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DevOps is a growing field for technology professionals. But how can you actually launch a career in DevOps? What skills do you need to learn?

First, it’s important to define DevOps, which at its core is a set of methodologies and tools that allow organizations to accelerate their building and adoption of crucial services. Those who master DevOps need to not only understand those methodologies and tools, but also how they impact teams, products, and the organization as a whole.

Here are the crucial things to learn about a DevOps career path.

Master DevOps Principles

If you’re a total newbie to the art of DevOps, consider doing a little online research. In the past, we’ve recommended this explainer by Gitlabas well as this one by SimpliLearn. At its core, DevOps is all about three things:

  • Technology (CI/CD, automation, testing tools, etc.)
  • Processes and methodology (i.e., Agile and Scrum)
  • Team and internal culture (everyone aligned toward the same goal!)

If you want to get a bit more granular, DevOps Institute’s Upskilling IT 2022 Report lists the top five must-have processes and frameworks within IT enterprises:

  • DevOps and DevSecOps
  • Agile
  • Site Reliability Engineering (SRE)
  • Design Thinking and System Thinking
  • ITIL

Hiring managers and recruiters will also test your knowledge of DevOps terminology (such as continuous delivery/continuous integration), processes (plan/code/build/test/package/release/operate), and tools (get ready to learn Git!), so whatever learning route you take, make sure you have all of that solidly memorized. You also want to mention these processes and tools in any DevOps resume you eventually create.

Once you’ve decided on a DevOps path, you might wonder if you need formal schooling. If you’re a self-directed learner who quickly picks up complicated concepts, the answer might be “no,” especially if you already have a background (and/or degrees) in adjacent fields such as project management and computer science.

If you’re the type who needs formal coursework to keep you on track, there are lots of opportunities out there, including many online. Make sure a program fits your schedule and budget before you sign up for it.  

Applying for Jobs

Many organizations rely on the cloud, containers, and automation for their tech-related projects. As a result, DevOps specialists have an increased chance of landing a role if they understand the following concepts:

  • Public clouds and hyperscalers like AWS/GCP/Azure
  • Containerization and cloud-native applications (+GitOps)
  • CI/CD (Jenkins, Azure DevOps, AWS CodePipeline and AWS CodeBuild, Google Cloud Build, TeamCity, Bamboo, and others)

Picture sitting across from an interviewer and explaining how you’ll apply core DevOps principles to ensuring a massive cloud project can meet its deadline, budget, and requirements—you’ll definitely stand out, especially if you can sketch out a plan on the spot. Whatever the organization’s technical needs, detailing how you can streamline and automate its processes will elevate you to the top of the candidate heap.

Other in-demand, DevOps-related skillsets include:

  • Monitoring and observability (Elasticsearch [ELK/EFK Stack], Prometheus, Grafana, Datadog, New Relic)
  • Agile development methodology (Scrum) 
  • IaaS platforms including the cloud-agonistic Terraform, AWS’ CloudFormation, Microsoft Azure ARM templates, Google Cloud Deployment Manager, and shell scripting/Python/Ansible.
  • Familiarity with programming languages such as Python, Ruby, Java, Javascript, PHP, Bash, Shell, and Node.js.

If you’re applying for DevOps jobs, make sure to skim the job posting for relevant keywords (such as certain tools). List the keywords/tools/procedures you’ve mastered in your resume. This will ensure your application makes it past the first round of automated resume screeners, which are usually looking for those keywords. (Check out this handy DevOps resume template for more wordsmithing ideas.)

Consider Certifications

Recruiters and hiring managers like it when your resume features a selection of DevOps certifications, which demonstrate you’ve mastered the principles of DevOps. While certifications aren’t always necessary at the start of your career, earning at least a few will put you at parity with other DevOps specialists competing for an open position.

Some of the biggest companies in tech offer their own DevOps certifications, including:

Other certifications focus on a particular tool or part of the tech stack, such as containerization:

“For the top three DevOps certifications to acquire, I’d recommend one from each of the biggest cloud infrastructure providers, Google Professional Cloud DevOps Engineer, Microsoft Certified: DevOps Engineer Expert, and AWS Certified DevOps Engineer – Professional," Tomasz Nurkiewicz, CTO at DevSkiller, recently told Dice.

The DevOps Institute also offers an array of certifications for DevOps professionals at all skill levels, from beginners to leaders.

Consider Specialization

More organizations are spinning up roles for DevSecOps specialists, who are focused on security in the context of development and operations. One recent study estimated the DevSecOps market at $2.55 billion in 2020, with a potential compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 32.2 percent over the next several years.

“The main characteristic I have seen with great DevSecOps engineers is that they’re really good at getting kind of good at new things. DevOps engineers in general and DevSecOps engineers specifically have to work across several different disciplines, on technologies spread across many different cloud providers so there always seems to be something new to learn,” Dan Cornell, vice president at Coalfire, a Colorado-based provider of cybersecurity advisory services, told Dice.

In addition to mastering DevOps principles, DevSecOps specialists should know how to evaluate and test for security flaws in an organization’s tech stack. That means knowledge of penetration testing, threat modeling, and other cybersecurity techniques. In order to prove your bona fides, the DevOps Institute offers a DevSecOps certification.

Even if you’re not interested in cybersecurity, learning DevOps in the context of a highly specialized industry (such as healthcare or industrial concerns) can elevate employers’ demand for your skillset, and help unlock new and better opportunities.