What Is a Cloud Engineer? Building and Maintaining the Cloud

Written by Coursera • Updated on

A cloud engineer helps create, maintain, and troubleshoot cloud infrastructure.

[Featured image] A cloud engineer wearing a bright orange sweater works at her laptop with a hot beverage in a bright office or cafe.

A cloud engineer is an IT professional that builds and maintains cloud infrastructure. Cloud engineers can have more specific roles that include cloud architecting (designing cloud solutions for organizations), development (coding for the cloud), and administration (working with cloud networks). 

Cloud technology has become ubiquitous in recent years. In fact, you probably use cloud-based technology frequently in your everyday life. Watching TV or listening to music on your favorite streaming services, using an online email platform, or backing up your phone pictures to the internet is all possible due to cloud technology. For a company, it means data can be stored and backed up more easily, software updates can be rolled out on-demand, and customers may be able to access their information from different devices. As a cloud engineer, you’ll work behind-the-scenes to keep it all running.

Cloud engineer salary and job growth

A cloud engineer makes an average salary of $109,974 in the US as of June 2021, according to Glassdoor [1]. Cloud engineers with little previous experience can expect a salary of $97,500, while cloud engineers with strong skills can earn around $163,000 a year, reports Robert Half Technology’s 2021 Salary Guide [2]. 

Cloud computing is also a field that is expected to grow in the next decade as companies continue to adopt cloud technology. The ability to work with cloud technology is one of the most in-demand skill sets in 2021, along with cybersecurity and database management [3].

What does a cloud engineer do every day?

A cloud engineer’s role can look fairly different depending on the company they work for. "My role as a Strategic Cloud Engineer at Google is to help Google Cloud customers to architect and build systems on the Google Cloud Platform," Ben Miller says of his role. "I offer systems design, product guidance, and education regarding best practices in GCP. I also work with Google Cloud product teams to improve GCP and our customers' experiences."

A cloud engineer’s day-to-day tasks might include: 

  • Helping organizations migrate their computer systems to the cloud

  • Configuring cloud infrastructure components like networking and security services

  • Creating the applications and databases that perform on the cloud

  • Monitoring cloud management and data storage services

How to become a cloud engineer

You can set yourself up to be competitive for cloud engineering jobs by getting the right skills and experience, and perhaps a certification.

1. Develop relevant skills.

IT jobs that can have cloud-related tasks include systems engineer, network engineer, and database administrator. If you’re already in an IT role, keep an eye out for opportunities to grow in these areas. 

  • Cloud platforms: It’s generally recommended that you learn one cloud platform well, instead of having minimal knowledge of several. By market share, the four largest cloud infrastructure providers are Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, and IBM Cloud in 2021. Much of what you learn in one cloud platform may be transferable to another, with slight variations.

  • Data storage and security: How to access, store, and protect data are each an important part of a cloud worker.

  • Networking: Having knowledge of networking basics and virtual networks will be useful in integrating networks with cloud services.

  • Programming: Common languages used in cloud computing include Python, Java, Golang, or Ruby. 

  • Operating systems: You should have a strong understanding of operating systems such as Windows and Linux.

2. Build hands-on experience.

There are several ways you can gain hands-on experience working with the cloud. If you’re in an IT role, try approaching your manager to see if there are opportunities for you to shadow coworkers in cloud computing roles, or if you can take on tasks that will help you learn more cloud principles. You can also sign up for a cloud platform account and begin exploring on your own.

You can also dive into the cloud through several courses or Guided Projects—interactive learning experiences you can complete in two hours or less—such as:

3. Earn a certification.

A certification can be useful in building up technical skills and showing employers that you have a baseline of knowledge in the cloud space. If you’re new to the cloud space, try a foundational certification—like the Microsoft Azure Fundamentals AZ-900. These can help you learn the technology and vocabulary of the field. 

If you have a little knowledge of the cloud, you can consider more technical certifications. These can include an associate-level AWS certification, or the Google Associate Cloud Engineer certification.

Read more: 5 Cloud Certifications to Start Your Cloud Career

4. Prepare for interview success.

Practice answering common technical interview questions you might encounter during a live job interview. "I think mock interviews are a fantastic way to get comfortable with the process," advises Miller. "If you can find someone to practice interviewing with, you can flex your technical knowledge and practice being comfortable having a conversation with an interviewer."

"If I ask a candidate to solve a technical problem and they don't know how to go about it, I want someone who can acknowledge that fact quickly, but is still able to have a conversation around how they would map the knowledge and experience that they do have to the problem," continues Miller. "In IT, when you encounter a problem you've never seen before, it's probably just a weekday."

Cloud engineer career path

If you have a bachelor’s degree in computer science or a related field, you may be able to land an entry-level cloud engineering position. That’s not the only path you can take. 

Many cloud professionals get their start in IT positions that include concepts used in cloud work. These can be jobs like systems engineer, network engineer, DevOps engineer, and database administrator. From there, you might become a cloud engineer or cloud administrator. Cloud engineers can go on to more specialized roles, like cloud architect.

Do I need a degree to become a cloud engineer?

Although some employers might prefer candidates with bachelor’s degrees, they’re not necessary to become a cloud engineer. Many professionals work their way up to cloud engineering and beyond by gaining the necessary skills and experience. That said, earning a bachelor’s degree in a field like computer science or IT might fast-track you to a cloud position.


If you’re curious, this is how much various cloud professionals make in the US. All data comes from Glassdoor as of June 2021.

  • Cloud administrator: $75,817

  • Cloud network engineer: $86,178

  • Cloud systems engineer: $95,980

  • AWS cloud engineer: $101,209

  • Azure cloud engineer: $101,590

  • Cloud DevOps engineer: $101,281

  • Cloud software engineer: $107,263

  • Google cloud engineer: $107,324

  • Cloud data engineer: $113,184

  • Cloud architect: $133,726

Getting started in cloud

Cloud is an exciting, dynamic field that is seeing steady demand in IT right now. Gaining the skills to work with the cloud can help you carve out an interesting career helping organizations stay at the forefront of technological innovation.

Just getting started? It’ll be good to have a solid foundation in the basics before you embark on your cloud career. Consider checking out the Google IT Support Professional Certificate—you’ll learn the skills to be job-ready in six months or less. Plus, the first week is free.


Related articles

Article sources

1. Glassdoor. "Cloud Engineer Salaries, https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/cloud-engineer-salary-SRCH_KO0,14.htm." Accessed June 23, 2021.

2. Robert Half. "Want to Be a Cloud Engineer?, https://www.roberthalf.com/blog/the-future-of-work/how-to-shift-your-it-job-to-a-cloud-career." Accessed June 23, 2021.

3. Robert Half. "The State of US Tech Hiring, https://sites.google.com/view/stateofustechhiring/home." June 23, 2021.

Written by Coursera • Updated on

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