A cloud computing engineer develops policies for cloud services, manages requests for new technology, establishes a secure cloud environment, and ensures appropriate availability of services, also known as uptime.
The field of cloud computing engineering is only growing as companies look for more talent capable of providing security and availability of online services to end-users. This makes it an ideal career path for those with specialized interests and skills.
In this guide, we’ll take a deeper dive into the role of a cloud computing engineer, including a look at the recommended skills and background and steps needed to become a cloud computing engineer.
What is a Cloud Computing Engineer?
The cloud refers to servers that are accessed online and the software and databases that run on those servers. Cloud servers are built in data centers worldwide, and the cloud has become the primary location for businesses to store data. Cloud adoption is popular for companies that want to cut costs, streamline efficiency, and ensure that data systems are available to workers anywhere. In this way, cloud technology improves business processes, and companies can transition to cloud providers while scaling up or down depending on their future needs.
Cloud computing engineers focus on the engineering, architecture, development, and administration of online services. Cloud engineers assess an organization’s technology infrastructure and explore options for moving data and processes to the cloud.
Cloud computing engineers can further specialize in consulting, security, machine learning, or database maintenance. Salesforce is an example of software-as-a-service (SaaS) that large companies rely on to integrate essential business tools used in marketing, sales, service, commerce, and IT. Dropbox is another well-known cloud computing product that services both students and professionals in file sharing and data storage. Finally, Amazon Web Services (AWS) is an online platform that provides scalable and cost-effective cloud computing solutions. This leading cloud computing platform offers servers, storage, networking, remote computing, email, mobile development, and security. In terms of the 2022 market share, AWS controls more than a third of the cloud market. This makes cloud computing the primary profit driver for Amazon.
The cloud computing engineer’s role includes measuring, analyzing, and making recommendations based on data. Engineers are expected to have experience in multi-cloud environments. A multi-cloud environment is one where a company uses more than one cloud platform that each delivers a specific application or service. A multi-cloud environment includes public clouds, private clouds, and edge clouds to achieve the company’s end goals.
While a private cloud is a cloud computing model where the infrastructure is dedicated to a single user organization, an edge cloud is used to decentralize processing power to the clients of a company’s network.
Within this role, cloud computing engineers work in various roles, from administrator positions to development jobs. This role requires excellent coding skills and teamwork because cloud computing engineers often design and implement software in tandem with a team of other programmers and developers.
Cloud computing engineers are responsible for regular maintenance and troubleshooting and may further specialize as system engineers, database administrators, or security administrators. If an organization chooses to move to the cloud, the cloud computing engineer supervises the migration process and maintains the new system.
Cloud computing degree
Cloud computing engineers are expected to have a bachelor’s or master’s degree in cloud computing, information technology, or network administration. There are many cloud computing programs available at the undergraduate level. Because it is common for undergraduate students to explore adjacent fields, some colleges may offer the cloud computing degree as a specialization paired with a bachelor’s in computer science, management information systems, business analytics, or information technology.
While there is typically overlap between general computer science and cloud computing coursework, it may be more valuable for a determined candidate to have training specifically targeted at a career in cloud engineering. This can be achieved at either the bachelor’s or master’s level, and both online and brick-and-mortar programs are available at most universities.
Regardless of the educational level, cloud computing engineers must gain hands-on experience with cloud platforms and understand how cloud resources are allocated among end-users. Degree programs often provide practical skills training through IT labs, preparing students for network installation, virtualization, data security, and privacy in a cloud computing environment.
Many schools provide students with a master’s degree or specialization in cloud computing, including American Military University, CSU Global, DeVry University, ECPI, Full Sail University, George Mason University, Marymount University, Morgan State, Purdue University Global, and Western Governors University. Many of these programs can be completed online or in-person in a traditional classroom setting. University programs are also beginning to embrace shorter educational pathways, which reduces the amount of time and money students must invest into the program to achieve a degree.
For example, Marymount University’s program is an accelerated bachelor’s degree that can be completed in just four semesters. Similarly, most of WGU’s Cloud Computing graduates complete the program within 18 months.
These programs teach the fundamentals of cloud technology, enterprise cloud computing, server virtualization technology, virtual and cloud system security, and virtualization technology.
In addition to degrees, there are also bootcamps and certifications available for people with related backgrounds and experience. CalTech offers a 6-month cloud computing bootcamp while MIT Professional Education provides an 8-week Cloud & DevOps program designed for working professionals to study roughly 10 hours a week.
How to become a cloud computing engineer
The first step toward becoming a cloud computing engineer is building up the required knowledge and experience. Employers typically look for two things here:
- Education: Many job descriptions for cloud computing engineers require applications to hold a bachelor’s degree or higher in cloud computing. Depending on the company’s size, relevant product certificates may have equivalent weight to a master’s degree in cloud computing. These programs prepare the candidate to demonstrate proficiency in computer technology, programming, networks, software design, and project management.
- Product certifications: Candidates seeking a cloud job with limited experience may be able to land a cloud computing job by achieving multiple cloud product certifications. Microsoft Azure offers the Azure Fundamentals certification as a good starting point for most entry-level candidates. Advanced product certifications are available as an Azure Solutions Architect Expert and an Azure Administrator Associate. After one year of experience developing and maintaining AWS-based applications, the AWS Certified Developer – Associate certification demonstrates that a candidate has appropriate knowledge in programming languages, AWS core services, AWS architecture best practices, and application lifecycle management.
- Experience: Many employers want to see some evidence of experience with cloud computing. Internships and bootcamps can be used to demonstrate relevant experience. Cloud computing internships are currently available with VMware, Leidos, Microsoft, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Intel, DocuSign, and SAP. The demand for cloud skills currently outpaces the supply, which gives candidates some flexibility when searching for entry-level cloud computing jobs despite having limited experience.
- Programming: Cloud computing engineers use Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) to connect workloads with the cloud. Administrators should be proficient in coding these APIs and performing other programming tasks in Java, Asp.net, PHP, Python, and Ruby. Proficiency in data-oriented languages is valued over general-purpose ones.
- Cloud computing architecture: Cloud computing architecture refers to the components and subcomponents required for cloud computing. These components usually consist of a front-end platform, back-end platforms, cloud-based delivery, and a network. Cloud computing engineers are expected to understand cloud computing architectures, high-level design patterns, advanced coding, and specific product use according to the guidelines established by each vendor. Cloud computing engineers should be able to set up fundamental cloud infrastructure, implement existing SaaS applications, and design cloud-based services published by vendors like Amazon and Microsoft.
- Cloud computing tools: The top tools used for cloud infrastructure automation include AWS CloudFormation, Puppet, Ansible, Chef, Kubernetes, Terraform, Google Cloud Deployment Manager, and Microsoft Azure Automation. There are also cloud computing tools that help with configuration management, including Cloudability, Cloudyn, Informatica, CloudHub, AtomSphere, RightScale, Enstratius, and Agility. Fortunately, tools like Puppet and Chef can be used for automation and project management. Cloud computing engineering candidates should be proficient in a few of these tools, preferably the ones listed in the job advertisement.
The top-rated companies hiring cloud computing engineers in the United States are:
- Hanu Software Solutions
- NTT Data
- Huawei Technologies
- Dell Technologies
The primary employers are IT services, telecommunications services, electronics, aerospace and defense, consulting, enterprise software, and network solutions. It can be challenging for candidates to prove that they have the required experience and skills during an interview. To help them gauge a candidate’s experience, employers typically look for:
- Portfolio: Employers are increasingly looking for samples of an applicant’s work during the interview process. Amazon offers introductory labs geared towards working in the Amazon ecosystem, covering Amazon Machine Learning, Amazon DynamoDB, Amazon RedShift, and other products. Google provides temporary credentials to Google Cloud Platform, which gives candidates access to a 10-hour BigQuery for Data Analysis Quest, an 8-hour Data Engineering Quest, and an 8-hour Data Science on Google Cloud Platform course. Candidates can create a cloud computing portfolio based on projects from their training experiences. It is recommended to redact any confidential information when using projects from previous employers or internships, and candidates need to show the steps involved in their work.
- Certifications: A cloud computing portfolio relies heavily on product certifications. Earning certifications with relevant vendors demonstrates competency in systems that take time to learn. Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, and CompTIA Cloud+ offer the top cloud computing certifications.
Hard skills are not enough to be successful as a cloud computing engineer. Cloud computing engineers also need certain soft skills, such as:
- Project management: Cloud computing engineers are frequently responsible for planning, tracking, and resource management.
- Communication: Cloud computing engineers need to be able to communicate best practices with their team members and explain their actions throughout the project. It is important to avoid jargon with non-technical personnel and use practical examples to explain both challenges and solutions.
- Adaptability: Cloud computing is an industry that evolves quickly, and the technology that engineers use today may be obsolete soon. The cloud allows businesses to become more adaptable, innovating faster and ramping up computing needs based on the demand of their end-users. When a company’s project is launched and becomes more popular than expected, cloud computing allows the company’s leaders to scale up quickly without losing potential clients and existing customers. Cloud-enabled businesses can also iterate quickly because the reduced upfront cost of testing allows for a faster iteration cycle.
What does a cloud computing engineer do?
At the core, the job of a cloud computing engineer is to allocate resources and provide project management support in the design, planning, maintenance, and troubleshooting of cloud services. However, this can include a few different responsibilities, such as:
- Setting up architectures: Cloud computing engineers may be responsible for setting up architectures using cloud providers like Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud.
- Migration: Cloud computing engineers often migrate existing infrastructures to cloud-based systems when a company receives increased demand for its product and needs to scale up.
- Security: Cloud computing engineers manage the security and access of cloud-based systems.
- Troubleshooting: Cloud computing engineers are responsible for ongoing operational administration, maintenance, and troubleshooting. At a smaller company (i.e., fewer than 20 employees), the cloud computing engineer may also be the IT professional responsible for troubleshooting local computers, copiers, and printers when these systems need attention.
Not all cloud computing engineers perform all of these roles. A job’s responsibilities often depend on the organization and the industry to which the company belongs.
Cloud engineers can work remotely from home to design and develop software that runs in the cloud and maintain cloud systems. Even though the demand for cloud engineers and architects has increased in the past three years, the rise of remote work has also increased the supply of available talent. Large companies have declared their intent to adjust salaries based on the employee’s cost of living. If a remote employee chooses to move out of an expensive city to a more affordable area, the employee’s salary may be reduced at these larger corporations.
Cloud computing engineer career outlook and salary
Cloud computing engineering is a career path that is currently experiencing high demand. As more companies move their operations onto the cloud, they need people to manage and troubleshoot the process with great accuracy. Those entering this field can expect generous compensation. Emerging tech hubs are places where companies hire lots of cloud computing engineers. The top cities for cloud engineers include:
- Charlotte, NC
- San Francisco, CA
- Atlanta, GA
- Austin, TX
- Denver, CO
- Philadelphia, PA
- Dallas, TX
- Kansas City, KS
- Boston, MA
- Phoenix, AZ
The required level of education depends on the job title and position description. Computer and information research scientists design innovative uses for new and existing computing technology, and a master’s degree is expected for this position. On the other hand, computer network architects design and implement data communication networks, and a bachelor’s degree is sufficient. A computer network architect can start a career in cloud computing with five years of work experience in a related occupation.
According to the BLS, the median pay for computer and information research scientists in 2020 was $126,830 per year or $60.97 per hour. This is generally with a master’s degree and the median years of work experience required by current job listings, so candidates with a higher degree or greater experience can likely expect higher salaries. Candidates intent on starting their cloud computing careers with only a bachelor’s degree and appropriate vendor qualifications may still receive high five-digit salaries, depending on the company size and budget allocated for their position, due to an increased demand for cloud services.