Essential Guide to the Highest Paying IT Careers

If you’re looking to build a career in information technology, you’re probably motivated by a desire to spend each day doing work you enjoy while also earning a decent living. Well, we’ve got good news: IT careers are among the highest-paying sectors in today’s workplace economy.

Let’s start with the median salary for “Computer and Information Technology Occupations,” as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)— $86,320.

That’s more than double the BLS’ median annual wage for all occupations. But we suspect you’re already aware that information technology is a high-paying field, and that you don’t have to be a Silicon Valley tech genius who bypassed college and started some game-changing software company to carve out a terrific career in IT (though “uber-wealthy tech entrepreneur” does kind of have a nice ring to it).

IT Careers and the ‘Information Revolution’

Before we talk more about the information technology career outlook, IT salary ranges and top-paying jobs — let’s pause to consider the extraordinary impact that the Information Revolution is having both on our world and on our everyday lives.

Here in the Information Age, practically everything we do is connected to breakthroughs in computer science and information technology. Business, entertainment, commerce, communication, transportation, health care, science and engineering — everything from finding a job to finding your soulmate — is being revolutionized through the wonders of information technology.

Both culturally and economically, advanced IT is the data-driven, driving force behind tectonic changes on a global scale, as the world we live in becomes ever more “connected.” From the high-powered computers (phones) that we keep in our pockets, to the ever-growing ecosystem of devices and databases, servers and software, websites and apps, it seems like the Internet of Things expands by a million more “things” every single day. So it is not surprising that the information technology career landscape is expanding rapidly as well.

IT Career Paths [Sub-Specialties and Top Employers]

Of course, there are many areas of specialty within the wide world of information technology. From cybersecurity, programming and web development to robotics, video game design and artificial intelligence, the possibilities are nearly limitless, with positions spanning the career spectrum from entry-level to executive track. Here is just a partial list some of the notable specialties within IT:

  • Applications development
  • Networking/telecommunications
  • Information and cybersecurity
  • Software development
  • Technical services/support
  • Database administration
  • Network administration
  • Computer animation
  • Artificial intelligence
  • Robotics engineering
  • Graphic design
  • Video game design
  • AutoCAD design
  • Systems analysis
  • Marketing
  • Programming
  • Project management
  • C-level (chief information officer, etc.)

And since information technology now encompasses every sector of the economy, top employers across nearly all industries are on the lookout for IT talent. Companies that regularly make the lists of top IT employers include:

  • Accenture
  • Adobe
  • Apple
  • Capital One
  • Cengage
  • Cisco
  • Cognizant
  • Deloitte
  • Expedia
  • Facebook
  • Goldman Sachs
  • Google
  • Hewlett-Packard
  • HubSpot
  • Intel
  • LinkedIn
  • Microsoft
  • NVIDIA
  • Salesforce
  • Ultimate Software
  • Workday
  • World Wide Technology

IT Career Outlook, Jobs and Salary Ranges

Let’s take a closer look at a handful of some of the most common IT jobs — with job descriptions, educational requirements and median salary compiled by the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics:

Computer and Information Research Scientists – $118,370

Computer and information research scientists invent and design new approaches to computing technology and find innovative uses for existing technology. They study and solve complex problems in computing for business, medicine, science and other fields. Master’s degree.

Computer Network Architects – $109,020

Computer network architects design and build data communication networks, including local area networks (LANs), wide area networks (WANs) and Intranets. These networks range from small connections between two offices to next-generation networking capabilities such as a cloud infrastructure that serves multiple customers. Bachelor’s degree.

Computer Programmers – $84,280

Computer programmers write and test code that allows computer applications and software programs to function properly. They turn the program designs created by software developers and engineers into instructions that a computer can follow. Bachelor’s degree.

Computer Support Specialists – $53,470

Computer support specialists provide help and advice to computer users and organizations. These specialists either support computer networks or they provide technical assistance directly to computer users.

Computer Systems Analysts – $88,740

Computer systems analysts, sometimes called systems architects, study an organization’s current computer systems and procedures, and design solutions to help the organization operate more efficiently and effectively. They bring business and information technology (IT) together by understanding the needs and limitations of both. Bachelor’s degree.

Database Administrators – $90,070

Database administrators (DBAs) use specialized software to store and organize data, such as financial information and customer shipping records. They make sure that data are available to users and secure from unauthorized access. Bachelor’s degree.

Information Security Analysts – $98,350

Information security analysts plan and carry out security measures to protect an organization’s computer networks and systems. Their responsibilities are continually expanding as the number of cyberattacks increases. Bachelor’s degree.

Network and Computer Systems Administrators – $82,050

Computer networks are critical parts of almost every organization. Network and computer systems administrators are responsible for the day-to-day operation of these networks. Bachelor’s degree.

Software Developers – $105,590

Software developers are the creative minds behind computer programs. Some develop the applications that allow people to do specific tasks on a computer or another device. Others develop the underlying systems that run the devices or that control networks. Bachelor’s degree.

Web Developers – $69,430

Web developers design and create websites. They are responsible for the look of the site. They are also responsible for the site’s technical aspects, such as its performance and capacity, which are measures of a website’s speed and how much traffic the site can handle. In addition, web developers may create content for the site. Associate degree.

Interested in video game design, robotics or computer animation? Here are several more select information technology jobs from ITCareerFinder.com:

Video Game Designer

For gaming enthusiasts, a career as a video game designer may sound like a dream come true. But nowadays it can be a realistic one; the U.S. Dept. of Labor projects that video game designer employment will grow 30% in the coming decade. Depending on your interests and skill sets, video game designer jobs typically fall into one of three categories: game artist, game designer and game programmer. According to recent surveys, many video game designers with 6+ years of experience earn over $100,000 per year. See more video game designer career info here.

Robotics Engineer

The use of advance robotics is expanding across many sectors, from manufacturing and medical science to agriculture, the military and the automotive industry. The job involves augmenting the human workforce by developing robots that can execute key tasks faster, safer and more cost effectively than humans. Notable skill areas include: engineering the blueprints, hands-on construction and research and development. See salary data and additional robotics engineer career info here.

Computer Animator

Create dazzling animations for film, television, websites, video games, mobile apps and more as a computer animator. The world of what is possible in computer animation has evolved dramatically, making this an exciting and potentially lucrative career path for creative artists with the right technical skills, including many opportunities to be your own boss. See salary data and more computer animator career info here.

The Best Paying IT Jobs

OK, while it’s no secret that information technology careers are a great way to get ahead financially, the cutting-edge work being done in certain critical disciplines commands even higher compensation. Take cyber security and information security, for example. The stakes are so high in this area that a chief information security officer (CISO) in the Bay Area can earn $380,000.

BusinessInsider.com lists the following 10 high-paying IT jobs, with salaries ranging between $130,000 and $164,000:

  • Information security engineer — $131,300
  • DevOps engineer — $137,400
  • Enterprise architect — $144,400
  • Technical program manager — $145,000
  • Software architect — $145,400
  • Applications architect — $149,000
  • Infrastructure architect — $153,000
  • Software development manager — $153,300
  • Data warehouse architect — $154,800
  • Software engineering manager — $163,500

And don’t forget “big data.” Now that businesses have fingertip access to infinitely more data than ever before, they are investing in people with the skills to develop systems that transform that data into “actionable information for strategy-setting, decision-making and innovation,” according to global human resource consulting firm Robert Half, which reports the median salary for big data engineers is $155,500.

IT Career Advice [Certifications, Education, Etc.]

Whether you’re launching an IT career by searching for entry-level jobs, looking to advance to a higher-level role or seeking to switch to a new specialty, here are a few job search tips and best practices for IT professionals.

Earn a Certification

Relevant work experience is the gold standard, but the IT industry has a wealth of certification opportunities, the best of which demonstrate that you possess advanced skills and a commitment to learning. The wide variety of certifications means you can gain skills that are highly relevant to your areas of interest or even to specific jobs you aspire to. Here is a quick rundown of some of the most valuable IT certifications.

Do Some Networking

Attending industry conferences (physically or in some cases virtually), linking in to relevant groups on LinkedIn, joining industry associations, participating in local/regional events, reaching out for informational interviews — these are all great ways to make important contacts, sharpen your people skills and boost your profile as an IT professional.

Complete an Internship

For entry-level IT professionals, internships don’t have to be at Apple or Google to be immensely valuable as a way to gain experience and build your skill sets. Especially helpful if you’re just starting out, IT internships are a great way to build your confidence as well as your resume.

Tailor Your Resume

Speaking of your resume, a little extra work goes a long way when it comes to differentiating yourself from the competition in the eyes of potential employers. You may dream of being a video game designer; but if you’re applying for a job as a web developer, develop a customized version of your resume that is tailored to the position.

Prepare For The Interview

This means doing your homework to know the organization you’re applying to and the market it competes in. Demonstrating such knowledge marks you as bright, diligent and motivated. The same goes for knowing the technical requirements of the position and demonstrating your aptitude for the skill sets required to succeed on the job.

IT Degree Options [Earning Your Master’s Degree Online]

Information technology is well-known to be one of those fields where you don’t need a degree to be successful. And sure, there are plenty of programming pros who’ve dropped out of high school, honed complex skills that for some reason come easy to them and jumped straight into a high-paying career at tech giant that serves free poké bowls and seared scallops for lunch.

But that’s obviously not a realistic pathway for everyone. And as the IT jobs landscape continues to get more competitive, having an academic degree in a sought-after specialty is likely to give you a competitive edge — just as it does in countless other careers.

Among the many other helpful advancements in information technology, it is now easier than ever to earn an IT master’s degree online. For example, the University of Cincinnati offers an online MS in Information Technology that is rated one of the best in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Featuring robust curriculum in many of the areas discussed above, the program enables you to work on a flexible schedule and earn your degree in as little as one year.

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