What Does a Cloud Architect Do?

5 minutes

If you didn’t know anything about cloud computing, the job title “Cloud Architect” would sound like a total oxymoron: how do you design something amorphous? In tech, of course, the cloud is not nebulous at all — it’s made up of complex services that are conducted over the internet.  

Much like an Architect who designs a building, Cloud Architects use their expertise to design an organization’s cloud system and oversee its implementation. This mid- to senior-level role requires a combination of technical expertise and strong soft skills like leadership and communication. As remote work becomes the norm across all industries, and businesses make use of new technologies like generative AI, Cloud Architects have very valuable and in-demand expertise to provide.  

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If you’re working towards a cloud career like Cloud Architect, or you’re just curious how this technology works, you can get started learning cloud computing skills with our new free cloud courses. These courses help you build a foundation in key cloud computing skills, so you can test the waters before you committing to cloud certification training. Even if certification isn’t your ultimate goal, gaining a solid grasp of this sought-after domain helps make you a well-rounded developer.  

We spoke with Michael Shannon, Senior Analyst in Tech and Dev at Skillsoft, the cloud expert who helped make these courses, about what a Cloud Architect does. Read on to learn about the day-to-day responsibilities of a Cloud Architect, the certifications and cloud services to know, and how to break into the field without a college degree.  

What is a Cloud Architect?  

Cloud Architects oversee planning, designing, building, and maintaining an organization’s entire cloud infrastructure. While Cloud Engineers focus on building and deploying specific applications, “it takes a different kind of person, a Cloud Architect, who’s really a leader who can pull the trigger on decisions,” Michael says.  

Cloud Architects are often tasked with pretty significant projects (think: migrating the entire org’s applications and data from on-premise servers to a cloud platform or coming up with a cloud-based disaster recovery protocol), so the role requires strong organizational and leadership skills. You’re often balancing the needs of lots of different stakeholders and business needs, so communication is key. On top of that, Cloud Architects have to be knowledgeable about lots of different cloud technologies as well as security and compliance concerns.  

The scope of a Cloud Architect’s work can vary depending on the size of a company. A large organization is more likely to have a separate Cloud Architect who’s solely responsible for the cloud strategy, whereas a smaller org might have one person who acts as both the Cloud Engineer and the Cloud Architect, Michael says. It’s also common for newer startups to hire Cloud Architects who can make decisions about which database platforms and SaaS tools the organization will use.  

What does a Cloud Architect do all day?  

A day in the life of a Cloud Architect typically involves a mix of strategic planning, design work, and oversight of cloud implementations. For example, a Cloud Architect might be tasked with analyzing an org’s current cloud architecture and identifying any areas for improvement or optimization. The first step would be meeting with various teams to understand their objectives and how they fit into the business needs. Cloud Architects are also responsible for interfacing with steering committees and CIOs to determine budgets and savings, Michael says.  

Designing the overall cloud architecture is another core responsibility of a Cloud Architect. This could involve sketching out diagrams, creating documentation, and (once again!) collaborating with other stakeholders. Cloud Architects have to carefully consider lots of factors like scalability, security, and compliance in addition to the business requirements.  

Cloud Architects may also be managing ongoing cloud projects, providing guidance to development teams, and troubleshooting any issues that arise. This comes with more meetings to discuss progress updates, review designs, or address concerns from other departments.  

How do you become a Cloud Architect? 

There’s no one roadmap to becoming a Cloud Architect, but it tends to be a mid- to senior-level IT role. Many Cloud Architects have advanced degrees in cybersecurity in addition to high-end cloud certifications. For context, Cloud Architects hold nine certifications on average, according to the latest Skillsoft IT Skills and Salary Report. That said, it’s possible to have a career in cloud without a college degree.  

The major cloud providers (Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud, and Azure) have beginner-friendly certifications that can help you land an entry-level role as a Cloud Administrator Associate. Once you build foundational knowledge in the key areas of cloud computing — compute, storage, database, networking, and machine learning/AI — you can specialize in one or many cloud services. Our free, video-based cloud courses are an awesome way to start learning essential cloud skills in Azure, AWS, Google Cloud, and CompTIA Cloud Essentials+.​   

Cloud Architects usually aren’t necessarily writing code or building applications, but they still need technical skills in primary operating systems, programming languages, networking technologies (like TCP/IP and HTTP), and security principles. “You’ve got to have some coding — the more the better, regardless of what you’re doing,” Michael says. Languages like Python, JSON, Ruby, and Golang are good ones to start with if you want to get into cloud, he says. You can start learning these languages with a free Codecademy account while you work through our new cloud courses.  

Aspiring Cloud Engineers and Architects should not only focus on cloud-specific skills but also develop a deep understanding of the underlying technologies and vendors that support cloud infrastructure, Michael suggests. Having knowledge of Cisco data centers is essential for Cloud Architects, as well as hypervisor technologies such as VMware, Citrix Xen, and Linux KVM.  

What’s a Cloud Architect salary like? 

The average annual salary for a Cloud Architect is $135,881, according to data from the most recent Skillsoft IT Skills and Salary report. The types of certifications you have in cloud technologies can influence your earning potential as a Cloud Architect. For example, people with Google Cloud’s Professional Cloud Architect certification earn an average salary of $200,960, the report found. (You can learn more about the highest-paying cloud certifications from this year.)   

Our new cloud courses prepare you for a certification program. These free courses are an awesome way to see if you actually like the cloud space before you commit to certification training. And even if you don’t go on to become a certified cloud expert, having a strong foundation in this in-demand and lucrative area of tech can propel your career.  

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