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How to Become a Cloud Engineer in 3 Steps

Industry Advice Computing and IT

The cloud computing industry is booming as more and more organizations begin to realize the benefits of leveraging cloud services in their daily operations. 

According to a study by Grand View Research, the global cloud computing market was worth an estimated $266 billion in 2019, and the recent shift toward remote work as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic is expected to increase cloud usage by another 59 percent across enterprises.

It’s no surprise that interest in cloud computing careers is growing alongside this trend. In 2019, cloud engineering was named one of the most in-demand tech jobs of the year by TechRepublic. With benefits like generous compensation, the ability to work remotely, and much more, cloud engineering is an attractive career for IT professionals looking to make a career change, as well as newcomers breaking into the field.

Below we take a closer look at what a cloud engineer actually does, and offer three actionable steps you can take to kickstart your career in cloud engineering today. 

What does a cloud engineer do?

Cloud engineers can serve a variety of functions within an organization. In a broad sense, cloud engineers are responsible for managing an organization’s cloud-based systems and processes. The specific tasks that this encompasses can include:

  • Setting up architectures using cloud providers like AWS, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, or others
  • Migrating existing infrastructures to cloud-based systems
  • Managing security and access of cloud-based systems
  • Ongoing operational administration, maintenance, and troubleshooting 

With the rapid growth of the field and promising job outlook, it is not uncommon for professionals in traditional IT roles to narrow their focus and transition to a career in cloud computing.

Cloud Engineering Salary and Job Outlook

As business needs change, more and more companies are moving their operations on to the cloud, bringing strategic organizational benefits and driving growth for the top cloud computing careers

“There are real, significant economic benefits for companies of a broad range of sizes and scales to move on to the cloud,” says Tony Mullen, PhD, and associate teaching professor in Northeastern’s Khoury College of Computer Sciences. “It’s an interesting place where economics overlaps computer science, because there’s really no reason to do it except for the potential economic benefits, which can be enormous.”

As companies continue to take advantage of these benefits, they will need skilled cloud engineers. Due to the demand for skilled professionals with cloud computing skills, those entering the field can expect generous compensation. According to the Robert Half Technology 2020 Salary Guide, cloud engineers typically earn between $94,750 and $159,000 per year depending on factors like industry, geographic location, and number of years in the field.


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Learn how Northeastern’s Graduate Certificate in Cloud Computing can accelerate your career.

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How to Become a Cloud Engineer

1. Develop the required skills through education.

The first step in the journey toward becoming a cloud engineer is to pursue relevant education and develop the skills necessary for employment.

“Employers are looking for analytical skills, and a lot of times those analytical skills are demonstrated and can be acquired [through] education,” Mullen says.

Although the education requirements for cloud engineering positions may be ambiguous at times, earning a degree or certificate in a related field can help you stand out. While some employers may prefer candidates with a bachelor’s degree, others require a master’s degree in computer science or related field. 

Another option for developing the most sought after cloud computing skills is to pursue a graduate certificate. Certificate programs, such as Northeastern’s Graduate Certificate in Cloud Computing Application and Management, are designed to cultivate key skills employers are looking for. These include:

  • Knowledge of cloud service providers
  • Programming skills, such as SQL, R, and Python 
  • Cloud security
  • Machine learning and artificial intelligence
  • Development and maintenance of databases

2. Obtain the necessary certifications.

Once you’ve completed the necessary education and developed your skills, you should be ready to earn certifications that are relevant to your desired role.

“There’s a whole slew of certifications that employers also look at to get an understanding of what specific knowledge about particular cloud providers prospective employees have,” Mullen says. “Certifications like the AWS Practitioner and Associate certifications can also be a really helpful shorthand for employers to know what a prospective employee knows.”

In some cases, your education and training may directly prepare you to take and pass certain certification programs. For instance, many of the courses in Northeastern’s Cloud Computing Certificate program use curriculum from AWS Academy, helping to prepare students for the AWS certification exams.

“In principle, halfway through the first semester, students should be able to take and pass the AWS Cloud Practitioner certification exam,” Mullen says. “By the time they finish that semester, with a little bit of extra individual study, they should be ready to take the AWS Cloud Solutions Architect certification exam.” 

Additionally, if you know that you’d like to earn a particular certification, it can be helpful to take courses that offer hands-on experience directly related to that exam. Some programs even offer additional test preparation including practice exams or student discounts. 

“At Northeastern, we get vouchers for free practice exams and half price certification exams from the AWS Academy, so the students are encouraged to take advantage of those certification exams and get those certifications,” Mullen says.

It’s important to think about your career goals when choosing which certifications to obtain, as most are specific to one cloud provider. Fortunately, many of the skills needed to become certified in one provider are often transferable to others, though some employers may look for specific certifications when hiring for a given role.

3. Gain relevant experience.

To give yourself a competitive advantage in the job market, look for opportunities to gain relevant experience in the industry.

Whether you already have an established career in IT or not, you can look to your professional network or focus on building new connections that can give you exposure to the field. In doing so, you can learn from the experiences of others and even find ways to get involved with projects that will further develop your skills. 

Some degree and certificate programs even offer opportunities for students to solve real-world business problems within an organization, all while completing their courses.Northeastern’s graduate certificate is one example of a program that emphasizes the value of experiential learning.

“The second half of the Northeastern program is dedicated to an experiential project which will be provided by an outside company or organization,” says Mullen. These projects allow students to get hands-on experience solving for a business need while working toward their certificate. 

Getting Started in Cloud Engineering

If you’re interested in starting a career in cloud engineering or transitioning from a traditional IT role to a more specialized position, the steps outlined above will help you cultivate the skills you need to get your foot in the door. 

Earning a graduate certificate like the one offered through Northeastern’s Cloud Computing Application and Management program is an effective way to foster these skills while preparing yourself for some of the most sought after certifications in the field. Students leave the program with both the theoretical foundations and practical applications needed for success in a rapidly growing field.

To learn more about Northeastern’s cloud computing certificate, explore the program details here.


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