What Does a Site Reliability Engineer Do? 2024 Guide

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Site reliability engineers keep websites and apps up and running. The highly collaborative and technical role requires knowledge of coding and a knack for problem-solving.

[Featured image] A site reliability engineer (SRE) works on his desktop computer.

A site reliability engineer (SRE) ensures that websites are more reliable, efficient, and scalable. They help create automated solutions to improve operational aspects of the site. As we continue to go online for more tasks in our daily lives, it’s increasingly important to keep these technologies up and running. Let’s take a closer look at this emerging career, including the skills you need to get started.

Did you know? SREs began appearing in 2003 when Google formed a team of software engineers for the sole purpose of improving the reliability and scalability of the company’s sites. The approach was so effective that other leading tech companies, including Netflix and Amazon, soon followed suit.


What is a site reliability engineer?

The SRE role ensures a site has the necessary functions to provide users with the requested services. In today’s automated world, that includes building self-service tools that provide greater availability, performance, and efficiency for users. 

According to Google’s VP of Engineering, Ben Treynor, SRE is “what happens when you ask a software engineer to design an operations function.” Most SREs spend time on operations tasks and development projects (developing new features, automating processes, scaling systems, etc.).

Tasks and duties for site reliability engineering roles often include:

  • Collaborating with software developers, engineers, and operations teams

  • Monitoring sites and software to make sure they’re performing properly (including on-call shifts)

  • Anticipating potential problems before they occur (and coming up with solutions)

  • Conducting post-incident reviews

  • Documenting your work to turn findings into repeatable actions

  • Coding automation within a site infrastructure 

  • Serving in on-call shifts and rotations

SRE vs. DevOps: What's the difference?

The disciplines of SRE and DevOps overlap in many ways, but they also have one key difference. DevOps teams define what needs to be done to minimize gaps between software development and operations. SRE teams translate the pillars of DevOps into practices. If DevOps is the “what,” SRE is the “how.”


Site reliability engineer skills

Success in this role often entails being a proactive problem solver with an eye for software engineering and development. These are some of the skills that will serve you well in this job:

  • Coding for development and operations purposes 

  • Familiarity with production monitoring systems

  • Attention to detail

  • Analytical and problem-solving skills

  • Ability to collaborate across multi-functional teams

  • Coding in Java, Python, Perl, or Ruby

  • Communication skills 

Why should I pursue a career as a site reliability engineer?

If you’re looking for a software-centric role in an emerging, in-demand field, a career as an SRE might be a good fit. SRE work tends to be diverse and stimulating, requiring problem-solving skills and an ability to work across teams to produce a better product. 

How much does an SRE make?

According to Glassdoor, the annual average base salary for a site reliability engineer in the UK is £65,396 with most SREs earning between £56,000 and £116,000 [1].


Site reliability engineer career path

Site reliability engineering is typically a mid-level role—a good option for those with a few years of experience as a systems administrator or software developer.  Most companies require a bachelor’s degree in a field related to computer science. If your career goals involve becoming an SRE, your pre-university education should revolve around computer science. The more education, certifications, and experience with different operating systems and programming codes you have, the higher role you can advance to.  

Get started with Coursera

Build skills you’ll need as an SRE with the Google IT Support Professional Certificate offered by Google on Coursera. Through five courses, you can develop a multifaceted skill set covering relevant concepts to prepare you for an entry-level IT job. Upon course completion, you’ll have a certificate to share on your CV.

Article sources

  1. Glassdoor. “How much does a Site Reliability Engineer make in United Kingdom?, https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/united-kingdom-site-reliability-engineer-salary-SRCH_IL.0,14_IN2_KO15,40.htm?clickSource=careerNav.” Accessed April 14, 2023.

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