1 November 2023

What Is A DevOps Engineer?

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What comes to mind when you hear the word devops? Development? Operations? A bit of both? You’re right! ‘Cause that’s exactly what it is.

Devops engineers are IT geniuses. They use their knowledge of development and operations to improve the quality of computer networks, while working with software developers and system operators to ensure a company’s IT infrastructure is up to date.

Sound like you? Read on to learn what being a devops engineer is all about…

What exactly does a DevOps engineer do?

The main role of a devops engineer is to build, test and maintain the best infrastructure possible for a software to run smoothly. With more and more companies using cloud technology these days, the demand for high-functioning web-based solutions is on the rise.

What does this mean?

Businesses need to change how they create and deliver software. That’s where the devops engineer comes in. Their job is to bridge the gap between creation and delivery so the software development process can be as easy as possible.


As a devops engineer, your role will vary depending on your employer. But here are some of your typical day-to-day responsibilities:

  • Fixing and upgrading software
  • Collaborating with your team to invent, develop and release new software
  • Carrying out quality assurance (QA) to ensure softwares meet guidelines
  • Preventing security breaches and/or cyber attacks from external sources
  • Understanding the needs of stakeholders and conveying this to developers
  • Working with developers to oversee code releases
  • Testing codes written by others and analysing results 
  • Writing specification documents.

Want to know what it’s really like to work as a devops engineer? Browse our IT apprenticeships industry guide for lots of brilliant tips on the computing and digital sectors.

Do you need a degree for DevOps?

The path to becoming a devops engineer looks different for everyone. Some will go to university, while others will do an apprenticeship. Both are viable options. Not sure which one to take? Let’s explore them below.


If you choose university, you’ll need to do a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science or Software Engineering. Here, you’ll learn about coding, programming languages, IT operations and software development – all of which are vital for this role.

Uni is great for making friends, gaining independence and experiencing campus life. Downside? It’s pricey. Tuition fees are high. So you’ll have £50k worth of debt on your shoulders once you graduate.


Apprenticeships allow you to earn while you learn. You’ll work for an employer, getting trained up like a pro, while studying towards nationally recognised qualifications equivalent to GCSEs, A-Levels or a university degree.

Employers love students who’ve done an apprenticeship as it shows they’re work ready, with key skills needed to thrive in today’s competitive job market.

Degree apprenticeships

If you’re torn between university and an apprenticeship, why not apply for a degree apprenticeship and get the best of both worlds? You’ll walk away with a degree plus thousands of pounds worth of savings in your bank account. Not to mention a head start in life too.

Did you know that degree apprentices don’t pay any tuition fees as the government and your employer will cover your costs? It’s all free!

Hear what this degree apprentice had to say about their devops programme at IBM:

“I am a devops engineer working on one of our public sector client sites. Being an apprentice doesn’t mean you sit around and make the tea – far from it. I do the same role any of the other engineers on the team would, which involves writing and deploying various code, and am treated the same as any other member of the team. As a degree apprentice, I spend one day a week dedicated solely to working on my degree, with the other four spent working with the client.”

(Degree Apprentice, IBM)

What skills do you need for DevOps?

To be a successful devops engineer, you’ll need a good mix of soft and hard skills. The devops culture is very collaborative, so teamwork is just as important as having good tech knowledge.

Soft skills

  • Excellent communication
  • Strong collaboration
  • Great organisation
  • Time management
  • Critical thinking 
  • Decision making
  • Problem solving
  • Adaptability
  • Patience
  • Empathy

Hard skills

  • Linux and Scripting – file handling, system admin, text processing, Python
  • Automation – Ansible, Chef, Puppet, Terraform, CI/CD pipelines
  • Cloud computing – database management, network management
  • Coding – Node.js, Java, Javascript, Ruby, Shell, Bash, PHP
  • Security – code analysis, threat investigation, vulnerability assessment
  • Proactive monitoring – Nagios, Splunk
  • Containerisation – Docker Engine, LXC
  • Version management – Jenkins, Maven, Git.

Employers don’t expect you to be a pro from the start. But it helps to know what skills they’re looking for – in case you’re feeling keen and want to get ahead of the game.

Before you apply though, look through the job description to see what skills you’ll need for the role. Then highlight any previous experiences on your CV which demonstrate those skills. 

If you don’t have any relevant skills, you can always do a free online IT course or join an after-school programming club. This shows your passion and dedication and will send recruiters into a happy frenzy wanting to whip you up. 

Need some CV advice? Get your application up to speed with our very own apprenticeship CV template.

Who are typical employers of devops engineers?

We have lots of devops engineering apprenticeships available to help you get started with your career. Here are typical employers offering them:

Don’t forget to check out our Best Apprenticeship Employers table too! Here you’ll find the best companies to work for as voted by students who were once in your shoes. So go on. Give it a browse. Your sparkly, shiny apprenticeship may be just around the corner.

Does DevOps pay well?

There’s a huge shortage of devops in the UK, so demand is high. If you’ve got the right skills, employers will be fighting tooth and nail to hire you. 


Your salary depends on your age, employer and apprenticeship level. Average salaries for Computer Science or Software Engineering apprentices tend to start around £18,000. However, the more experience you gain, the more you’ll bank.

Once you’re a pro, you could take home anything between £37,500 and £92,500 a year. Unbelievable! I mean – what do you even do with that sort of money?!

There’s no single road to becoming a devops engineer. As long as you’re curious and have a strong passion for all things IT – you know – all those nitty gritty networks –  you’re all set!