icon

article

How to Become a Cloud Engineer: Skills, Responsibilities, and Career Prospects

Technical Writer

The origins of cloud computing can be traced back to the 1960s when researchers first began exploring the concept of accessing computing resources remotely. In the 2000s, cloud computing really took off with the launch of services from cloud providers like DigitalOcean, Google, Amazon, and Microsoft. As these cloud platforms matured and expanded their capabilities, the need for skilled professionals to design, implement, and manage cloud environments has grown significantly.

Cloud engineering has become an in-demand profession in the technology industry as businesses of all sizes increasingly migrate their infrastructure, data, and applications to the cloud.

Cloud engineers help organizations use the cloud’s power, scalability, and cost-effectiveness. Their responsibilities span cloud architecture and deployment to ongoing maintenance, security, and optimization. As a result, cloud engineering has become one of the most in-demand and lucrative tech careers, with salaries often exceeding the national average for other IT professions. According to a 2024 report, the average annual salary for a cloud engineer in the United States ranges from $93,000 to $1,00,000, depending on factors such as experience, industry, and location. Read on to learn more about the skills, responsibilities, and career path for cloud engineers.

Summary

  1. A cloud engineer is responsible for designing, implementing, and managing cloud infrastructure.

  2. There are several paths to becoming a cloud engineer. It’s common to obtain a degree in computer science or a related field, learn programming languages, gain hands-on experience with cloud technologies, master cloud security practices, obtain relevant certifications, and continuously improve your technical skills.

💡Aspiring to become a remote cloud engineer? DigitalOcean is a remote-first company with over 1,200 employees around the world

Whether you’re starting your cloud engineering journey or are an experienced professional, DigitalOcean is the right place to build a career in cloud computing.

→ Explore open roles and join our team today!

What is a cloud engineer?

A cloud engineer is a software development professional who designs, implements, and manages cloud infrastructure. They use their expertise in cloud platforms to develop and maintain cloud solutions that improve cloud applications, typically for businesses.

They use their technical knowledge and hands-on experience to drive innovation and efficiency in cloud computing systems. They can also collaborate with cloud architects, DevOps engineers, and other software engineers to build, manage, and optimize virtual networks and data storage systems.

How to become a cloud engineer?

Becoming a cloud engineer involves a blend of education, hands-on experience, and developing a broad set of technical skills. Here’s a common path to becoming a successful cloud engineer:

1. Obtain a degree in computer science

A solid educational foundation in computer science provides essential knowledge of programming, operating systems, and database management. You can enroll in a computer science or related degree program at a university or online institution. Another option to consider is to pursue self-study through online resources, coding boot camps, or certifications.

Here are a few popular computer programming boot camps:

  1. Flatiron School

  2. General Assembly

  3. App Academy

  4. Hack Reactor

  5. Codecademy

  6. Le Wagon

  7. Springboard

When choosing a coding boot camp, assess the curriculum, job placement rates, and whether the program offers hands-on projects that align with your career goals. Look for boot camps that offer specialized tracks in cloud computing, DevOps, or cybersecurity. This foundational knowledge will help you understand how software and systems operate for developing and managing cloud solutions.

2. Learn programming skills

Proficiency in programming languages like Python, Java, and Ruby is necessary for automating cloud-related tasks and developing cloud-based applications. You can learn programming languages through online courses, coding boot camps, or university programs. Practice by building small projects or contributing to open-source software.

3. Gain hands-on experience

Practical experience with cloud-based systems helps you better understand theoretical cloud concepts. You can gain experience in cloud technologies and environments through personal projects, hackathons, internships, or entry-level positions. Use platforms like GitHub to work on and share your cloud projects.

“Fostering empathy to understand how to solve problems collaboratively and clarify requirements is critical. It’s also immensely helpful to stay connected to the open-source software movement that’s made all of this possible in the first place. There’s ample opportunity for growth - always be learning. It helps everyone— your career, your organization, your users." - Neal Shrader, Staff Engineer, Network (IaaS)

For instance, you might consider participating in coding fests like Hacktoberfest. By contributing to real-world projects, you gain practical experience in cloud engineering and strengthen your problem-solving skills.

Familiarize yourself with major cloud platforms such as DigitalOcean, AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud Platform. Understanding cloud architecture is essential for cloud engineering roles. You can take online courses, attend workshops, and earn certifications on these platforms. Here are some cloud certification programs to consider:

  • AWS certifications — Validate your skills in designing, deploying, and managing applications on Amazon Web Services, covering various roles from architecting to developing.

  • Google cloud certifications — Demonstrate your proficiency in Google Cloud Platform services, focusing on architecting, engineering, and managing scalable cloud solutions.

  • Microsoft Azure certifications- Showcase your ability to design, implement, and manage solutions on Microsoft Azure, targeting various aspects such as architecture, administration, and development.

  • Oracle cloud certifications — Validate your expertise in Oracle Cloud Infrastructure, focusing on architecture, administration, and developing cloud solutions using Oracle’s database services.

  • Linux foundation certifications — Offer comprehensive training and certifications in open-source technologies, including Kubernetes and Linux, providing valuable skills for cloud and DevOps professionals.

Knowledge of cloud platforms enables you to choose and configure the right services for different projects. DigitalOcean’s comprehensive tutorials and documentation help you understand, deploy, and manage cloud applications. For instance, having knowledge of different cloud platforms could help you design a multi-cloud strategy.

5. Expand your knowledge of cloud security

A strong understanding of cloud security helps manage access, protect data, and ensure the security of cloud-based services and systems. You can take specialized courses in cloud security, earn certifications, and stay updated with the latest security practices and tools.

This knowledge will help you implement cloud security best practices, such as IAM (Identity and Access Management) policies, to ensure that only authorized users can access certain cloud services.

6. Build expertise in cloud management

Learn how to manage cloud resources effectively. This includes monitoring cloud metrics, optimizing performance, and increasing cloud ROI. You can learn cloud management through practical experience, online courses, and certifications. Focus on monitoring, optimizing performance, and cost management.

Effective cloud management ensures optimal performance and cost efficiency. For example, you might use monitoring tools to track cloud resource usage and optimize costs by shutting down idle resources.

7. Develop strong technical skills

In addition to cloud-specific knowledge, strengthen your overall technical skills. This includes understanding operating systems like Linux, database management, and having a good grasp of web services and machine learning. Focus on areas like operating systems, database management, and web services.

"Building and scaling a public cloud is deeply challenging and rewarding work. It allows you to build on concepts combined from all sorts of different disciplines—from infrastructure and virtualization concerns, all the way up to distributed systems and data scaling challenges in the control plane.” - Neal Shrader, Staff Engineer, Network (IaaS)

What are the responsibilities of a cloud engineer?

Overall, cloud engineers manage and optimize cloud infrastructure. But their role spans various areas, ensuring that cloud-based systems are efficient, secure, and scalable. Here are the key responsibilities of a cloud engineer:

Designing cloud solutions

Cloud engineers are tasked with designing strong and scalable cloud architectures tailored to business needs. They oversee the deployment and configuration of cloud resources, ensuring they meet the right requirements. A key responsibility of a cloud engineer is to ensure application uptime during peak times and optimize resource utilization to avoid underutilization or overutilization of resources. For instance, during a seasonal sales event, a cloud engineer might configure auto-scaling for a web application hosted on cloud providers.

Additionally, by monitoring usage patterns and performance metrics, cloud engineers can adjust resource allocations to ensure that excess resources are de-provisioned once the peak period is over. This approach avoids overutilization by adding resources only when needed and prevents underutilization by scaling down resources during off-peak times, ensuring cost-effectiveness and optimal performance.

Supporting disaster recovery

Having a disaster recovery plan in place ensures business continuity. A cloud engineer is responsible for configuring automated snapshots of virtual machines and critical servers in the cloud to be taken at regular intervals and stored in a secure, off-site location. They might also conduct regular mock recovery drills to restore snapshots to a separate environment, ensuring all systems and data are recoverable as expected.

During hardware failures, these recovery procedures allow service to be restored, minimizing downtime and mitigating potential data loss. Cloud engineers often collaborate closely with a dedicated security team to improve overall system resilience and data protection measures.

Ensuring cloud security

Cloud engineers are often charged with implementing security measures and protecting cloud data resources. For example, they should be aware of best practices like implementing two-factor authentication (2FA adds an extra layer of security for user access) and Secure Shell Protocol (SSH-key authentication secures remote server access), reducing the risk of unauthorized access. It’s also important to be knowledgeable about popular security control frameworks such as SOC 2, SOC 3, and GDPR to ensure compliance.

Automating cloud workloads

Cloud engineers carefully plan the automation of repetitive tasks. This increases efficiency, reduces manual effort, and optimizes the performance and cost-efficiency of cloud resources. Knowledge of Infrastructure as Code (IaC) allows them to manage and provision computing resources through code rather than manual processes. This approach ensures consistency, reduces errors, and makes scaling and replicating infrastructure configurations across different environments easier.

Collaborating with teams

Cloud engineers work closely with development, operations, and security teams to integrate and optimize cloud solutions. As a cloud engineer, you might collaborate with DevOps engineers to implement CI/CD pipelines using an automation server like Jenkins and DOKS, ensuring smooth deployment and integration processes. You are also expected to keep up with the latest developments in cloud technology and use new tools and best practices.

Career prospects of a cloud engineer

The demand for skilled cloud engineers grows as more businesses adopt cloud technologies. The field of cloud computing is broad, offering diverse paths for professionals with a solid technical understanding of cloud technologies. Once you have this foundation, you can explore and move into many different roles, such as:

Role Nature of job
Cloud architect Design and oversee the architecture of cloud systems, ensuring scalability, reliability, and security.
DevOps engineer Automate and streamline the software development and deployment processes.
Cloud administrator Manage and maintain cloud infrastructure, ensuring smooth and efficient operation.
Cloud security engineer Focus on securing cloud environments and protecting against threats and vulnerabilities.
Cloud consultant Advise organizations on cloud strategies, implementing and optimizing cloud solutions.
Cloud solutions engineer Develop and implement specific cloud solutions tailored to business needs.
Cloud network engineer Design and manage the network infrastructure within cloud environments.
Cloud data engineer Manage and optimize data storage and processing in cloud environments.
Machine learning engineer Develop and deploy machine learning models within cloud environments.

Transform your career with DigitalOcean

Founded in 2012, DigitalOcean is a remote-first company that empowers cloud engineers and developers to build, deploy, and manage cloud applications efficiently. We believe in the power of community and the spirit of #DOLove, our core value that emphasizes love for our customers, employees, and the broader tech community. We cultivate a supportive and collaborative environment where everyone is encouraged to share knowledge, innovate, and grow together. At DigitalOcean, you can work on cutting-edge cloud technologies and make a significant impact.

Ready to take your career to the next level? Explore our career opportunities across cloud engineering, cloud architecture, DevOps, and security engineering.

Share

    Try DigitalOcean for free

    Click below to sign up and get $200 of credit to try our products over 60 days!Sign up

    Related Resources

    icon
    article
    What is Containerization?
    icon
    article
    Top 10 Heroku Alternatives for Cloud Deployment
    icon
    article
    8 Microsoft Azure App Service Alternatives

    Get started for free

    Sign up and get $200 in credit for your first 60 days with DigitalOcean.*

    *This promotional offer applies to new accounts only.