How to Specialize from Software Engineer to Cloud Developer

Jess Feldman

Written By Jess Feldman

Liz Eggleston

Edited By Liz Eggleston

Last updated on May 15, 2024

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Cloud Development is a crucial part of the tech ecosystem. But how can a software engineer specialize into cloud development? Ryan Brodsky of General Assembly explains the differences between cloud development and software engineering, and what it takes to launch a cloud development career whether you’re pivoting from engineering or just graduating from a coding bootcamp. Plus, find out how General Assembly is helping recent bootcamp grads stand out in the tech job pool with their new self-paced Career Modules for Cloud Development, DevOps, and UX Engineer! 

Meet the Expert: Ryan Brodsky

  • Ryan has worked at General Assembly as an education content manager where he helped iterate the Software Engineering bootcamp curriculum.
  • Ryan now works as a campus manager advocating for students and making sure their needs are met.

On the Job: Software Engineer vs Cloud Developer

Software engineering is a very broad term for a technical career that may include building software, web apps, and/or websites. Software Engineers and Cloud Developers may have overlapping responsibilities, but typically Software Engineers are focused on building in-house tools and applications, while Cloud Developers take the long-view on the project to assess the right configuration. 

Cloud Developers focus on determining the right configuration of an external resource for a project and ensuring the connections to them are secure and functional. Cloud developers take the big picture view on a project to understand the kinds of decisions that need to be made when it comes to external resources. Senior-level cloud developers make big decisions around what an application will look like, what gets outsourced to the cloud, how to connect to it, and when to implement this strategy. Junior-level cloud developers will be implementing these decisions and figuring out the little details.

Software Engineer vs Cloud Developer Salaries 

According to, the salary range for a Cloud Security Engineer is between $75K-$119K, with the majority of Cloud Security Engineers making around $96K. lists the salaries for Software Engineer I being between $57K-$86K, with the average Software Engineer I salary being $75K. 

With that in mind, by adding cloud engineering knowledge to your software engineering skillset, you should be able to tack on around $20K more to your annual salary!

How to Pivot from Software Engineering to Cloud Engineering

Switching to cloud development is easier for a junior developer looking to break into the field. It may be more difficult for people further in their careers who expect to maintain their seniority while making the switch to cloud development. To remain at a senior-level, these individuals would need to know senior-level details about the field and would have to learn a lot on their own if they didn’t want to take a more junior role.

3 Skills & Tools You Need to Pivot into Cloud Development

Software engineers will have a firm grasp of the fundamentals of programming, including at least one programming language like JavaScript, knowledge of CSS and HTML, control flow, algorithms, data structures, and the modern frameworks for web development. Pivoting into cloud development, developers first need to choose a major provider like AWS or Azure and become familiar with their full suite of offerings. These cloud providers will share similarities across their technologies. 

Getting into cloud development means being comfortable with making bigger software architecture decisions. Developers will need to learn more about the tradeoffs of each decision they make for a product, like when to use a cloud resource instead of building your own. This kind of thinking can get more into the business-side than the programming side. 

Microservices is becoming a trend in cloud development. Cloud engineers think about how different components of an application should be connected and so they may create microservices for bigger applications. This may require splitting small pieces of functionality into their own application. 

Qualifications of a Cloud Developer

Cloud engineering may appeal to business or consultant-oriented individuals since much of the role can concern business decisions and scaling. There are Cloud Development Consultants whose sole job it is to look at how a company is using its cloud resources and figure out how to optimize efficiency. In that case, it’s not even necessary to be programming in many cases — you just need to know the patterns of software architecture and know how to link them with the business cases. It’s great to know enough about programming to answer these questions, but it’s most important that you can advise without being the programmer.

Cloud providers have their own internally developed credentials, such as the Microsoft Azure Developer certification, that indicate someone is qualified to implement these systems. While these certifications aren’t required, they can show you’re serious about that particular subset of application development. At General Assembly, we help prepare students for the Microsoft Azure Developer certification in our Cloud Development career module. 

Can recent grads become cloud developers right after coding bootcamp?

Going into cloud development right after a coding bootcamp like General Assembly is similar to going into software engineering, since cloud development is really just a subset of software engineering. Beginners can get bogged down thinking they need all the technical skills to launch their cloud development career, but specific technical skills aren’t nearly as important as having the mindset of a programmer, which is being able to tackle new problems with the tools in your toolbox as well as knowing how to learn new ones.

In bootcamp, students will often pick technologies that take care of a lot of logistic hurdles and scaling issues and that’s often cloud technology. For bootcamp students, learning to integrate cloud resources isn’t going to be a huge paradigm shift. It’s just like another API for them — They will understand how to use APIs to offload logistics and infrastructure as opposed to building it themselves and trying to let the app connect to internal resources.

Learning Cloud Development at General Assembly

One of the most common questions I get as a bootcamp instructor is, What do I learn next? With that in mind, we’ve created a set of Career Modules for our recent coding bootcamp graduates so they can continue to add to their skill set while on the job hunt. The Career Modules are designed to be 20 hours of full-time effort and students can choose between three, in-demand career areas: Cloud Development, UX Engineer, or DevOps. 

These modules are self-guided and project-based. They’re totally optional, but we’ve also built-in them as an option for a capstone project if students want to focus on the module during the final week of class. Alumni maintain access to these modules so they can continue to explore and add to their knowledge base. 

Is there an extra fee to complete the Career Modules?

There isn’t any additional fee to participate, you automatically get access to them as a student.

What will students learn in the Cloud Development Career Module?

The Cloud Developer Module has students refactor five or six parts of an app they built during the bootcamp to use cloud-based resources on Azure. They’ll also learn how to use a cloud-hosted database; how to use cloud image storage to link profile pictures to user accounts; and hosting their application using an Azure cloud-based resource.

Does the Cloud Development Career Module prepare students for certification exams?

General Assembly designed this module with the Azure certification in mind, and students have successfully passed to gain these certifications. 

How does completing General Assembly’s Career Modules help set bootcamp graduates apart in the tech  job pool?

These modules help to distinguish new graduates in the job market. When a recruiter is looking for a UX engineer and they see many resumes from full stack developers and a single resume from an UX engineer, they’re more likely to follow up with that UX engineer. They know that person is focusing their efforts and going to be interested in the work the manager gives them. 

Since students revise an older bootcamp project using the new tools and skills they learn in the career modules, students will be able to tell potential employers a story about how they’ve grown. Being able to present a single project with multiple versions can be much more appealing to potential employers. 

Find out more and read General Assembly reviews on Course Report. This article was produced by the Course Report team in partnership with General Assembly for their Software Engineering Bootcamp.

About The Author

Jess Feldman

Jess Feldman

Jess Feldman is an accomplished writer and the Content Manager at Course Report, the leading platform for career changers who are exploring coding bootcamps. With a background in writing, teaching, and social media management, Jess plays a pivotal role in helping Course Report readers make informed decisions about their educational journey.

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