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DevOps Engineer Career Guide

What is a DevOps engineer?

A DevOps engineer is a technology professional who collaborates with software developers, system operators, and other IT staff to manage code releases and deployments. The term “DevOps” combines ‘Development’ and ‘Operations,’ and the role epitomizes this integration. These engineers aim to shorten the system development life cycle and provide continuous delivery to bring about a higher standard of software quality.

They serve as a bridge between the development and operations teams, integrating various stages of software delivery and infrastructure management. This not only helps in accelerating the rate at which products are developed and delivered but also enhances operational performance and stability. They essentially embody the cultural philosophy of DevOps, promoting a seamless flow of work from development to operations, thereby accelerating the building, testing, and release process of software.

Duties and responsibilities

DevOps engineers have a diverse set of responsibilities that combine software development and IT operations. They are involved in planning and setting up infrastructure, as well as coding for application performance optimization. On one end, they work closely with developers to facilitate code deployments by writing scripts, automating workflows, and setting up tools that make the integration and deployment process more efficient.

On the other end, they manage the operational environment by monitoring system performance, responding to incidents, and ensuring high availability and reliability. This involves using a wide range of tools for orchestration, version control, integration, and monitoring. By coordinating between software development and IT operations, they work to create a more agile and responsive infrastructure.

Work environment

DevOps engineers typically work in an office setting, although remote work is increasingly common, given the nature of the tasks involved. They frequently collaborate with various departments, from software development to IT, and sometimes even with business and marketing teams, depending on the project’s scope.

The work environment is fast-paced, given the need for continuous integration and delivery in today’s complex and agile software development landscapes. Communication is a key aspect of the role, as they need to articulate technical information to non-technical stakeholders and facilitate understanding between development and operations teams.

Typical work hours

The work schedule for a DevOps engineer generally adheres to standard business hours, which means a typical 40-hour workweek. However, the need for continuous integration and continuous deployment (CI/CD) in many projects often requires availability outside of regular office hours.

Since they are responsible for both development sprints and operational stability, these professionals may need to be on-call to deal with issues that arise during off-hours or weekends. This is especially true for organizations that operate globally or provide services that require 24/7 availability. Thus, while the job does offer some level of predictability, it also demands a certain degree of flexibility.

How to become a DevOps engineer

This career guide section outlines the steps to become a DevOps engineer. The process involves obtaining a related degree, mastering technical skills, gaining relevant work experience, and often earning specific certifications.

Step 1: Obtain a relevant degree

A bachelor’s degree in computer science, software engineering, or a related field is a common first step. These programs provide foundational knowledge in areas such as programming, systems analysis, software development, and network design. Pursuing further education, like a master’s degree or Ph.D., can provide specialized knowledge and potentially aid in advancing to higher-level positions in the future.

Step 2: Master technical skills

DevOps engineers need to be proficient in various technical skills. These include proficiency in programming languages like Python, Java, and Ruby. Knowledge of automation tools like Jenkins, Puppet, or Ansible is also required. Familiarity with cloud services like AWS, Google Cloud, and Azure is important, along with an understanding of Docker and Kubernetes for containerization. Finally, understanding database management and strong problem-solving skills are a must.

Step 3: Gain practical experience

Experience plays a crucial role in transitioning into a DevOps role. Starting in positions such as software developer or systems administrator provides necessary exposure to the day-to-day operations of IT and development teams. Many transition from these roles after gaining practical knowledge of the software development cycle and IT operations.

Step 4: Learn about DevOps practices

DevOps isn’t just about the tools and technologies; it’s also about the methodology and culture. Understanding and experiencing the practices associated with DevOps, like CI/CD, infrastructure as code (IAC), automation, and collaborative problem solving, is very beneficial.

Step 5: Obtain relevant certifications

Many employers prefer engineers who hold relevant certifications. These certifications, like the AWS Certified DevOps Engineer, Google Professional DevOps Engineer, and Docker Certified Associate, not only validate your skills but also show a commitment to the profession. The timing of these certifications is up to the individual; however, many pursue them after gaining some on-the-job experience.

Step 6: Apply for jobs

With the necessary degree, skills, experience, and potentially some certifications under your belt, you’re ready to start applying for DevOps engineer roles. Tailor your resume and cover letter to highlight relevant skills and experiences. Preparing properly for technical interviews will also go a long way toward securing the job.

How much do DevOps engineers make?

Compensation for DevOps engineers varies by experience, industry, education, location, and organization size. Certain factors, such as proficiency in automation tools, containers, and scripting languages, along with knowledge of cloud platforms like AWS, Azure, or Google Cloud, can positively impact their salary.

Highest paying industries

  • Information Services – $136,500
  • Software Publishers – $133,300
  • Data Processing and Hosting – $130,600
  • Insurance Carriers – $129,800
  • Real Estate – $128,500

Highest paying states

  • California – $138,700
  • Washington – $136,500
  • New York – $134,700
  • Massachusetts – $132,800
  • Virginia – $130,600

Browse DevOps engineer salary data by market

Types of DevOps engineers

Below, we explore common career types and areas of specialization for DevOps engineers. This field has rapidly diversified, leading to many specialized roles.

Infrastructure architect

The role of an infrastructure architect stands out due to its focus on understanding and standardizing the technological environment in which a system operates. Experts in this area take into account all the hardware and software components that make up a system’s infrastructure, striving to improve operational efficiency and cut costs.

Release manager

When deploying new software or an updated version, the role of a release manager becomes crucial. They oversee the planning, scheduling, coordinating, and managing of a project through its final stages of development and ensure its smooth operation post-launch. Working with various team members, they maintain the necessary balance between speed, quality, and efficiency of the products being rolled out.

Security engineer

Security has always been a prime concern in the IT sector, and the role of a security engineer underlines this fact. Engaged in designing, implementing, and testing secure network solutions, these professionals safeguard a company’s system and network infrastructure from potential threats. Their expertise is also instrumental in creating and implementing the best practices for security policies and procedures.

Cloud engineer

With an increasing trend of cloud computing, the role of cloud engineers is gaining prominence. These professionals handle the planning, designing, and architecting of cloud environments. This can be a private cloud, a public one, or even a hybrid model. Their position also involves managing and monitoring the cloud’s usage and performance, besides ensuring the security of the cloud environment.

Scripting and automation expert

To streamline complex workflows, the role of a scripting and automation expert adds significant value. These professionals are adept at writing scripts and using automation tools, thereby alleviating manual efforts, maintaining consistency, and improving the overall efficiency of operations. Their skills can create a significant difference in the routine tasks of a DevOps environment.

Top skills for DevOps engineers

In this section, you’ll find an in-depth look at the skill sets and personal traits needed to thrive as a DevOps engineer.

Comprehensive understanding of software development and IT operations

Your technical acumen must span both software development and IT operations. This understanding empowers you to bridge the traditionally siloed teams of development and operations, encouraging seamless collaboration and faster, more effective results.

Knowledge of various automation tools

Automation is essential in a DevOps role. Mastery of tools like Puppet, Chef, Ansible, and Jenkins can streamline processes, eliminate tedious manual tasks, and significantly shorten the development life cycle. Your ability to use these tools effectively can greatly increase productivity.

Strong problem-solving skills

Unforeseen issues are the norm in technology, and the ability to remain calm and effectively diagnose and troubleshoot problems as they arise is crucial. Problem-solving abilities often entail a deep understanding of system architecture and a knack for logical thinking.

Solid understanding of cloud technology

Cloud technologies like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform are often integral to the operations of a DevOps engineer. A clear understanding of these platforms, their use cases, and how to interact with them effectively is a valuable asset in this role.

Excellent communication skills

In a position that necessitates cross-functional collaboration, being able to communicate technical information to a variety of stakeholders effectively is imperative. The ability to express complex concepts in accessible language to non-technical colleagues can facilitate better understanding and smoother operations within the company.

Focus on continuous learning

The best engineers adapt and grow with the constantly changing technology landscape. A commitment to ongoing education, either through official channels or independent learning, is the key to staying on top of new technologies and methodologies.

DevOps engineer career path

As DevOps engineers acquire more experience and sharpen their skills, a logical career progression often leads them to take on greater responsibilities or transition into different but related career areas. With their understanding of software development and systems operations, they are uniquely poised to progress in many directions.

Senior DevOps engineer

Becoming a senior engineer is often an attractive step. These professionals have typically honed their skills within the DevOps area, managing larger and more complex projects, leading teams, and making vital decisions regarding tools and strategies. They are also highly valued for their troubleshooting capabilities and ability to mentor and guide more junior colleagues.

Site reliability engineer

A site reliability engineer (SRE) role is another career progression path. SREs are responsible for the reliability and smooth operation of large-scale software systems. They leverage their DevOps knowledge while working to improve systems performance, availability, and scalability, responding proactively before systemic issues arise.

Cloud architect

Becoming a cloud architect is another logical career step for seasoned engineers. This role involves designing and architecting cloud-based solutions for businesses. If they are strongly interested in cloud infrastructures, this can be an exciting direction to explore.

DevOps consultant

The specialized knowledge of DevOps practices also opens doors to consulting work. As a DevOps consultant, you may work as a freelancer or be employed by a consulting firm. As a consultant, you’ll help different organizations implement or improve their DevOps practices, sharing your expertise and helping them navigate the complexities of DevOps transformations.

The concept of DevOps, a methodology that integrates all aspects of software development (development, operations, and quality assurance), has been widely embraced by innovative companies of every size. As a result, professionals with DevOps competencies are in high demand, and employees who can demonstrate a solid understanding of the entire development lifecycle are considered valuable assets in the contemporary job market.

The rapid advancement in cloud services is creating a surge in the demand for these professionals. These changes highlight the growing importance of specialists who can leverage the synergy of software development and IT operations. This has made the DevOps engineer role essential in today’s IT departments and tech startups.

Employment projections

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, overall employment for DevOps engineers, listed under the broader category of software developers, quality assurance analysts, and testers, is projected to grow 25 percent through 2031, much faster than the average for all occupations.

The growing demand for computer software and the need for new applications on smart devices and tablets will contribute to the increased employment of these engineers, making it a promising career choice for the foreseeable future.

DevOps engineer career tips

Understand the correlation between agile and DevOps practices

It’s crucial to comprehend the symbiosis between agile and DevOps practices. They share a common background in lean manufacturing and are both associated with software development processes emphasizing efficiency, collaboration, and high-quality output. Integrating these practices into your daily work operation can heighten operations’ efficacy and value delivery.

Stay updated about automation tools

A significant part of the role involves leveraging automation tools to eliminate manual processes and foster efficiency. Tools for automation are continuously evolving, so learning about the latest ones available can greatly benefit your operations and optimize productivity. It can also greatly enhance your marketability as an expert in the field.

Embrace a mindset of continuous improvement

DevOps is all about continuous delivery and improvement. One of the best ways to successfully advance in this profession is to develop a mindset where you’re always looking for opportunities to learn, develop, and grow. This can include refining processes, learning new technologies, or finding more efficient ways of performing tasks. Cultivating this perspective can make you an invaluable asset.

Build a professional network

Networking is an efficient way to stay informed about industry trends, gain insights and advice from experienced professionals, and potentially find job opportunities. Joining professional associations, special interest groups, and online forums can be beneficial in expanding your network and industry knowledge. Consider the following:

  • DevOps Institute
  • DevOps Agile Skills Association (DASA)
  • LinkedIn Groups such as DevOps Discussions, DevOps Networking

Recommend continuous learning

As DevOps is an ever-evolving field focusing on innovative solutions, continuous learning is fundamental to remaining relevant. You can ensure that you’re continually enhancing your knowledge in several ways. These include:

  • Attending industry conferences and webinars
  • Taking up relevant online courses
  • Obtaining advanced certifications such as AWS Certified DevOps Engineer, Google Professional DevOps Engineer, and Microsoft Certified: Azure DevOps Engineer Expert

Where the DevOps engineer jobs are

Top employers

  • Amazon
  • Microsoft
  • IBM
  • Oracle
  • Google

Top states

  • California
  • Washington
  • Texas
  • New York
  • North Carolina

Top job sites

  • zengig
  • Indeed
  • LinkedIn
  • Monster
  • CareerBuilder


What are the key skills required to become a DevOps engineer?

DevOps engineers should be proficient in computer software, programming languages, and software development. They should also have a thorough understanding of DevOps tools and technologies, such as Jenkins, Docker, Kubernetes, and others. Strong problem-solving skills and the ability to work collaboratively as part of a team are essential. Familiarity with system administration and system architecture is additionally important.

What educational qualifications are required to become a DevOps engineer?

A bachelor’s degree in computer science, IT, or a related field is typically required to become a DevOps engineer. Some hiring managers might prefer candidates with a master’s degree in these areas. Additionally, specific certifications such as the AWS Certified DevOps Engineer and the Certified Kubernetes Administrator may be beneficial.

What kind of tasks does a DevOps engineer perform regularly?

Day-to-day responsibilities might include developing and implementing software solutions, collaborating with product development teams to deliver high-quality software more efficiently, maintaining and enhancing CI/CD pipelines, and managing IT infrastructure. They might also be responsible for troubleshooting software issues and monitoring system performance.

What is a typical career path for a DevOps engineer?

This career will often stem from software developer or system administrator positions. With experience, engineers may move up to management or higher-level technical positions, such as DevOps architect. Some may even advance to the level of director of engineering.

What are the work hours like for a DevOps engineer?

Most work full-time, typically during regular business hours. However, they may need to be on-call in case of any systems issues that occur outside of regular office hours. Given that much of their work is digital, some DevOps engineers may have the flexibility to work remotely as well.

What type of companies hire DevOps engineers?

Organizations across various sectors, including technology companies, software firms, e-commerce organizations, financial institutions, media companies, education institutions, healthcare providers, and more. Any business that has a significant digital presence or builds software might need the skills of a DevOps engineer.

What software tools does a DevOps engineer typically use?

The tools frequently used depend on their specific roles and responsibilities. Common tools include Jenkins for continuous integration, Docker for containerization, Kubernetes for container orchestration, Ansible for configuration management, and cloud service platforms like Amazon Web Services or Google Cloud. They also often use several programming languages like Python, Ruby, Perl, or Java.

Is it necessary to learn coding to become a DevOps engineer?

While a DevOps engineer doesn’t need to be an expert coder, a basic understanding of coding concepts and the ability to write scripts in languages like Python, Ruby, or Perl is often necessary. This is because DevOps bridges the gap between development and operations, and understanding code helps to facilitate better communication and collaboration between these two aspects.

How significant is automation in the DevOps role?

Automation is critically important, primarily because one of the key objectives of DevOps is to improve the speed and efficiency of software delivery and infrastructure changes. By automating repetitive tasks, such as code deployment and error tracking, DevOps engineers can ensure faster delivery times and greater consistency while reducing the risk of human error.

What does a DevOps engineer do to ensure system security?

DevOps engineers play an essential role in maintaining system security. They work closely with security teams to integrate security measures into the development lifecycle. This role might involve establishing secure coding practices, using security software, monitoring and addressing security incidents, and increasingly, implementing DevSecOps practices, a philosophy that integrates security considerations more directly into DevOps.