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Cloud professionals are in high demand, and as reliance on remote access continues to grow, so will that need for talented IT experts with specialized cloud computing skills.
Cloud computing is a system of databases and software, typically operated in data centers and warehouses. It enables users and businesses to access digital information over the internet from anywhere, rather than having physical servers in a network closet in a back office. Cloud computing offers businesses reduced IT overhead costs, which is especially important for small businesses and startups that may not have the capital to invest in an extensive on-premises IT department.
Nearly every aspect of modern life involves interacting with cloud technology, whether as a consumer or an IT professional. On the consumer side, a reduction of physical media such as CDs, DVDs and video games has led to the rise of on-demand streaming services. This requires remote storage options that can support large amounts of data to be delivered accurately and immediately. In the IT field, advancements in artificial intelligence, machine learning and IoT compatibility have driven enterprises to seek the agility and flexibility that the cloud offers.
Such a complex system requires specific knowledge and skills, which in turn call for specific training and requirements.
Cloud computing career requirements
Regardless of what stage of your career you're in, the skills required for cloud computing are the same. You'll need a solid foundation in:
- Database management and programming. Those familiar with SQL, NoSQL and Linux will have the advantage.
- Artificial intelligence and machine learning. These two technologies aid businesses' agility and efficiency by processing and analyzing patterns, making insights based on that data, and facilitating faster, more accurate decision-making.
- Understanding and experience with cloud technologies and providers. Some of these vendors include Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud Platform, Microsoft Azure and Oracle.
As with any IT specialty, you also need to be curious, analytical and willing to stay on top of rapidly changing user needs that drive technological innovation.
Top cloud computing careers
While companies may vary in their job descriptions for particular cloud computing roles and their specific requirements, the information here applies broadly throughout the U.S.
You can find the salaries below, along with other cloud computing careers, here.
1. Cloud administrator
These experts manage a company's cloud presence and infrastructure. They develop, enforce and update policies for how employees and users access cloud services, establish security protocols and policies, monitor and ensure uptime, and assess the need for technology updates.
Education requirements: Bachelor's degree in computer science, management information systems (MIS) or related field; plus three to five years' experience in systems or IT administration.
Average salary: $70,501
2. Cloud architect
Think of cloud architecture as the framework within which all other cloud technologies operate. It's the frame of the "house," and all the cloud-specific subspecialties are like flooring, plumbing, drywall and finishing. The cloud architect is something of a general contractor, the one who designs and implements a company's cloud computing strategies. They ensure that everything stays on track, on budget and that the company's transition to cloud operations goes smoothly.
Education requirements: Bachelor's degree or higher in computer science, information systems or a related field. Some companies require or give preference to those holding a master's degree or MBA.
Average salary: $145,820
3. Cloud automation engineer
As the world becomes increasingly automated, cloud automation engineers are necessary to build, implement and maintain this automation technology as it migrates to the cloud. This automation frees up human workers from repetitive tasks.
Education requirements: Bachelor's degree in computer science or information technology, with specialization in artificial intelligence and/or machine learning.
Average salary: $141,000
4. Cloud consultant
A cloud consultant has broad knowledge of cloud technologies and provides guidance to companies looking for cloud-based tools. Typically, this expert will assess a company's needs and suggest software and devices to best meet that company's technical and budgetary needs. The consultant may also help transition to the cloud by designing migration policies and selecting appropriate platforms. Consultants may sometimes be asked to help customize a company's cloud presence, so they should have both general and in-depth knowledge of the major cloud platforms.
Education requirements: Bachelor's degree in computer science or information technology. Because this position often requires managerial skills, an MBA may lead to additional clients.
Average salary: $109,553
5. Cloud engineer
Cloud engineers are responsible for the managerial aspects of a company's cloud strategies. Engineers often work alongside architects to ensure a company's cloud strategies are implemented, but they also do the administrative work of negotiating with clients and vendors to keep everyone on task and within budget.
Education requirements: Bachelor's degree or higher in computer science, information systems or a related field; plus, experience with programming languages such as Java and Python.
Average salary: $123,663
6. Cloud security analyst
Cloud security analysts have the responsibility of ensuring the integrity and security of a company's cloud presence. They do this by assessing threats and shoring up defenses against them, preventing data breaches, securing data and eliminating security gaps if a breach occurs.
Education requirements: Bachelor's degree in cybersecurity, systems analysis, computer science or information technology with a specialization in security analysis.
Average salary: $119,198
7. Cloud software engineer
Cloud software engineers work with programmers and related computer scientists to develop software that operates in the cloud. These individuals are usually also responsible for upgrading, repairing and maintaining the software they develop and databases they power.
Education requirements: Bachelor's degree or higher in software engineering, computer science, information systems or a related field; plus experience with programming languages such as Java and Python.
Average salary: $112,897
Tips to jump-start a cloud computing career
Now that you know about the available roles in cloud computing, it's time to pursue a career where you can put those skills into practice. Here are some tips to help you along the way:
1. Get a computer science or IT degree
First, it's important to understand that many companies don't require higher education. If you can prove that you understand and can fulfill the job requirements, you stand a good chance of being hired. However, if you have no prior IT experience, a formal program can provide you with a solid foundation upon which you can add skills and specialized knowledge. Being able to list a degree on your resume also shows employers that you have that foundation and can commit to long-term projects.
2. Get additional training related to cloud computing
If a college degree isn't right for you, or if you already work in IT and want to shift into a cloud-focused career, there are countless options online for continuing education and training, including individual classes and multi-part certification courses. In addition to learning the in-depth topics you will need to know as a cloud expert, these courses will show prospective employers -- or current ones, if you're looking to move into a different position within your company -- that you are dedicated to your craft and willing to keep up with the ever-changing technological landscape.
3. Get certified
Vendors such as Amazon, Microsoft and Google all have certification programs to teach you the knowledge and skills needed for a variety of cloud technologies. Obtaining cloud certifications will enable you to show employers and clients that you understand the demands of cloud computing and have the know-how and talents to meet them. It may even give you a bump in pay.
4. Get hands-on experience
Whether you go through a formal four-year college program or take just one or two classes, nothing beats practical experience. If you're just beginning to explore your options, sign up for an account with a cloud server -- such as AWS or Azure -- and experiment to get a solid grasp of the technology. If you're already working in the IT field, see if you can get involved in more cloud-based projects to hone your existing cloud computing skills and develop new ones.
5. Build your portfolio
Once you have a few projects under your belt, even if you've just completed them as samples and not for paying clients, put together a site to serve as your portfolio. It should include links to your various cloud projects and a summary of your education and experience. If you have testimonials from clients, be sure to include those as well.
6. Gather good references
When putting together your references, be selective. If you're just starting out, consider adding one or two of your computer science or information technology professors who are familiar with your performance. If you have more experience, include former employers, coworkers and clients who will speak positively about your work.
Whether you're actively job hunting or just keeping an eye open for opportunities, there is no better way to get your next job than by networking. Attend trade events and conferences, especially those focused on cloud computing and where companies you're most interested in have a strong presence. Let others in your professional circle know you're exploring career options and ask if they will keep you in mind if they learn of an opening suitable for you.