DevOps jobs: Salaries are rising, but some are going up faster than others

It's a good time to be managing DevOps teams at organizations that have embraced the concepts, culture, tools and processes.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

DevOps engineer salaries have been on the rise, driven partly by the pandemic, but salaries for certain roles are growing faster than others. 

Demand for DevOps skills seems to have skyrocketed over the past five years. Consultancy Bain & Company in September reported DevOps job postings grew 443% between 2015 and 2019, which is comparable to postings for machine learning, but way faster than postings for data science (167%) and software engineering (69%). 

DevOps has been popularized over the past decade around the idea that software development can be fast, deliver business results and produce stable IT operations. It spans software development, testing, quality assurance, security and monitoring, and then deploying code to run efficiently on IT infrastructure. It's about people, culture, tools and technology – all focussed on beating the competition.

SEE: Software development is changing again. These are the skills companies are looking for

Some evidence for the increased demand for DevOps engineers can be seen in Puppet's new DevOps survey of 2,543 people around the world who shared salary data for its 2021 State of DevOps survey

The company reckons that in 2021 more DevOps people moved to salaries between $150,000 to $250,000 than in any year since 2019. Sounds pretty good, although its hard to draw meaning over a short timespan that saw a global pandemic, a rush to digital transformation, and mass resignations in the US

Puppet found that, as always, the US still offers higher salaries in tech than in Europe; companies that are further along the "DevOps evolution" also pay higher; and DevOps engineers working in financial services earned the highest salaries, followed by healthcare and technology. 

Puppet breaks DevOps respondents into practitioners, such as software engineers, and managers of DevOps teams. The data suggests both groups' salaries grew last year, but managers' salaries grew much faster.  

Across both groups, those with salaries between $125,000 to $150,000 grew from 10% in 2020 to 14% in 2021, while those reporting salaries between $150,000 to $250,000 rose from 8% to 12% over the same period.

In 2021, 16% reported salaries of between $100,000 to $125,000. Still, the most common salary bracket in DevOps was $75,000 to $100,000, with 21% in this category, followed by 18% with salaries between $50,000 to $75,000.

While the trend seems to point to salary growth for DevOps, there are some oddities in trend data: for example, in 2021, only 35% of American workers reported earning at least $150,000, compared to 42% in 2020 and 36% in 2019, Puppet notes. 

But it suggests it's the managers of DevOps teams who saw the biggest rises in incomes over the past year, with 33% reporting incomes above $150,000, versus 18% in 2020.  

For practitioners, salary rises were flatter. In 2021, 14% had salaries between $125,000 to $150,000, up from 10% in 2020. And 28% earned $75,000 or less.

SEE: Remote-working jobs vs back to the office: Why tech's Great Resignation may have only just begun

Looking at highly evolved DevOps organizations, the share of practitioners earning more than $150,000 rose from 8% in 2020 to 20% in 2021. More than double is pretty good, but still a small share.

Meanwhile, the share of managers at highly evolved firms earning $150,000-plus rose from 14% in 2020 to a whopping 40% in 2021.

"This finding bolsters the hypothesis that organizations with highly developed DevOps practices had the capacity and incentive to pay significantly more to recruit and retain both managers and practitioners during a challenging job market," Puppet notes in the report. 

"This may also reflect that managers and practitioners at these companies are compensated commensurate with higher skills and experience levels, or that these companies are recruiting more senior managers and practitioners with deeper DevOps expertise."

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