Information Technology

The 5 Highest-Paying IT Careers (And the Degrees You Need to Land in Them)

The 5 Highest-Paying IT Careers (And the Degrees You Need to Land in Them)
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates that the employment of computer and information technology occupations is projected to grow 12 percent by 2028, adding about 546,200 new jobs. Image from Unsplash
Mairead Kelly profile
Mairead Kelly January 10, 2020

The industry is changing and growing at a rapid pace, creating countless opportunities for aspiring IT professionals to bring their skills to the worlds of finance, real estate, healthcare, agriculture—virtually anywhere data has value.

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If you’ve ever been within a five-block radius of an Apple store, watched a toddler intuitively playing Fruit Ninja, or completed the fairly exasperating task of teaching your parents to FaceTime, there’s an incredibly slim chance that you’re not already aware of how crucial technology is to everyday life.

It’s a reality that creates a need across just about every modern business model for information technology (IT) workers who are experts in the development, implementation, support, and management of computer-based information systems. Even for companies that rely on the most basic technology, an IT professional is on-hand to ensure it runs effectively and in alignment with the company’s needs.

With the ever-increasing number of organizations looking to implement more intuitive and advanced solutions, demand for IT professionals isn’t slowing down anytime soon. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates that the employment of computer and information technology occupations is projected to grow 12 percent by 2028, adding about 546,200 new jobs.

What’s more, in May of 2019, CompTIA and the BLS reported that the unemployment rate for technology occupations in the U.S. fell to a 20-year low of 1.3 percent. According to Tim Herbert, CompTIA’s Executive Vice President of Research and Market Intelligence, “the demand for tech talent has reached historic levels.”

The industry is changing and growing at a rapid pace, creating countless opportunities for aspiring IT professionals to bring their skills to the worlds of finance, real estate, healthcare, agriculture—virtually anywhere data has value. No matter your niche, long-term commitment, whether through an undergraduate or graduate program or on-the-job training, can sometimes mean long-term payoff, too.

Computer and Information Systems Manager

__Median annual pay: $142,530

The different types of computer and information systems managers range from chief information officer (CIO) and IT director to chief technology officer (CTO) and IT security managers. While responsibilities vary from one position to the next, computer and information systems managers are generally tasked with overseeing the computer-related activity of a company or organization. This includes working with top executives to determine its technological needs and meeting those needs by recommending and implementing types of computer hardware, software, and programs.

Whether supervising the installation of new computer hardware or the maintenance of security networks, computer and information systems managers must possess excellent communicators, particularly when explaining facets of their work to clients, managers, and co-workers who may lack technical expertise. It’s also crucial that they stay up-to-date on the latest advances and trends in computing systems, including cybersecurity, an issue that continues to gain importance as cyber-attacks become more frequent and sophisticated.

Computer information systems managers usually possess a bachelor’s degree in a subject like information systems management, information science, or computer science, though some employers may prefer managers with graduate-level degrees like a master’s degree in information systems or an MBA with a technical focus.


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Computer and Information Research Scientist

__Median annual pay: $118,370

As expert theorists in the field of computer science and information technology, computer and information research scientists are considered the innovators of solutions to computer hardware and software issues. In simple terms, these professionals invent and design new approaches to computing technology and find innovative uses for existing technology.

With the primary goal of furthering the field of computer science, much of their work has gone on to build the foundations for advancements in many types of technology, including machine learning and cloud computing.

Some computer and information research may work as part of research teams at governmental agencies, engineering firms, and private software publishers, while others may put their in-depth understanding of engineering, science, and technology to work as professors.

No matter the subfield, becoming a computer and information research scientist requires completing a Ph.D. program in a discipline like information systems, computer science, information technology, software engineering, or computer engineering.

Computer Network Architect

__Median annual pay: $109,020

Whether a business spans two offices or is a global corporation with headquarters in every major city, they’ll call on the expertise of computer network architects to design and build data communication networks to ensure their offices stay informed of each other’s work and ultimately achieve their shared goal.

Depending on the size of their organization, computer network architects are responsible for creating and implementing blueprints for data communication networks ranging from local area connections to a complex, multinational series of communication systems. They typically work with chief technology officers to decide where their organization may need networks and make the case for why it would be beneficial to pursue them.

This profession also allocates time forecasting future networking trends by analyzing current data traffic and estimating its growth. To meet the demands of the role, computer network architects must stay up-to-date with the latest developments in the field, including hardware, software, cable infrastructure technologies.

Most employers require computer network architect candidates to hold a bachelor’s degree in computer science, engineering, mathematics, physics, or a related field. Others may prefer applicants to have an MBA in information systems. Master’s degrees in information security or database design are also applicable.

Software Developer

__Median annual pay: $105,590

Software developers are the creativity behind software programs, using their technical skills to build various types of programs and modify and debug them as needed. Some software developers may focus on a specific program or app, while others tackle giant networks or underlying applications that help support other software programs.

Developers who specialize in creating consumer-centered software spend a considerable amount of time in the field understanding user needs, developing software solutions, monitoring performance, and modifying programs as needed. Those who design at the organizational level may focus on developing software for medical, military, aerospace, business, or scientific purposes, or general computing applications for corporate use.

The field of software development is complex and involves advanced knowledge in computer science and mathematics, as well as a variety of programming languages. To get started, a bachelor’s degree in computer science, software engineering, or mathematics is generally needed, along with proven computer programming and coding skills.

Some positions—especially those at prestigious tech companies like Google and Apple—may prefer applicants to have a master’s degree in software engineering or a related field.

Information Security Analyst

Median annual pay: $98,350

With the rising number of hacks and data breaches worldwide, organizations across all industries are putting significant time, money, and effort into keeping sensitive information safe from cyberattacks. To do so, they look to information security analysts to recommend policies to help protect their data from being inappropriately accessed or used.

Whereas security administrators are responsible for implementing network security systems like firewalls and data encryption, information security analysts promote security awareness. This includes identifying flaws within their organization’s security systems and recommending specific measures to create a more secure network.

They may also be tasked to develop programs to train employees on proper security protocols and serve on development teams to ensure new software and applications comply with their organization’s information security standards. Additionally, they may be responsible for creating a plan in the event of organizational data threats like severe weather or the loss of power that includes a strategy for continuing operations.

The typical first step of an information security analyst career is through a bachelor’s degree in computer science or a related subject area. After gaining experience in the field, some IT professionals may opt for an MBA in information technology, a Master of Science (MS) in Cyber Security, or a Master of Science (MS) in Software Development to boost their earning potential and land analyst positions at leading companies in the fields of technology and innovation.

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About the Editor

Tom Meltzer spent over 20 years writing and teaching for The Princeton Review, where he was lead author of the company's popular guide to colleges, before joining Noodle.

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