What Is a Cloud Engineer and How To Become One?

FT Contributor  | 

Cloud computing is a rapidly-growing tech field that involves creating IT systems and infrastructure in a web-based environment. Cloud engineers play an integral part in helping companies and organizations utilize new and quickly developing cloud infrastructure, tools, and applications.

The job duties of a cloud engineer may involve performing very technical tasks. Employers require engineers with knowledge, skills, and experience to handle this type of work. For this reason, cloud engineer jobs are usually high paying, and the field can be quite competitive.

Job Description

A cloud engineer can take on different duties depending on their skillset and the needs of their employer or client. In general, a cloud engineer is responsible for implementing, maintaining, or customizing a cloud-based system. This career also usually involves providing support not only for the non-technical employees of a company or organization but also for other IT employees who need to perform their jobs in a cloud-based environment.

Furthermore, cloud engineers often focus on a specific system. For example, some engineers are more familiar with Amazon Web Services (AWS), while others work with Microsoft Azure. Some employers even require certification in a specific system before they hire a cloud engineer. Organizations such as CompTIA offer non-vendor-specific accreditations.

In general, cloud engineers focus on one of three areas:

  • Developing and deploying applications;
  • Systems Operations (SysOps);
  • Building and maintaining the overall cloud architecture and infrastructure.

Cloud engineers who focus on applications work with a design and development team to develop, test, and debug applications for their client or employer. This particular job involves writing and testing code. Cloud engineers who focus on app development can work in a variety of computer languages, but some of the most common are Java, Python, and C++.

The difference between a developer and a cloud engineer in this role is that the engineer customizes, deploys, and maintains these applications in the cloud.

Cloud engineers that work on systems operations ensure that the cloud computing system is running at optimal efficiency. If issues arise, this cloud engineer is there to troubleshoot and support. SysOps engineers also work on disaster preparedness, backing up systems and databases, and data loss prevention.

In some companies or organizations, this engineer handles updates, checks security measures, and helps with onboarding to teach new and existing employees how to safely and effectively use the network and applications to perform their jobs.

Some engineers focus on cloud architecture and solutions. These professionals may be involved in the planning and development of applications. However, they also focus on the system that keeps the cloud secure and connected to all necessary terminals and devices. In this particular cloud engineering job, you may create blueprints or come up with best practices that developers can use to design and implement the different aspects of the overall cloud computing system. You also ensure that the developed applications are scalable and can work with existing systems.

Solutions-focused engineers can also help migrate existing applications, databases, and systems to the cloud so that the company can continue to use them. A cloud engineer may design new applications and database infrastructure to facilitate the change from internal company servers to the cloud.

Depending on a company or organization’s needs, a cloud engineer may focus on one area of cloud computing, or they may handle different duties, such as development and systems operations, during their tenure with a company.

Median Salary and Job Growth

The average salary for a cloud engineer in the United States is $120,443. Salaries may vary depending on the location of an employer and the type of company or organization. However, most cloud engineer salaries are in the range of $111,213 and $131,823. Educational achievements, job experience, and professional certifications also affect compensation.

The use of cloud systems is becoming more and more common, so the demand for cloud engineers and other experts is growing.

Robert Half Technology’s State of U.S. Tech Hiring report says that cloud computing is the top skill that IT companies are seeking and the prime focus of training for current IT employees. The report also noted that cloud computing, cloud security, and cloud architecture were all in the top five for companies’ immediate IT needs.

Job Requirements

The most basic qualifications you need to have as a cloud engineer is a degree in computer science, computer engineering, or a related IT subject. Some novice cloud engineers can also gain experience through a boot camp or training program that provides hard skills to help you prepare for a job.

Cloud engineers need to be able to work with databases, which requires knowledge of Structured Query Language (SQL). This career also requires knowledge of a variety of coding languages. Employers require an understanding of multiple languages. In preparation for a cloud engineer job, you’ll learn coding systems such as Python, Perl, Ruby, Java, C++, and .NET.

Another skill for this career is the ability to work with the open-source operating system Linux. Many cloud platforms, including Microsoft Azure, utilize Linux.

Finally, cloud engineers need to be familiar with DevOps, which is short for Development Operations. DevOps is a methodology for managing the entire lifecycle of applications, software, and systems. Since engineers are concerned with both development and operations, they need to be familiar with all aspects of DevOps methodologies.

Finally, many cloud engineers earn professional certifications. For example, you could become an AWS Certified Solutions Architect, a certified Google Cloud Architect, or Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE). CompTIA offers a Cloud+ certification that is not associated with any particular vendor.

In this career, you also need soft skills. Cloud engineers need to be able to plan complete projects, interact with non-technical employees, and calmly troubleshoot when problems arise.

Cloud Engineer Job Outlook

A recent report by the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics said that all software development occupations are expected to grow at a rate of 5% between 2018 and 2028. BLS projects that demand for all computer-related jobs will grow twice as fast, while the market for application developers will increase by 26%. Combine these projections with the current rising demand for cloud-computing professionals, and you can see that the outlook for cloud engineers is very promising.

Should I Become a Cloud Engineer?

If you are interested in working with computers, you will enjoy a job as a cloud engineer. Not only does this job require the commitment to get a computer-related degree, but you also need to know multiple coding languages, DevOps methodologies, and cloud computing.  

A cloud engineer has to be deeply committed to developing their skills. Since this field is new and still growing, you also need to be interested in continued learning throughout your career and the willingness to pursue additional certifications after obtaining your degree.

Cloud engineers have to interact with both IT and non-technical staff, so this is one computer-related career that does require strong interpersonal skills.


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This post was updated February 5, 2020. It was originally published February 5, 2020.