10 Best-Paying IT Jobs in 2021

Millions of Americans are looking for ways to increase their salaries and advance their careers. Fortunately, information technology (IT) jobs are plentiful and lucrative.

IT professionals account for some of the most in-demand workers in the job market today. For example, data scientists, product managers, DevOps engineers, and other technology professionals account for some of the best and top-paying jobs overall, according to Glassdoor.

Read more: What Are CIOs Looking for in Current IT Grads?

So how do you get the technology career of your dreams? To land these specialized career opportunities, you have to put in the time. The most high-paying companies tend to recruit employees with the most extensive data and computer science experience, both in the classroom and the workplace.

It’s important to not only look for information technology jobs that match your skillset, but also to find an opportunity with a positive job outlook that aligns with your specific goals for the future.

Top 10 Paying IT Jobs in 2021

Check out the table below to see the top 10 high-paying information technology jobs you could go after, according to average U.S. salaries on Glassdoor. Click each title to learn more about the required skills, experience, and certifications for each. Keep in mind that your paycheck may be higher or lower depending on your location, education, experience, and other factors.

Job TitleAverage Salary
CIO$179,000
Machine Learning Scientist$137,000
Cloud Architect$137,000
AI Engineer$119,000
Data Scientist$117,000
Product Manager$113,000
DevOps Engineer$105,000
Full-Stack Engineer$104,000
Desktop Developer$100,000
IT Support$52,000

CIO

The Chief Information Officer (CIO) sits at the top of an organization’s information technology and computer science teams, leading infrastructural strategies for IT projects while meeting company-wide goals and budgets decided by the rest of the executive team. This type of individual typically has extensive enterprise network management experience and background as both a people and project manager.

A mixture of tactical and strategic skills is necessary in order to lead a technology team while also communicating demonstrable progress to non-IT teammates. In smaller companies, the CIO may be the only technical team executive, but in many larger companies, you’ll find a CIO who works with a Chief Technology Officer (CTO) and a Chief Information Security Officer (CISO).

Average salary: $179,000 a year

Skills and requirements:

  • A bachelor’s degree at the least; some companies require a master’s degree or Ph.D. in computer science or another relevant field
  • Various IT certifications
  • 5-15 years working in IT
  • Ability to translate tech jargon into easy-to-understand language
  • Knowledge of business goals
  • Crisis management skills
  • Previous experience as a project and people manager, or previous experience as a network administrator

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Machine Learning Scientist

Machine learning scientists, often called machine learning researchers or data scientists more broadly, are highly sought after tech professionals who brainstorm and develop machine learning (ML) models based on big data analytics and research.

In order to build effective ML models and algorithms, a big part of their work involves assessing and cleaning big data sets so that they can accurately train models. Although more traditional IT degrees are most conducive to ML roles, studies in engineering, applied mathematics, and statistics provide great fundamental knowledge for this type of tech job.

Average salary: $137,000 a year

Skills and requirements:

  • Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science or related field
  • Understanding of data structures and data modeling
  • Knowledge of quantitative analysis methods
  • Experience building out data pipelines and statistics
  • Software engineering experience
  • System design experience

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Cloud Architect

Cloud architects are responsible for the ideation and general design for an enterprise cloud environment. Their role often overlaps with the responsibilities of other cloud employees, such as cloud engineers, developers, and consultants.

However, they play a unique role on the team by acting as the starting point for creating the ideal cloud environment in the first place. While other roles troubleshoot cloud problems and manage the platform’s day-to-day needs, cloud architects are valued for their big picture mindset and their ability to plan for future infrastructural needs.

Average salary: $137,000 a year

Skills and requirements:

  • Bachelor’s degree
  • Experience with client systems and applications
  • Knowledge of multiple programming languages
  • Experience with databases and big data
  • Networking experience
  • Data storage fundamentals
  • Security foundations
  • Knowledge of AWS, Microsoft Azure, and/or other cloud services
  • Cloud-specific patterns and technologies
  • Communication skills

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AI Engineer

AI engineers do very similar work to machine learning scientists and researchers, but their tasks go beyond ML and include research and development for other AI fields, like natural language processing and neural network management.

Many plans for AI development currently fall on a theoretical plane. AI engineers not only work to execute on current applications of artificial intelligence, but also develop the tools, context, and additional research necessary to apply AI concepts to real-world scenarios.

Average salary: $119,000 a year

Skills and requirements:

  • A bachelor’s degree
  • Strong programming skills
  • Foundation in statistics, linear algebra, and mathematics
  • Understanding of software development life cycle
  • Comfort with software design patterns
  • Experience with machine learning, deep learning, and neural networks
  • Familiarity with Spark and big data technologies
  • Work with algorithms and frameworks
  • Communication and problem-solving skills

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Data Scientist

Data scientists are some of the most heavily recruited tech professionals on the market because of the diverse applications of their big data analytics skillset. Data scientists are hired for a variety of data-focused tasks, including analyzing existing data sets, finding and collecting new data, annotating and cleaning data to prepare it for training in AI/ML applications, managing data storage and database platforms, and providing high-level consultation on data best practices to enterprises.

Although data scientists are rarely hired to perform the tasks of an information security analyst or a computer systems analyst, their strong background in big data analytics and data best practices gives them an edge in computer network and general security management.

Average salary: $117,000 a year

Skills and requirements:

  • A bachelor’s degree; you can also take a boot camp
  • Understanding of SQL databases
  • Python and R programming
  • Comfort with Hadoop platform
  • Understanding of machine learning and AI
  • Data visualization experience
  • Experience as a database administrator
  • Business strategy experience

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Product Manager

Think of technical product managers as project managers who own the strategic and tactical management behind a product’s development. This type of role is responsible for creating a product that is successful across a variety of business categories, including engineering and design, customer success and support, sales and marketing, operations and delivery, compliance, and finance.

A product manager rarely has the hands-on development experience of a web developer, software developer, software engineer, or other technical role. However, they still work closely with these teammates and set expectations about how a product should be built and packaged at the time of launch.

Average salary: $113,000 a year

Skills and requirements:

  • Bachelor’s degree
  • Strong communication skills
  • Technical expertise
  • Business skills
  • Research skills
  • Marketing knowledge
  • Interpersonal and delegation skills
  • Foundational knowledge of different computer systems

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DevOps Engineer

DevOps engineers specialize in the field of DevOps, an IT methodology that focuses on developing better communication and alignment between software development and IT operations teams. They accomplish this through agile project development, as well as continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD).

DevOps engineers work with software developers, sysadmins, and other IT operations staff on project development and delivery. Some of the core responsibilities of a DevOps engineer include project management, infrastructural management, performance testing and benchmarking, automation, security, and reporting.

Average salary: $105,000 a year

Skills and requirements:

  • Bachelor’s degree
  • Version control experience
  • Experience with Continuous Integration servers
  • Configuration management skills
  • Deployment automation skills
  • Knowledge of agile project management best practices
  • Infrastructure orchestration experience
  • Monitoring and analytics skills
  • Knowledge of testing and Cloud Quality tools such as Slack, GitHub, and Phantom

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Full-Stack Engineer

Full-stack engineers are IT professionals who write both front-end and back-end code, in order to optimize how different applications, programs, and other software communicate in an IT environment. Full-stack engineers not only focus on the front-end and back-end sides of development, but also work to connect these pieces with things like APIs, servers, databases, and other parts of a network that don’t cleanly connect already.

In order to land a full-stack engineering role, it’s important to learn both front-end and back-end languages so that you can better understand and optimize existing code for the full-stack environment.

Average salary: $104,000 a year

Skills and requirements:

  • Bachelor’s degree
  • Deep understanding of front-end languages (HTML/CSS)
  • Deep understanding of back-end languages (JavaScript, Python, PHP)
  • Database Management Skills
  • Knowledge of Web architecture
  • Knowledge of database storage
  • Familiarity with Git and GitHub
  • Basic design skills

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Desktop Developer

Desktop developers are responsible for developing software applications that work across different desktop and server environments, such as macOS, Windows, and Linux. Unlike many of the other specialized roles on this list, desktop developers commonly hold only a bachelor’s degree, and perhaps some additional certifications or tech boot camp experience.

Many different websites offer free online courses to learn the basics of different programming languages and coding, so desktop development is a strong possibility for job seekers who want to make an initial jump into the tech field.

Average salary: $100,000 a year

Skills and requirements:

  • Bachelor’s degree
  • Knowledge of probability and statistics
  • Data modeling and evaluation skills
  • Familiarity with different computer operating systems, such as macOS, Windows, and Linux
  • Software engineering and system design experience
  • Knowledge of various languages, such as Python, SQL, and Java

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IT Support

Although an IT support role does not necessarily pay as well as some of the other roles on this list, the career outlook for these positions is overwhelmingly positive. Also, the point of entry is lower than many other technical roles; you can often get hired into IT support with an associate’s degree or less.

IT support specialists primarily work to troubleshoot hardware and software issues, and can either work with internal corporate users or external clients and customers. If an issue moves beyond the knowledge or purview of an IT support specialist, they typically escalate the issue to an engineer or developer counterpart on their team.

Average salary: $52,000 a year

Skills and requirements:

  • Working knowledge of computer hardware and software
  • Understanding of the latest IT and software trends
  • Strong customer service skills and/or background in customer support roles
  • Strong communications skills
  • Excellent organization skills
  • Previous experience with enterprise network troubleshooting preferred

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How to Get a Top-Paying IT Job

Remember that if you want to pursue a career in information technology, or are looking to advance your current career, some IT jobs are more in demand than others. Before you enroll in school or make other decisions for continuing education, be sure your program will help you land a top-paying job in IT. Here are some education areas to consider:

  • Cybersecurity
  • Cloud computing
  • Data analytics and data science
  • Computer science
  • Information technology
  • Information technology management
  • Software development
  • AI and machine learning
  • Project management
  • Programming

You can also pursue certifications online, jumpstarting your way into a top-paying position in IT. For example, if you’re looking to be a DevOps engineer, you can pursue the Certified DevOps Engineer certification through AWS. Before you pay out-of-pocket for relevant certifications, check with your current company — they may reimburse you for a worthwhile education opportunity!

Read next: Edge Computing: Tips for Hiring and Getting Hired

Joanna Redmond
Joanna is a seasoned writer, content strategist, and subject matter expert who helps tech companies add an extra zest to their copy. She also writes short stories and blogs about the highs and lows of her hiking adventures.

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