22 of the Highest-Paying Computer Jobs in America
It's no secret that technology workers often earn major moolah, but which careers rise to the ranks of the highest-paying computer jobs in the U.S.? The list of top-paying tech jobs includes positions in a vast range of areas, from applications development, database administration, and information security to hardware engineering, systems analysis, and web development. So if you're looking for an information technology (IT) career with a stellar income, you have plenty of options.
Generally speaking, the highest-paying computer jobs go to C-level managers like chief information security officers and chief technology officers. But IT is one field where you don't have to be in the executive suite to earn big bucks. As you can see from the list of computer jobs below, there are plenty of high-paying positions at both the management and non-management levels. In many cases, average earnings are well into the six figures.
It's worth noting that IT professionals who continually update and refine their skill sets can often command higher earnings. Some employers offer premium salaries to technology workers with specialized certifications. In fact, one survey found that IT workers who achieved such certifications earned about 12 percent more than uncertified staff.1 Read more about which certifications can make the most difference below.
(Note: The salaries cited below are national averages, rounded to the nearest thousand.)
- 7 of the highest-paying computer jobs at the management level
- 15 of the top-paying computer jobs for non-managers
- Certifications that can boost your income
7 of the Highest-Paying Computer Jobs at the Management Level
As you might expect, the top salaries in the technology field are often reserved for leadership or management positions. After all, rising through the ranks generally leads to higher incomes. Here are seven of the top-paying computer jobs in management:
1. Chief information security officer (CISO)—$156K2
The senior executives responsible for keeping company data and assets safe from both internal and external threats are the highest-paid professionals on our list. CISOs focus on risk management and regulatory compliance. They develop policies for aligning enterprise security with the business goals of an organization. They also lead the corporate response to security incidents or breaches. Many have MBAs in addition to advanced training in computer security.
2. Chief information officer (CIO) or chief technology officer (CTO)—$154K2
These top-level executives formulate the information technology goals of an organization. They are big-picture professionals and are not generally involved in the day-to-day operations of an IT department. Broadly speaking, the CIO sets the overall technology strategy and makes sure that it supports the business strategy, whereas the CTO assesses new technology and recommends solutions that further business objectives. Some companies only have one or the other.
3. Data warehouse manager—$116K2
Leading a team of technical personnel who design, implement, and maintain the data systems used for analytics and reporting comes with a hefty paycheck. Data warehouse managers identify data storage risks and develop long-range plans for making sure systems remain stable and secure. You'll need plenty of experience with business intelligence tools and database architecture.
4. Applications development manager—$93K2
You can make a healthy income by directing the daily activities of those who create and support software applications. These managers develop project schedules, allocate resources, and monitor timelines. They also provide technical guidance to developers and ensure that all team members follow best practices. A thorough understanding of different software development processes is required.
5. Information systems security manager—$95K2
Keeping an organization's information secure is critically important, so it's no wonder that security managers are paid so well. Managing an information security team involves creating security protocols, overseeing audits, and ensuring that the work gets done efficiently and effectively. Large companies often have several security managers who report to the CISO; in smaller organizations, these managers might be the top computer security professionals.
6. Software product manager—$89K2
If you can translate business objectives into market-worthy software products, you can earn some serious money. Product managers analyze market data, set product strategy, prioritize features to be included, and plan implementation timelines. They coordinate with development, sales, marketing, and support teams to guide a product from conception right through to launch.
7. IT project manager—$85K2
Many companies pay big bucks for IT project managers who make sure goals are met on time and on budget. These managers set schedules, assign tasks, and monitor progress. They must be adept at estimating time and costs, assessing risks, solving problems, and motivating team members. Many work as consultants. A variety of specialized certifications are available.
15 of the Top-Paying Computer Jobs for Non-Managers
You don't necessarily have to be in charge of managing people to make a pile of money in the computer industry. Many staff positions also come with impressive incomes. Check out more than a dozen of the highest-paying options below:
1. Software architect—$129K2
Coming up with the framework of a software project and ensuring that it meets business goals can be lucrative work. Software architects analyze user and business requirements, consider the constraints, and define a plan for structuring the software. They take a high-level view of the design; for instance, they specify coding standards, but they may not write much actual code. Many software architects start out as developers and work their way up.
2. Hardware engineer—$120K3
Designing and developing computerized devices is one of the highest-paying jobs in technology. Hardware engineers create everything from circuit boards and servers to keyboards and routers. They design blueprints, make prototypes, and test their models to determine what improvements or adjustments need to be made. A degree in computer engineering, electrical engineering, or computer science is usually required.
3. Data scientist—$120K3
With the massive amounts of data that are generated every day, skilled professionals who can derive useful insights from that data can make a pretty penny. Data scientists use their advanced quantitative skills to devise and apply new algorithms that mine complex sets of data. They aim to discover patterns and trends that can help solve business problems.
4. Systems architect—$120K2
Systems architects take a big-picture view of a computer system and define the structure and interactions of that system so that it meets business requirements. They are responsible for designing the overall technical infrastructure of a system, incorporating hardware, software, networks, firewalls, and security. It's important to be comfortable with a wide range of technologies, including cloud computing.
5. Systems software developer—$112K3
Any device with a computer chip in it requires software to make it work properly. Systems software developers create the operating systems that power our computers, tablets, and phones. They also design and develop the embedded software that controls the functioning of electronics systems in things like cars, appliances, and televisions.
6. Network architect—$108K3
Determining the best way to get computers to communicate with each other is the primary task of a network architect. These highly paid IT professionals develop the framework for a variety of data communication systems, such as Intranets, local area networks (LANs), and wide area networks (WANs). They ensure that their plans align with business objectives and support the long-term goals of an organization.
7. Applications software developer—$107K3
The computer programs, games, and mobile apps that make our lives easier or more fun exist thanks to the work of applications software developers. They build the software that consumers use. That involves identifying required functionality and creating flowcharts as well as writing, testing, and debugging code.
8. Information security analyst—$100K3
Companies need to know where their security vulnerabilities lie, and they frequently offer large salaries to people who can find those weaknesses and recommend ways to fix or improve them. Information security analysts simulate cyber attacks and conduct security audits in order to ferret out flaws that could lead to breaches. They also develop and test disaster recovery plans. Many computer security certifications are available.
9. Systems analyst—$93K3
Systems analysts evaluate an organization's computer systems with the aim of figuring out ways to increase performance and efficiency. They identify areas that could be changed or improved and prepare reports detailing the costs and benefits of technological upgrades. Many of them work as contractors or consultants.
10. Big-data engineer—$90K2
Without big-data engineers, data scientists would have nothing to analyze. These engineers use their programming expertise to design and build data pipelines and processing systems. While data scientists concentrate on mining the generated data, engineers focus on building and maintaining the actual data infrastructure and architecture.
11. Database administrator—$89K3
Storing and safeguarding data is essential to the operation of most businesses. That's why skilled database administrators can command such high salaries. They install and configure database servers, manage access permissions, and make adjustments as necessary to optimize performance. They also back up data to ensure that it can be restored in the event of a security breach or other disaster.
12. Network administrator—$86K3
Keeping data communication systems functioning efficiently and effectively is well-paying work. Network administrators install and maintain equipment such as servers, routers, switches, and firewalls. They monitor network performance and make upgrades and repairs as needed to keep things running smoothly. They also connect new computers to a network and configure user access settings.
13. Senior IT auditor—$85K2
The job of an IT auditor is to analyze a company's information systems in order to make sure those systems comply with all applicable laws and regulations. Auditors evaluate business operations and assess risk. They also check to see if effective controls are in place to safeguard the integrity and confidentiality of company data. Many employers look for professional certification.
14. Software quality assurance engineer—$75K2
Many companies depend on software quality assurance engineers to monitor the development process and ensure that a final product works properly and meets established standards. This role involves reviewing technical specifications, developing and running tests, documenting bugs, and making sure that critical issues are addressed. It helps to be proficient in different programming languages and operating systems.
15. Web developer—$74K3
There's great demand for people who can bring websites and web applications to life, which is why these developers can earn handsome salaries. They are responsible for all the technical aspects of getting a site up and running. That means determining the features and functionality, designing the framework, and writing code. You'll need a strong portfolio to show potential employers.
Certifications That Can Boost Your Income
In the IT world, specialized certifications can lead to greater opportunities and higher earnings. Many employers look for such certifications as evidence of both your professional competence and your commitment to ongoing education.
There are dozens of different options for certifications that pay well, depending on your particular focus. Here are the top-paying certifications as noted in a 2017 survey by IT training company Global Knowledge, sorted by interest area. (The dollar figures represent the average salaries of the survey respondents who achieved that particular certification; figures are rounded to the nearest thousand.)1
- Certified in the Governance of Enterprise IT (CGEIT)—$121K
- Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)—$111K
- Certified in Risk and Information System Control (CRISC)—$111K
- Certified Information Security Manager (CISM)—$108K
- Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)—$106K
- Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA)—$100K
Cloud Computing and Virtualization
- Amazon Web Services Certified Solutions Architect, Associate—$121K
- Amazon Web Services Certified Developer, Associate—$114K
- Citrix Certified Professional-Virtualization (CCP-V)—$103K
- Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE): Cloud Platform and Infrastructure—$101K
- Project Management Professional (PMP)—$114K
- Certified ScrumMaster—$107K
- Six Sigma Green Belt—$104K
- Cisco Certified Networking Professional (CCNP) Routing and Switching—$99K
- Citrix Certified Associate-Networking (CCA-N)—$99K
Boost Your Prospects
Are you angling for one of the highest-paying computer jobs? Do you have the skills you need to achieve your ambitions? It's worth checking out the job-focused training that's available from technical institutes and vocational colleges. These types of schools can help you expand your technical abilities and get you moving toward your goal. Discover convenient nearby programs by putting your zip code into the school finder below!
1 Global Knowledge, 2017 IT Skills and Salary Report, website last visited on May 14, 2018.
2 PayScale, website last visited on June 18, 2018.
3 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, website last visited on May 14, 2018.