IT operations engineers are decently paid — but not as well, on average, as engineers in other fields, like development and security.
If you work in ITOps, this can be a bummer. The good news is that there are steps you can take to maximize your IT operations engineer salary.
What is a Computer Operations Engineer?
IT operations engineers are responsible for deploying and managing applications and the infrastructure that hosts them.
They don’t build the apps (that’s a developer task) or support security (which is a separate discipline). But IT operations play the main role in setting up IT environments and keeping them running.
computer operations engineer salary
As of 2022, IT operations engineers can expect to earn between $65,000 and $70,000 on average, according to sites like ZipRecruiter, Indeed and Glass door.
Average salaries for IT operations jobs in high cost-of-living areas, such as New York and the San Francisco Bay Area, tilt a little higherin the mid-$80,000s. But even in these regions, few computer engineers earn six figures unless they are promoted to the ranks of computer management.
How does IT operations salary compare?
Depending on your perspective, the salary ranges outlined above may or may not seem very impressive.
I imagine a good number of people at the start of their careers would be lucky enough to earn around $70,000. This is certainly higher than the typical salary of recent college graduates, which is around $55,000.
On the other hand, if you compare the salary of an IT operations engineer to those of other technical roles, working in IT operations seems less impressive. Software engineers earn close to $110,000 on averagewhich is similar to salary estimates for security engineers. Site Reliability Engineers (SRE) do even better, with average salaries around $125,000 – nearly double those of computer engineers.
By the standards of the wider IT industry, IT operations work does not pay particularly well.
How to Earn More in IT Operations
If you’re an IT operations engineer (or aspire to be one) who isn’t impressed with typical earnings in the field, consider the following strategies to earn more.
learn to code
Typically, IT operations work requires only basic coding expertise. You usually need to know how to script and manage configuration files, but many computer operations tasks can be done without writing code (especially in Windows environments, where graphical administrative interfaces are prevalent).
That said, more complex IT operations often require more advanced coding skills. For example, if you want to take advantage of a everything in code ITOps approach, which can help you work more efficiently in large-scale environments, you will need to know how to work with declarative programming languages such as Rego.
When you bring these types of skills to the table, you demonstrate more value to employers because you can do more for them in less time. In return, you position yourself to earn more.
Along the same lines, Linux expertise is a type of skill that not all IT operations engineers possess. It is generally easier to learn to point and click in Windows administrative interfaces than to learn the Linux CLI tools.
As a result, learn linux is a great way to earn more in IT operations. Indeed, Linux engineers (who are arguably a type of computer engineer) earn about $110,000a bit more than generic computer engineers.
Kubernetes is another in-demand technology that not all IT operations engineers are familiar with. If you can help companies migrate their applications to containers and deploy them in Kubernetes, you’ll likely earn a lot more than an IT engineer who only knows how to run monoliths and virtual machines.
Learn the cloud
Another example of an in-demand skill set is cloud computing. IT operations engineers who know how to deploy and manage applications in the cloud stand out.
Learning about the cloud means more than just understanding the architectures and concepts of cloud computing. If you really want to maximize your IT salary, get hands-on experience using specific cloud tools and services, like EC2, S3, Lambda, EKS, and AWS CloudWatch (or their equivalents on the cloud platform used by your employer or future employer).
Switch to SRE
IT engineers and site reliability engineers do most of the same things (like deploying and managing applications), but in different ways.
This means that, if you already know IT operations, it’s not too difficult to turn yourself into an SRE. Doing so will put you in a position to take advantage of an SRE’s salary – which, as noted above, is nearly twice that of the average IT operations engineer.
Get Side Gigs
Consider doing freelance computer operations to supplement your main job salary. Although the salary of freelance IT work can vary widely, data shows that freelancers in general earn more per hour than they do in full-time jobs.
Additionally, computer work tends to be easy to do from anywhere with a flexible schedule. This makes it easier to get some side gigs for companies that may not need a full-time IT operations engineer, but need help with their systems.
Of course, make sure your full-time employer is okay with moonlighting before you go down this path.
Computer operations engineers do not earn as much overall as their counterparts in other technical roles. But by being strategic about the skills you choose to develop, you can make yourself an in-demand IT engineer – and, in all likelihood, earn more in the process.