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What is a DevOps Engineer and How to Become One

By Oluwadamilola Osisanya

Published:

Are you intrigued by the seamless integration of development and operations in modern software delivery?

In this article, we delve into the world of DevOps engineering, exploring what it means to be a DevOps engineer, highlighting the challenges faced in this dynamic field, and providing actionable insights on how to embark on the journey to becoming one.

Career Summary

DevOps Engineer Salary

DevOps Engineer Salary

The DevOps engineer salary can vary widely depending on several factors.

However, here’s a general overview of the DevOps engineer salary range according to Glassdoor:

  • Entry-Level: US$ 104,000
  • Median: US$ 126,000
  • Senior: US$ 154,000

When compared to the national average, which is $59,428 according to Forbes, all DevOps engineers receive higher salaries.

What is a DevOps Engineer?

A DevOps engineer is a professional who specializes in the methodologies and tools that facilitate the seamless integration of software development (Dev) and IT operations (Ops)

This role embodies practices designed to reduce the system development life cycle, enhance deployment frequency, and ensure high software quality and reliability. DevOps engineers foster a culture of collaboration and continuous improvement by bridging the traditional gap between IT and development teams. 

What Does a DevOps Engineer Do?

So, what does a DevOps engineer do? A DevOps engineer undertakes a wide range of responsibilities to improve collaboration between development and operations teams, automate the software development lifecycle, and ensure the scalability and reliability of software systems. 

They leverage various automation tools, system engineering concepts, and software development techniques to create a more efficient and agile development environment. The goal of a DevOps engineer is to streamline the software development process, enabling faster release of features and ensuring system stability and scalability. They monitor system performance, respond to system incidents, and implement strategies for optimizing infrastructure. 

DevOps Engineer Career Progression

  • Junior DevOps Engineer / DevOps Associate: In this entry-level position, you will be focused on learning the basics of DevOps practices, tools, and methodologies. Your responsibilities may include assisting senior engineers, basic troubleshooting, and learning automation tools.
  • DevOps Engineer: This is a mid-level role where you will be responsible for implementing, maintaining, and improving DevOps practices within an organization. It involves collaborating with development and operations teams, building CI/CD pipelines, and automating deployment processes.
  • Senior DevOps Engineer: This is an experienced role involving leadership in DevOps initiatives, designing scalable infrastructure, and optimizing deployment workflows. Your responsibilities may include mentoring junior team members, troubleshooting complex issues, and driving automation efforts.
  • DevOps Team Lead / Manager: In this leadership position, you will oversee a team of DevOps engineers. It involves strategic planning, resource allocation, and ensuring the team’s adherence to best practices and organizational goals.
  • DevOps Architect: This is a senior technical role focused on designing and implementing DevOps strategies at an architectural level. Your responsibilities include evaluating and selecting tools and technologies, designing scalable infrastructure, and ensuring alignment with business objectives.
  • Director of DevOps: In this executive-level position, you will drive DevOps initiatives at an organizational level. It involves setting the vision and strategy for DevOps, aligning it with business objectives, and overseeing multiple teams and projects.
  • VP/Head of DevOps: You will define the overall DevOps strategy across the organization. It involves collaborating with other C-level executives to ensure DevOps practices support the company’s goals and initiatives.
DevOps Engineer Career Progression

Best Aspects of Working as a DevOps Engineer

  • Collaboration with diverse teams across development and operations.
  • Automation of repetitive tasks leading to increased efficiency.
  • Exposure to a wide range of cutting-edge technologies and tools.
  • Solving complex technical challenges daily.
  • Influence on the organization’s overall software delivery process.

Worst Aspects of Working as a DevOps Engineer

  • High pressure to maintain uptime and availability of critical systems.
  • Balancing development and operations responsibilities can be challenging.
  • Dealing with resistance to change from traditional IT teams.
  • On-call responsibilities can lead to work-life balance issues.
  • Rapid pace of software development can result in frequent deployments and changes.

Useful Skills to Have as a DevOps Engineer

  • Programming and Scripting
  • Understanding of CI/CD Tools
  • Containerization and Orchestration
  • Monitoring and Logging
  • Version Control Systems

Popular DevOps Engineer Specialties

  • Infrastructure as Code (IaC) Specialist
  • Site Reliability Engineer (SRE)
  • Containerization Specialist
  • Cloud Engineer
  • Security DevOps Engineer

How to Become a DevOps Engineer

DevOps Engineer 5 Steps to Career

Embarking on a journey to becoming a DevOps engineer underscores the essential synergy between theoretical knowledge gained through education and the invaluable insights cultivated through practical experience.

Education

Do I Need a Degree to Become a DevOps Engineer?

A degree is not strictly necessary to become a DevOps Engineer, but it is highly beneficial. A degree in computer science or a related field provides a strong foundation in software development, IT operations, and critical thinking skills. 

It also helps understand complex systems and algorithms, which is essential in DevOps practices. However, hands-on experience, mastery of DevOps tools and practices, and continuous learning can also lead to a successful career in DevOps. 

Certifications and practical experience can often complement or even substitute for formal education, especially in a field as dynamic and evolving as DevOps.

Why Is It Important to Get a Degree in Computer Science?

Obtaining a degree in computer science is crucial because it lays the foundational knowledge necessary for understanding and managing both the development (Dev) and operations (Ops) sides of IT projects. 

A computer science degree equips aspiring DevOps engineers with a comprehensive understanding of software development, system operations, and automation—key areas in DevOps. It also provides critical skills in problem-solving, programming, and system design, essential for implementing efficient, reliable, and scalable IT solutions. 

Moreover, the degree offers exposure to various technologies and methodologies, enabling future DevOps professionals to adapt to the rapidly changing tech landscape and effectively collaborate across different teams.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Degree in Computer Science?

Typically, obtaining a bachelor’s degree in computer science requires four years of full-time study. This duration encompasses a comprehensive curriculum that covers fundamental and advanced computer science topics, including programming, algorithms, data structures, software engineering, and computer systems. 

Some programs might offer accelerated options or part-time schedules, which can extend the time to graduation. Additionally, students may have opportunities for internships, cooperative education, or research projects, which can enrich their learning experience and prepare them for careers in technology fields such as DevOps. 

How Much Does It Cost to Study Computer Science at University?

The cost of studying computer science at the university level varies significantly based on residency status. 

On average, undergraduate tuition and fees for a computer science program amount to $10,162 for state residents and $33,627 for out-of-state students. 

For those pursuing graduate studies in the same field, the average tuition and fees are $11,404 for state residents and $25,678 for out-of-state students.

Can I Become a DevOps Engineer through Online Education?

Yes, you can become a DevOps engineer through online education. The digital era has made it possible to acquire the necessary knowledge and skills for DevOps roles through various online courses, certifications, and degree programs offered by universities and specialized tech education platforms. 

Online education allows learners to balance their studies with other commitments and access various resources and tools for mastering DevOps practices, such as automation, continuous integration, continuous delivery, and cloud services. 

Many online programs are designed to offer hands-on learning experiences, which are crucial for building the practical skills required in a DevOps career. 

Furthermore, online communities and projects can supplement formal education by offering real-world experience and networking opportunities, making online education a viable path to becoming a DevOps engineer.

What are Some Web Resources to Learn Skills to Become a DevOps Engineer?

For those looking to become DevOps engineers, here are some valuable resources that focus on the core technologies and practices essential to DevOps:

  • Cloud Academy: Specializes in cloud computing and DevOps skills, focusing on practical applications, including AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud Platform.
  • Kubernetes.io: The official site for Kubernetes documentation and training resources, essential for mastering container orchestration.
  • HashiCorp Learning Portal: Offers detailed tutorials and training on HashiCorp tools like Terraform, Vault, Consul, and Nomad, which are widely used in DevOps for infrastructure, such as code, secrets management, and service discovery.
  • The DevOps Institute: Provides training and certifications focused on DevOps practices, aiming to enhance the skills of IT professionals in the DevOps ecosystem.
  • GitHub Learning Lab: Offers hands-on projects to learn about GitHub, an essential tool for version control and collaboration in DevOps workflows.

Practical Experience

What are Internship Opportunities for a DevOps Engineer?

Internship opportunities for DevOps engineers can vary widely depending on the organization, its size, industry, and specific needs.

Here are some common internship opportunities for DevOps engineers:

  • Tech Companies: Many tech companies, from startups to large corporations, offer internship programs for DevOps engineers. These internships may involve working on infrastructure automation, continuous integration and deployment (CI/CD) pipelines, cloud infrastructure management, and monitoring systems.
  • Cloud Service Providers: Companies like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP) often have internship programs focused on cloud infrastructure and DevOps-related tasks.
  • Consulting Firms: Consulting firms specializing in IT infrastructure and DevOps services may offer internship opportunities for students interested in gaining experience in real-world client projects. 
  • Financial Institutions: Banks, investment firms, and other financial institutions increasingly rely on DevOps to streamline their software development and deployment processes. Internship opportunities in these organizations may involve working on infrastructure automation, security compliance, and performance optimization of financial systems.
  • Healthcare and Pharmaceutical Companies: With the increasing digitization of healthcare systems and the use of software in pharmaceutical research and development, DevOps engineers have internship opportunities in these industries. 
  • Open Source Projects: Contributing to open source projects related to DevOps tools and technologies can be a valuable internship experience. Interns can gain hands-on experience working with popular tools like Kubernetes, Docker, Terraform, Ansible, and Jenkins and contribute to the open-source community while building their skills.
  • Research Institutions and Academia: Universities and research institutions may offer internship opportunities for DevOps engineers to work on projects related to cloud computing, distributed systems, and software engineering practices. These internships may involve collaborating with researchers and professors on cutting-edge projects in the field.

When looking for internship opportunities as a DevOps engineer, it’s important to consider the specific skills and technologies you want to learn and the industry or domain you’re interested in working in. Networking, attending industry events, and reaching out to professionals in the field can also help you discover potential internship opportunities.

What Skills Will I Learn as a DevOps Engineer?

As a DevOps engineer, you will acquire diverse technical and non-technical skills.

Here’s a comprehensive list of skills you’ll likely learn:

  • Infrastructure as Code (IaC): You’ll learn to manage and provision infrastructure using tools like Terraform, CloudFormation, or Ansible. This involves defining infrastructure components (servers, networks, storage) in code and automating their deployment.
  • Continuous Integration/Continuous Deployment (CI/CD): You’ll gain expertise in setting up and maintaining CI/CD pipelines using tools like Jenkins, GitLab CI/CD, or Travis CI to automate the process of building, testing, and deploying software.
  • Containerization: You’ll learn about containerization technologies like Docker and container orchestration platforms like Kubernetes. This involves packaging applications and their dependencies into containers for easy deployment and management.
  • Cloud Computing: Understanding cloud computing platforms such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, or Google Cloud Platform (GCP) is essential for deploying and managing applications in the cloud.
  • Monitoring and Logging: You’ll learn to implement monitoring and logging solutions using tools like Prometheus, Grafana, ELK Stack (Elasticsearch, Logstash, Kibana), or Splunk to track the performance and health of systems and applications.
  • Version Control Systems: Proficiency with version control systems like Git is crucial for managing and collaborating on code changes across teams.
  • Scripting and Automation: You’ll develop scripting skills in languages like Python, Bash, or PowerShell to automate routine tasks and build custom tooling for infrastructure management.
  • Configuration Management: Understanding configuration management tools like Puppet, Chef, or Ansible helps automate the configuration and management of servers and applications.
  • Networking: Basic knowledge of networking concepts such as TCP/IP, DNS, HTTP, and load balancing is important for configuring and troubleshooting network infrastructure.
  • Security: You’ll learn about best practices for securing infrastructure and applications, including identity and access management (IAM), encryption, and vulnerability management.
  • Collaboration and Communication: Effective communication and collaboration skills are essential for working with cross-functional teams, understanding project requirements, and documenting processes.
  • Problem-Solving and Troubleshooting: As a DevOps engineer, you’ll develop strong problem-solving and troubleshooting skills to diagnose and resolve issues quickly in production environments.
  • Agile Methodologies: Understanding agile methodologies like Scrum or Kanban helps adapt to iterative development cycles and effectively collaborate with development teams.

What is the Work-Life Balance of a DevOps Engineer?

The work-life balance of a DevOps engineer can vary depending on the organization, project deadlines, and team dynamics

While DevOps roles often involve managing infrastructure and deployments, which may require occasional off-hours support for critical issues, many companies prioritize work-life balance by implementing robust automation, monitoring, and on-call rotation systems to minimize after-hours work. 

However, DevOps engineers may need to be more available during high-pressure periods such as release cycles or incidents. 

Overall, the field offers opportunities for flexibility, remote work options, and a collaborative culture that values work-life balance, but individual experiences may vary based on specific job responsibilities and company culture.

What’s the Career Outlook for DevOps Engineers?

The career outlook for DevOps engineers in the USA is quite promising. According to data from Zippia, the projected job growth rate for DevOps engineers is 21% from 2018 to 2028. 

This growth is expected to generate about 284,100 new jobs for DevOps engineers over the decade. Additionally, the DevOps engineer salary has increased by 10% in the last five years​​.

DevOps Engineer Popular Career Specialties

What are the Job Opportunities of a DevOps Engineer?

DevOps engineers are in high demand due to the increasing adoption of DevOps practices in organizations worldwide.

Here are some job opportunities for DevOps engineers:

  • Site Reliability Engineer (SRE): SREs focus on ensuring large-scale systems’ reliability, scalability, and performance. They apply software engineering principles to automate operations tasks, build monitoring and incident response tools, and implement best practices to minimize downtime and mitigate risks.
  • Cloud Engineer: DevOps engineers often work extensively with cloud platforms such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP). Cloud engineers design, implement, and manage cloud infrastructure, including virtual machines, containers, serverless computing, storage, networking, and security.
  • Automation Engineer: Automation engineers develop scripts, tools, and frameworks to automate repetitive tasks and streamline workflows across the software development lifecycle. 
  • Containerization Specialist: With the rising popularity of containerization technologies like Docker and container orchestration platforms like Kubernetes, there’s a growing demand for professionals skilled in containerization. DevOps engineers may specialize in designing, deploying, and managing containerized applications and microservices architectures.
  • Security DevOps Engineer: Security DevOps engineers focus on integrating security practices into the DevOps pipeline. They work on implementing security controls, conducting vulnerability assessments, performing code reviews for security vulnerabilities, and ensuring compliance with industry standards and regulations.
  • Release Engineer: Release engineers oversee the process of deploying software releases into production environments. They coordinate with development, testing, and operations teams to plan and execute deployment activities, manage release pipelines, and troubleshoot any issues during deployment.
  • Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery (CI/CD) Specialist: CI/CD Specialists specialize in designing, implementing, and maintaining CI/CD pipelines to automate the build, test, and deployment processes. They work on integrating various tools and technologies to enable continuous integration, automated testing, and continuous software delivery.
  • Infrastructure Engineer: Infrastructure engineers focus on designing and managing the underlying infrastructure that supports applications and services. They work on provisioning and configuring servers, networks, storage, and other resources, often using IaC tools like Terraform or CloudFormation.

These are just a few examples of the diverse job opportunities available for DevOps engineers. The field constantly evolves, and various roles and specializations exist within the broader DevOps domain.

What Type of Companies Hire a DevOps Engineer?

DevOps engineers are sought after by various companies across different industries as the principles and practices they bring can benefit any organization aiming to improve software development, delivery, and operations processes.

Some of the companies that commonly hire DevOps engineers include:

  • Technology Companies: This includes software companies, tech startups, and companies providing digital services. These companies often have complex software systems and require DevOps expertise to streamline development, deployment, and operations processes.
  • E-commerce Companies: Online retailers rely heavily on technology to manage their websites, inventory, and transactions. DevOps engineers help ensure the reliability, scalability, and security of e-commerce platforms, enabling smooth customer experiences and efficient order processing.
  • Financial Services: Banks, insurance companies, and other financial institutions leverage DevOps practices to improve the speed and security of their software delivery processes. DevOps engineers play a crucial role in maintaining high availability and compliance with regulatory requirements in financial systems.
  • Telecommunications: Telecommunications companies operate large-scale networks and rely on software to manage telecommunications services, billing, and customer support. DevOps engineers help optimize network performance, automate provisioning, and ensure the reliability of telecom software systems.
  • Healthcare Organizations: Healthcare providers, pharmaceutical companies, and healthcare IT companies use software for electronic health records (EHR), medical imaging, patient management, and other healthcare applications. DevOps engineers assist in managing and securing healthcare systems while ensuring compliance with privacy regulations such as HIPAA.
  • Retail and Consumer Goods: Retailers, consumer goods manufacturers, and supply chain companies use software for inventory management, supply chain optimization, and customer relationship management (CRM). DevOps engineers help improve the efficiency of retail and supply chain operations by automating processes and ensuring system reliability.
  • Gaming Companies: Game development studios and gaming platforms require DevOps expertise to manage game deployments, handle user data securely, and ensure optimal performance during peak gaming periods. DevOps engineers help game companies deliver high-quality gaming experiences to players worldwide.
  • Government Agencies: Government agencies at various levels (local, state, federal) rely on software systems for public services, law enforcement, healthcare, and administrative functions. DevOps engineers support government IT initiatives by implementing automation, enhancing cybersecurity, and modernizing legacy systems.

Should I Become a DevOps Engineer?

Making a career decision, particularly one as pivotal as becoming a DevOps engineer, necessitates a thorough understanding of the role, its requirements, and its potential alignment with personal interests, skills, and long-term goals. 

Several key points have emerged throughout this exploration of what does a DevOps engineer do, and how to become a DevOps engineer, shedding light on the importance of informed decision-making.

The role of a DevOps engineer encompasses a broad range of responsibilities, including automation, collaboration, and continuous improvement. Their expertise lies at the intersection of software development and IT operations, where they drive efficiency, reliability, and innovation within organizations. Continuous learning and adaptation are essential in this fast-paced field, where new technologies and practices emerge regularly.

Individuals considering a career as a DevOps engineer should assess their interests and skills to ensure alignment with the role’s demands. A passion for problem-solving, a knack for collaboration, and a curiosity for learning are valuable traits in this dynamic profession.

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Oluwadamilola Osisanya

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