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There once was a time where a computer was a rare item for a business to own, much less a household. Then, seemingly overnight, every home had a desktop computer. Before we knew it, everyone had a computer in their backpack and then one in their hands. These days, technology and tech jobs are everywhere. Since our personal and professional lives are now so dependent on technology, IT jobs are a backbone of our workforce. Now, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the IT employment sector is brimming with jobs that pay far beyond the median for the broader employment market.
To earn an IT job takes hard work and a financial investment in training on specific skills. Nearly every college and university these days offers multiple IT degrees in subjects such as networking, database management, and cyber security. On top of those opportunities, there are countless certification programs to people who may or may not have a degree, though some do have academic requirements.
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What Kinds of Information Technology Jobs Are There?
Information technology jobs are everywhere. The fact that computers have taken a place in every aspect of our lives means that IT professionals can find a wide range of jobs and forge unique career paths according to their own special talents and interests. For instance, there is a wide range of possible career paths for those in tech support. Some work with consumers who need help with tricky websites while others need top skills in programming and specific technologies, such as servers or database technologies.
One hot area right now is cyber security. Since private and public interests are constantly under attack from bad guys with computers, there is a mass push to train and employ as many information security experts as possible. This field also represents a wide number of possible career paths. There are cyber security jobs in forensics, security architecture, security analysis, and penetration testing, to name a few. This field naturally overlaps with many other popular IT career options.
For instance, security experts need to work alongside database managers, network architects, and software developers. They may also specialize in cryptography, among other areas. Naturally, the reverse also applies. That is, a database manager may find that they need to branch into cyber security, network engineering, or software development to be as effective as possible.
Finally, each branch of IT shares certain characteristics. Most IT workers find themselves working in offices and all of them work on computers for most of their days. However, these days, especially since COVID, IT professionals are increasingly working from remote locations, and some manage to work as digital nomads who conduct their IT work from locations worldwide.
Skills Needed for Information Technology Jobs
Information technology jobs require a lot of different job skills and abilities. When we think of IT jobs, we might first think of skills such as programming or the core electrical work needed to set up a network. There are then other sorts of IT jobs that require a high level of communication skills, such as a help desk position, in which the IT expert needs to communicate complicated steps to a relative novice.
IT jobs may also require that workers have an interdisciplinary approach to their work that allows them to see core business needs as a well as the technological issues. In fact, this is an area of growing demand as business managers need to have their needs met from an IT department, yet the languages of business and IT are quite different. A management information systems expert then can be called in to effectively translate for both teams.
Ultimately, the skills needed for an IT job will depend on its tech specialty. It will always help to have a fundamental understanding of programming, perhaps with specialty knowledge of a few languages. Note that some positions may require a high level of language knowledge with little need to write original code. For example, a database administrator may need to know how to insert new lines of SQL code, but may not need to write that code, much less design and build a whole new database.
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Common IT Educational Requirements
IT is much like other fields in that the optimal degree for an entry-level position is considered to be the bachelor’s information technology degree. A bachelor’s degree is often valued as equal to experience and may come with a higher starting salary. However, that is not always the case.
IT is a hands-on profession that requires specific technical skills. Many of these skills can be learned on the job or through non-formal means. There are many certifications available that qualifying workers can earn to show that they possess skills in specific areas. These can be pursued by anyone who is willing to study the materials and pass the tests. In fact, there are many training centers that will prepare students for these certification exams.
However, an associate information technology or bachelor’s information technology degree may give students a leg up in the industry. And the soft skills conveyed by way of a college education can make the difference in a career. Plus, those with a bachelor’s degree may later earn an MBA that will pave the way to a position in upper management or the C-suites.
How Many Jobs Are Available in this Sector? What’s the Outlook?
The current job market for information technology professionals is still very hot. IT workers are essential workers in so many industries that they should enjoy good job security for years to come. While some specific jobs may be in a slight decline, such as computer programmers, it's also clear that they may simply be rebranding as software developers or software engineers. Other fields, such as those covered by the general term cyber security, are growing at rates as high as 30% over the next 10 years.
In fact, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that computer and information technology jobs are projected to grow by as much as 15% in the years 2021 to 2031. This translates into an additional 680,000 jobs, which mean they are definitely in very high demand. Given that the median wage in this sector is $97,000, double the median wage for all occupations, information technology workers are positioned to do very well.
Top Pay Comes with Experience
Degrees and certifications make a huge difference in a person's career path, but nothing pays off better than pure experience. IT workers who are involved in larger projects are later able to convert that experience into a better-paying job or simply an internal promotion within one's own firm. Workers with certificates likewise increase their value the longer they maintain their credentials. This is because most certification programs require that their members complete continuing education units during every certification period and possibly even pass a recertification examination. When hiring managers see that a candidate has held a credential for a period of time, they realize that candidate could be especially valuable to their firm.
Best Paying Information Technology Jobs with an Associate’s
There are many ways to launch a career in information technology. While many view a bachelor’s information technology degree as the optimal approach, that is not always the case. Candidates with an associate information technology degree can do equally as well, though they may have to put in more time on the job. However, those who pursue certificates on top of their associate information technology degree may find that they can land an entry-level position faster than their friends in bachelor’s information technology degree programs.
Service Delivery Manager
Average Salary: $90,000
Job Outlook: ~15% increase in job demand projected to 2031
Requirements: Service delivery managers serve as the intermediary between a client and the team that is working on their project. They thus need to be skilled in the technological aspects of the project as well as expert communicators who can keep the clients well-informed. They also keep the team current on the client's needs.
Responsibilities: Service delivery managers are responsible for meeting and exceeding client expectations. They may also be responsible for helping the firm find new clients and revenue-generating projects for the teams to tackle.
Senior Program Manager
Average Salary: $122,000
Job Outlook: ~15% increase in job demand projected to 2031
Requirements: Sr program managers need to have a healthy resume of experience, academic credentials, and professional certifications. Program managers need to ensure that projects are completed in a timely manner and that they adhere to budgetary constrictions. In IT, this may entail rolling out new software packages to hundreds of computer terminals or implementing a massive cyber security initiative.
Responsibilities: Sr program managers are responsible for ensuring that their team remains on task and meets deadlines for the company. They also may need to oversee hiring and other personnel matters, including compensation and termination.
Information Technology Director
Average Salary: $123,000
Job Outlook: ~15% increase in job demand projected to 2031
Requirements: To become an IT director, it's vital to log many hours of experience. On top of that, IT directors often need a bachelor’s degree, multiple certifications, and a master's degree, even an MBA. IT directors are not generic, so one's particular skills and experience may not match all IT director jobs. However, strong leadership abilities and an MBA may overcome that possible difficulty.
Responsibilities: IT directors are responsible for overseeing one or multiple IT departments for a corporation. In the consulting world, they might act as project managers or upper management for multiple project managers.
Sr. Software Engineer / Developer / Programmer
Average Salary: $111,000
Job Outlook: 25% increase through 2031 (much faster than average)
Requirements: This job requires a minimum of five years’ experience in the field, with an impressive list of projects and supervisory roles. Many recruiters will state a need for a bachelor’s degree, but the right combination of certificates and experience may override that.
Responsibilities: Sr. Software engineer / developer / programmers are responsible for meeting deadlines and producing deliverables. At the senior level, engineers will need to have ample leadership abilities and be able to coach employees and troubleshoot when problems arise in the code. While they may not need to be expert in every language, a proficiency in each of the core languages used in a project is necessary.
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Best Paying Information Technology Jobs with a Bachelor’s
A bachelor’s degree is often considered the baseline requirement for most jobs. Most job listings call for a bachelor’s information technology degree, but they may have other standards, as well. For instance, many tech jobs require specific certifications which attest to one's experience and dedication to the industry. Before IT students go thinking that maybe a bachelor’s information technology degree isn't necessary, consider that many certificates require a bachelor’s, if not a master's.
Students who are able to attain a bachelor’s degree should do so. Not only will they have an easier time landing a job, but that degree will provide a foundation for later success. Later on, they may wish to pursue a master's degree in IT, or perhaps they'll want an MBA so that they can rise through the ranks of upper management.
Senior Category Manager
Average Salary: $114,000
Job Outlook: 10% growth in the years 2021 - 2031
Requirements: This is a senior level position, so most firms will want to see applicants with at least five years of solid experience. Most will prefer to see around 10 years of experience with at least a bachelor’s degree, though they'll prefer an MBA. It will help to apply to firms that have a similar product line as one's current employer.
Responsibilities: Senior category managers may also be called marketing directors or brand managers. They are responsible for a product from its creation through manufacturing and when it finally moves to the retail sales floor, including Ecommerce retail sales. They will be responsible for ensuring legal compliance with regard to the product but also for profit margins. As managers, they’ll need to maximize efficiency through the entire supply chain.
Information Technology (IT) Director
Average Salary: $123,000
Job Outlook: 15% growth in the years 2021 - 2031
Requirements: IT directors need to have a long history of success as IT workers, as well as in supervisory positions. Some may earn this experience by being team leaders on projects or by overseeing small IT departments. IT directors likely need to have a bachelor’s IT degree if not an MBA or a master's degree in their IT field. Since an IT director oversees the entire IT spectrum, they need to have a strong familiarity with all aspects of the IT field while maintaining their own specialty knowledge.
Responsibilities: IT directors are responsible for making sure that their teams help the firm or client meet business goals. They need to manage their personnel with expert leadership and recruit the very best possible talent with compensation that still meets the firm's budgetary guidelines. They also need to continually assess the firm's technology and make recommendations for upgrades as needed.
Average Salary: $157,000
Job Outlook: BLS has no information on the current outlook of this career.
Requirements: Consulting directors need to have a long history of success in the field as consultants. Their IT or other expertise needs to be of the highest caliber, and they also need top credentials. That includes a master's degree, including an MBA, and certifications in relevant technologies. Directors should also be able to demonstrate leadership and top communication skills.
Responsibilities: Consulting directors need to be able to assess a client's needs and then assemble team(s) that can efficiently address those needs. They should also be adept at negotiating contracts with clients and designing budgets that manage to exceed client expectations while producing acceptable profit margins for the IT consulting firm.