The Highest Paying IT Jobs For 2021: Robert Half

While higher unemployment and workforce up-skilling are expanding the IT candidate pool, employers are finding many applicants do not possess the right technical skills and experience or the desired soft skills, according to the staffing company.


The Highest Paying IT Jobs For 2021: Robert Half

While higher unemployment and workforce up-skilling are expanding the IT candidate pool, employers are finding many applicants do not possess the right technical skills and experience or the desired soft skills, according to the staffing company.

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High Demand, High Salaries

Big data engineer and information systems security manager are forecast to be the non-executive IT jobs with the highest median starting salaries in the United States next year, according to new report from staffing company Robert Half International.

The “Robert Half Technology Salary Guide 2021” outlines IT industry trends and starting salaries that the company’s recruiters expect to see next year.

The global coronavirus pandemic has placed greater emphasis on the need for skilled technology professionals to support organizations’ critical operations and strategic initiatives, but jobseekers are facing increasing competition from a growing candidate pool for tech jobs, according to Robert Half, which is based in Menlo Park, Calif.

While employers struggled with a pre-pandemic shortage of tech talent, higher unemployment and upskilling in the workforce due to accelerated digital transformation are expanding the IT candidate pool, the report said.

“It is further enlarged by businesses’ growing acceptance of remote work arrangements,” the report stated. “This allows employers to recruit technology professionals from a broader geographic area, potentially from anywhere around the world.”

Still, Robert Half said many applicants do not possess the right technical skills and experience or the desired soft skills, the latter of which include attention to detail, business acumen, and change management, collaboration, communication, critical thinking and leadership abilities.

Among the industries hiring are healthcare, technology and financial services companies, along with local, state and federal government services.

Critical technology roles highlighted by Robert Half are artificial intelligence (AI)/machine learning (ML) specialists, business intelligence analysts, cloud architects, cybersecurity and data privacy experts, data analytics and reporting professionals, data scientists, developers (database, full-stack, web, software and mobile), engineers (cloud, data, DevOps, network security and software), help desk and user support professionals, and IT administrators (database, network and systems).

In-demand IT skills and expertise include Agile and Scrum, Angular, ASP.NET, C#, cloud computing (Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud, containerization (Docker, Kubernetes and Helm), Golang, ITIL, Java, JavaScript, Kotlin, Linux, PHP, Python, ReactJS and React Native, Ruby on Rails, SQL, virtualization and virtual, augmented, mixed and cross reality.

Here’s a look at the highest paying IT jobs -- non-executive leadership positions with the highest median national starting salaries -- according to the “Robert Half Technology Salary Guide 2021.” The salaries do not include benefits, bonuses, benefits and other types of compensation, and the listed jobs are for candidates who have average experience and a majority of the necessary skills sought by employers.

No. 15: Lead Applications Developer

Lead applications developers are in the 15th spot for the highest median starting salary for IT positions at $130,750.

Lead applications developers are responsible for directing development teams in the design, development, coding, testing and debugging of application software for computers and mobile devices, and providing feedback and suggestions for process and product improvement as a technical mentor and adviser. The position’s qualifications typically include at least three years of experience in technologies such as Visual Basic, .NET, PHP, C#/C++ and Microsoft .NET framework development. They also call for a strong background in applications programming, a bachelor’s degree in computer science or a related field and several years of proven success as a technical team leader.

No. 14: Data Security Analyst

Candidates need a deep knowledge of computer and network security, including firewall administration, encryption technologies and network protocols, and must stay abreast of trends in security and government regulations.

Employers generally look for at least three years of practical information security experience and value candidates with a professional certification such as the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) designation.

Data security analysts’ duties include establishing security policies and procedures; performing security audits, risk assessments and analysis; recommending data systems security enhancements; researching attempted data security breaches; and resolving security weaknesses.

The median starting salary for data security analysts is $134,000.

No. 13: Mobile Applications Developer

Among their duties are application coding, testing, debugging, documenting and monitoring; interacting with their organization’s departments on new deployments; helping develop project schedules and workflows; and recommending changes and improvements to software applications.

The median starting salary for mobile applications developers is $135,750.

No. 12: Security Architect

Security architects are charged with protecting their organizations’ technology infrastructure and systems from cybersecurity threats. They’re responsible for developing and overseeing the implementation of a security strategy and infrastructure that keeps data safe without slowing performance and while meeting compliance regulations.

They conduct regular monitoring and testing to combat evolving threats, including penetration testing, traffic analysis and checking the performance of security systems, and provide threat analysis of breaches or attempted breaches.

The median starting salary for the management-level position is $136,000.

No. 11: Technical Services And Operations Manager

Professionals in this role manage staff in the planning, development and maintenance of an organization’s information systems infrastructure, which could include local, metropolitan and wide-area data networks, voice networks, operating systems, internet and intranet services, email and computer operations.

The median starting salary for technical services and operations managers is $137,000.

No. 10: Database Manager

Database managers are charged with maintaining and supporting their organization’s database environment and helping to use data more strategically to meet business goals and better serve customers. Their duties also include developing capacity planning, disaster recovery and performance analyses, according to Robert Half. They typically manage an IT team whose tasks include database programming and configuring database systems and must collaborate with other departments to determine what data to mine for customized reports.

Key qualifications for a database manager include a bachelor’s degree or higher, at least five years of experience working with a database such as Oracle, Microsoft SQL Server or IBM DB2, several years in a technical management position, information system strategy skills, leadership skills and the ability to communicate effectively with senior IT managers.

The median starting salary for database managers is $137,500.

No. 9: Consulting And Systems Integration Manager

A consulting and systems integration manager is responsible for the design, building and implementation of information systems, including customized architectures or applications; integrating them with an organization’s hardware and software; and provides post-installation support.

The position has a median starting salary of $137,750.

No. 8: Software And Applications Development Manager

A software and applications development manager is typically responsible for the planning, coordination and supervision of an organization’s software program and application activities, along with managing the teams that monitor, analyze, design and develop them. Responsibilities could include managing development projects to ensure they meet an organization’s business requirements and goals and working with other departments to determine their software needs.

The median starting salary for the job is $139,000.

No. 7: Applications Architect

Applications architects are responsible for designing the major aspects of a software application, including the user interface, middleware and infrastructure.

Other duties include providing technical leadership to the application development team; performing design and code reviews; ensuring that uniform, enterprise-wide application design standards are maintained; and collaborating with other stakeholders to ensure application architectures are aligned with business requirements.

Employers look for a minimum of five to eight years of work experience with relevant development tools and specific application and system architectures, in addition to a strong understanding of object-oriented design. Expertise in the design, development and deployment of enterprise-level, N-tier architecture in a Microsoft .NET Framework or Java Enterprise Edition platform may be required, as well as software development skills such as AJAX, C#/C++ and LAMP.

Job candidates also must be able to work well on teams – and sometimes manage them – and have excellent communication and planning skills.

Applications architects have a median starting salary of $144,500

“This is one of the highest-paying IT roles, because just about every company wants to improve existing applications or create new ones,” the Robert Half report states.

No. 6: Data Architect

Data architects ensure that an organization’s data is properly collected, organized into databases and available as needed, and are responsible for overseeing data centers and database security.

Candidates must have the ability to understand and evaluate business requirements and translate the information into specific database solutions.

Key qualifications include a high level of analytical and creative skills; in-depth knowledge of the methodology, design and modeling of databases and data systems; and the ability to plan and effectively coordinate data resources. They should have a working knowledge of network management, distributed databases and processing, application architecture and performance management. A bachelor’s degree in a computer-related field and experience with Oracle, Microsoft SQL Server or other databases in operating system environments such as Unix, Linux, Solaris and Microsoft Windows are often required.

The median starting salary for data architects is $145,500.

No. 5: Network/Cloud Architect

A network/cloud architect tops the list for networking/telecommunications roles with a median starting salary of $146,000.

Network/cloud architects plan, design and upgrade network and cloud projects. They’re typically an IT team’s key resource for solving problems involving network architecture and recommending system enhancements.

Candidates should have several years of experience with network and cloud technologies in addition to excellent technical problem-solving skills and strong communications skills.

No. 4: Consulting And Systems Integration Director

A consulting and systems integration director oversees the design, building and implementation of information systems, including designing or building customized architectures or applications; testing and integrating them with an organization’s hardware and software; and providing post-installation support. While the job description is similar to the consulting and systems integration manager job (No. 9), this higher level director job carries more authority – and a higher salary.

The median starting salary for the role is $147,250. Candidates with above-average skills and experience and specialized certifications can make a median starting salary of $175,500.

No. 3: AI Architect

AI architects work with customers to find ways to apply AI technology to their existing processes and identify new market opportunities. The role requires a deep understanding of ML, natural language processing, integrating AI into overall IT infrastructures, AI application programming and change management.

The cutting-edge field is a high-pressure one, according to Robert Half. Candidates usually need a minimum of a master’s degree in computer science, data science or AI and substantial experience working with AI tools in roles such as AI engineering. Strategic thinking, communication, time management and organization, collaboration, adaptability and problem-solving are among the desired soft skills.

The median starting salary for AI architects is $148,000.

No. 2: Information Systems Security Manager

Information systems security manager is the highest-paying security job in the Robert Half report with a median starting salary of $149,000.

Typical duties of an information systems security manager include providing leadership, guidance and training to information systems security personnel; reviewing, implementing, updating and documenting company-wide information security policies and procedures; and managing security audits and vulnerability and threat assessments and directing responses to network or system intrusions. They are often tasked with ensuring fulfillment of legal and contractual information security and privacy mandates, including providing executive management with compliance reports and audit findings; and preventing and detecting intrusions.

Skills required for information systems security manager candidates are a strong technical background in systems and network security, excellent interpersonal and leadership abilities, analytical and problem-solving skills, written and verbal communication skills, and knowledge of industry security trends and government regulations.

Candidates attractive to employers usually possess five-plus years of systems and network security experience and potentially one or more years of managerial experience. Employers also look for industry certifications such as the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) or the CompTIA Security+ designations.

No. 1: Big Data Engineer

The median starting salary for big data engineers, who usually have a computer science degree and math and database expertise, is $166,500 – the highest for data/database administration roles profiled by Robert Half.

Big data engineers typically are responsible for creating an organization’s software and hardware architecture; evaluating new data sources for acquisition and integration; and designing and implementing relational databases for data storage and processing. They must communicate with business users and data scientists to understand business objectives and gather raw data and translate it into actionable information for strategy-setting, decision-making and innovation.

The role requires a strong knowledge of statistics, extensive programming experience – preferably in Python or Java – the ability to design and implement solutions for big data challenges, experience with NoSQL, and knowledge and experience in data mining and processing large amounts of raw data.

Employers hiring big data engineers typically require a bachelor’s degree in a related field and four to six years of experience.