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How to Become a Site Reliability Engineer

Site reliability engineering is a relatively new field in the tech industry. To know how to become a site reliability engineer, you need to have the experience and expertise necessary to design software, automate operations, and ensure the reliability of system tools and servers.

If you love the idea of designing software, developing high-level automation, and preventing system malfunctions to ensure that users get satisfaction from visiting sites, then site reliability engineering (SRE) is the career for you.

What Is a Site Reliability Engineer?

A site reliability engineer is someone who applies the principles of software engineering to solve problems associated with system development, operations, and management. 

Site reliability engineers write code and design software applications. They also build and maintain system tools and devices. They aim to ensure efficiency and reliability in design, cost, and performance, with the ultimate goal of optimizing the user experience.

Site Reliability Engineer Job Description

Site reliability engineering is concerned with writing scripts and creating software applications that improve the performance and reliability of systems. It involves applying a software engineering mindset to systems engineering and infrastructure automation. 

Site reliability engineers also provide real-time assistance to customers. Finally, they work with information technology (IT) and DevOps engineers on matters associated with the structure and performance of computer systems and servers.

Site Reliability Engineer Salary and Job Outlook

Although the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) doesn’t have specific data for this branch of computer engineering, BLS places the median annual salary of computer hardware engineers at $119,560. BLS also projects that jobs for these professionals will increase by two percent by 2029, which is lower than average. 

According to ZipRecruiter, the average site reliability engineer makes $130,021 per year. This impressive average salary is higher than the averages for most other computer engineering roles. As an added bonus, it has industry novelty. Since Ben Treynor Sloss introduced Google Site Reliability Engineering (Google SRE) in 2003, it has only grown in relevance.

Top Reasons to Become a Site Reliability Engineer in 2021

We have compiled four reasons why you should get into the SRE field sooner rather than later.

  • It is an in-demand job role. There is a steady rise in the adoption of SRE roles. According to research by the DevOps Institute, adoption grew from 10 percent in 2019 to 15 percent in 2020.
  • They are an integral part of systems development and operation. Without SREs, most companies would experience a steady decline in user experience and engagement.
  • High starting salary. As of 2021, ZipRecruiter places the salary for entry-level site reliability engineers at $72,872
  • Long-term relevance. The SRE field is projected to experience further growth in the future because of the necessity of and demand for its job functions.

Site Reliability Engineer Job Requirements

The SRE role requires a high level of proficiency in both software development and systems administration. We’ve compiled a more comprehensive list of requirements below.

  • Designing application software. SREs write code and design software applications that ensure the reliability of systems and sites. 
  • Managing systems and servers. A major part of their role is to maintain the optimal performance and operation of systems and servers.
  • Assisting other engineers. SREs provide real-time assistance to other computer engineers. As such, they are key members of DevOps teams. In addition to reporting to the senior DevOps engineer, they collaborate with other members of the team to protect systems and servers.
  • Providing customer service. SREs also work in help centers to provide support to users in fixing bugs and other site-related issues.

Types of Site Reliability Engineering Careers

There are opportunities for site reliability engineers to specialize in a specific area. This helps them define their work and job functions. Below is a list of professionals who can integrate search reliability engineering into their work.

Software Engineers as SREs

These SREs write scripts and design software applications that ensure the reliability of systems and sites. They do this with the company’s customers in mind, ensuring that their products are user-friendly.

Systems Engineers as SREs

These SREs build hardware tools and infrastructures. They also ensure the smooth running of software on complex systems. They automate system tools and operations to facilitate their work processes. They have in-depth knowledge of operating systems and server-side technologies.

Network Specialists as SREs

These SREs are concerned with maintaining networks and connectivities. They build firewalls and design VPN connections. They protect sensitive information from being intercepted by foreign agents by designing software that prevents security breaches. 

Database Administrators as SREs

They are responsible for building and designing database schemas. They maintain the security of data and database software, structure data storage and organization processes, and ensure the easy accessibility of data files in complex computer systems.

Site Reliability Engineer Meaning: What Does a Site Reliability Engineer Do?

The job of a site reliability engineer is never-ending. Most people confuse their role with that of a development operations (DevOps) engineer. Their job functions are vastly different but complementary. Check out the list of job functions below.

Designs Software Applications

The job of an SRE includes providing real-time assistance to other IT professionals and support teams. One of the ways they do this is by writing code and designing software applications.

Builds System Hardware

They build and install system hardware and infrastructures. They also ensure that software runs smoothly on the system.  

Automates System Operations

Site reliability engineers are responsible for software automation. They develop tools and techniques like build triggers and service level indicators that enable them to measure the performance of systems, servers, and sites. 

Maintains Site Reliability

The primary function of a site reliability engineer is to ensure site and service reliability. They perform this role by implementing strategies that will enable them to detect critical incidents, assess potential threat levels, and ensure an immediate incident response.

Essential Site Reliability Engineering Skills

To become a top-notch site reliability engineer, there are certain skills you should equip yourself with. We have compiled some of these skills for you below.

Coding Expertise

SREs should be comfortable writing code and scripts to create reliable systems. They should be skilled in foundational technologies like JavaScript, Java, troubleshooting, and new-age programming languages like Scala, Ruby, and Golang.

Full Stack Proficiency

SREs should be fluent in using front end and backend programming languages. They must understand databases and how to maintain servers and applications. They should be natural detectives, inquisitive, ready to investigate and solve a problem. 

Software Automation 

Not all processes require human intervention. By automating essential operating processes, the efficiency and reliability of operating systems and sites will be heightened. 

How Long Does It Take to Become a Site Reliability Engineer?

Depending on the education path you choose, it could take between three months and four years to become a site reliability engineer. If you were to go through college on a full-time or part-time basis, it could take you three to six years. After graduating, you’d need to gain practical experience in the field. 

However, if you were to attend a coding bootcamp or vocational school that offers courses in software or systems engineering, it would take you two to nine months, depending on the intensity of the curriculum. At the end of the course, you’ll be awarded a certificate and receive job placement help. 

Can a Coding Bootcamp Help Me Become a Site Reliability Engineer?

Yes, it can. An integral part of being a site reliability engineer is knowing how to code and how to design software applications, as well as how to assess and resolve cyber threats. These are skills that coding bootcamps offer you.  

Coding bootcamps can help you become fully equipped in full stack technologies. Some coding bootcamps also offer focused training in site reliability engineering. You don’t have to be a college graduate to build a rewarding career in SRE.

Can I Become a Site Reliability Engineer from Home?

Yes, you can. Most colleges and bootcamps offer training and classes remotely. You don’t have to be physically present to learn new skills. Also, most site reliability engineering jobs can be done remotely, as is the case with many tech careers.

How to Become a Site Reliability Engineer: A Step-by-Step Guide

There are conscious efforts and steps you can take to ensure you achieve your career goals. We have compiled a step-by-step guide to get you on the right track to achieving your dream.

Step 1: Get the Knowledge

The first step to becoming a site reliability engineer is to gain higher education in computer engineering or site reliability engineering. You can acquire this knowledge and certificate through a college, bootcamp, or professional course.

Step 2: Gain the Experience

Once you graduate with a degree or certificate in engineering, you can proceed to secure a job in this field. The advantage of gaining hands-on experience cannot be overstated. Not only will it expose you to a world of options, but it will also help you develop your skillset.

Step 3: Choose a Specialization

Site reliability engineering is a broad category. You’ll need to specialize in a particular aspect. This could depend on the aspect your company requires since that will be the product you’re optimizing.  

Best Schools and Education for a Site Reliability Engineer Career

There are a handful of schools and educational pathways that you can go through to gain the necessary skills you need to succeed in a site reliability engineering career. We have compiled a couple of channels you can go through to achieve this dream. 

Site Reliability Engineering Bootcamps

Site reliability engineering requires an understanding of technical skills to operate systems and networks. Bootcamps like Flatiron School, Thinkful, and Kenzie Academy offer focused training in software development and systems operation, automation and tools, and SRE best practices.

Vocational School

Vocational schools provide a solid foundation in the principles and practices of software engineering and SRE. Here, you’ll learn how to improve the stability and performance of systems and applications. 

Vocational schools provide intensive training and certifications in different aspects of site reliability engineering. Some include systems administration, service architecture, and incident management.

Community College

Community colleges offer students the opportunity to gain relevant knowledge and training in site reliability engineering. These cost-effective colleges are a viable option if you want to pursue an associate degree in site reliability engineering, but don’t have very many resources or very much time to do so. 

Site Reliability Engineering Degrees

Most students who choose to pursue a career in site reliability engineering attend a bachelor’s degree program. There are a handful of universities that offer degrees in SRE. Examples include Texas A&M University, Purdue University, and Michigan Technology University. These degrees provide you with practical skills to pursue profitable careers.

The Most Important Site Reliability Engineer Certifications

Most site reliability engineering professional certificates require that the candidate has some sort of higher education, work experience, or training after their high school education. These recommended programs require the certificate to be renewed after a specific period of time.

Certified Maintenance & Reliability Professional (CMRP)

This certification equips you with the knowledge, skillset, and expertise needed to succeed as a site reliability engineer. The certificate is gained after an intensive examination, measured by industry standards.  

IBM Certified Professional SRE

This certification validates the holder as a professional who knows how to combine automation, DevOps principles, proactive maintenance, and rigorous troubleshooting for the IBM Cloud. 

GSDC’s SRE Foundation Certification

This professional certification from the Global Skill Development Council guarantees that the holder has extensive knowledge of the principles and practices that allow an organization to reliably and economically scale critical services. It covers the evolution of SRE and schools students on its future relevance.

How to Prepare for Your Site Reliability Engineer Job Interview

You should watch out for both technical and strategic questions. Some of the interview topics that might be covered in your interview include system design, system security, Linux systems, networking, observability, and databases.

Site Reliability Engineer Job Interview Practice Questions

  • How does SRE differ from DevOps in terms of job role and skill set? 
  • Explain the meanings of SLO, SLA, and SLI.
  • Describe the difference between processes and threads.
  • Why is site reliability engineering the right path for you?

Should I Become a Site Reliability Engineer in 2021?

Site reliability engineering is a relatively new field in software engineering and IT. It’s very lucrative because it’s yet to be saturated. If you want to get started in computer engineering, look no further than site reliability engineering and take advantage of the profitable careers in this field.


Can You Become a Site Reliability Engineer Without a Degree?
Yes, you can. You don’t have to be a college graduate to become a site reliability engineer. There are professional courses and certifications to help you get started.
Is It Hard to Become a Site Reliability Engineer?
No, it is not. It is the same as any other field. Becoming a site reliability engineer requires discipline, interest, and willingness to keep learning and embracing change.
What Does a Site Reliability Engineer Do?
A site reliability engineer (SRE) deals with large-scale systems and cloud infrastructure. They ensure systems are reliable and scalable. SREs maintain network connectivity and data structure systems. They also protect operating systems from external attacks, like viruses and hackers.
Is Site Reliability Engineering a Good Job?
Yes, it is. A site reliability engineer deals with sensitive and integral aspects of a system, server, and site. Companies depend on these professionals to ensure their systems are reliable and scalable. The pay is very encouraging, higher than many tech fields.
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