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Top careers in information technology

The technology sector continues to grow. Tech professionals earn high salaries. It's a good time to launch a career in information technology.

Information technology careers require strong technical and business skills. IT professionals work closely with businesses to understand their computing and technology needs. They then design custom computing solutions. Within the field of IT, professionals specialize in areas like information security, database administration, and information management.

With strong job growth and high salaries, the tech sector attracts many job seekers. But how can you launch a career in IT? Most IT jobs require a bachelor's degree with coursework in systems analysis, database management, and computer operations. Many IT professionals also study business to diversify their skills. 

This article introduces the top careers in information technology. People considering IT careers can use the list to learn more about the earning potential, job duties, and educational requirements for different IT career paths. 

Job outlook for IT professionals

IT professionals benefit from a strong career outlook. Computer and information technology jobs continue to outperform other fields in terms of IT salaries and growth. In May 2020, for example, tech professionals earned a median salary of $91,250 per year. Recent job projection data projects 13% job growth in computer and information technology occupations from 2020-2030.

In addition to above-average salaries and high demand, IT professionals can choose a variety of career paths with a bachelor's in information technology. Many high-paying IT jobs offer career advancement opportunities and the ability to shift career paths. In addition, developers and engineers continue to benefit from strong demand

With a positive job outlook, IT represents one of the best career investments for prospective employees. 

Top careers in IT

Within IT, professionals work in many areas, including information systems management, cybersecurity, and software development. What are the best careers in IT? This list introduces some of the top-paying information technology jobs. After learning about the top IT careers, check out the best computer science jobs.

We identified the top careers in IT for 2021 using salary and projected job growth rate data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Computer and information systems managers

  • Median annual salary: $151,150
  • Job growth (2020-2030): 11%

Computer and information systems managers oversee IT professionals and direct the technology-related activities for an organization. They manage teams that protect network security, install new software, and organize databases. Common job titles include IT manager and chief information officer

Most computer and information systems managers hold a bachelor's degree and several years of professional experience. Some employers prefer candidates with a master's degree. Depending on their focus area, computer and information systems managers may study information technology management or management information systems. 

Computer and information research scientists

  • Median annual salary: $126,830
  • Job growth (2020-2030): 22%

Computer and information research scientists research problems that technology can solve. They develop new uses for existing technology and build new technologies, including new computing languages. Computer and information research scientists also run experiments on computer operations and work closely with other technology professionals to solve computing problems.

Most employers require a master's degree for computer and information research scientist jobs. A master's in computer science, information systems, computer engineering, or a related field typically meets the requirement. 

Computer network architects

  • Median annual salary: $116,780
  • Job growth (2020-2030): 5%

Computer network architects design communication networks for organizations. From small networks to cloud computing platforms, computer network architects create custom data communication systems. In addition to technical skills, they bring business training to evaluate an organization's needs and create a network that serves those needs.

Most computer network architects hold a bachelor's degree in fields like computer science or information systems. They also study network security, database administration, and systems administration.

Software developers

  • Median annual salary: $110,140
  • Job growth (2020-2030): 22%

Software developers design and improve software programs. They develop new software based on user needs and upgrade software to incorporate new technology or add functionalities. Software developers work closely with a team of software engineers, testers, and programmers to build software programs. 

While building software, developers must closely track each step of the process to allow for maintenance or upgrades. Most software developers hold a bachelor's degree in computer science or information technology. 

Software quality assurance analysts and testers

  • Median annual salary: $110,140
  • Job growth (2020-2030): 22%

Software quality assurance analysts and testers review software programs and identify problems. They conduct tests to reveal defects and errors. Software quality assurance analysts and testers then report issues to software developers and software engineers. In addition to identifying defects, they review a software program's functionality and user experience. 

Career paths in software quality assurance and testing typically require a bachelor's degree in information technology, computer science, or a closely related field. 

Information security analysts

  • Median annual salary: $103,590
  • Job growth (2020-2030): 33%

Information security analysts implement security systems to protect private data from cyberattacks. They investigate security breaches to prevent future attacks. Information security analysts also conduct simulated attacks to identify weaknesses. As cybersecurity specialists, they must research security trends, create standards for organizations, and recommend security upgrades.

Entry-level information security analyst jobs typically require a bachelor's degree and several years of IT experience. The role also requires strong problem-solving and analytical skills.

Database administrators

  • Median annual salary: $98,860
  • Job growth (2020-2030): 8%

Database administrators oversee data storage and security systems. They maintain databases that store health information, financial records, or retail transactions. Database administrators design custom databases, restore lost data, and train authorized users to access the database. Other job titles include database architect or database engineer.

Careers in database administration typically require a bachelor's degree in information technology or a related field. Professionals also need strong analytical skills and the ability to communicate and work collaboratively. 

Computer systems analysts

  • Median annual salary: $93,730
  • Job growth (2020-2030): 7%

Computer systems analysts evaluate an organization's computing systems to create more efficient and effective procedures. Drawing on IT and business knowledge, computer systems analysts evaluate an organization's IT needs, research upgrades, and design new systems. Common job titles include systems architect or IT analyst. 

Most computer systems analyst jobs require a bachelor's degree and information technology training. The field requires strong technical abilities as well as effective communication skills. 

Computer programmers

  • Median annual salary: $89,190
  • Job growth (2020-2030): -10%

Computer programmers write code to run software programs. Working closely with software developers and software engineers, programmers test the code to make sure it functions as expected. Programmers then identify and correct mistakes. Computer programmers specialize in many programming languages, including Python, C++, and Java.

Many computer programming jobs require a bachelor's degree. Some employers hire candidates without a bachelor's degree who complete a bootcamp or other programming training. Careers in computer programming require a detail-oriented outlook and strong analytical and troubleshooting skills.

Network and computer systems administrators

  • Median annual salary: $84,810
  • Job growth (2020-2030): 5%

Network and computer systems administrators design and monitor computer networks for organizations. They build networks to transfer and protect data. Network and computer systems administrators also install and upgrade hardware and software. Other common job titles include information systems manager, IT specialist, or LAN specialist.

A bachelor's degree represents the most common entry-level education requirement. Most employers prefer candidates with a degree in information technology, computer science, or a related field. The career path requires strong analytical and problem-solving skills.

What makes a career in information technology great?

Information technology careers can be lucrative and rewarding. Professionals in the computing and technology field earn a median annual salary of over $91,000 per year –– more than double the national median salary of around $42,000 per year. 

In addition to IT salaries, tech professionals point to the growing number of remote work opportunities, the ability to contribute to technological innovations, and job perks as benefits of the IT field. When researching jobs, prospective IT professionals should consider salary, job openings, and entry-level requirements. But you can also factor in work/life balance, social responsibility, and sustainability in a job search.

Is IT right for you?

Careers in IT offer high salaries and growth opportunities. But IT does not appeal to everyone. Before pursuing a career in IT, think carefully about your strengths and weaknesses. IT professionals need more than technical skills. Then, consider your career goals. This section looks at the pros and cons of a career in IT. 

Link to: IT jobs: Five key skills you'll need to make it to the top

Advantages

The information technology field offers many advantages for employees. According to BLS data, computer and information technology careers will grow much faster than other occupations. The field also offers a median salary of more than double the national median salary.

IT also offers several other benefits. Many IT career paths provide opportunities to advance or move into different specialties. By signing up for IT bootcamps or pursuing an IT certification, professionals can add to their skill set and demonstrate their mastery in their specialty area. And organizations in diverse sectors rely on information technology professionals. That means IT professionals benefit from many possible options on the job market.

Outside of technology skills, professionals require strong problem-solving and communication skills to thrive in IT. A detail-oriented outlook also helps tech professionals. With a mix of hard and soft skills, technology professionals can advance their careers in IT. 

Challenges

IT jobs come with several challenges. First, IT careers require strong technical and computing skills. Some people struggle to master the programming and technology skills while earning IT degrees or attending IT bootcamps. Similarly, tech professionals must constantly expand their information technology skills to remain current in the field. They must be able to learn new technologies or techniques throughout their career.

After entering the technology field, professionals rely on their communication skills. Many careers require collaborative work. Tech professionals may also need to communicate with customers who do not have a strong technology background. 

Finally, many technology jobs take place in an office setting. A growing number of employers allow tech professionals to work remotely, but some roles may offer little flexibility. People who prefer a more active career may not enjoy sitting at a desk for most of the day.

How do I start a career in IT?

Most tech professionals launch their information technology careers by enrolling in an educational program. Colleges and bootcamps prepare learners for technology jobs. 

What careers are in the IT field?

The IT field encompasses many career paths, including in computer support, programming, quality assurance, network architecture, and information security. Many of these careers offer above-average salaries.

What is a good IT career?

The top information technology careers offer six-figure salaries and strong projected job growth. Tech professionals work as computer systems analysts, information security analysts, systems administrators, and database architects.