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5 top-paying IT jobs for every stage of tech careers

Whether you’re entry level, mid-level or C-level, CIO.com has you covered as we identify the highest-paying IT roles in each of those three categories.

5 Top-Paying IT Jobs for Every Stage of Tech Careers
Demand for highly skilled IT workers isn’t slowing down – research, managed services and staffing firm Upp reports that the unemployment rate for IT careers is hovering under 4 percent in every U.S. state, well below unemployment rates for other industries. But some hot, in-demand roles pay more than others.

Using data from research and compensation benchmarking provider PayScale’s databases, we’ve put together the top five highest-paying IT roles for every career stage — whether you’re just starting your IT career, have a few years of experience under your belt or are moving into the C-suite.

Compensation data is median pay based on total cash compensation (TCC). Median pay is the 50th percentile – half of workers doing the job are paid more, half are paid less. TCC combines base annual salary or hourly wage, bonuses, profit sharing, tips, commissions and other forms of cash earnings. It does not include stock, retirement benefits or the value of healthcare benefits, for example.

5 Highest Paid Entry-Level Roles
If you’re just getting started in your IT career, consider these five IT roles. Not only are they in high demand, the compensation’s highly competitive for these entry-level positions. For our purposes, entry-level is defined as having zero to five years of experience in all applicable jobs in the field, not just the current job.

Business Intelligence Architect
The primary responsibility of the business intelligence architect is data standards and procedures; warehousing; design and development of logical and physical data models and databases; distributed data management; information management functions.

The business intelligence architect designs, develops and enforces standards and architecture for installing, configuring and using business intelligence applications for the purpose of directing and managing the organization. The role usually requires a bachelor’s degree and at least some experience in a BI role.

Median Pay: $81,200

ASIC Design Engineer
The role produces application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) designs and modifications by identifying design objectives and issues; researching and developing ASIC engineering techniques and approaches; verifying and validating designs; maintaining documentation; and mentoring team members, if applicable.

The role usually requires a bachelor’s degree and experience with general ASIC designs, concepts and usage.

Median Pay: $83,300

Solutions Architect
While the title might seem vague, a solutions architect (SA) plays a key role in the software development lifecycle: in the conversion of the product, application or solution requirements taken from the business or customer into an architecture and design that will become the blueprint for the solution being created. This conversion is based largely upon the previous design patterns that the solutions architect has been involved with in the past through reading and staying abreast of the latest techniques, or through personal experience.

The role requires a bachelor’s degree or equivalent experience.

Median Pay: $91,500

Software Architect
A software architect (SA) is responsible for the initial design and development of new software or extensive software revisions. The software architect defines product requirements and creates high-level architectural specifications, ensuring feasibility, functionality and integration with existing systems/platforms for internal use or for customers.

The role requires a bachelor’s degree and, while still considered an entry level position, a solutions architect may be expected to have an advanced degree in area of specialty and may manage or guide other developers through the project to completion.

Median Pay: $94,100

Data Scientist, IT
Also known as “the sexiest job in IT,” a data scientist’s role is to use predictive analytics and machine learning experience to extract insight and actionable information from a firm’s data stores. The role is fairly new and still evolving, but requires a bachelor’s degree and at least familiarity with data mining, structured data modeling and predictive analytics.

Median Pay: $97,600

5 Highest Paid Mid-Level Roles
You’ve paid your dues in entry level jobs and you’re looking to move up the ladder. Well, hopefully one of these lucrative and high-demand roles is in your career path.

A mid-level role is defined as having five to 10 years of experience in all applicable jobs in the field, not just the current job.

Principal Software Engineer
Principal software engineers are in charge of most of the technical aspects of an organization’s software projects. Their primary function is scaling software projects efficiently while maximizing performance and minimizing costs. They also oversee development teams and coordinate strategies to make sure the technologies are interconnected and product lines are working smoothly. Principal software engineers focus on best practices and standards of design, application requirements and proper maintenance. Engineers in this role often manage teams of developers.

A bachelor’s degree in computer science is usually the minimum educational requirement, although a (CSDP) Certified Software Development Professional certification along with hands-on experience in a previous position is also generally accepted.

Median Pay: $133,000

Data Scientist, IT
The role so nice, it appears on our list twice. As stated before, a data scientist’s role is to use predictive analytics and machine learning experience to extract insight and actionable information from a firm’s data stores. In a mid-level role, data scientists could be required to have software engineering experience, as well as higher-level strategic thinking and communication skills to more accurately make the case for business action based on the results generated by machine learning algorithms and insight gained from data mining.

The role is fairly new and still evolving, but requires a bachelor’s degree and extensive experience with software development, data mining, structured data modeling and predictive analytics.

Median Pay: $134,000

Scrum Coach
The scrum coach role teaches and coaches all agile software development best practices and Scrum adoption to an IT organization or an agile development environment. Ideally, a scrum coach will have extensive experience with an agile development environment and will use his or her broad experience to help businesses adopt best practices as related to an agile framework.

Most scrum coaches have a bachelor’s degree and experience in software development, engineering or architecture. While there is a specific scrum coach certification, experience and previous demonstrable success is most often used as criteria for hiring.

Median Pay: $151,000

Principal Software Architect
A principal software architect is tasked with identifying and evaluating software product requirements and their limitations to make sure solutions will work within larger business system functions. Principal software architects solicit the input of users, solution sponsors and executives to make sure the software meets the requirements, vision and needs of the business and customers; they work to drive innovation and research into new methods and technologies and also help position overall IT department and software development strategy.

The principal software architect role requires a bachelor’s degree, as well as proven “soft skills” like business analysis, research skills, communications and negotiation skills.

Median Pay: $151,000

Chief Architect, IT
The chief architect role is one that’s highly political and complex, and the job description varies widely from company to company. That said, there are some commonalities; the chief architect of IT must understand all aspects of a business’ processes, infrastructure, applications and initiatives – in other words, the entire organization’s IT blueprint. They are then tasked with ensuring that every part of the business operates in sync with these strategic IT initiatives.

The role requires a bachelor’s degree and extensive technical and “soft skills” experience, and often reports directly to the CIO.

Median Pay: $155,000

5 Highest Paid Senior and Executive Roles
Ah, senior management – this is where all your hard work and political maneuvering pays off, literally. Senior and executive roles not only come with big responsibility, in the IT field, they also come with big paychecks.

Senior and executive roles are defined has having more than 10 years of experience in all applicable jobs, not just the current job, and include only management, senior and executive-level roles.

Project Management Director, IT
An IT project management director supervises and governs all corporate IT projects. The role is responsible for all aspects of project management direction, including reviewing proposals, determining costs, timelines, funding, identifying sponsors, setting and maintaining staffing requirements, and making sure goals and objectives are met. Professionals in this role are also likely to oversee project managers and their teams.

The role requires a bachelor’s degree and requires not only technical skills, but also a degree of creativity, problem-solving, negotiation and management skills.

Median Pay: $142,000

Business Intelligence Director
The business intelligence director is responsible for developing and maintaining an organization’s business intelligence reporting frameworks, tools and data stores. The role works cross-functionally with various business unit heads to determine their reporting and analytics needs and determines how best to meet them given constrains of time, budget and staffing. The business intelligence director is also charged with making sure that information is delivered on time and is of high quality – making sure business has the necessary data for ongoing daily operations as well as forward-looking strategy and competitive data.

A bachelor’s degree is necessary, but in some instances an advanced degree in a related field is required.

Median Pay: $143,000

Senior Computer Scientist
Computer scientists often work as part of a research team with computer programmers, mechanical or electrical engineers, and other IT professionals. Their role leans more toward the theoretical than the practical – their research often is used to design new technology in areas like artificial intelligence, robotics or virtual reality. Computer scientists are also tasked with improving performance of existing computer systems and software as well as the development of new hardware or computing techniques and materials.

Most computer scientists hold a bachelor’s degree with a major in computer science, information systems or software engineering, but at this senior level, many hold a Ph.D. in computer science, computer engineering or a similar field.

Median Pay: $145,000

Vice President, IT
The vice president of IT is responsible for strategizing and planning an organization’s IT future, as well as implementing new technology and maintaining current systems. The vice president of IT also ensures teams are effectively supporting maximum uptime and stability in the company’s computer systems and networks. The essence of the role is technology leadership, and the vice president of IT must use both technical skills and soft skills – leadership, communication, negotiation and analysis – to lead an IT focused business successfully.

In many organizations, the vice president of IT role is a stepping stone to the CIO position. Most companies require a master’s degree in computer science or IT, while some organizations require an MBA, since extensive business knowledge is critical to the role.

Median Pay: $157,000

Vice President, Ecommerce
The vice president of ecommerce is responsible for all of a business’ ecommerce activities, including channel development strategies, Web architecture and infrastructure requirements, and collaboration with IT, sales, supply chain and operations teams to successfully execute on e-commerce business strategies. The vice president of ecommerce must have extensive experience with ecommerce concepts, best practices, processes and strategies, as well as excellent communications, negotiations and strategic planning skills.

The role requires a bachelor’s degree and, at many organizations, a minimum of 15 years of experience in the field.

Median Pay: $164,000


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10 hot IT skills for 2013

Want to snag a pay premium? Check out the IT skills that will be in high demand in 2013.

The number of companies planning to hire tech professionals continues to grow, with 33% of the 334 IT executives who responded to Computerworld’s 2013 Forecast survey saying they plan to increase head count in the next 12 months.

This is the third year in a row that the percentage of respondents with hiring plans has risen — up from 29% last year, 23% in 2010 and 20% in 2009.

“When you look at just about any research or market trend, IT is one of the top two or three always mentioned as a bright spot in the job market, and it’s pretty simple why,” says John Reed, senior executive director at staffing firm Robert Half Technology. “When you look at technology, it drives so much of what business does, from productivity to communication to improving speed to making better business decisions. So companies are investing in that, and you have to have the people experienced in doing that.”

Of course, IT leaders aren’t hiring technologists indiscriminately. They’re seeking specific skills to deliver what the business needs to compete today. Here’s a look at the top 10 skills for 2013.

1. Programming and Application Development

• 60% plan to hire for this skill in the next 12 months.

Companies put off projects during the recession, but now they’re playing catch-up and looking for staff to keep up, according to Reed.

“Technology and software are great ways for companies to improve productivity, lower costs and create better Web presence,” he says, adding that companies will need staffers to create new and better technology to do those things.

That’s the case at San Francisco-based Wells Fargo, says Jason Griffin, vice president and technology talent acquisition manager. “Our top needs are in programming and application development,” he says. “We’re just looking for more to meet the business need. The business [units] are investing in new products, they’re looking for ways to provide products and services to meet customer needs.”

Griffin, like others, says he’s specifically looking for people with experience in Java, J2EE and .Net.

2. Project Management

• 40% plan to hire for this skill in the next 12 months.

The ongoing need for project management skills tracks with the continuing need for programmers: Both are responses to the demand for new applications that businesses need to compete.

“More projects mean more project managers,” Reed says, noting that companies want experience as well as credentials, such as the Project Management Professional designation.

Jamie Hamilton, vice president of software engineering at Detroit-based Quicken Loans, says project manager jobs will be among the 100 new positions his company plans to add to its 800-strong IT team.

Hamilton says demand for project managers is strong in part because projects are growing more complex as the connectivity between applications increases.

Successful candidates need to have proven track records. “Three things are key for us, and they’re more around behavior: Are you a leader, and do you operate as a leader? Do you have a history of executing? What’s your behavior around detail?” Hamilton says.

3. Help Desk/Technical Support

• 35% plan to hire for this skill in the next 12 months.

Jack Wolf, vice president and CIO at Montefiore Medical Center in New York, says he has a list of initiatives to pursue, including deployments of new radiology systems and electronic health record applications. To ensure success, he’s looking not only for people to build and implement the systems, but also for tech support workers to help employees use them.

“New systems mean you need more help desk people to handle the increase in calls we expect,” Wolf says.

He’s far from the only one searching for such skills. Tech staffing firm Modis reports that help desk technician is the job title that companies most often seek help filling.

4. Security

• 27% plan hire for this skill in the next 12 months.

Security has long been a concern of IT leaders, and demand for specialized security professionals is growing as the task of safeguarding systems and data becomes increasingly complex.

Consider the case of Netherlands-based Royal Philips Electronics, which has U.S. headquarters in Andover, Mass.

Cynthia Burkhardt, vice president of talent acquisition, says the company is building its IT security department internationally. It hired a chief information security officer, who is based in the Netherlands, and it’s adding four more IT security executives — two of whom will be based in the U.S. She says the company expects to continue building its IT security team from the top down.

Burkhardt says Royal Philips wants experienced IT security professionals who have business acumen in addition to expertise in deploying firewalls, threat detection tools, encryption technology and other security systems.

5. Business Intelligence/Analytics

• 26% plan to hire for this skill in the next 12 months.

Big data is one of the top priorities for many companies, but getting the right people to analyze all that information is challenging, says Jerry Luftman, managing director at the Global Institute for IT Management and a leader in the Society for Information Management.

The best candidates have technical know-how, business knowledge and strong statistical and mathematical backgrounds — an uncommon mix of skills, Luftman says. In fact, some companies are hiring statisticians and teaching them about technology and business.

Joe Fuller, CIO at Dominion Enterprises, a marketing services company in Norfolk, Va., says he anticipates hiring data scientists or data analysts in the future but acknowledges that it will be a challenge.

“We’re missing that person who thinks outside the box, who understands the link between this behavior now and this behavior later,” Fuller says. “I don’t know who to look for there, so I think it’s [going to be] a team. I can’t imagine finding that in one person.”

6. Cloud/SaaS

• 25% plan to hire for this skill in the next 12 months.

Fuller’s staffing plan at Dominion Enterprises is also a case study for skill No. 6, which didn’t even crack the top 10 in the 2011 survey: He says the company will need cloud computing experts as it moves beyond its two existing data centers.

“We’re going to need a cloud architect who knows how to leverage and how to architect without breaking the bank,” he says. “We’re going to need to know where we should host it, how to configure it, how to negotiate the [service-level agreements], and to make sure we’re backed up properly.”

7. Virtualization

• 24% plan to hire for this skill in the next 12 months.

Jon A. Biskner, assistant vice president of IT at Nicolet National Bank in Green Bay, Wis., says he wants to create a virtualization administrator position.

“It’s hard to find someone who is fully skilled in virtualization,” Biskner says. “They have to understand the storage and clusters behind the virtual server because before the connection was more physical; now it’s more logical.” IT professionals talk about virtualization, he adds, but often they don’t have a breadth of experience with it.

8. Networking
• 19% plan to hire for this skill in the next 12 months.

Networking expertise remains a perennial top 10 most-wanted skill, although demand has dropped from 38% in the 2010 survey to 19% in the 2013 survey. Despite the decline, however, IT leaders say they still need networking professionals who have solid experience.

In Robert Half Technology’s third-quarter IT Hiring Index and Skills Report, network administration was the No. 2 most sought-after skill set, cited by 48% of the 1,400 CIOs surveyed. It was second only to data/database management, which was cited by 55% of the respondents.

9. Mobile Applications and Device Management


• 19% plan to hire for this skill in the next 12 months.

As consumer and business use of smartphones and tablets expands, employers are looking for workers who can handle the demands related to the proliferation of such devices, says Motti Fine, managing director of TreeTop Technologies, an IT staffing and consulting firm. Case in point: Kathy Junod, senior director of IT at Auxilium Pharmaceuticals in Malvern, Pa., plans to create a new job with the title mobile manager to add to her existing staff of 22. She says she needs an experienced manager to oversee building the niche mobile apps the business needs.

10. Data Center

• 16% plan to hire for this skill in the next 12 months.

Core technical skills remain in high demand, so it’s not surprising that data center skills still make the top 10. In fact, CompTIA reported in its February State of the IT Skills Gap study that server/data center management and storage and data backup remain high on the list of IT skills that employers are seeking. Some 61% of the IT and business executives surveyed by CompTIA rated server/data center management as a very important skill, while 57% rated storage/data backup as such.

However, Robert Half Technology’s third-quarter IT Hiring Index and Skills Report found that CIOs listed data/database management as No. 2 among the “functional areas” in which it’s most challenging to hire IT professionals.


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