What Is a Cloud Engineer? A Beginner's Guide for 2023

CareerFoundry blog contributor Alex Williams

Cloud engineers are in high demand due to the increasing popularity of cloud computing. So if you’re looking for a great career choice, this could be it! 

But what exactly are they?

Essentially, a cloud engineer is responsible for designing, creating, and managing cloud-based solutions for businesses. They can earn a very good salary, depending on their experience and level of expertise.

If you’re interested in becoming a cloud engineer or want to learn more about what they do, read on! We’ve created a comprehensive guide covering everything you need to know, from job descriptions to necessary skills and training. 

However, if you’re already familiar with a topic, feel free to skip ahead by using the clickable menu:

  1. What is cloud computing?
  2. What is a cloud engineer?
  3. Cloud engineer skills
  4. How much does a cloud engineer earn?
  5. How to become a cloud engineer
  6. Cloud engineer FAQs
  7. Final thoughts

1. What is cloud computing?

Cloud computing is a type of internet-based computing that provides shared computer processing resources and data to computers and other devices on demand.

It’s a way of storing, accessing, and managing data and applications over the internet instead of on your computer.

Cloud services are a more efficient and cost-effective way to manage your IT environment. Because you only pay for what you use, you can keep your operating expenses low until you’re ready to scale up as your company grows. 

If you’d like to learn more about this topic, check out our guide to cloud computing with AWS.

2. What is a cloud engineer?

A cloud engineer is responsible for designing, creating, and looking after cloud-based solutions for businesses.

They work with clients to understand their needs and then create custom-made solutions that will help improve their business operations. Cloud engineers need to have strong technical skills as well as experience in project management and customer service. 

Cloud engineer responsibilities

There are many roles and responsibilities that come with being a cloud engineer. Some of these include:

Cloud architecture

Cloud architecture is the design of systems that are used to create, deploy, and manage cloud computing systems. It includes the hardware, software, networking, and security components that make up a cloud computing system.

As a cloud architect, you would be responsible for designing cloud solutions that meet each client’s specific needs.

Cloud engineering

While both cloud engineering and cloud architecture involve the design and implementation of cloud-based systems, there are some key differences between the two. 

Cloud engineering is focused on the technical aspects of building and maintaining cloud infrastructure, while cloud architecture focuses on the design of cloud systems.

Cloud development

A cloud developer is responsible for creating applications that run on a cloud platform. They use various programming languages and tools to build and test applications.

A cloud developer must have a strong understanding of how the cloud works and be able to work in close collaboration with team members (other engineers) to ensure that the application is running smoothly.

During development, not only will you need to create the software code and then send it for testing, but you will also need to monitor the system to ensure that it is running well and troubleshoot any issues that arise.

If you’re looking to become a cloud developer, you’ll need to have strong coding skills and be proficient in various programming languages.

Cloud administration

Cloud administration is the management of cloud-based systems. This includes tasks such as adding and removing users, setting up permissions, and managing security best practices once the cloud has been developed. 

Similarly to cloud development, a cloud administrator is responsible for ensuring that the system is running smoothly and efficiently and fixing any errors.

A cloud engineer explains something to a product manager on a laptop in an office.

3. Cloud engineer skills

Now that you know what they are, let’s look at the skills you need to succeed in this role.

Technical skills

As a cloud engineer, you need to have strong technical skills. This includes experience with cloud-based technologies, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP).

You should also be familiar with virtualization, networking, and storage.

Project management

Cloud engineers often work on multiple projects at the same time. As such, they need to be able to manage their time and resources effectively. They should also have experience with project management tools like Jira and Trello.

Communication

Even more so than the average programmer, you’ll need to have good communication skills to work with both technical and non-technical staff. 

You should be able to explain complex technical concepts in simple terms and understand the business needs of their clients.

Problem-solving

As a cloud engineer, you will need to have strong problem-solving skills. This includes being able to troubleshoot technical issues and quickly find solutions.

4. How much does a cloud engineer earn?

Just like many developer salaries, the pay-check for this position depends on many factors, such as experience, education, and location.

Average cloud engineer salary in the US

The average cloud engineer salary in the United States is $117,774, according to job site Indeed.

Naturally this will vary by which state and metropolitan area you’re located in (or looking to locate to). In Silicon Valley-adjacent San Francisco, cloud engineer salaries average at $149,785, whereas in Oklahoma City they work out more at $118,045.

Cloud engineer salaries in Europe

Europe is a very competitive market for cloud computing experts. Let’s take a brief look through some of the average salaries you can expect to earn there in 2023.

The average cloud engineer salary in the UK is £57,489 ($68,957 US) according to talent.com.

The average total salary of a cloud engineer in Germany (where there’s a huge demand for this profession) is €71,665 per year ($75,941 US) according to Glassdoor.

In France, it’s €55,083 ($52,686 US), Spain €43,492 ($42,123 US), and Switzerland CHF 108,074 ($113,871 US).

Cloud engineer salaries across the world

Like any other job, what you can expect to earn varies greatly depending on the country where you work.

For example, according to Payscale, the average salary of a cloud engineer in India is ₹838,450 per year ($10,505). But in the United Arab Emirates, the average annual pay is 165,832 AED ($45,153) according to Indeed.

In Brazil cloud engineers can expect to make R$39,114 ($7,555 US) in total per year, and ZAR 95,071 ($5,362 US) in South Africa, according to Glassdoor.

A cloud engineer sits at his computer in a startup office, smiling at the camera.

5. How to become a cloud engineer

Being a cloud engineer isn’t typically an entry-level position, so you’ll likely need a few years of experience working in IT before you can apply for this role. 

However, there are a few ways to increase your chances of being hired for this position.

Step 1:  Plan your path

The first step is to develop a clear plan for your career. You should research the different types of roles available in the cloud engineering field (like the ones mentioned earlier!) and decide which is the best fit for you.

Step 2: Train in cloud computing

The next step is to get the necessary training in cloud computing. There are many ways to do this, such as taking online courses or attending conferences.

Some resources you can use to get started include:

CareerFoundry Cloud Computing for Developers Course

This flexibly paced course is a great way to start getting to grips with cloud computing. Starting with the fundamentals of the cloud, you’ll learn to deploy a web app on AWS, an ideal project for your developer portfolio.

You’ll gain hands-on practical experience with some widely-used AWS tools, such as EC2, Simple Storage Service (S3), the VPC, Lambda, and Identity and Access Management (IAM), as well as AWS security best practices.

Offering developers a basic to intermediate level of deploying web applications on AWS cloud services, this mentored course can be taken by itself, or as part of the Full-Stack Development Program. If you’re looking to start on the path to becoming a cloud engineer, this is a great step.

The Cloud Computing for Web Developers course costs from $1,900—$2,000 and takes roughly 2 month, studying at 15 hrs/week.

Cloud Academy

This tech skills platform offers a range of different structured learning options, but is focuses on cloud and developer skills.

For use by individuals or whole teams, Cloud Academy allows you to map out your learning pathway based on where you want to be by the end. Cloud training options include AWS, Microsoft Azure, and the Google Cloud Platform.

Prices for individuals are $39 per month or $399 for the year.

A Cloud Guru

Similar to Cloud Academy, this is another learning platform which offers an array of training in all things cloud computing.

Wannabe cloud engineers can opt for an overall learning path in one of the three most popular cloud platforms (AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud), build their skills in labs, or take a specific learning course. A focus on learning-by-doing helps students get their hands dirty and build practical skills.

In terms of their AWS offerings, they have three main pathways, divided between DevOps, Machine Learning, and AWS Security.

Prices for the problematically-named A Cloud Guru start at $35 per month or $348 per year for individuals.

Step 3: Build your experience

Once you have the necessary training, it’s time to start building your experience. One way to do this is by working on personal projects.

For example, you can create a simple website or blog hosted on a cloud platform like AWS or Azure. This will give you some hands-on experience with the technology, which will be helpful when applying for jobs.

Another way to gain experience is by working as an intern or entry-level role in a company that uses cloud computing. This will give you a chance to learn about the technology and how it’s used in a professional setting.

Once you have some experience under your belt, you can start applying for cloud engineering jobs.

Step 4: Get certified

The fourth and final step is to get certified. As we mentioned earlier, there are many different types of certifications that are available, so be sure to do your research and find the one that is the best fit for you.

Some of the most popular certifications include:

These certifications are well recognized in the industry and will help you stand out from other candidates when applying for jobs.

Cloud engineer FAQs

Even though we’ve covered a lot in this guide, there might still be a few quick questions about cloud engineering you might have. Let’s go through some of them now:

Is cloud engineering hard?

Answering definitively if cloud engineering is hard is the same as answering if coding is hard to learn—there is no one answer. The cloud computing field is complex—that means it offers a lot of possibilities, but it can be tough to get a grasp on all of the complexities of cloud systems.

If you’re a junior developer or software engineer you might struggle to grasp some of the concepts of cloud engineering at first, such as automation or containerization. But the vast array of cloud engineering resources available, from online tutorials to support communities, will help you learn these concepts over time.

Do cloud engineers need coding?

Yes, cloud engineers need to have a good grasp of coding. Popular coding languages for cloud computing include JavaScript, Python, and Java.

Is cloud engineering a good career?

Cloud engineering is an excellent career choice. As well as boasting high average salaries, the increasing global shift to cloud computing means that job security and possibilities are numerous and growing.

The global lack of skilled cloud engineers is telling. A survey of business leaders by Pluralsight showed that 75% want to build new products and services in the cloud, but only 8% of their companies had the experienced workers to actually work with cloud-related tools.

Is a cloud engineering job stressful?

Like all roles, this really depends on the company that you’re working in. The type of industry, company’s size, complexity of the cloud infrastructure all can affect your stress levels.

Generally, cloud engineers follow DevOps practices for working, which are designed to reduce stress. Ultimately, coders should aim to find a balance between challenging work and a healthy work-life balance, and cloud engineering definitely offers this.

Final thoughts

With the advance in technology, the demand for these cloud experts will only increase in the coming years. 

Using the tips outlined in this article, you should be well on your way to becoming a cloud engineer. Just remember to take your time, do your research, and build up your experience. And don’t forget to get certified!

Don’t forget that if you’d like to learn a bit more about how cloud engineering works, check out the CareerFoundry Cloud Computing for Developers Course. It’s a great way to start getting to grips with not the AWS platform and cloud computing in general.

If you’d like to learn more about coding in general, check out these articles:

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