How to Become a Cloud Architect: Degrees, Skills, Jobs, Courses

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Learn how to become a cloud architect, including the skills it takes to succeed in this role to figure out if this is the right direction for your career.

[Featured image] A Cloud architect, wearing a blue patterned dress, working in front of her desktop.

To become a cloud architect, you'll need a strong background in computer operating systems, programming languages, networking, and security. Although there aren’t any education requirements, this is an advanced position in information technology (IT). Having a degree isn’t required, but it can be helpful, and some employers may prefer it. Other options include formal training courses and Professional Certificates in addition to gaining work experience.

Cloud computing is increasingly in demand. By 2023, the public cloud computing market is estimated to reach more than $599 billion, up from a projected $495 billion in 2022, according to Statista [1]. With more organizations embracing cloud computing and digitization, there has also been an increase in demand for professionals who can develop and maintain the systems and services that provide the features and security people rely on.

As a career choice, cloud architecture offers a variety of roles across different industries. Discover what's needed to build a successful career to help you decide if cloud architecture is the right path for you.

What does a cloud architect do?

As a cloud architect, you'll have an important role in any IT department; you’ll be tasked with designing, developing, implementing, and supporting cloud-computing solutions. Cloud computing is beneficial for businesses since it can potentially reduce business costs while enhancing innovation and improving compliance and security. 

Cloud architects commonly report to IT directors, chief technical officers, or other members of upper management. In this role, you’ll be expected to manage the organization's cloud database, develop new solutions to support the company's goals, and stay on top of all the latest trends and innovations in cloud computing. Common responsibilities include: 

  • Meeting with senior management and executives to discuss the company’s long- and short-term goals and to help them understand how cloud-based solutions can help them meet those goals.

  • Creating ongoing cloud strategies that align with organizational goals

  • Planning the organization’s cloud, designing the solutions and strategies, and developing cloud-based applications 

  • Evaluating and maintaining existing cloud applications in addition to handling any technical problems that arise

  • Monitoring and maintaining privacy in the cloud and ensuring that data, assets, and applications are secure

  • Designing cloud security architecture and employing relevant tools

  • Creating a culture of cloud adoption by creating a plan for unique cloud solutions, documenting cloud processes and procedures, training others on cloud solutions, and remaining open to ongoing change based on the latest data

  • Designing and implementing the organization's cloud usage practices, including rules and standards

  • Choosing cloud service providers based on criteria such as security practices, compliance with your industry, and how the architecture will integrate into the company's structure and workflows

Salary and job outlook

As a cloud architect, many different factors may impact how much you’ll earn, including the amount of experience, location, and the industry you work in. 

Overall averages can give you a good idea of what you might expect. The average base salary for cloud architects is $114,064, with average total earnings of $133,056. The potential range is anywhere from $75,000 to $289,000 [2].

How much do cloud architects earn at different levels?

Your experience level is one factor determining how much you can expect to earn as a cloud architect. Many cloud architects earn additional money beyond their base salary through commission, tips, profit-sharing opportunities, and bonuses, which can boost your annual earnings at every level. The average base pay for entry-, mid- and senior-level cloud architects is as follows: 

  • Entry-level: $95,691

  • Mid-level: $100,322–$111,941

  • Senior-level: $122,238–$135,309 [2]

What is the demand for cloud architect roles?

Cloud services are driving the digital transformation and are continuing to grow across a variety of sectors, including government, technology, health, education, and more. Gartner predicts that by 2023, end-users will spend an estimated $599,840 on public cloud services [3].

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates the job outlook for all computer network architects, including those that work in the cloud, to be 5 percent [4]. As more businesses and industries adopt cloud-based services, the number of job openings may continue to increase. 

Required skills for a cloud architect role

Before getting started as a cloud architect, you'll need a strong foundation in cloud computing. This includes understanding different cloud services providers, best practices in cloud security, and types of cloud service models and deployment architectures. Developing a robust set of workplace and technical skills can help you prepare for this role. Helpful cloud architect skills include: 

  • Enterprise computing: You'll need to be able to work with different operating systems, including Linux, Windows, Unix, and Ubuntu.

  • Basic programming languages: Familiarity with programming languages like Python, C#, or Java can help you better create solutions and proof of concepts to demonstrate how they'll work to senior executives.

  • Networking: As a cloud architect, you should be able to work with concepts like domain name system (DNS), transmission control protocol/internet protocol (TCP/IP), virtual private network (VPN), and hypertext transfer protocol (HTTP). Without a good understanding of networking, creating effective cloud-based solutions that are both scalable and secure may be difficult.

  • Cloud-based security concepts: Securing access and data is essential to your role as a cloud architect. This means you should be proficient in concepts like using Identity and Access Management, firewalls, VPN and in-plane switching (IPS) systems. 

  • Basic business skills: As a cloud architect, you'll create business solutions to support the organization’s goals, which means having a good foundation in business skills like calculating return on investment, how to read financial statements, and the basics of what C-level executives care about.

  • Leadership: You’ll often lead teams of other IT professionals, including developers and engineers, who are working with you to build strong, efficient cloud environments. Good teamwork, leadership, and communication are key. 

Common roles for beginning a career as a cloud architect

*All annual salary data sourced from Glassdoor as of June 2022

There are a variety of potential career paths that may help you become a cloud architect. This role is usually a mid- to senior-level position, requiring you to have work experience before getting started as a cloud architect. Many people begin their careers in roles such as:

  • IT support technician: In this role, you'll support, install, troubleshoot, and maintain hardware and software for an organization. 

Average annual salary (US): $67,986

  • Cloud support associate: In this role, you'll provide customer service in the cloud, helping you gain experience while also learning and using troubleshooting techniques, interacting with engineers, and supporting a positive customer experience by helping them solve issues.

Average annual salary (US): $86,767

  • Web developer (back-end, front-end, or full-stack): In this role, you'll handle all aspects of creating and maintaining websites, including creating and testing applications, writing code, and working with other IT teams to bring your company's or client's vision to life. 

Average annual salary (US): $111,266

  • Cloud engineering intern: In this role, you may be tasked with attending training and shadowing full-time cloud engineers. You'll also work on responding to customer tickets and learning to build cloud infrastructure.  

Average annual salary (US): $77,430

  • Cloud engineer: In this role, you'll assess the technological needs of your clients and create solutions. You'll be tasked with planning and creating, designing and testing, and managing and maintaining cloud computing applications.

Average annual salary (US): $118,973

  • CMS manager: As a content management system manager, you will oversee metrics and manage a team to create content that helps a company develop, establish brand recognition, and meet company goals like driving traffic to its website or increasing sales.

Average annual salary (US): $96,356

  • Web editor: In this role, you'll create a website's editorial strategy and content, work with a creative team to develop the material, and keep the website up to date. You may also create polls or other interactive content. 

Average annual salary (US): $84,021

Steps to becoming a cloud architect

Ready to get started? Although there aren’t any formal education requirements to become a cloud architect, you will need to develop a robust set of relevant computing and cloud architect skills. These three steps can help you build your career.

1. Earn a bachelor's degree.

Most employers prefer hiring candidates with at least a bachelor’s degree. Earning a degree in computer science or a related field is also one of the best ways to develop both theoretical and practical knowledge and skills. It may give you a strong foundation in working with operating systems, understanding networking concepts, best practices in cloud security, and programming languages. 

2. Gain professional experience.

A cloud architect role isn't an entry-level job. You need to gain on-the-job experience working in the technology sector. Because there's a lot of overlap in various IT roles, you can start your career in many different ways and remain on the path to your goal. Some common entry-level roles include cloud or IT support, IT support technicians, web developers, system engineers, database administrators, developers, and data management professionals. 

Read more: 10 Entry-Level IT Jobs and What You Can Do to Get Hired

3. Get one or more cloud architecture certifications. 

Getting certified doesn't guarantee you'll get a job, but it can help make you more competitive in the job market and increase your earning potential. Certifications offer proof of your skills and expertise in that specific platform. Some popular cloud architecture certifications include: 

  • Associate AWS certified solutions architect: You'll need at least one year of experience using AWS to design systems and the ability to design and deploy effective, secure applications using Amazon's cloud platform.

  • Associate AWS certified developer: You'll need at least one year of experience using Amazon's cloud to develop and maintain applications. It's designed to demonstrate your proficiency in programming languages, AWS best practices, AWS core services, and writing code for server-less apps.

  • Microsoft Azure solutions architect: There are a few different levels of Azure certifications. Fundamentals cover the basics, while the administrator associate requires six months or more of experience with Azure administration, and the solutions architect expert requires extensive knowledge of using Azure for cloud development, platform design, and data security.

  • Google Professional Cloud (GPC) architect: This certification requires skills in using GPC to design and develop cloud-based solutions along with managing, scaling, and securing them while adhering to compliance standards.

  • IBM certified solution architect: You'll need to demonstrate that you have a solid understanding of the architecture of IBM cloud infrastructure. You'll also need to be able to construct solutions to meet unique needs and apply the industry's best practices.

  • Arcitura certified cloud architect: This versatile credential demonstrates extensive knowledge of cloud platforms' structure and mastery of design principles, engineering practices, and hands-on application.

Read more: 5 Cloud Certifications to Start Your Cloud Career

Get started.

If you’re considering cloud architecture for your career, consider taking an online course or completing a Professional Certificate. This will allow you to gain exposure to job skills and concepts you’ll need to build your career. 

On Coursera, you could get an IBM Data Science Professional Certificate to help build your data science and cloud computing skills. Or you could get your Professional Certificate in Preparing for Google Cloud Certification to start developing cloud architect skills and preparing for certification as a Professional Cloud Architect.

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Article sources

1. Statista. “Public cloud services end-user spending worldwide 2017-2023, https://www.statista.com/statistics/273818/global-revenue-generated-with-cloud-computing-since-2009/.” Accessed June 8, 2022.

2. Glassdoor. “Cloud Architect Salaries, https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/cloud-architect-salary-SRCH_KO0,15.htm.” Accessed June 11, 2022. 

3. Gartner. “Gartner Forecasts Worldwide Public Cloud End-User Spending to Reach Nearly $500 Billion in 2022, https://www.gartner.com/en/newsroom/press-releases/2022-04-19-gartner-forecasts-worldwide-public-cloud-end-user-spending-to-reach-nearly-500-billion-in-2022.” Accessed June 11, 2022. 

4. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Computer Network Architects: Occupational Outlook Handbook, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/computer-network-architects.htm.” Accessed June 9, 2022.

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