“cloud architects earn between $140,000 and $150,000” per year. I’ve paid more and less, depending on where the architect lives. However, a good cloud architect can make as much as $250,000 with proper experience and a proven track record of success. 

Many may scoff at “proven track record” because cloud-based resources are relatively new, and configuring those resources to form the optimum solution is a still-evolving science. Although that’s true, those who have a knack for cloud architecture are now rising to the top. In most cases, having the cream of the crop on staff could save $10 million to $100 million dollars per year in otherwise misplaced cloud and IT investments. 

Good cloud architects are scarce because they wear so many hats. They need to be well versed in security and governance, expert in public and private cloud solutions, as well as very knowledgeable about traditional IT—all at the same time. In other words, a Jack (or Jill) of all trades.

The message to those who plan to obtain an IT-related college degree is similar to advice to aspiring doctors: The way you make the big bucks is to specialize. That’s why we see more “architects” out there who hold major public cloud certifications that typically focus on a single public cloud. They might be good at walking a business problem through an AWS, Google, or Microsoft approach, but the likelihood that the solution is optimal and best of breed is very low.

As a side note, I make a living by tearing those solutions apart to find out why they’re not living up to expectations. This usually involves pointing at all the best practices and best solutions, cloud or not, that were not considered. That lack of insight is why many proposed target solutions cost much more than they should and don’t often solve the business problem, in part or in whole. When I or someone else with my skill set does not review proposed solutions, the plan goes into production and the odds increase exponentially that the implementation will be labeled a failure rather than a success.

The bottom line is that we now have a bit of a crisis: There’s not enough true cloud architecture talent to go around. We need talent that has a mix of old and new skills, cloud-based and not. Most important, good cloud architects need to become ferociously self-taught in order to make key calls as to what technology will help and what technology will hinder. 

If you can find those people, hire them for whatever the market will bear. The alternative includes costly mistakes, many of which you won’t know about until you’re down the rabbit hole and it’s too late to get a second opinion.