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What Does a DevOps Engineer Do? Job Overview and Skill Expectations

Written By Ryan Loftus | October 28, 2022

Despite being less than two decades old, DevOps plays a vital role in the software development industry. Today, 77% of organizations rely on DevOps to deploy software. Unsurprisingly, this has led to DevOps engineer becoming the seventh most in-demand job in the world. In this post, we break down the statistics, job requirements, and responsibilities of a career in DevOps engineering.

What Is DevOps?

DevOps balances software development and IT operations to support continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD). It’s a methodology with a goal to keep an entire organization working together seamlessly, with agile processes and systems. DevOps allows businesses to create and release updates to their services and products faster than traditional development models. When done well, this means you can deploy code multiple times daily.

What Does a DevOps Engineer Do?

A DevOps engineer is responsible for managing and maintaining code, application maintenance, as well as application management. They work with a variety of experts in different departments to coordinate the design, development, testing, release, and lifecycle management of software and applications.

A DevOps engineer is responsible for any number of tasks related to:

  • Project management
  • Writing, editing, and coordinating code and review
  • System performance testing and maintenance
  • Prototyping features and solutions
  • Server administration

What Kinds of Companies Hire DevOps Engineers?

Any company that creates software or applications needs DevOps engineers to manage their operations. With companies in every industry becoming increasingly driven by technology, the demand and opportunities for professionals with this skill set continues to grow. The top sectors employing DevOps engineers include:

  • Fortune 500: 29%
  • Technology: 17%
  • Finance: 12%
  • Retail: 8%
  • Professional Services: 6%
  • Telecommunication: 4%
  • Manufacturing: 4%
  • Insurance: 4%
  • Healthcare: 3%

Types of DevOps Engineer Positions

The titles DevOps engineers hold vary drastically, depending on their experience, education, and company. At the beginning of their career, a DevOps engineer will start out with an entry-level role, like junior DevOps engineer or DevOps engineer I. A new DevOps engineer usually works in one of these roles for one to three years.

From there, they’ll have the opportunity to move into more senior-level and specialized roles with hands-on engineering experience. DevOps engineering job titles include: 

  • DevOps software developer
  • DevOps engineer
  • DevOps evangelist
  • Automation architect
  • Cloud DevOps engineer
  • Senior DevOps engineer

While they spend several years honing their skills, their responsibilities expand to include taking ownership of projects, working independently in a team environment, and mentoring project team members.

After gaining more experience, a DevOps engineer often faces a crossroads in their career having to choose between a few paths. 

The first path is to pivot into people and team management functions. Hiring, mentoring, resource planning and allocation, strategy, and operations become a larger component of the responsibilities of DevOps professionals pursuing this career path. At the higher levels of an organization, these job functions might include:

  • DevOps engineering manager
  • Director of DevOps
  • Chief Information Officer (CIO)
  • Chief Technology Officer (CTO)

The second possible career path is to continue as an individual contributor. Many DevOps engineers opt to continue their careers as individual contributors, enjoying equally fulfilling careers and developing deeper technical expertise in various languages and frameworks.

The third possible career path is to transition out of DevOps into a related field, such as software development, business analysis, or product management. Because the responsibilities of DevOps intersect with multiple technical disciplines, DevOps engineers are well-positioned to transition to a career in a different field that interests them.

Salary Comparisons and Job Outlook

Estimates of the average annual salary for a DevOps engineer range from $99,527 to $128,387. An entry-level DevOps engineer can earn an average salary of $67,000 while a DevOps engineer later in their career (over 20 years of experience) can average $143,000 annually. This doesn’t factor in bonuses, stock options, and other cash incentives that can add to total compensation.

While we don’t have data on the growth rate of DevOps engineers specifically, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics does include this role in its overall data for software developers. Software developer employment is projected to grow 25 percent through 2031 — more than triple the average for all occupations.

Requirements to Become a DevOps Engineer

Technical Skills

DevOps engineers use a range of programming languages to deliver software. These include, to name a few:

  • Python
  • Java
  • JavaScript
  • Go
  • PHP
  • PERL
  • Ruby
  • TypeScript

A core requirement of DevOps is expertise in the technologies offered by cloud-hosting providers. These include, to name a few:

  • AWS
  • Azure
  • GCP
  • IBM Cloud
  • Oracle Cloud

Typically, DevOps engineers are expected to have familiarity with a wide range of development tools, including:

DevOps is a constantly evolving field, so it’s important to do research specific to the industries and roles you’re applying to or hiring for to understand specific technical competencies.

Soft Skills

Technical competency alone isn’t enough to succeed in a DevOps engineering role. Analytical, mathematical, and problem-solving skills are a must in any technical job. And in a digital-only or remote first environment, soft skills are even more critical.

Employers may prefer engineers with strong soft skills, such as:

  • Problem solving
  • Communication
  • Project management
  • Time management
  • Creativity

Experience

After technical skills, the most important qualification for DevOps engineers is experience. On-the-job experience and training is a critical requirement for many employers.

Then, there’s the question of education. The education requirements for DevOps positions vary widely. In the U.S., the vast majority of DevOps engineers have a college education, with 75% having a bachelor’s degree, and 20% having a master’s. 

Many companies still require developers to have a four-year degree. While hiring developers, it’s likely that many of them will have a degree. However, competition for skilled software engineers is high, and it’s not uncommon for job openings with a degree requirement to go unfilled. Ultimately, employers that prioritize real-world skills over pedigree gain access to a larger volume of skilled DevOps talent.

Resources for Hiring DevOps Engineers

Developer Hiring Solutions

The Ultimate Hiring Guide to Developer Skills & Roles

[Checklist] How to Hire the Right DevOps Talent for Your Company

Reboot Your Technical Interview

6 Things Developers Wish Technical Recruiters Knew