The best careers you can launch with an IT degree

The top careers for graduates with an IT degree show significant signs of growth and pay well above the national median salary. This guide offers a close look at the top IT jobs, what these professionals do, and how much money they make. 

Information technology refers to the use of computers and related hardware and software to send, retrieve, and store information. Workers in IT careers help businesses and organizations run more efficiently and safeguard their networks and sensitive information. 

In these roles, you’ll meet the IT needs of employers in today’s fastest-growing industries, including healthcare, transportation, financial services, and manufacturing. Whether you’re interested in software development, IT security, data analytics, or design and animation, there’s a position for you. 

Types of IT careers

Information technology’s scope extends into virtually every aspect of business operations today. With so many roles in the field, it’s helpful to divide IT careers into five main sectors: software development, IT security, data analytics, design and animation, and quality assurance. 

  • Software development: IT professionals in this area design and build system, programming, and application software. They code the instructions that tell computers what to do and allow users to perform tasks.

  • IT security: Workers in this area of the field strive to protect a business’s or organization’s assets. They often focus on protecting confidential or sensitive information from unauthorized use.

  • Data analytics: Data analytics focuses on evaluating raw data to form conclusions and identify trends that inform business decisions and strategies. 

  • Design and animation: This aspect of IT involves creating digital art or graphics, often used in graphic design, video game design, or user interface design.

  • Quality assurance: These professionals test and troubleshoot software before its release to ensure it works as it should.

How much money can you make in information technology?

Many jobs for IT majors come with healthy salaries. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), professionals in computer and information technology occupations earn a median annual wage of $91,250.

Some top-paying IT careers include computer and information research scientist, computer network architect, and computer programmer. These workers earn a median annual salary between $89,190-$126,830

Higher earners in the field often possess tech certifications, several years of work experience, and at least a bachelor’s degree in information technology or a related area. Some employers prefer applicants to hold a master’s degree, especially for research-focused positions such as those held by computer and information research scientists.

Best jobs for IT majors

While many jobs for IT majors have a positive outlook and substantial salary, some roles stand out. Depending on your degree, work experience, certifications, and specialized skills, you may qualify for one of the top positions detailed below.

To rank the best IT careers, we assessed roles based on salary, job demand and projected growth, remote work opportunities, work-life balance, and work satisfaction. The criteria that we weighted the most heavily were salary, work-life balance, and work satisfaction.

1. Software engineer

Minimum degree required: Bachelor’s

Alternate job titles: Computer programmer, systems software developer, application software developer

Candidates should have:

  • Desire for innovation and improving design

  • Interpersonal and communication skills

  • Attention to detail

  • Strong troubleshooting and problem-solving skills

These workers specialize in creating applications, networks, or operating systems that allow users to navigate software and carry out tasks. Software engineers typically work as part of a team alongside project managers, graphic designers, software developers, and quality assurance analysts.

2. Computer systems analyst

Minimum degree required: Bachelor’s

Alternate job titles: Systems architects, applications analyst, business systems analyst

Candidates should have:

  • Attention to detail

  • Critical thinking skills and problem-solving creativity

  • Strong communication, teamwork, and project management skills

These professionals help organizations’ daily operations and computer systems efficiency through problem-solving and creating solutions. They focus on streamlining current systems or implementing new customized systems. Experienced systems analysts often obtain leadership roles as project managers, chief technology officers, and IT directors.

3. Data scientist

Minimum degree required: Bachelor’s

Alternate job titles: Big data scientist, data engineer, data storyteller

Candidates should have: 

  • Creativity

  • Problem-solving and troubleshooting skills

  • Communication and teamwork skills

  • Fluency in several programming languages

  • Excellent statistics and math skills

These analytical experts strive to solve organizations’ business-related challenges using data-centered strategies. They work with programming languages, analyze and collate large amounts of data, and try to improve business profits using mathematics, data patterns, and model building and testing.

4. IT manager

Minimum degree required: Bachelor’s

Alternate job titles: IT project managers, information systems project manager, IT program manager

Candidates should have:

  • Analytical skills 

  • Leadership, organization and decision-making skills

  • Ability to develop and implement business strategies

IT managers ensure that an organization’s hardware and software remains up to date and meets its needs. They often oversee network security, help develop business plans, and direct other IT employees.

5. Database administrator

Minimum degree required: Bachelor’s

Alternate job titles: Database administration manager, database analyst, database coordinator

Candidates should have: 

  • Critical thinking, inductive reasoning, and data analysis skills

  • Fluency in a variety of programming languages

  • Communication, writing, and teamwork skills

  • Attention to detail

These administrators create systems to organize, store, and secure financial information, customer shipping records, and other sensitive information. They oversee data storage and its safety and backup systems. They also transfer data between old and new databases.

6. Computer programmer

Minimum degree required: Associate

Alternate job titles: Application program analyst, computer programmer analyst, web applications programmer

Candidates should have:

  • Strong mathematics and engineering skills

  • Critical-thinking skills

  • Knowledge of database management system and platform development software

  • Teamwork skills

  • Fluency in primary coding languages

These professionals write and test code for software programs and applications. They may work on programs developed by others — including engineers and software developers. Computer programmers remedy issues with program code when necessary.

7. Computer network architect

Minimum degree required: Bachelor’s

Alternate job titles: Network analyst, network systems consultant, telecommunications analyst

Candidates should have:

  • Leadership, teamwork, collaboration and interpersonal skills

  • Attention to detail

  • Knowledge of telecommunications and design tools

Network architects build data communication networks. These projects range from small networks between organizations to large-scale cloud infrastructure serving many clients. They may also troubleshoot network issues and provide general maintenance and updating.

8. Cloud computing engineer

Minimum degree required: Bachelor’s

Alternate job titles: Cloud architect, cloud consultant, cloud services developer

Candidates should have: 

  • Openness to new ideas and learning new skills

  • Excellent interpersonal communication skills

  • Ability to collaborate and work in teams

  • Knowledge of business and organizational operations

Cloud computing engineers serve a wide variety of functions, including setting up architecture with cloud providers such as Google Cloud or Microsoft Azure, managing cloud security, and moving existing systems to cloud-based systems. They often work in teams with other cloud engineers and IT experts to keep systems updated.

9. Web developer

Minimum degree required: High school diploma

Alternate job titles: Back-end web developer, front-end web developer, webmaster

Candidates should have: 

  • Communication and customer-service skills

  • Ability to see projects from start to finish

  • Attention to detail

  • Teamwork and collaboration skills

Web developers develop and maintain websites They may also code web applications, interactive web interfaces, and application databases. Web developers may work with designers or on their own to create and integrate graphics, video, and audio into websites.

10. Information security specialist

Minimum degree required: Bachelor’s

Alternate job titles: Information security officer, information systems security analyst, IT security analyst

Candidates should have: 

  • Knowledge of virus protection and transaction security software

  • Understanding of telecommunications systems, applications, and programming

  • Problem-solving and critical-thinking skills

These professionals develop and carry out security guidelines to protect computer systems and networks for organizations and businesses. They work to defend systems against cyberattacks and security breaches. They must also stay up to date on the latest defenses for new security threats.

11. Computer support specialist

Minimum degree required: Associate

Alternate job titles: Computer technician, help desk analyst, technical support specialist 

Candidates should have: 

  • Knowledge of database query and user interface software

  • Strong customer and personal service skills

  • Problem-solving and critical-thinking skills

  • Understanding of operating system and web platform development software

These specialists help customers with computer issues by diagnosing problems and offering steps toward resolution. They may also perform regular maintenance on networks, setup or repair computers and related devices, and work in teams to resolve customer computer issues.

Freelance IT careers

According to the Freelancers Union, freelance workers make up about 36% of the U.S. workforce. Many IT professionals today find careers outside the traditional 9-5 workday. 

Some common IT careers for freelancers include web developers, software developers, animators and designers, and data analysts. Freelancers can also find work in just about any industry, including healthcare, higher education, finance, and manufacturing. 

Freelancing pros

Flexibility: Most freelancers enjoy the great scheduling flexibility that comes with contract work. You can make your own hours and decide when it’s best for you to complete your work while meeting your deadlines.

Independence: Freelancers who enjoy working independently often find contract work quite helpful for their work style. Many freelance roles in IT allow workers to complete specific tasks independently or in collaboration with smaller teams.

Freelancing cons

Unpredictability: Freelance IT workers often do not know how much money they’ll earn or how much work they’ll have from month to month.

No benefits: Unlike most full-time salaried jobs in IT, freelancers don’t receive health insurance, disability or workers’ compensation, family or medical leave, or overtime pay.

Which IT careers pay the most?

According to BLS, computer and information systems managers make a median annual wage of $151,150. The top 10% of earners in this field earn more than $208,000 per year.

Which IT skill is the most in demand?

CompTIA reports that machine learning skills are the most in-demand in 2021. Professionals in this area possess a strong foundation in applied mathematics, physics, data modeling, algorithms, and programming languages.

What should I major in to work in IT?

Many bachelor’s degrees can lead to a career in IT. The most common majors for learners interested in an IT career are information systems and computer science.