Information technology is a lucrative and fast-growing field, with most occupations growing at a rate faster than the national average. IT professionals develop and protect the software, hardware and networks that organizations need to compete in the modern economy. The industry's growth has been limited somewhat by outsourcing, but high-paying jobs are available to domestic workers with the right qualifications.
Computer and Information Research Scientists
Computer and information research scientists are the highest-paid IT professionals on average. These professionals develop and design new types of computer hardware, improve on existing hardware, create new programming languages and solve the most difficult information technology problems. The median annual salaries of these professionals is $100,660, while the highest paid workers earn $153,120, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The rewards this career offers are great, but the path to becoming a computer research scientist is the most difficult among high-paying IT jobs. You need a Ph.D in computer science or a closely related field to qualify for most jobs. Ph.D programs take four to five years to complete and include classroom education and research in your chosen specialty. Once you complete the requirements, employment prospects should be excellent due to a shortage of qualified computer scientists.
Computer Network Architects
Computer network architects, also called network engineers, create networks to facilitate communication between computers. As a network architect, you will work with clients to determine their networking needs, select network hardware and software, design network layouts and advise clients on how to secure their networks. Research from staffing firm Robert Half Technology found that network architects earned between $102,250 and $146,500 per year in 2013. To become a network architect, you need at least a bachelor's degree in computer science-related subject and five to 10 years of experience as a network administrator. Your employment outlook should be good if you have these basic qualifications.
Information Security Analysts
Cyber attacks are on the rise, and companies are willing to pay top dollar for IT professionals with the skills to protect their networks from hackers. In an information security career, you will install security hardware and software such as firewalls, develop information security best practices and procedures, develop plans to recover networks in the event of an attack and advise top-level management on keeping data secure. This is a constantly evolving profession, so researching the latest threats and security methods is essential. Robert Half Technology reports that data security analysts earned $95,000 to $129,750 in 2013. Information security analysts typically earn a bachelor's in computer science, though some universities now offer specialized information security degrees. Experience in other IT jobs, such as database or network administrator, is helpful to land your first information security position.
Software developers are the creative and technical professionals responsible for producing new software. In this career, you will research your potential customers' needs, come up with software ideas that meet those needs, guide computer programmers during the coding and testing of new software and perform regular testing and maintenance on completed software. Software developers earn an average of $90,530 per year, according to the BLS. You need at least a bachelor's degree in computer science, software engineering or mathematics to qualify for software development jobs, though some employers give preference to candidates with a master's degree. Learn the latest programming languages to maximize your employment opportunities in this career.