Best IT Career Path for High Earnings
There are a variety of job opportunities in the IT field, from infrastructure and operations to support and project management. While work in each of these categories has offered above-average salaries over the past few years, one area currently provides the best IT career path in terms of compensation: work as a developer.
This trend should continue for the next several years as:
- Salaries in the field are expected to rise annually.
- The growing number of jobs available in this space makes it easier for developers to keep a position or to find a new one.
- The advent of new tools and technologies should provide new professional roles as well as maintain developers’ interest in the field.
Agile’s technology staffing firm assists professionals with securing IT jobs in Atlanta and in the surrounding area. Below is a breakdown of the typical title progression and salary ranges our company has seen for developers as well as for candidates in other areas of IT work.
The Development Career Track
While many factors affect whether one profession or another offers the “best” IT career path, development is a great option if salary is a defining factor for you. According to Agile’s branch director Matthew Marini, “Young developers, by time they’re 30, could be making as much as $140,000.” He adds that development jobs are also typically paired with nice perks such as health benefits, paid time off, and work from home flexibility.
Marini breaks down compensation at the following levels:
- The median starting salary for a developer with no experience is approximately $55,000.
- Talented developers can go from an entry-level position to a mid-level role in only a year or two and can see a $20,000-$40,000 bump.
- After another two years, candidates will start to qualify for senior-level positions with six-figure potential, even having only 5-7 years of total professional experience.
Skills in Demand
What To Expect Along The Way
Once you decide that being a developer is the best IT career path for you, you may find it useful to create a personal marketing plan, which will help define your individual steps along the way. Agile’s IT recruiters typically see two basic educational paths for developers.
- Attending college and graduating with a degree in computer science or in another technical area.
- Participating in a coding camp or completing a certificate program.
Regardless of which of these two options you pursue, most companies, big or small, will hire you as a “junior developer,” meaning you are coming to the job market with good core fundamentals. The company for which you work will generally teach you about its tech stack. “Usually, you’ll be in this role for only for one-to-two years,” explains Marini. “However, for those without a college degree, it could be longer.”
Once you establish yourself as a knowledgeable developer, you can seek promotion to senior software engineer or principal engineer. Agile’s recruiters say this typically occurs within 5-7 years. From these positions, you have another choice to make in creating the best IT career path for yourself.
Option 1: Technology Focus
You can continue to dedicate yourself to technical work and eventually become a lead architect. In this role, professionals generally do design work that stays close to the technology.
From there, Marini says, this might lead to being a senior lead architect for a single product or overseeing multiple solutions. “The highest rung on this ladder is chief architect. In this role, you would oversee all technical direction for a company or its product lines.”
Option 2: Management Focus
You may choose to go into a managerial role. In this case, you would move from principal engineer to lead developer or principal developer.
With these positions, you may spend more time leading others and mentoring than with hands-on development work. The next position you take may be as a director of technology or director of development, then vice president of technology or development, and, ultimately, a chief technology officer (CTO).
“People who choose this path are more interested in being involved in leadership than in the day-to-day of the technology,” says Marini. If you are considering this path, a management resume that outlines your foundational knowledge in development and highlights your leadership skills will be important in the interviewing process.
Alternative IT Career Paths for High Earnings
For job seekers who prefer development operations, Marini suggests looking into opportunities in infrastructure, DevOps, and cloud computing. These areas offer high earning potential, challenging projects, and the chance to work in IT “but not sit behind a computer all day, every day.”
A job in infrastructure presents one of the best IT career paths on the non-development side. These positions include roles in continuous integration, continuous deployment, and automation. Companies are currently investing in each of these areas.
Candidates for infrastructure positions come from many different educational backgrounds. Job seekers frequently have experience maintaining servers or other operational technology for companies. In a typical career progression:
- You will start as a junior systems administrator, junior database administrator, or junior network administrator.
- Once you have proven yourself, you may move on to a more senior position in one of these areas, eventually reaching
- the manager level.
A job in infrastructure often deals with real-time issues, which provides a degree of excitement but also may have less predictable hours than a standard role in development. Still, this might be the best IT career path for you based on your skill set and what you enjoy doing professionally.
DevOps brings together the full complement of development and operations activities of a company. This role is generally in charge of releasing new updates to software and coordinating efforts for new deployments.
In general, you can expect to start out as a junior DevOps engineer. After mastering the tasks at this level, you may be promoted to a senior role and eventually to running the DevOps practice.
Many companies are now using cloud-hosted solutions, which has led to the creation of high-paying jobs to help in their management. “These opportunities appear strong for next few years,” says Marini.
Professionals working in cloud management often enter the field with a degree in computer science, engineering, or management information systems. Agile’s recruiters recommend that candidates look for starting positions as a junior systems administrator or network engineer. Then, they can move to a job as a cloud or platform engineer, followed by a senior engineer role.
The director of infrastructure services — or director of cloud operations — is the top level in this area. Cloud computing opportunities are highly compensated at this stage as well as along the full career path, and they offer fast advancement to higher earnings.
“As with infrastructure jobs, there are not as many ranks in these positions as there are with development opportunities,” explains Marini. However, cloud management can be the best IT career path for you if you have strong technical skills, a natural curiosity about technology, and the ability to apply your IT knowledge to the business world.