The Highest-Paying IT Jobs
and the Skills You Need to Land One

See also: Transferable Skills

For decades, the IT industry has offered some of the highest-paying job roles in the world. And what's more, the industry is one of the few that still allows for the kind of upward mobility career-builders crave. However, there are so many types of jobs available in the IT industry that it's often difficult to know where to start.

For those looking for a path into a lucrative IT career, a solid strategy is to target a job role and then work backward to attain the right skills and experience to get hired. To help, here is a rundown of the highest-paying jobs in IT and the required skills you'll need to succeed in each one. Let's get started!

The Highest-Paying Jobs in the IT Industry

The highest-paying IT job can vary depending on factors such as location, industry, and experience. However, some of the highest-paying IT jobs include:

  • Chief Information Officer (CIO)
  • Data Scientist
  • Information Security Manager
  • Software Engineering Manager
  • DevOps Engineer
  • Cloud Solutions Architect
  • Senior IT Manager
  • Enterprise Architect
  • Machine Learning Engineer
  • IT Security Consultant
  • IT Program Manager
  • IT Director
  • Network Architect
  • Solutions Architect
  • Senior Software Engineer

These jobs often require advanced degrees and extensive experience in the field, and their salaries can range from $150,000 to $300,000 or more per year. It's important to note that these are generalizations and that the actual salary for any particular job will depend on various factors.

These jobs also typically require a combination of technical expertise, soft skills, leadership skills, and industry knowledge. Salaries for these roles can range from $120,000 to $250,000 per year or more, depending on the specific job, location, and experience level. To give you an idea of where to start for each one, let's go through what each role entails and the base skills you'll need for each.

Chief Information Officer (CIO)

As the senior-most executive responsible for the technology strategy of an organization, the CIO oversees all IT functions and is responsible for ensuring that the company's technology infrastructure supports its overall business goals. CIOs typically earn salaries ranging from $200,000 to $500,000 per year or more.

The Essential Skills of a Chief Information Officer

A successful CIO must have a variety of important skills to fulfill the responsibilities of their job role. Although there's no set educational requirement for the job, most CIOs have advanced degrees, such as an MBA in information technology management. That provides them with the technical literacy to manage all aspects of an IT operation effectively.

On top of that, a successful CIO must have a plethora of other skills, including:

  • Talent evaluation, management, and development
  • Budgeting and financial management
  • Project management
  • Data and analytics
  • Network security literacy
  • Collaboration
  • Communication

Data Scientist

Data Scientists are responsible for collecting, analyzing, and interpreting complex data to help organizations make better decisions. They use machine learning algorithms, statistical models, and other tools to extract insights from large datasets. Data Scientists typically have a background in Computer Science, Statistics, or a related field and earn salaries ranging from $120,000 to $250,000 per year or more.

The Essential Skills of a Data Scientist

To work as a Data Scientist, it's necessary to have a variety of skills that cover everything from understanding datasets to coding and manipulating the systems that use those data sets. The most important skills include:

  • Programming skills (SQL, SAS, Python, R)
  • Knowledge of statistics and probability
  • Data cleaning and database management
  • Machine learning
  • Data visualization

Together, these skills allow a Data Scientist to manage data sets within databases, prepare them for analysis, and develop machine learning models that derive useful insights from them. The good news is that since data science is such an in-demand field, it's possible to build most of the required skills through online data science curricula. And, online learning portals even localize their programs to suit specific data science hotbeds, such as this data science course in Bangalore that focuses on the skills in demand by the region's local IT companies.

Information Security Manager

Information Security Managers are responsible for safeguarding an organization's digital assets and information from cyber threats. They develop and implement security policies, monitor network activity, and coordinate responses to security breaches. Information Security Managers typically earn salaries ranging from $100,000 to $200,000 per year or more.

The Essential Skills of an Information Security Manager

Since Information Security Managers work on the frontlines of an ongoing war between hackers and businesses, they need some bleeding-edge IT knowledge to succeed. That knowledge falls within the following skills groupings:

  • Security architecture design and management
  • Digital forensics
  • Network security technology deployment and configuration
  • Problem-solving skills
  • People management skills

As the head of a business's cybersecurity efforts, an Information Security Manager has to understand all aspects of digital security, as well as how to manage the cybersecurity specialists working beneath them. In fact, many information security managers begin their careers as IT Security Consultants, a position we'll discuss in detail shortly.

Software Engineering Manager

Software Engineering Managers oversee the development of software applications and systems, ensuring that they meet technical and functional requirements. They manage teams of software engineers and collaborate with other departments to ensure that software projects are delivered on time and within budget. Software Engineering Managers typically earn salaries ranging from $150,000 to $250,000 per year or more.

The Essential Skills of a Software Engineering Manager

Becoming a successful Software Engineering Manager requires a wide array of skills. Many of them relate specifically to the software development process. That's a big reason that many of the best Software Engineering Managers started their careers as programmers. However, they require plenty of non-programming skills, too. Their complete skillset should include:

  • Knowledge of major computer programming languages and frameworks
  • Agile development process skills
  • Time management
  • Communication skills
  • An understanding of UX design and refinement

That last one is becoming more important with each passing day. The reason is that most software development these days involves the creation of customer-facing interfaces that can make or break entire software development projects. So, successful software engineering managers must also have a solid background in usability testing, as well.

DevOps Engineer

DevOps Engineers are responsible for developing and maintaining the infrastructure and systems used for software development and deployment. They work closely with software developers to ensure that code is deployed quickly and reliably, and they may also be responsible for maintaining cloud-based infrastructure. DevOps Engineers typically earn salaries ranging from $120,000 to $200,000 per year or more.

The Essential Skills of a DevOps Engineer

DevOps Engineers have an essential role in the software development process. Without their contributions, coders and developers wouldn't have the tools and platforms they need to work effectively. To maintain required software development infrastructures, DevOps Engineers need a variety of skills, including:

  • Working knowledge of Linux
  • Scripting skills
  • Automation skills
  • Familiarity with major cloud providers
  • Communication
  • Management skills
  • Cybersecurity skills

By putting all of the above skills together, a DevOps Engineer can build an efficient, secure, and accessible infrastructure to suit any type of software development project. And the best part is that it's possible to acquire many of the necessary skills through online coursework. Interested learners can choose from a variety of DevOps courses, some suited to specific cloud provider infrastructures.

Cloud Solutions Architect

Cloud Solutions Architects design and deploy cloud-based infrastructure solutions for organizations, working with cloud service providers to select the most appropriate platforms and services. They also oversee the implementation of cloud-based solutions and provide ongoing support and maintenance. Cloud Solutions Architects typically earn salaries ranging from $150,000 to $250,000 per year or more.

The Essential Skills of a Cloud Solutions Architect

Cloud Solutions Architects, like DevOps engineers, design and deploy complex computing infrastructures in the cloud. However, cloud solutions architects build solutions to suit all manner of business needs, not just those of software developers. To do that, they need some very specific skills:

  • Knowledge of common programming languages (Python, C#, Java)
  • Knowledge of networking
  • Database management and data storage
  • Detailed knowledge of major cloud providers
  • Cybersecurity skills

Senior IT Manager

Senior IT Managers oversee the day-to-day operations of an organization's IT department, managing teams of IT professionals and ensuring that technology systems are running smoothly. They also collaborate with other departments to develop technology strategies and ensure that IT projects are aligned with the company's overall goals. Senior IT Managers typically earn salaries ranging from $120,000 to $200,000 per year or more.

The Essential Skills of a Senior IT Manager

The role of a Senior IT Manager is one of the few roles within the IT space that isn't overly dependent on technology skills. In some cases, people in the role don't even come from an IT background but rather from a general business management one. The skills required of a Senior IT Manager are:

  • Budgeting skills
  • Communication skills
  • Knowledge of business technology and IT hardware and software
  • Project management skills
  • Leadership skills

Of course, people with a background in other IT fields will have a leg up on landing a job as a Senior IT Manager. However, it's not a job for those who want to spend their days at a computer terminal or going into and out of server rooms. It's a very people-oriented role, and only those with suitable interpersonal skills succeed in it.

Enterprise Architect

Enterprise Architects are responsible for designing and maintaining an organization's technology infrastructure to support its business goals. They work with senior executives to develop technology strategies, identify areas where technology can improve business processes, and ensure that technology investments align with the company's overall goals. Enterprise Architects typically earn salaries ranging from $150,000 to $250,000 per year or more.

The Essential Skills of an Enterprise Architect

Enterprise Architects design and manage multiple types of digital infrastructure that can range from on-site business networks and hardware to cloud service infrastructure and co-located servers in data centers around the world. This is why an Enterprise Architect will typically have a degree in computer science, analytics, or another IT-related field. However, they're also responsible for their employer's overall IT strategy. That means they must bring a wide range of skills to the table, including:

  • Problem analysis and comprehension
  • Problem-solving and solution modeling
  • Leadership skills
  • Communication skills
  • Consensus-building

Machine Learning Engineer

Machine Learning Engineers design and implement machine learning models to solve complex business problems. They work closely with Data Scientists and Software Developers to develop algorithms, design data pipelines, and build scalable machine learning systems. Machine Learning Engineers typically earn salaries ranging from $120,000 to $250,000 per year or more.

The Essential Skills of a Machine Learning Engineer

Machine Learning Engineers are a hybrid of a mathematician and a computer programmer. Their work is on the leading edge of the field of data analytics and artificial intelligence. As such, a Machine Learning Engineer needs a varied skill set, including:

  • Software development skills
  • Programming skills in multiple languages ( R, C++, Python, SQL)
  • Problem-solving skills
  • A knowledge of statistics and probability
  • Data modeling and analysis skills

IT Security Consultant

IT Security Consultants work with organizations to identify and mitigate cybersecurity risks. They conduct security assessments, develop security strategies, and provide recommendations on how to improve an organization's overall security posture. IT Security Consultants typically earn salaries ranging from $100,000 to $200,000 per year or more.

The Essential Skills of an IT Security Consultant

Right now, there's no clearly-defined educational path that aspiring IT Security Consultants can take. However, most begin their careers with a degree in an IT-related field, followed by learning some task-specific skills to complement it. These skills include:

  • Penetration testing skills
  • Firewall configuration and management
  • Knowledge of major operating systems
  • Ethical hacking skills
  • An understanding of major compliance schemes

IT Program Manager

IT Program Managers oversee the planning, execution, and delivery of large-scale technology projects. They coordinate project teams, manage budgets and timelines, and ensure that projects are delivered on time and within budget. IT Program Managers typically earn salaries ranging from $120,000 to $200,000 per year or more.

The Essential Skills of an IT Program Manager

An IT Program Manager has a role not unlike that of a conventional project manager. The key difference is that they must have a solid background in an IT-related field, typically including at least a bachelor's degree in one of them. In addition, IT program managers must have the following skills:

IT Director

IT Directors are responsible for the overall technology strategy of an organization. They manage teams of IT professionals, develop technology policies, and ensure that technology investments align with the company's overall goals. IT Directors typically earn salaries ranging from $150,000 to $250,000 per year or more.

The Essential Skills of an IT Director

An IT Director inhabits a somewhat unique role in the typical business's IT hierarchy. They're a step below a CTO, CIO, or an enterprise architect and typically manage the business's day-to-day IT operations. To do that effectively, they need a variety of skills, including:

  • Planning and resource allocation skills
  • People management skills
  • Communication
  • Project management skills
  • Familiarity with networking, cybersecurity, and desktop architecture
  • Knowledge of compliance workflows

Network Architect

Network Architects design and implement an organization's network infrastructure to ensure that it meets business needs and performance requirements. They work closely with IT teams to ensure that network systems are secure and reliable, and they may also oversee the deployment of new network technologies. Network Architects typically earn salaries ranging from $120,000 to $200,000 per year or more.

The Essential Skills of a Network Architect

Network Architects build the communications systems that knit digital assets together into one coherent infrastructure. As such, most have computer science degrees, as well as one or more certifications in enterprise networking. However, the skills they use daily fall into a handful of categories, including:

  • Knowledge of firewall configuration and management
  • Systems integration
  • Troubleshooting and problem-solving skills
  • An understanding of compliance workflows
  • Working knowledge of major IT infrastructure components (Cloud, On-premises, SaaS, PaaS)

Solutions Architect

Solutions Architects design and implement technology solutions that meet specific business needs. They work with stakeholders to identify requirements, evaluate potential solutions, and oversee the implementation of new systems. Solutions Architects typically earn salaries ranging from $120,000 to $200,000 per year or more.

The Essential Skills of a Solutions Architect

Most of the time, the role of a Solution Architect is the next step up for someone with a background in coding or software development. It calls on them to use their skills to comprehend business needs and design or procure a solution. They lean heavily on the following skills to do so:

  • Software development skills
  • Programming skills
  • An understanding of DevOps workflows
  • Computer software and hardware analysis
  • Knowledge of system and data security
  • Project management skills

Senior Software Engineer

Senior Software Engineers design, develop, and test software applications and systems. They also mentor junior developers and work closely with other teams to ensure that software projects are delivered on time and within budget. Senior Software Engineers typically earn salaries ranging from $120,000 to $200,000 per year or more.

The Essential Skills of a Senior Software Engineer

As their name implies, Senior Software Engineers are the programmers and developers with the most experience and knowledge in their given field. They can operate alone or atop a team of other, more junior developers. To work effectively, they must have a plethora of skills, including:

  • Advanced programming skills
  • Analytical skills
  • Documentation skills
  • Leadership
  • Communication skills

On to a Rewarding Career

Armed with the knowledge of what it takes to land a job in one of the preceding high-paying IT job roles, it should be possible for anyone to chart a path to the career they dream of. And since the IT industry's growth remains on an upward trajectory, any of the jobs detailed here will have staying power like few others. So, with the right attitude and plenty of hard work, aiming for any one of them will surely pay off handsomely!

About the Author

Philip Piletic: My primary focus is a fusion of technology, small business, and marketing. I’m a writer, marketing consultant and guest author at several authority websites.