Explore the DevOps engineer career path, including skills and responsibilities, education requirements, training and certification programs, outlook, jobs & salaries.

DevOps engineers merge coding, testing, integration, and project management expertise to optimize the software development life cycle.

What is DevOps?

Traditional software development projects are compartmentalized. When a company needs new software, it assembles a team to develop it. Once that team creates the application, it's managed by an operations team. Any software updates require a new team to address those issues; this can cause friction between the operations team charged with ensuring a platform remains viable for users, and the development teams focused on getting their changes up and running.

DevOps evolved from the mindset of "agile development," which takes a more collaborative and iterative approach to software development. It promotes continuous interactions and feedback between team members and stakeholders as they work to refine and improve a piece of software. Approaching application management from a DevOps perspective makes room for the continuous evolution of a project while promoting the partnership between IT development and operations areas - hence the moniker “DevOps."

With DevOps, companies can standardize how they approach application development while automating various software products' delivery, security, and maintenance. It’s a way of breaking down the costly silos that often crop up in application development.

How do DevOps Engineers Fit Into an IT Organization?

DevOps engineers facilitate various aspects of development and operations by taking on several roles. They make sure the company stays on track in delivering on project goals. They ensure consistency in making code changes and deployments of new versions of software to various environments. The best DevOps engineers understand how to step back and see the big picture. They also know how to assess individual functions in a process and make them work more efficiently. For example, they may recommend the tools that testers should use when evaluating the viability of a new web application.

Schools offer courses, certificates, and college degrees featuring the skills you need to become a DevOps engineer. Compare DevOps engineer training programs in the U.S. and online below.

DevOps Engineer Skills & Responsibilities

Sound DevOps engineers make software functions appear seamless from the outside. They interpret and execute the needs of developers, managers, and other stakeholders and address issues during different project iterations.

DevOps engineers function similarly to IT project managers in many ways. They help bridge the gap between the operations team and developers and help each other understand their role in ensuring successful software project outcomes.

Let’s take a deeper look at some day-to-day tasks of DevOps Engineers:

  • Infrastructure Management: DevOps engineers continuously monitor the different functions that go into app development and deployment. They ensure users have the necessary access, that databases can scale to meet business demands and oversee the management of different workflow processes. The role also calls for oversight of testing and automated deployments.
  • Security Oversight: DevOps engineers ensure the security and integrity of any software the company deploys. They look for and resolve any problems that could lead to breaches of confidential business data. DevOps engineers also collaborate with the cyber security team to ensure compliance with existing company protocols.
  • Automation Management: Modern DevOps typically involves using various automation tools to ensure the smooth delivery of code to different environments. DevOps engineers should understand how to wield automation to eliminate manual processes and add more efficiency to the software development life cycle.

What Skills Do DevOps Engineers Need?

A reliable DevOps specialist understands every aspect of the Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) - the systematic procedure for planning, developing, testing, deploying, and maintaining a software system. They also need a solid understanding of core DevOps principles and best practices.

Here are some of the most important and marketable skill sets for DevOps engineers:

  • Agile Development: DevOps engineers help teams organize work in shorter iterations, called sprints, to get through an increased number of releases. They also help map out the work teams must complete in upcoming iterations and incorporate feedback from each version of a software platform to address future issues.
  • Continuous Integration (CI): DevOps engineers make sure that new code coordinates properly with an existing codebase. It’s their job to ensure consistency in development and avoid including components that would hurt performance and negatively affect users.
  • Continuous Delivery (CD): DevOps engineers oversee the continual delivery of new code via testing and automation. They look for ways to remove waste and ensure that code is consistently ready to deploy. DevOps engineers should understand how to leverage popular CI/CD tools like Jenkins to manage different aspects of continuous delivery.
  • Orchestration: DevOps engineers analyze current practices and seek ways to improve efficiency by removing manual tasks. The orchestration process ensures any repetitive steps humans perform get automated to speed up deployments. Such functions include implementing database changes or launching a new web server.
  • Source / Version Control: Source control tools, also called version control tools, help DevOps engineers cut down on development time and improve their chances of successful deployments. These tools facilitate the tracking and storing of changes to software projects over different periods. Popular source control tools include GitHub, Subversion, AWS CodeCommit, and Microsoft Team Foundation Server.
  • Container Management: Containers make it easier for DevOps engineers to set up the hosting of different applications in a portable environment. They let users create exact copies of a system required for deployment. Containers are more lightweight than the virtual machines used previously for this purpose. Examples of popular container technology include Docker, Kubernetes, Microsoft Containers, and DigitalOcean. Using containers helps DevOps engineers ensure consistency across multiple environments.
  • Programming Skills: A programming background is crucial to success as a DevOps engineer. Some languages that a prospective DevOps engineer may want to learn include Java, Python, PHP, C#, Ruby, G, and JavaScript.

What Background Should DevOps Engineers Have?

Anyone interested in filling the role of a DevOps engineer should have experience working with different testing tools, integration technology, working with automation, and various programming languages. Most DevOps engineers start with a background in IT project management, system management, database administration, software development, or other IT careers.

DevOps Engineer Salary

DevOps engineers enjoy a high base salary thanks to their significant impact on business processes and the bottom line. According to our analysis of online job boards, the average salary for DevOps engineers is $128,000.

Here are the average salaries for DevOps engineers and related positions:

DevOps Position Average Salary
DevOps Architect $171,000
DevOps Engineer $128,000
Software Developer $121,000
DevOps Automation Engineer $114,000
Software Project Manager $111,000
Junior DevOps Engineer $101,000
IT Project Manager $99,000

These are the top-paying cities for DevOps engineers:

U.S. City DevOps Engineer Salary
San Jose, California $235,000
San Francisco, California $182,000
Boulder, Colorado $170,000
Seattle, Washington $156,000
Los Angeles, California $150,000

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics | Analysis of Online Job Boards

DevOps Engineer Education Requirements

DevOps engineers typically start with an undergraduate degree in software engineering, computer science, or a related field. A degree in mathematics can also provide the foundation needed to progress in DevOps engineering.

Aspiring DevOps engineers should choose a curriculum that includes the following disciplines:

  • Software Development: DevOps engineers should learn to design, build, and implement software applications. Languages that aid front- and back-end web development include Go, Scala, JavaScript, PHP, and Ruby. Learning about modern JavaScript frameworks and runtimes like React, Angular, Node.js, Polymer, and Vue is also helpful.
  • Cloud Architecture: With so many organizations moving toward cloud technology for data and application needs, DevOps engineers should know the basics of cloud architecture. This role will likely require managing applications and databases on a cloud server. Look for programs that cover cloud computing, database management in the cloud, and serverless architecture.
  • System Architecture: DevOps Engineers should understand how to assess and support the DevOps pipeline for development, testing, and CI/CD processes. That means understanding the flow of all company systems and the impacts various changes have on users in different areas of an organization. Take courses in distributed system design, software architecture, and client-server design. Knowing the ins and outs of data recovery, networking, and memory management is also helpful.

While having the right technical expertise (hard skills) is vital, DevOps engineers also need business and communication know-how (soft skills) to succeed in this role.

Here are some desirable soft skills for DevOps engineers:

  • Effective team management and leadership
  • Clear and precise communication across different levels of technical knowledge
  • An understanding of company culture and the people using managed software products
  • A commitment to quality control to ensure the integrity of the DevOps process
  • Ability to provide consistent feedback to developers and other stakeholders

Compare courses and degrees that align with DevOps education requirements.

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DevOps Engineer Certifications

DevOps engineers looking to enhance and validate their skills should consider earning certifications in these domains. It shows employers your commitment to maintaining and growing your skill set. Keep in mind that every company has their preference when it comes to a technology stack.

Here are some desirable certifications for DevOps engineers:

Job Outlook for DevOps Engineers

The future for DevOps engineers is as bright as the overall prospects for the IT field. As long as developers create new projects for companies, experts must take a 360-degree view of what’s involved in building, testing, and releasing quality builds to serve customers better.

That view is backed up by a 2019 DevOps Skills Report from the DevOps Institute. The survey showed a high workforce demand for skilled development operations engineers to manage their code releases, which is more significant than any other software engineer.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job market for software developers (the closest position to DevOps engineer in the BLS projections) will grow by 26 percent from 2022 through 2032, much faster than the 3% growth rate for all occupations. The DevOps segment should grow even faster.

Lasting success and upward mobility in DevOps means constantly growing your skill set. There’s always a new technology promising to change how we build, release, and manage software. It’s on DevOps engineers to assess their viability and ensure they’re current in the CI/CD model favored by their employer.

Sources: DevOps Institute | U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

DevOps Engineering Jobs

Your DevOps engineer training and experience may qualify you for various lucrative positions. Use the links below to browse and apply to:

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About the Author

IT Subject Matter ExpertDaniel Greenspan is the founder and Editor-in-chief of ITCareerFinder. Working closely with IT professionals, world-class trainers, and hiring managers since 2005 has given him unique insight into the information technology job market and the skills and credentials IT pros need to succeed.