developer. Front-end and back-end developers work on different sides of an organization’s website. Front-end developers focus on the visual aspects of a website, whereas back-end developers focus on the server side of a website.
  • Data engineer. This role is responsible for building systems that collect, manage, and convert raw data into useful information that organizations can use to inform business-critical decisions. 
  • SysOps administrator. These professionals are responsible for managing, operating, and deploying required systems in a cloud environment. 
  • Cloud network engineers. Cloud network engineers specialize in migrating functions and networks to private, public, and hybrid cloud environments. 
  • Cloud security engineers. Cloud security engineers focus on identifying threats to cloud systems and creating features that meet security needs.

Job outlook for cloud engineers

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Pursuing a career in this area means you’ll have tons of opportunities in an ever-growing industry.

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The Linux Foundation found that cloud skills are in higher demand than any other area of technology, with 61 percent of organizations increasing their use of cloud technologies in the past year. Gartner predicts that worldwide end-user spending on cloud services will reach $500 billion in 2022 and over 70 percent of companies using the cloud plan to increase their budgets in the future.

With a significant number of organizations moving their workloads to the cloud, the demand for cloud skills is greater than ever before. 

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As the Lead Content Developer, Alexandra is responsible for improving website rankings on major search engines, as well as editing all company copy. Her hobbies include rock climbing and going to concerts.

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