One Degree, Many Paths: 5 Best Careers In The Market Today

It doesn’t matter if you call it information technology, computer science, computer information systems or any of the other names being used today. It all equates to the same thing: a fast-growing field of opportunity for individuals with the right academic credentials. Related: 6 Tips For Choosing Your College And Degree Program Earning an advanced degree can lead your career forward into some of the fastest-growing and highest-paid segments of the IT job market.

1. Database Management

In the age of Big Data, there is an ongoing need for database administrators to analyze, manage, warehouse, and secure increasingly large data sets. This area of opportunity will continue to grow as business sectors recognize the importance of leveraging data for productivity and profit. A study completed by the McKinsey Global Institute estimates that retailers could improve operating margins by 60 percent through the proper application of data. The healthcare industry is also a hot sector, with the expectation that data-based improvements in efficiency and quality could create $300 billion in additional value. This same study also indicates a future need for 1.5 million more data-savvy managers to support Big Data in the United States alone. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) agrees, with industry growth projections of 31% through 2020.

2. IT Project Management

Growing complexity in the information technology field has created a boon for IT project managers who have the knowledge to deliver results on time and on budget. Technology professionals who understand how to manage resources, timelines, and project plans can write their own ticket to the future. Data from the BLS indicated median pay of $115,780 (2010 data) with an overall 18 percent increase through 2020. The role of IT project manager can also be a springboard to executive-level careers – such as Chief Information Officer or Chief Technology Officer – where annual salaries can easily reach the $250,000 mark.

3. Information Security

Breaches to information security have become common occurrences, with frequent news stories about cyber-crimes ranging from theft of credit card data to leaks of sensitive government documents. The challenges of mobile devices, cloud-based computing, and virtualization are three trends that have created unprecedented opportunity for IT security professionals. Banks, brokerages, online retailers, healthcare systems, local municipalities, government agencies, and many other organizations have a growing need for individuals who can analyze system weaknesses and improve defenses against threats. Median salaries for information security analysts were $75,660, with an expected industry growth rate of 22 percent (2010 BLS data).

4. Computer Networking

Network administrators, architects and engineers all play vital roles in designing, managing, and securing computer networks of all sizes, for businesses of all kinds. Wireless networking is a major consideration for companies today, as is the need for expanded connectivity with business partners across the globe. Robert Half Technology (RHT), a global staffing firm, reports that both network engineers are earning from $80,500 to $117,000 dependent on experience, education, and location. Network managers and network architects top out at $122,500 and $146,500, respectively. Growth in networking careers, like most IT career paths, is strong through 2020 with the BLS estimating a 28 percent increase.

5. Web Application Development

U.S. News and World Report ranks web developer among their top 10 technology jobs, with a 21 percent BLS growth rate. The race to launch the next breakthrough feature is more aggressive than ever as society clamors for websites that are easier to use, more intuitive, and interactively engaging. A successful web developer will have a blend of creative and technical skills, with the talent and knowledge to enhance the user experience. According to RHT, a prolific developer can earn from $65,750 to $127,250, depending on seniority.

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