How to Become a DevOps Engineer: The Ultimate Guide for 2023

Congratulations on deciding to pursue one of the most in-demand and well-compensated IT careers currently! As per various industry reports, demand for qualified DevOps engineers continues rising rapidly. This guide prepares you thoroughly to leverage this incredible opportunity.

We will explore exactly what DevOps entails, essential skills to acquire, education and certifications required, specializations to consider, actionable tips and more.

Let‘s get started!

What Exactly is DevOps?

The portmanteau "DevOps" combines software development (Dev) and IT operations (Ops). It represents processes and culture to unify these teams historically working in silos.

DevOps aims to streamline the software delivery lifecycle – from collaborating on requirements to continuous delivery of updates. Key goals include:

  • Improved communication and collaboration between teams
  • Faster innovation and release cycles
  • Greater reliability and resilience of applications
  • Quick adaptation to evolving business objectives

Research by Accenture reveals 87% higher frequency of software releases using DevOps culture and practices. It is being widely embraced – Statista predicts global investments in DevOps will cross $15 billion by 2025.

So in a nutshell, DevOps makes businesses technologically agile to rapidly seize new opportunities and meet customer demands.

Responsibilities of a DevOps Engineer

DevOps engineers play a central role driving this transformation. Your core responsibilities include:

  • Implementing processes enabling continuous development, testing, integration and deployment
  • Managing DevOps tools and infrastructure – source control, test automation, CI/CD pipelines etc.
  • Collaborating closely across software developers, QA engineers, IT operations and business teams
  • Ensuring applications meet quality, performance, security standards
  • Being an advocate of DevOps culture – fostering ownership, transparency etc.
  • Optimizing workflows for efficiency, reliability and speed

In short, you oversee smooth collaboration between everyone involved to deliver maximum business value.

Essential Skills and Qualifications

Succeeding as a DevOps engineer requires donning multiple hats. Here are key technical and soft skills to acquire:

1. Coding Skills

  • Proficiency in scripting languages like Python, Perl, Bash
  • Working knowledge of Java, JavaScript, C# to understand apps
  • Open source contributions to build expertise

2. System Administration

  • Linux administration
  • Managing virtual machines and container technologies like Docker
  • Cloud platforms – AWS, Azure and Google Cloud – IaaS, PaaS, SaaS layers

3. Infrastructure Automation

  • Configuration management with Ansible, Puppet, Chef
  • Infrastructure provisioning with Terraform, CloudFormation
  • Mastering container orchestration platforms like Kubernetes

4. CI/CD Methodology

  • CI/CD principles and patterns
  • Using Jenkins, CircleCI and other popular CI/CD tools
  • Automating pipeline creation, execution, monitoring

5. Monitoring and Analytics

  • Logging and monitoring frameworks – ELK, Splunk, Datadog
  • Infrastructure and application performance tracking
  • Capacity planning, troubleshooting and upgrade management

6. Collaboration and Communication

  • Conveying technical concepts to senior leadership
  • Closely partnering with software engineers
  • Coordinating across disparate teams and objectives

7. Leadership and Strategic Thinking

  • Evangelizing benefits of DevOps transformation
  • Providing direction on workflows, tools and processes
  • Continuous improvement mindset

While the list seems exhaustive, investing time upfront in developing multilayered skills pays rich dividends in building an elite DevOps career down the road.

Later we explore how to supplement your learning through formal education, certifications, hands-on experience etc. This builds a well-rounded profile that stands out.

But first, let us better understand growth trajectories and compensation in this space.

Significant Career Growth and Lucrative Salaries

The DevOps job market is red hot currently driven by surging adoption. predicts global DevOps spending to grow from $7 billion to $20 billion between 2020 and 2025.

A Linkedin jobs report revealed DevOps engineer openings have grown over 400% in the U.S since 2015. The picture is similar in Europe and APAC regions.

And such massive demand has driven up DevOps salaries too. Here are average base pay figures in the U.S:

Experience Average Base Salary
Early Career (0-3 years) $105,000
Mid-level (3-6 years) $125,000
Experienced (7+ years) $145,000

These averages closely match pay scales in high tech hubs like the San Francisco Bay Area. And total compensation can be 40-50% higher including bonuses, stock grants etc.

Salaries typically rise further with specializations like cloud infrastructure, security, site reliability engineering etc.

Senior technical leaders in DevOps can expect total packages approaching $250,000-$300,000. And consulting rates for freelance contracts are $125-$175 per hour.

So in summary, DevOps skills offer financially rewarding as well as exciting growth opportunities.

Educational Background

While DevOps doesn‘t necessitate a four year college degree, higher education lays a solid technology groundwork. Relevant undergraduate majors are:

  • Computer Science / Information Technology
  • Software Engineering
  • Cybersecurity
  • System Administration

These provide well-rounded exposure to programming, system architectures, networks, databases, analytics and industry practices.

Those currently working can undertake specialized graduate degrees part-time e.g:

  • MS in Software Engineering
  • MS in Computer Science – System Design/Networking Track
  • MBA in Technology Management

Over 65% of DevOps engineers hold at least an undergraduate CS/IT related degree. So while hands-on skills are most important, education strengthens fundamental abstractions to learn new tools faster.

Certifications and online courses we discuss next nicely supplement university learnings with latest advances.

Key DevOps Certifications

While degrees broaden conceptual foundations, certifications showcase hands-on expertise in niche technologies employers need. They also display dedication through exam-based credentialing.

Here are the most sought after certifications globally:

DevOps Certifications

As visible, cloud providers (AWS, Azure, GCP) offer specialty tracks around their ecosystems – containers, infrastructure automation, monitoring etc.

Platform vendors like RedHat (Ansible, OpenShift) and Pivotal ( Kubernetes, Cloud Foundry) have specific DevOps certifications too.

And independent bodies like Scrum Alliance cover processes like Agile and DevOps culture transformation.

I recommend starting with a reputed foundational course before specializing further:

  • DevOps Engineering on AWS/Azure
  • Certified Kubernetes Application Developer*
  • DevOps Leader (SCRUM Alliance)
  • IBM DevOps Professional Certificate

These happen to be among the industry‘s highest paying certifications currently.

Select options aligning with your target role – cloud infrastructure expert vs CI/CD tools pro vs process consultant etc.

Learn In-demand DevOps Skills

While the basics covered above will steady your DevOps foundations, consciously grow skills in emerging domains to excel further.

Here are cutting edge areas to trains on:

  • Cloud-native – Microservices, serverless architectures, Kubernetes etc
  • DataOps and MLOps – Applying DevOps to data analytics and machine learning systems
  • IoT Ops – Continuous administration and monitoring of Internet of Things
  • AIOps – Leveraging AI for automated anomaly detection, root cause analysis etc.
  • Security – Shift left approach with infra-as-code scanning, dynamic app testing etc.

These intersections amplify your capabilities beyond vanilla DevOps – into high visibility roles, niche consulting gigs etc.

Helpful Online Resources

Taking a methodical approach is key while upskilling. Subscribe to leading publications about DevOps methodologies, tools and case studies.

Prominent thought leaders and researchers worth tracking include:

  • Gene Kim – Author of The Phoenix Project, The DevOps Handbook
  • Jez Humble – continuous delivery pioneer and principal at DevOps Research & Assessment
  • John Willis – prolific writer and podcaster on DevOps culture
  • Steve Brodie – CEO of Electric Cloud driving CI/CD automation
  • Charity Majors – infrastructure expert, CEO of

Conferences like Velocity, DevOpsDays, Cloud Foundry Summit showcase bleeding edge innovations. Attend these in-person or virtual events.

Top podcasts are Software Engineering Radio, Arrested DevOps, DevOps Cafe etc. Docker, AWS and HashiCorp developer blogs provide regular tooling updates.

Such sources spur strategic thinking beyond daily execution.

Projects to Showcase DevOps Expertise

Now let us transition from learning to applying concepts through concrete open source projects.

Stand out by infrastructure automating and CI/CD pipeline deploying real cloud applications. Showcase operational visibility with monitoring and observability dashboards.

Also highlight cultural best practices via version controlled documentation, peer reviews etc.

Here are impactful starters I recommend:

1. Automate a Web Stack on AWS

  • Infrastructure: VPC, load balancing, auto scaling groups
  • Configuration: Ansible playbooks for Linux, Nginx
  • Containerize: Dockerize a Node app, manage with ECS
  • CICD: GitHub Actions workflow for build, test, deploy cycles
  • Observability: CloudWatch metrics and logs, S3 backups

2. Build a CI Pipeline with Jenkins

  • Checkout code from GitHub
  • Build Java app with Maven
  • Run Unit Tests, SonarQube scans
  • Push Docker container to Registry
  • Generate infrastructure templates
  • Promote builds from lower to higher envs

3. Setup Kubernetes on Azure

  • Prepare development environment
  • Install Kubernetes cluster on Azure Kubernetes Service
  • Configure networking, policies, quotas
  • Deploy a CNCF sample app helm chart
  • Performance test for scale
  • Visualize metrics using Azure Monitor

These tangible artifacts communicate operational excellence hiring managers seek.

Now onto discovering exciting full-time, contract and freelance positions to launch your career.

Finding Your First DevOps Gig

With prerequisite abilities acquired, research initial internship, contract or junior roles at:

  • High growth startups: Aggressive adopters of DevOps practices. Learn immense breadth covering many responsibilities
  • Consulting/Agency partners: Implement solutions across industries. Valuable learning experiences
  • Global IT mega corps: Work on mammoth scale products and internal systems
  • Your current workplace: Many IT admins, software developers transition smoothly into internal DevOps jobs

Here are smart ways to identify promising openings:

  • Activate job alerts on LinkedIn, Hired, AngelList, VentureLoop etc
  • Attend virtual recruiting events and job fairs
  • Leverage your alumni and professional networks
  • Follow firms keen on digital transformation on social media

As securing that first break can be challenging, cast a wide net leveraging various channels.

Performing Well in DevOps Interviews

Interviews almost always include assessing both technical expertise and soft skills:

Expect scenarios evaluating:

  • CI/CD and deployment patterns – feature flags, canary rollouts etc
  • Architectural decisions – containers vs. serverless, IaaS vs PaaS etc
  • Troubleshooting production issues – capacity planning, root cause analysis etc

Model culture fit and leadership qualities sought via:

  • Success fostering collaboration between teams
  • Launching DevOps, SRE type initiatives
  • Developing automated solutions exceeding goals

I recommend reviewing frequently asked DevOps interview questions on LeetCode, GeeksforGeeks etc.

Expanding Responsibilities Over Time

Beyond early career growth into engineering lead and architect roles, seasoned DevOps leaders progress into:

  • Principal Site Reliability Engineer – Scale systems keeping reliability and uptime in mind
  • DevOps Manager – Manage people, processes and tools facilitating software delivery
  • VP/Head of DevOps – Strategize transformation integral to CI/CD and cloud adoption
  • Chief Reliability Officer – Instill reliability practices across IT and product teams
  • Cloud Infrastructure Architect – Design complex distributed solutions on cloud platforms

Many pursue independent consulting projects guiding infrastructure modernization, Kubernetes migrations, DevSecOps initiatives and cultural shifts.

Others join boutique firms focused on DevOps, site reliability engineering and cloud native architectures.

And advanced with business acumen tackle CTO, CIO and CDO positions driving technology innovation and digital experiences.

So in summary, lucrative avenues abound to target as you gain expertise.


I hope reviewing this realistic roadmap sparks ideas on launching your DevOps journey.

With compete technical skills, business context, proven credentials and continuous self-improvement – your career growth can closely match industry‘s hockey stick trajectory!

Determine the learning paths and job roles aligning best to your interests. Stay resolute tackling early challenges. And persisting efforts will ensure you reap rich dividends.

You got this! Here‘s wishing you monumental success partnering with awesome companies to enable incredible developer productivity and customer happiness!