Anyone who wants to know which industry brings home the most bacon needs only to look at the ranking of the world’s richest billionaires — Musk, Bezos, Gates, Zuckerberg, Page and Brin.
If you notice a pattern emerging, that’s because the list reads like a who’s who of Silicon Valley — but tech isn’t just a moneymaker for the titans at the top. Fields like computers, software, IT, programming and data and analytics deliver big salaries, coveted benefits, and a path up the career ladder for ambitious and hard-working mortals, as well.
They often require college and/or specialized training, but all of the following careers offer a realistic path for average people with a passion for technology. Here’s a look at eight of the highest-paying careers in tech, all of which come with salaries that allow for a cozy life in the higher echelons of the middle class in many parts of the country — even some of the big tech hubs.
- Median salary: $103,590
Even the information security analyst in the middle of the pack earns six figures, but those in the highest tenth percentile take in more than $160,000. That’s not the only good news. It’s also one of the fastest-growing fields in the country. Between now and 2030, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects job growth of 33% in the industry. Much of that is the result of small and medium-sized businesses adopting cloud infrastructure — it’s skilled information security professionals, after all, who will keep it all safe.
- Median salary: $110,140
BLS lumps software developers together with assurance analysts and testers. More than one in four software developers — the most by far across all categories — work in computer systems design, with others scattered across industries like manufacturing and software publishing. The field is growing rapidly, with growth projected at 22% through 2030. That’s faster than even the red-hot 19% outlook for related specialties like web developers and programmers.
- Estimated salary: $113,796
The six-figure salary that Glassdoor estimates for the field of cloud engineering can change considerably from one company to the next — in some cases, it’s not six figures at all. UKG, for example, is currently advertising open cloud engineer positions on Glassdoor for $87,491 per year — but that’s close to the lowest it goes. On the other side of the spectrum is Selby Jennings, which is hiring cloud engineers for between $315,290 and $338,578. Google and Shell are hiring hourly contractors to do cloud engineering work for around $130 an hour.
- Median salary: $116,780
Computer network architects build intranets, wide area networks (WANs), local area networks (LANs) and other data communication infrastructure. More than a quarter of them work in computer systems design and related services, according to BLS, but they’re also well represented in fields like telecommunications, insurance and management across many different industries. They tend to make make the most money when they work for insurance carriers and in computer systems design.
- Estimated salary: $117,053
Capitalizing on the rise of crypto is the world’s burgeoning class of blockchain developers. These tech pros are charged with designing and creating blockchain architecture, but their disciplines might involve security or database management. Glassdoor estimates that they make just over $117,000, but there’s plenty of room for the good ones to grow their salaries over time because the range of compensation is so wide — about $54,000 to $256,000, according to Glassdoor.
- Median salary: $122,917
PayScale pegs the median data architect salary at around $123,000, but those in the 90th percentile command nearly $160,000. These IT specialists design and manage data systems and offer skills like database architecture, data modeling and business intelligence. Data architects often go on to even more lucrative work as data scientists or senior data engineers.
- Median salary: $126,830
Not only do computer and information research scientists earn big salaries, but they’re in a fast-growing field. According to BLS, the job outlook through 2030 projects growth of 22%, which is much faster than the total for all occupations, which is 8%. Nearly one in three work in government, but many also work in computer systems design and research and development. Median pay begins approaching $150,000 when they work for software publishers.
- Average salary: $130,674
ZipRecruiter calculated the high average salary that big data engineers enjoy. While salaries range from $76,000 to $180,500, the most common range is currently between $111,500 and $148,500. Lead big data engineers make more than $153,000. Principal big data engineers make almost $170,000.
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Except where otherwise stated, all salary data comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.