The world’s reliance on technology has resulted in a smorgasbord of IT jobs that relate to keeping the digital network of businesses and organizations functioning optimally. While some roles are highly specialized, others encompass a much broader scope. If your current area of expertise is essentially anything and everything, then you might want to consider one of the hottest roles on the IT job market right now — the infrastructure engineer.
In the past, IT teams tended to be quite siloed. There was a networking expert, a database specialist, a hardware guru and so on. These days, however, there is a lot more interdependence across the IT department. For example, cloud migration involves networking, storage and security issues, while DevOps brings together development, operations and testing teams.
IT managers who want to coordinate all of these different roles know they need to bring in someone with expansive IT knowledge who can interpret the big picture. That person is an infrastructure engineer.
Read on to learn more about the specifics of infrastructure engineering, including how to land this role and what type of salary you can expect to earn.
What does an infrastructure engineer do?
Infrastructure engineers are the hub of an information technology team. In that sense, they are generalists, but they also bring to the table a solid understanding of every nook and cranny of the IT department. These professionals work with the experts in each specialized function, helping to coordinate projects, remove redundancies and avoid territorial clashes.
On any given day an infrastructure engineer might work on a wide array of tasks, such as:
- Network infrastructure design
- Security policy implementation and monitoring for threats
- Site reliability testing
- Storage management, including both local storage hardware and cloud storage systems
- Virtualization, with systems such as VMware and Citrix
- Containerization, with systems such as Docker and Kubernetes
- Cloud migration, plus management of existing cloud solutions
- Web server deployment and maintenance
- Process automation
- Virtual private network (VPN) configuration and security
- Windows or Linux administration
- Local software issue repairs
- Recommendation of hardware upgrades
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg! An infrastructure engineer can get involved in literally any project or problem being worked on within the IT department.
Infrastructure engineer job description
A bachelor’s degree in a related discipline — like computer science, information technology or electrical engineering — is an advantage when applying for an infrastructure engineering position, though college education may not be an essential depending on the company you work with. Employers are typically more interested in your job history and practical experience than your academic credentials.
You’ll need to show at least three to five years of working with multiple systems in a busy production environment. Some infrastructure engineer roles may focus on a specific competency, which is usually where the existing IT department is weakest. For example, many organizations are currently dealing with cloud migrations or building big data structures. These departments may favor candidates with experience in technologies such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) or Hadoop.
Because infrastructure engineers work daily with specialists across the IT department, you must also possess excellent soft skills. Half of employers in the United States and Canada — 51 percent and 50 percent, respectively — we polled for our Jobs and AI Anxiety report, expect to see the introduction of new technologies in the workplace driving up demand for soft skills. Attributes like empathy will top the list, along with compassion and the ability to understand nuance — in other words, the skills where human workers clearly have technology beat.
As you’ll also find yourself reporting to senior management and overseeing project implementations, a background in project management or change management can be a significant asset.
Infrastructure engineering salary
Infrastructure engineer is a relatively new position in the world of IT. As such, the job definition can vary depending on the needs of an organization, meaning the salary can fluctuate, too. What you’ll earn can often depend on the complexity of the role itself.
Here are some starting salary midpoints for comparable positions from the 2019 Robert Half Technology Salary Guide:
- DevOps engineer — $110,500
- Network security engineer — $118,000
- Site reliability engineer — $118,500
- Network engineer — $108,750
- Systems engineer — $103,000
How can you improve your infrastructure engineering resume?
Infrastructure engineer is a mid-level career position. Most people in this role have extensive practical experience in a hands-on environment, and they may progress to become system architects, infrastructure consultants or even chief information officers. If this career track interests you, some positions that can help you gain the experience you need include:
- Systems administrator
- Network administrator
- Tech support specialist
- Computer operator
- Windows administrator
- Virtualization technician
One way to gain experience in these roles is by working as an interim project professional where you are exposed to many different areas as you rotate from client to client. If you don’t want to leave your company at this point in your career, ask your manager for the opportunity to work on large and challenging projects such as a cloud migration. This will provide you with a chance to work with new technologies and benefit from the knowledge of experts outside of your immediate team.
Certifications are another great way to amp up your resume. There are several IT designations that can help you stand out when applying for an infrastructure engineer job, such as:
- Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA)
- CompTIA A+
- IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL)
- Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE): Core Infrastructure
- VMware Certified Professional
- Citrix Certified Professional
- AWS Certified Solution Architect
And remember, not all experience needs to be enterprise level. You can challenge yourself to complete projects for fun or participate in local hackathons, which are also a great way to network and find out about infrastructure engineer job opportunities in your area.