Cloud Computing continues growing and so are skilled tech salaries.

What is cloud computing?

For the last few years, cloud computing has dominated the IT landscape. The term “cloud computing” is a misnomer in that neither the data you store or access is virtual. It’s all controlled from large server farms in key locations worldwide. Still, indie developers, service providers, companies and organizations of all sizes continue to move to the cloud – and make lots of money in the process. So, what exactly is cloud computing, and how can you boost your career prospects and income in this exciting new world?

Dictionary.com defines it as “Internet-based computing in which large groups of remote servers are networked so as to allow sharing of data-processing tasks, centralized data storage, and online access to computer services or resources.” In the simplest terms, it means you’re able to store and access your data and programs over the internet, instead of your computer’s hard drive. For instance, when you travel and take photos and want to share them with friends, cloud technology makes it possible. You’d simply upload the entire album to an online storage provider and then share the URL for that repository. Data that may have previously taken weeks to process and share is now available in seconds.

As a result, the cloud has garnered a lot of attention from traditional IT companies, educational institutions, and investors. Cloud Academy’s Job Opportunities in the Cloud Infographic 2016, summarizes key statistics regarding the current employment landscape, along with a glimpse into the future.

Who’s leading the pack? According to Gartner’s 2015 Magic Quadrant report, Amazon Web Services has the largest share of the market, followed by Microsoft’s Azure, Google Cloud Platform with VMWare’s vCloud and the Rackspace Public Cloud rounding up the top five.

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Gartner’s Magic Quadrant, May 2015

Cloud computing by the numbers

What are other key facts that our infographic covers around job opportunities? A survey from the New Jersey Institute of Technology found that approximately 42% of the companies in the US and UK are actively seeking skilled cloud professionals and 43% of them are saying they experience trouble finding skilled candidates for their open positions.

Whether you’re currently working in tech, or thinking of making a career move, there are a lot of open positions for those interested in cloud computing. Some of that confusion is undoubtedly due to many companies inability to quickly identify top tier candidates. If everyone appears equal, how do you separate yourself from the crowd?

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A recent Forbes article by Louis Columbus stated that the cloud computing market is growing at a compound annual growth rate of 22.8% and will reach $127.5B by 2018. Cloud computing has exploded and cloud services were already estimated to be growing at five times the growth rate of traditional IT back in 2010!  Cloud services aren’t limited to the enterprises. An estimated 64% of small to medium-sized businesses use cloud-based applications, with 78% of businesses indicating that they plan on buying new cloud-based solutions in the next few years.

It’s common for startup companies to develop their applications, build their infrastructure, and manage security concerns in the cloud. What used to be viewed as time-intensive and costly is now an opportunity to add high-end computing power and storage in less time — at a fraction of the cost.

Companies such as, online social gaming site, Zynga are taking advantage of hybrid cloud solutions because it makes business sense. Cloud computing dramatically reduces electricity costs, in-house hardware costs, and IT administrator fees.

Numbers alone prove cloud computing earned its rank as essential parts of an organization’s IT infrastructure. Accordingly, we can expect to see demand for certified IT professionals continue growing.

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The cloud is like the BORG, resistance is futile…

Make it Rain, or “How much money can you actually make?”

The top three most frequently asked questions concerning cloud computing are usually about where the jobs are located, which professions make the most money, and which certifications actually help you land your dream job.

While there are many differing opinions, StackOverflow’s annual developer survey helps answers these questions. Which industries and countries are looking for cloud professionals?

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What I assume happens after you land that new cloud computing job.

Let’s dig into some numbers. The top countries with the most developer/engineering jobs are not surprising: the U.S., India, and the U.K.

According to StackOverflow, while only 15% of developer respondents were actively looking for a job, more than 78% of them are interested in hearing about new job opportunities. 

If you’re a business, you might need a smarter approach recruiting new employees, because the largest pool of potential candidates isn’t “actively” searching for new roles. Placing a “job ad” isn’t a high-return method for finding candidates you want. Job seekers should be aware that companies may not know they need someone with your skills until the need is acute.

The current employment climate calls for a proactive approach, where a little networking with recruiters (even if no positions are listed) may be worth the energy in the short and long term.

Another interesting data point from the StackOverflow survey points out that the average developer has about 6.5 years of IT or programming experience. The average student only has approximately 3.4 years experience.

Professional experience doesn’t always come from a current job. Developers are creative and often gain experience by building projects in their own time for no pay. Another way IT people learn on the job is by taking online courses and hands-on labs. Digital learning affords technical people the opportunity of gaining the valuable experience necessary for taking positive career steps.

What do cloud job titles really mean?

I’d like to explain the most typical technical cloud-related roles:

  • Full-Stack Web Developers
  • Back-End Web Developers
  • Mobile Developers
  • Desktop Developers
  • Front-End Web Developers

Respondents of the StackOverflow survey who self-identified as full-stack developers earned the most.

Developers who identified themselves as “Full-Stack Developers” were proficient in coding with five to six major languages or frameworks. Other developer positions typically mastered only four languages.

The term full-stack applies to developers who are comfortable working with both Back-End and Front-End technologies. These developers work with databases, PHP, HTML, CSS, JavaScript and everything in-between with equal ease (not an easy stack of skills to master).

While individuals may start as Front-End or Back-End Web Developers, through online training and classes, they can progress into a Full-Stack Developer — which is arguably the most requested and highest paying job role in cloud computing.  Just how much more money these skilled Full-Stack people earn may surprise you.

Glassdoor released their 25 Highest Paying Jobs in America for 2016 report which looks at the top paying jobs in America. It determines this by reviewing compares with the highest number of job postings currently listed on their websites to produce a list of the most desirable jobs by vacancy and salary.

Where do developer jobs rank on this list? No surprise that multiple jobs requiring technical proficiency (and benefit from certification) are in the top 10 on this list. However, it is difficult to determine whether the jobs listed on Glassdoor match the job roles on StackOverflow. Often developer titles are arbitrary without relation to the technology being used.

We’ve put together a quick graph so you may determine for yourself which of the top paying jobs match those highly requested job postings.

Job Title Median Base Salary # of Job Openings Otherwise Known As
Software Development Manager $132,000 3,495 Full-Stack, Front-End or Back-End Developer
Software Architect $128,250 655 Full-Stack, Front-End or Back-End Developer
IT Manager $120,000 3,152 No secret, your friendly neighborhood spider…err IT guy is now the manager.
Solutions Architect $120,000 2,838 Typically a cross between a Front-End or Back-End Developer and a PM
Applications Developer $120,000 263 Web or Mobile Developer
Systems Architect $116,920 439 Full-Stack, Front-End or Back-End Developer
Data Scientist $115,000 1,985 A developer with a strong background in Machine Learning…which, we have a course for if you’re interested. :)
Data Architect $113,000 762 Front-End or Back-End Developer
Information Systems Manager $106,000 147 Another title for an IT Manager

So why the disparity in salaries between jobs that are nearly identical? There are a few reasons explaining this. Location matters, and the closer you are to Silicon Valley, the larger your salary. While cities such as New York, Seattle, and London are vying as the next “Silicon Valley,” they’ve yet to pull together the trifecta of talent, resources and money that SV provides. So while a Full-Stack Developer may make upwards of $160k, the actual range is somewhere more along the lines of $120k – $160k, give or take, depending on your location.

Industry is another factor. A developer working for an enterprise technology company like Google will make more than a developer working for a Healthcare company. Healthcare, Financial institutions, and Entertainment pay less, on average, than high technology companies such as AWS, Microsoft, Google, and Apple.

The Glassdoor survey show that nine of the top twenty-five highest paying jobs in America are tied directly to technology. Those skilled and highly compensated employees undoubtedly benefit from cloud computing and certifications.

Take a look at Glassdoor’s most recent report, 25 Highest Paying Companies in America for 2016, and you’ll notice immediately that Google, VM Ware, and Amazon’s Lab126 are well in the top ten. Rounding out the top twenty five are Facebook, SAP, Synopsys, LinkedIn, Cloudera, Salesforce and you can guess the others. Nearly every company represented in Glassdoor’s survey list directly employs developers who possess cloud computing skills. These top companies want more of the same and are actively searching for additional skilled cloud-oriented professionals.

This graph supports what we all suspect:

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Developers agree that knowing JavaScript and developing for the cloud offers better job opportunities.

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Stack Overflow Developer Survey 2016

Which certification is best for you?

What are the most important cloud computing certifications? While importance is subjective, the simplest method of measurement is adoption. The two most prolific certifications tied to the highest paying salaries are the AWS Certified Solution Architect – Professional certification and the Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert – Private Cloud certification.

Both certifications are advantageous for growing careers. Earning them requires a partner, and Cloud Academy is the only online training solution providing a complete learning path for continual certification renewal. Fortune favors the prepared, and Cloud Academy offers a free 7-day trial subscription allowing people the opportunity of sampling their resources. Check it out. 

Cloud Academy offers a Solutions Architect—Professional Certification for AWS. Our Learning Path includes seven downloadable video courses, seven quiz sessions, and one hands-on lab for over 10 hours of course material to help you study and pass your certification exam. You’ll learn the basics and enjoy the opportunity of practicing what you’ve learned in a live AWS environment. You may quiz yourself and commit to memory all the knowledge necessary to pass your exam.   

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Complete your training at your own pace. You don’t need to carve aside time in your work schedule to attend in-person training sessions or pay extra to access labs or course materials. Our Learning Path can be completed online and from multiple devices.

Even if you understand that certifications are important, you might not be sold on whether or not they help you secure a better job. The truth is not all certifications are created equally. Certifications typically fall into two categories: those that require study and testing and those in which years of experience in a specific field is required before you’re allowed to apply for testing.

Many certification programs use a model where an individual pays to join a professional organization or attend classes. Upon completion of the training course, a certification is awarded. A project manager certification or scrum certification might come to mind. These are moderately valuable, and because these certifications typically require regular renewal they are costly over time. The most valuable certifications are the ones that require serious study before passing the qualifying exams. These types of certifications demonstrate that students actually possess the knowledge and skills required for the certification — and the job. Those are most widely associated with the certification paths that AWS, Microsoft, and Google offer.

Many of the highest paying jobs in the Glassdoor survey are tied to certifications and cloud computing. Which certifications are most useful to you? Here are some tips to help you find your path. 

  • Look at other people’s resumes. Create a chart of the top five positions you’d like to have, list the top five certifications people in those positions own and map out their career progress so you can see what it takes to earn those particular certifications.
  • Check job listings. There is no better way to figure out what’s needed to land your dream job then by simply making note of the required skills of similar job postings. If an employer lists a certification as a nice-to-have or a must-have, then that’s a clue that it’s important to them, so it should be important to you.
  • Browse industry groups. LinkedIn communities are a great way to find out what type of certifications are most useful. Many of the group members are often looking for the same information and by pooling resources, they find answers much more quickly. Try cross-referencing group members with their profiles so you can quickly note which individuals are most responsive and what certifications they hold.
  • Browse developer forums. Not to be overlooked, online developer forums are a simple and quick way to find information. Places such as StackOverflow, reddit, Quora, and GitHub provide a wealth of knowledge on these topics. Many of the individuals who participate in these communities are developers themselves and have curated lists available to share.

Often the most valuable certifications are the advanced ones. While that may not be true for every industry, advanced certifications in cloud computing have a larger degree of difficulty and require much more practical, hands-on experience before they can be attempted.

One of the most advanced certifications available, tied to the highest paying jobs in cloud computing, is the AWS Certified DevOps Engineer Professional certification. The only comprehensive online training available is the Cloud Academy DevOps Engineer Professional Certification for AWS preparatory Learning Path.

The AWS DevOps Engineering Professional Certification is Amazon Web Services’ newest, rarest, and most difficult to achieve certification. This program tests elements present in both the Developer Associate Certification and the SysOps Administrator Associate exams.

As a difficult and rare exam, companies usually view those who hold the DevOps Engineer certification in high regard. These engineers are highly sought after. For any intrepid AWS cloud developers looking to advance their career, achieving the DevOps certification is a great way showing the world you are a talented practitioner.

Certifications are key to higher paying salaries and online training is the way to reach your goal quickly. Which certifications you start with depends on the career you’re interested in and the path you want to take. Many of them cost money, and some companies subsidize the course because a well-trained workforce is an investment, and finding new employees with cloud computing skills remains tough and expensive.

If you’re looking to make a change, keep the costs in mind, and look for training programs that offer continuously updated content. Getting one or more certifications will prove you’re capable of learning and retaining knowledge. Our blog series “How I got 5 AWS certifications: continuous learning with AWS” and “AWS Certification Exams: what to expect” provide examples with step by step instructions on preparing and passing your certification exams.

Landing a new job.

We make no promises that your new employer will throw you a party upon hiring, or that you’ll be invited to an Eve Online fanfest. It COULD happen though…just saying…

The last part of securing a cloud computing tech job requires nailing that interview. The certification got you through the door and past the other candidates. Having a clear understanding of what type of questions to expect will help you clearly articulate why you’re the best option.

The greatest answer we’ve seen is on Quora, by Niniane Wang, CTO of Minted, who listed the four steps you need to prepare for any technical interview.

  • Practice using the same medium (e.g. paper and pencil) and time limits (e.g. 30 minutes) as the real interview.

This applies to the interview and the certification exams as well. Exams are usually timed and you’ll find we mimic those environments in our Quiz session, try to emulate the real experience. When it comes to interviews, practice makes perfect, so studying and memorizing how to solve a coding problem isn’t enough. Practical experience makes solving problems second nature. Many technology companies force candidates to solve problems on whiteboards. It may not be fair, but it’s how it’s done so be prepared.

  • During the interview, don’t obsess over little mistakes that happen.

How you perform under pressure is just as important as how well you’re doing. Many times your interviewer will give you a nearly impossible problem to solve during your 30-minute time limit. Don’t sweat the small stuff! They are looking for your problem-solving skills and want to see how you work through an issue.

The same principle applies when taking your certification exam. A small margin of error is expected, so you should focus on pushing through as many questions as possible. Since the tests change frequently, you’ll find that Cloud Academy offers you more test questions than you’ll need. It’s just like studying for your Driver’s License. You’ll have to study the entire manual, but you’ll probably only get 25% of the questions from the book.

  • Don’t hijack the interview.

This should go without saying, but if you take over the interview and don’t answer the questions – then no amount of experience or resume building will help. My experience of the Amazon interview process lasted an entire day. For a part of it, I left alone for nearly an hour. Amazon likes resourceful, resilient, and capable people. Staying calm and focused helped me use the time rather than letting the delay upset me. I spent the extra time checking the schedule and looking up the LinkedIn profiles (and connecting!) with the interviewers I just met.

  • When answering questions expecting a specific answer, give a high-level summary first.

Your understanding of a question may differ from the person asking. They may not have articulated themselves enough or you might be missing a crucial piece of information — on purpose. By framing your response with how you came to that conclusion and why you think it’s correct – your interviewer is able to see your entire thought process.

If your interviewer asks how you might help them display player scores for an online game, and you know that A). AWS Lambda is a good solution because B). you’ve taken both the Lambda and DynamoDB labs which means, C). the game can write to DynamoDB, which will invoke Lambda and check against the player’s old score and update it in near real-time for a seamless player experience. That might not be the way the interviewer is approaching the problem, but by providing a high-level summary to your answer, you’ve given context on how you’d solve issues.

You’ve learned everything you need to start your cloud training journey — on your own terms and at your preferred pace. Learn with videos, build with hands-on labs and retain knowledge with quizzes. Train at work, at home, or on the go with our mobile apps. To customize your learning experience for a specific certification, check out the following Cloud Academy Learning Paths: 

Ready to get started? Dive in with Cloud Academy’s free 7-day trial subscription.