What Does a Cloud Architect Do?

Anthony PellegrinoAnthony PellegrinoLast updated

Nowadays, it's almost impossible to go long without hearing some reference to "the cloud" in one way or another. It seems as though, more often than not, software products are delivered to customers "as a service," that is, through the cloud.

Needless to say, though, someone must be responsible for building and maintaining the cloud for this to happen in the first place. So, that's where the role of a cloud architect comes in.

Truth be told, the cloud architect role is not an entry-level position. Unlike jobs like a software developer or associate product manager, it's challenging to jump into the cloud architect role with little experience.

You will need extensive knowledge of cloud technologies and cloud computing architecture. You will, of course, also need experience developing cloud systems to become a cloud architect.

However, if you're still interested in becoming a cloud architect, this article is for you. In this guide, we'll take a deep dive into the role of cloud architect. Below, you'll find everything you need to know about the job duties, necessary skills, career paths, salary, and more!

In this article, you'll learn all about:

  • What is a Cloud Architect and What Do They Do?
  • What Are The Essential Cloud Architect Skills?
  • What Are The Best Cloud Architect Certifications?
  • The Cloud Architect Career Path
  • What Are The Average Cloud Architect Salaries?

What Is a Cloud Architect and What Do They Do?

Abstract by Oleg Shcherba

So what is a cloud architect, after all? What does a typical cloud architect job description look like?

As we mentioned, a cloud architect is responsible for designing and implementing an organization's cloud computing strategy and its cloud architecture.

Cloud computing architecture is the set of components necessary for cloud computing to take place. For example, cloud storage (databases), front and back end platforms, cloud services, and networks constitute cloud architecture.

Cloud adoption has exploded in nearly every domain and sector in the past few decades. As a result, major cloud service providers, such as Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services, have blossomed and are used by countless organizations and businesses to host their cloud services.

Cloud architects are those tech professionals responsible for all aspects of an organization's cloud computing strategy. Given the broad nature of cloud computing, a cloud architect will typically wear many hats.

For example, they may be tasked with cloud adoption strategies, designing cloud solutions, or overseeing and maintaining an organization's cloud infrastructure.

In a nutshell, despite having all sorts of job responsibilities, cloud architects are tasked with finding solutions to challenging and complex business problems using cloud computing.

In doing so, cloud architects will routinely work with other engineering or tech team members. Specifically, they will often work with DevOps engineers and software developers.

Beyond that, cloud architects may also work with their company's legal teams. For example, they may be tasked with negotiating contracts or ensuring service-level agreement requirements are met.

What Are The Essential Cloud Architect Skills?

Abstract by Maria Shukshina

As you can imagine, various technical and non-technical skills are essential for a Cloud Architect.

The field of cloud computing is constantly shifting, evolving, and growing, which means that, more than anything, successful Cloud Architects always need to keep track of the latest trends.

Communication, Collaboration, and Thought Leadership

One of the most critical skills for any Cloud Architect is collaboration and communication. Every Cloud Architect will work with various people from several different teams, whether they be DevOps, legal, or upper management.

It is also essential for Cloud Architects to flex their muscles as thought leaders in their firms. To really shine in the role, you must actualize your potential as an agent of change in your organization and push for greater cloud adoption.

Think about it: Cloud Architects are hired because they have expert knowledge of what cloud computing is and how it can be used to solve problems. As such, Cloud architects may need to personally advocate for potential changes that can be made or cloud solutions being overlooked.

In addition to these soft skills, Cloud Architects must naturally have strong experience with cloud computing!

Here are some of the essential Cloud Architect skills:

Solid Experience With One or More Operating Systems

Your potential employer will want to see a solid understanding of at least one operating system. Hiring managers will be looking for experience working with a Linux operating system, given how often they are used to manage databases and servers.

However, suppose you have experience working as a systems administrator, architect, or technician using a significant OS. In that case, you're on the right track.

Abstract by Maria Shukshina

Solid Knowledge of Networking Tech

Cloud computing, by definition, relies on networking. Therefore, cloud Architects will need a solid grasp of networking fundamentals, such as understanding TCP/IP, IP addresses, HTTP, DNS, etc.

This would also include understanding the primary cloud providers like Azure, Google Cloud, and Amazon Web Services and how to use their respective platforms.

Experience with Programming Languages and Coding

Most cloud architects will be required to have some level of understanding of software development and one or more programming languages.

Keep in mind that this is not always the case for some cloud architect positions. However, having this on your resume and LinkedIn profile can only benefit you.

CyberSecurity Skills

At the end of the day, nothing is more critical for the success of a company's cloud computing strategy than security. Therefore, cloud Architects must have high-level knowledge of essential cybersecurity concepts while understanding how to incorporate them into their cloud solutions.

Cloud Architects should be capable of designing cloud infrastructure to suit the needs of enterprise-level data security.

These are, by no means, the only skills that are necessary or useful for Cloud Architects. There are dozens and dozens more. So much so that it could use an article in its own right.

Nevertheless, Cloud Architects need a solid technical background in cloud environments and the soft skills necessary to bring cloud solutions to light.

What Are the Best Cloud Architect Certifications?

Abstract by Oleg Shcherba

Virtually every job posting for a cloud architect will look for bachelor's degrees, if not a master's degree, in something like computer science, engineering, or math.

However, if you're interested in cloud computing, you've likely heard of one of the many certifications employers also like to see.

Several big tech companies serve as the most significant cloud architecture providers. These include Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services, and Google Cloud, all of which provide their own certifications for their cloud technologies.

Your potential employers will want to see that you have the certifications from the cloud architecture vendors used by the organization or another reputable accreditation.

Here are some of the best cloud architect certifications:

AWS Certified Solutions Architect

Source: AWS

Amazon Web Services, or AWS, is, by far, the most significant cloud architecture provider around. As a result, the organizations you're applying to will likely be using AWS.

So, obtaining this certification could do wonders for you as a cloud architect candidate.

The AWS Solutions Architect Certification will demonstrate that you have the necessary skills for implementing cloud initiatives using Amazon Web Services.

This certification will ultimately prove to your interviewers that you can design and implement distributed systems on AWS. Given how extensively used AWS is, this is no laughing matter.

It's recommended that you have at least one year of experience with using AWS technology, including computing, networking, storage, and database AWS services and AWS deployment and management services, before you take the certification exam.

Schedule an Exam on the AWS website here.

Microsoft Certified Azure Solutions Architect Expert

Source: Microsoft Azure

In a close second, Microsoft's Azure is another widely used cloud provider, especially for enterprise solutions. Microsoft states that architects who wish to sit for the Azure Solutions Architect Expert certification should have subject matter expertise in designing cloud and hybrid solutions using Microsoft Azure, including compute, network, storage, monitoring, and security.

Not only that but it's recommended that Azure Certification candidates have advanced IT operations experience and knowledge. This includes networking, virtualization, identity, security, business continuity, disaster recovery, data platforms, and governance.

It is also recommended that you have experience with Azure administration, Azure development, and DevOps processes before sitting for the exam.

Schedule an exam on the Microsoft website here.

Google Professional Cloud Architect

Source: Google Cloud

After AWS and Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud is the next biggest cloud service provider. After receiving the Professional Cloud Architects Certification, organizations can verify that their Cloud Architect can leverage Google Cloud technologies to solve their business problems.

The Google Professional Cloud Architect certification exam evaluates your ability to:

  • Develop and design cloud architecture,
  • Manage and maintain cloud infrastructure,
  • Design with security and compliance in mind,
  • Examine and optimize technical and business processes,
  • Oversee implementations of cloud architecture,
  • Ensure cloud solution reliability.

You must have at least three years of professional experience and one year of experience working with Google Cloud before taking the Google Professional Cloud Architect exam.

Schedule an exam on the Google Cloud website here.

IBM Certified Solution Architect - Cloud Pak for Data

Source: IBM

Last but not least is the IBM Solution Architect Certification. As the name suggests, this certification was developed with IBM's Cloud Pak in mind, which is the company's hybrid cloud platform.

While not as widely used as the previous three cloud service platforms, IBM's Cloud Pak is designed for those data-driven and AI-powered cloud solutions.

Therefore, if you are working in an industry or are applying to a company known for using large datasets or AI, you should consider this certification.

The IBM Certified Solution Architect on Cloud Pak for Data V4.x ensures that you are a Cloud Architect that can design, plan, and implement a Data and AI solution in a hybrid cloud environment.

Schedule an exam on the IBM certification website here.

The Cloud Architect Career Path

Because the Cloud Architect role can ultimately involve different things depending upon the organization, team, or department, there is no single career path to become one.

Some cloud architects begin their careers in IT support positions. It's possible to work your way up from the simple IT help desk all the way up to the cloud architect position.

For example, you can begin your career as an IT Support Specialist, then move on to system engineering. Once you're a System Engineer, you can move into a Database Administrator role. From there, it's a pretty straight shot right into the Cloud Architect role.

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Another typical start to the Cloud Architect career is through software development. You could begin your journey as a junior developer and work your way into DevOps engineering.

Once you're a DevOps Engineer, you could be promoted to a Principal Software Developer position, easily leading to becoming a Cloud Architect.

Finally, you can become a Cloud Architect by focusing on the data aspects. For instance, Network Administrators could become System Administrators. After a System Administrator gains enough experience, they can be promoted to the Cloud Architect position.

What Are the Average Cloud Architect Salaries?

Abstract by Oleg Shcherba

According to data from Glassdoor, the average cloud architect makes around $150,000 per year. The most likely salary range is between $87,000 to $260,00 per year, depending on experience, location, and skills.

However, as is the case for many jobs in tech, there is considerable variation in salaries for cloud architects, especially later in their careers.

Thanks to our friends at Levels.fyi, we've compiled this example of average compensation for Solution Architects at Google. Note that Solution Architect is a common equivalent title at big tech companies.

Hopefully, this gives you a better idea of the earning potential of cloud architects throughout your career trajectory.

  • The average compensation for a Google L3 Solution Architect is about $185k. The salary range for this position is about $152k to $259k.
  • The average compensation for a Google L4 Solution Architect is $228k. The salary range for this position is between about $199k and $250k.
  • The average compensation for a Google L5 Solution Architect is $288k. The salary range for this position is about $225k to $560k.
  • The average compensation for a Google L6 Solution Architect is $343k. The salary range for this position is about $249k to $445k.

To learn more, check out our friends, Levels.fyi!

More Resources

There's no better way to prepare for your upcoming Cloud Architect interviews than to get out there and practice. Here are some resources that could be helpful in your preparation:

👯‍♂️ Practice your behavioral and system design skills with our interview practice tool.

👨‍🎓 Take our complete System Design interview course.

🖊️ Software engineering interview cheat sheet

Good luck with your interview preparation journey!

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