Understanding the DevOps Engineer Career Path hero graphic

Understanding the DevOps Engineer Career Path

Apr 17, 2023 by Anna Daugherty

Before DevOps appeared around 2009, developers created software applications with little interaction across departments. When completed, they turned the software over to operations for delivery and support. Without a DevOps engineer, the software often lacked critical features or functionality that operations needed. This process created an “us-vs-them” work environment.

Operations did not feel that development considered their needs when designing the software. Development resented having to make changes to released code. The lack of communication slowed delivery, increased rework, and added costs.

Adopting an iterative software development methodology only exacerbated the problem. Releases came faster than operations could deploy, frustrating developers, operations, and customers. Out of this chaos came the DevOps philosophy and the DevOps engineer career path.

What is a DevOps Engineer?

DevOps is an approach to software development and delivery that combines development and operations into a collaborative team. The team works together to deliver applications that meet business requirements throughout their life cycle.

DevOps engineers reside at the intersection of operations and development. It’s their responsibility to maintain a process that unifies and streamlines the continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) of software. They look for tools that improve product life cycles through automation.

‍Why Are DevOps Engineers Important?

DevOps addresses the weaknesses that come with traditional development approaches — long release cycles, limited business growth, and customer dissatisfaction. DevOps improves the CI/CD process through automation, reducing the chaos of iterative software development and deployment processes.

DevOps engineers help:

All these factors work to give an organization a competitive edge in faster-to-market solutions that meet customer expectations.

What is a DevOps Engineer Career Path?

There’s no set career path for DevOps engineers. Although many engineers start out as developers or systems engineers, it’s a career for anyone interested in managing the software life cycle. DevOps professionals understand the DevOps philosophy and focus on fostering a collaborative environment. They are committed to continuous improvement to automate processes that make development and delivery more efficient.

Because DevOps engineers may start with different skill sets, they usually begin their career in a junior position and work to acquire a uniform background, beginning with an understanding of the key tenets of a DevOps philosophy. As they gain experience, engineers advance from junior engineers through senior positions to lead engineers.

Junior DevOps Engineer 

Junior DevOps engineers support senior and lead engineers in building, testing, and maintaining development and delivery infrastructures and tools. They collaborate with other stakeholders to create automation tools to improve the deployment process. They focus on standardizing delivery assets to strengthen delivery processes. 

Senior DevOps Engineer 

Senior positions require working with developers, operators, and IT to generate and manage code releases. They provide management of the software life cycle, including troubleshooting and ongoing maintenance. Senior DevOps Engineers analyze the process to identify weaknesses, propose solutions, and deliver tools that enhance the development and delivery process. They write scripts and code to streamline the delivery pipeline. 

Lead DevOps Engineer 

Lead DevOps engineers enable cross-functional communication among those departments involved in software life cycles. They can write scripts and codes to streamline development and assist in software deployment and daily operations. Lead engineers have an in-depth understanding of DevOps methodologies and use that knowledge to design solutions that address internal and external requirements. They have experience with different tools and technologies that facilitate product releases and improve business outcomes. 

What Are the Responsibilities of a DevOps Engineer? 

DevOps engineer’s primary role is managing infrastructures to support software development and delivery. Specific efforts include the following: 

Many DevOps engineers focus on automation, testing tools, and version control to streamline and unify a CI/CD system. 

What Skills Does a DevOps Engineer Need? 

DevOps professionals must be life-long learners. New tools and technologies are continually being developed. It’s part of an engineer’s responsibility to understand these innovations and how they can help the CI/CD process. In addition, DevOps engineers need the following skills. 

DevOps positions require a thorough understanding of test protocols and tools to ensure quality control of released software. 

What Are DevOps Career Roles? 

DevOps offers multiple roles for those seeking a career in the field. These roles include: 

DevOps Architect. DevOps architects build platforms and frameworks for uniform and automated administration of applications and infrastructure. They manage testing and production environments for applications and infrastructures. Their goal is to create automatic processes that ensure consistent and verifiable operations. 

Automation Engineer. Although all DevOps engineers should have some knowledge of automation tools, an automation engineer focuses on developing and maintaining tools to help manage the CI/CD process. Such engineers often work for large organizations that have extensive production and non-production environments. 

Software Tester. Testers are responsible for identifying flaws in the software. In a CI/CD environment, continuous testing occurs earlier in the software life cycle. The goal is to find weaknesses as soon as possible to minimize the impact on code that is in production. As much as possible, software testing should be automated. 

Security Engineer. Cybersecurity failures impact everyone. Security engineers are tasked with incorporating security measures in the software design. This security-by-design approach attempts to secure the software during development rather than at the end of the development cycle or in production. 

Integration Specialist. This specialty focuses on developing procedures and processes for provisioning servers and updating systems. They oversee internal and external connectivity and security monitoring. They usually have system administration experience in deploying databases and managing servers. 

Release Manager. Release managers plan, test, release, and monitor the software development and delivery process. They are responsible for on-time delivery and work with both operations and development to ensure milestones are met. Part of their responsibility is to evaluate and deploy automated tools for managing software releases. 

How to Become a DevOps Engineer 

Because there are no definitive requirements for DevOps engineers, becoming one depends more on acquiring skills through education and experience. 

Education. Most DevOps have a degree in computer science or an associated field, although not every company requires a four-year degree. Certification in areas such as security and programming may be considered. 

Experience. Many DevOps engineers began as developers or IT staff. They gained on-the-job experience in their primary field before moving to operations or development. 

Entry-level. Once they have experience or education in IT and development, DevOps professionals look for entry-level positions. They use junior positions to gain experience and apply their skills. 

Continuing Education. DevOps engineers extend their knowledge through continuing education. They may pursue an advanced degree or work on certifications. 

Other Roles. As DevOps professionals continue their career path, they may explore advancing in DevOps or one of its specialties. If they have a specific area of interest, they may acquire skills in automation, security, or product release. 

Getting Started in DevOps

Anyone considering a DevOps engineer career path should be flexible as the job functions can mutate from project to project. This agility is rewarded with an average annual salary of $130,000. Even entry-level engineers can earn over $100,000 per year. 

The job outlook for DevOps engineers is excellent. The estimated growth between 2018 and 2028 is 21% in the United States. The overall job growth is projected to be less than 10% for the same period. As of the end of 2022, there were 257,025 active openings for DevOps engineers. 

Gaining experience and acquiring an education are two avenues to a DevOps engineer career. Whether you choose to advance to a Lead position or move to another specialty within DevOps, your skills will certainly be in demand. 

Learn how Armory supports developer empowerment through our full suite of solutions here.

Share this post:

Recently Published Posts

Continuous Deployment KPIs

May 31, 2023

Key SDLC Performance Metrics for Engineering Leaders Engineering leaders must have an effective system in place to measure their team’s performance and ensure that they are meeting their goals. One way to do this is by monitoring Continuous Deployment Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).  CD and Automated Tests If you’re not aware, Continuous Deployment, or CD, […]

Read more

What Are the Pros and Cons of Rolling Deployments?

May 26, 2023

Rolling deployments use a software release strategy that delivers new versions of an application in phases to minimize downtime. Anyone who has lived through a failed update knows how painful it can be. If a comprehensive update fails, there are hours of downtime while it is rolled back. Even if the deployment happens after hours, […]

Read more

What is DevSecOps?

May 23, 2023

Before agile development became an accepted approach to delivering software, companies waited until software contained all desired features before releasing it. Imagine waiting a year before a needed feature became available. Yet, that was how most software releases occurred.  Once the software was released, companies prepared an annual or semi-annual update that incorporated new features […]

Read more