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For job seekers, the demand for specific jobs should factor into their career decisions -- perhaps now more than ever. With the job market affected by events, such as the global pandemic and its resulting wave of layoffs, it's important to know which jobs are still on the upswing.
Learn about eight of the most in-demand tech jobs and IT jobs 2021 has to offer, as well as general job duties, recommended skills for job seekers, why the position is in demand, and paths to careers for each position listed. Jobs are not ranked in any order.
All eight jobs have higher than average salaries and strong projected job growth. Jobs in these areas are available from a wide range of employers, including small software startups, client firms and large tech companies.
When considering salaries, numbers can vary significantly by location and across industries and companies.
1. Software developer -- also known as software development engineer or software engineer
Median salary: $107,510
Job description. Software developers are engineers who build software programs, applications, networks and operating systems (OSes). While a large portion of job duties involve building programs through coding, software developers typically are involved in critical analyses of user needs, planning technical feature requirements, documentation and testing. Software developer positions may focus on front-end applications that users interact with, the back end, which includes application or program code, or both.
Paths to this career. For entry-level positions, most companies prefer four-year bachelor's degrees in computer science. But some software developers may have only an associate's degree or a certificate of completion from a bootcamp for building coding skills. Senior-level positions may require advanced computer science degrees.
Demand. According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of software developer jobs is projected to rise 22% between 2019 and 2029. This equates to the creation of 316,000 new jobs.
2. Data scientist
Median salary: $94,280
Job description. Data scientists collect, analyze and interpret large amounts of data using advanced analytics technologies, such as machine learning, artificial intelligence (AI) and predictive modeling. Aside from technical acumen, knowledge of technology and math skills, data scientists use critical thinking to make informed interpretations of data. This can help organizations understand market trends, consumer behaviors and other relevant insights for developing their business strategy.
Recommended skills. Data scientist jobs typically require several specific technical and soft skills. This typically involves but is not limited to the following:
- linear algebra;
- data visualization;
- predictive modeling;
- machine learning and deep learning;
- data wrangling;
- model deployment and production;
- understanding of business and technology concepts;
- communications; and
Learn more by reading this detailed overview of data scientist skills.
Paths to this career. Similar to other top in-demand tech jobs, most companies require a bachelor's degree. This may be in computer science, statistics or mathematics.
Demand. The post-pandemic job market outlook for data scientists remains optimistic. Among career websites such as Glassdoor, data scientist job titles consistently rank as "top jobs" based on criteria such as salary, job market prognosis and job satisfaction. Data scientist is a relatively new position that has grown as a result of the increasing use of big data. According to LinkedIn's "2020 Emerging Jobs Report," data science roles have grown 34% annually over the last four years.
3. Artificial intelligence specialist
Median salary: $114,121
Job description. Artificial intelligence specialists develop AI and machine learning (ML) technologies for computer programs and other machines to simulate how the human mind works. Specific job duties can vary, but may also include jobs such as machine learning engineer, business intelligence developer and AI architect.
Recommended skills. AI and machine learning specialist positions often require specific technical proficiencies, such as:
- expertise in AI and ML;
- expertise in deep learning;
- experience working with TensorFlow;
- experience with natural language processing (NLP);
- knowledge of the Python programming language;
- experience working with algorithms;
- knowledge of object-oriented and functional design principles;
- development of REST APIs;
- NoSQL design; and
- RDBMS design and optimization.
Paths to this career. At a minimum, AI specialists generally have a bachelor's degree in computer science, plus prior experience working with algorithms and related tools. But employers typically prefer to hire candidates with advanced master's degrees.
Demand. According to LinkedIn's recent "2020 Emerging Jobs Report" from data trends of the same year, this position topped the list, having grown 74% annually over the last four years. Skills are relatively specific and demand for the job is spread across multiple industries, including computer software, IT, automotive, defense and communications.
4. IT manager -- also known as information systems manager, IT director, chief information officer and chief technology officer
Median salary: $146,360
Job description. IT managers are responsible for the short-term and long-term visions for the technology needs of an organization. Job duties typically include collaborating with executives and upper management on matters related to technology, such as large purchasing decisions, managing key vendor relationships, managing software and hardware upgrades and general oversight of IT tasks such as security. IT manager positions exist in essentially every industry.
Recommended skills. Effective IT managers typically have the following skills:
- strategic thinking;
- project management;
- work well in high pressure, high stress situations;
- effective collaboration;
- broad technical skills;
- general computer science expertise; and
- in-depth awareness of current technologies and market trends.
Paths to this career. IT manager positions typically are not entry-level jobs. Positions may range from intermediate to senior-level. IT managers typically have at least a bachelor's degree in computer science, but some IT managers may have a master's degree or advanced degree in a related field. Typically, several years of work experience in IT-related roles is required to become an IT manager.
Demand. From 2019 to 2029, 48,100 new IT manager jobs are expected to be created, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is largely due to increases in digital transformations across all industries and the need for employees who can help organizations effectively manage their use of technology. Industries with sensitive data, such as retail, require IT managers with knowledge and expertise in cybersecurity.
5. Information security analyst
Median salary: $99,730
Job description. Information security analysts are responsible for protecting company computer systems and networks from malware and other forms of cyber attacks. Job responsibilities may include planning and executing cybersecurity measures, monitoring networks for breaches, investigating and reporting breaches, conducting penetration testing and maintaining cybersecurity defense measures. Positions may require security generalists or focus specifically on network security.
Recommended skills. Knowledge of cybersecurity threats and defense strategies, understanding of networks and computer systems, technical acumen, communication skills, collaboration skills and critical thinking skills.
Paths to this career. Information security analysts typically have bachelor's degrees in computer science or related fields, as well as previous work experience in such roles as network, computer systems or database administrator.
Demand. Information security analyst positions are increasing. Between 2019 and 2029, almost 40,900 new jobs are expected to be created in the U.S., according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This demand is due to general increases in cyber attacks, and expansions in the collection and storage of sensitive data, such as vertical market software products for healthcare and financial industries.
6. Computer systems analyst
Median salary: $90,920
Job description. Computer systems analysts design computer systems for client organizations. These professionals learn about the business models of their clients and research which technologies best fit the organization's specific needs and use cases. The overall goal is to design a computer system for the customer organization with the appropriate hardware, software and network for the organization's budget and needs. Computer systems analysts may be employed by client-service firms for computer systems design or work in-house in industries, including banking, healthcare and technology.
Recommended skills. Computer systems analysts typically have the following:
- comprehensive understanding of computer systems and IT;
- comprehensive understanding of business models and how they use technology;
- general computer science knowledge;
- current knowledge of technology and business;
- critical thinking skills;
- research skills;
- communications skills; and
- client-facing skills.
Paths to this career. Computer systems analysts typically have a bachelor's degree in information systems or computer science. Some employers may prefer candidates who have bachelor's degrees in computer science and business-related studies or have a master's degree.
Demand. The need for computer systems analysts is expected to increase from 2019 to 2029, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 46,600 jobs to be created during that period. This is a 7% increase in jobs. Most of these increases are linked to expansions in healthcare IT.
7. Computer network architect
Median salary: $112,690
Job description. Computer network architects are responsible for designing and constructing data communication networks for organizations. These include wide area networks (WANs), local area networks (LANs) and intranets. Tasks for a computer network architect can range from setting up simple connections between offices, to setting up multicustomer cloud architectures. Core responsibilities for a computer network architect include building and presenting detailed networking plans to management and maintaining proper maintenance and upgrades for network hardware and software.
Recommended skills. Computer network architects typically have the following skills:
- expertise in networking technology;
- understanding of business IT;
- general computer science knowledge;
- interpersonal and presentation skills;
- ability to understand different business models; and
- knowledge of computer and network administration.
Paths to this career. Typically, computer network architects have a bachelor's degree in computer science, information systems or a related technical field. More competitive positions may prefer candidates with a master's degree in information systems. Computer network architect jobs are not entry-level, as they usually require five to 10 years of work experience in roles such as a network or database administrator, or computer systems analyst.
Demand. Between 2019 and 2029, there are projected to be around 8,000 new jobs created, as a result of expanding IT needs within companies, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
8. Site reliability engineer (SRE)
Median salary: $116,947
Job description. Site reliability engineers ensure that websites and business applications are operating smoothly using software engineering skill sets to address problems with operations and architecture. Duties between SREs are typically split between developing -- such as automation, scaling and building new features -- and technical troubleshooting to address operational issues that arise.
Recommended skills. SREs typically have the following:
- comprehensive knowledge of software development;
- proficiency coding in programming languages such as Java and Python;
- strong knowledge of major OSes and their administration;
- familiarity with DevOps engineering practices;
- knowledge of networking, load balancing, protocols such as TCP/IP and services like DNS; and
- thorough knowledge of technology such as servers, storage, virtualization and network monitoring.
Learn more about the skills required and responsibilities of SREs.
Paths to this career. Like many of the other top in-demand tech jobs, SRE roles typically require a bachelor's degree in computer science. Work experience is often required as well. Most employers will ask for work experience supporting scalable service environments, as well as coding experience. However, SRE job requirements can vary greatly between companies.
Demand. SRE roles have been experiencing 34% annual growth in the last four years, according to the LinkedIn "2020 Emerging Jobs Report."