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Salary snapshot: Embrace an entry-level DevOps role

New DevOps engineers make much more than their software engineer counterparts. If you have DevOps skills, maybe it's time to rebrand.

With so much interest in DevOps, it makes sense that DevOps engineers generally command a higher salary than colleagues with more traditional roles.

As more companies buy and build up technologies that take advantage of DevOps methodologies -- take DevOps here quite loosely -- more organizations need boots on the ground to actually make DevOps work. And software professionals can buy a pretty nice pair of boots if they rebrand themselves as entry-level DevOps engineers.

As we've covered in our monthly salary snaps before, it's a good time to be a DevOps pro. In this salary snap based on data from Glassdoor Inc., we've found an entry-level gap between DevOps salaries and software engineers, operations engineer and systems engineers. With one interesting exception, this entry-level DevOps gap exists nationally as well as in six of the seven highlighted tech hubs.

Across the country, entry-level DevOps engineers earn 22% more than software engineer positions with similar IT experience. For operations and systems engineers, that jumps to 40%. The gap closes a bit in the cities highlighted below. In Seattle, however, the software engineers actually make more than DevOps engineers. But IT professionals can still comfortably earn more in an entry-level DevOps position.

Devops salary
In nearly all locations, entry-level DevOps engineers earn more than software, operations and system engineers.

DevOps isn't really an entry-level position

The Glassdoor data here considers average salaries for IT professionals with less than a year of experience. When one considers the professional path to DevOps, however, it makes sense why these engineers can demand better compensation.

"There isn't a talent pipeline that exists to turn out a DevOps pro," Will Markow, client strategy and analytics manager of Burning Glass Technologies, told DevOps Agenda in February.  

These pros get more money because they've got at least some experience. An entry-level DevOps job is a cross-skilled position that demands fluency in development and scripting languages and tools like Puppet, Jenkins and Chef. Prospective DevOps pros typically make the move from other positions within IT.

When you couple this latent IT experience with the rising demand for DevOps specialists, even unproven DevOps engineers have some salary leverage with which to negotiate.

Embrace the DevOps brand

If you do everything a DevOps engineer does -- script tests, coordinate workflow, build internal toolchains -- then you owe it your paycheck to call yourself a DevOps engineer. If you're already the coveted full-stack developer, upgrade to DevOps.

Nationally, DevOps engineers with less than a year of experience earn 22% more than software engineer positions with similar IT experience.

If you're only missing a few of these skills, learn about the testing side of software production and familiarize yourself with a few DevOps tools. If you're an operations engineer, learn some code so you can start to script tests and automate parts of your team's workflow.

Promote from within

From an organizational perspective, it's probably more cost-effective -- and more effective in general -- to build DevOps teams from within. Your organization won't have to shell out disproportionate salaries for DevOps mercenaries to learn and fix your organization's processes on the fly. Instead of bringing hired guns, organizations can start their DevOps journey by promoting and filling roles with DevOps pros who actually know the place.

This was last published in July 2018

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