A Guide to Changing Careers from Military to IT

A technical career advisor with 20+ years of staffing experience lays out the path for military veterans to successfully transition to a career in information technology.

tech careers for military vets

If you’re nearing the end of active service and looking for a fast growing, high paying career with a bright future, you may want to consider a job in IT. Given that many of the skills and qualities you developed in the military apply to roles in information technology, a career in IT could be your best move.

Why IT? Let’s start with demand. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects employers to add about 668,000 computer and information technology jobs by 2030 to reach a total of 5.7 million jobs. In fact, businesses would like to hire more tech workers but they can’t find qualified candidates — especially developers, engineers and cybersecurity pros. Even so, U.S. IT job growth is still in record territory with no signs of slowing down.

Then, there’s the money. The median salary for Computer and Information Technology Occupations is $86,320 as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than double the $41,950 median wage for all jobs nationwide. What’s more, the military or a prospective employer may even pay for IT training and certifications that will further enhance your skill set and market value.

There’s also a huge range of entry-to-mid level jobs that are appropriate for veterans who are just starting their civilian careers. Ready to get started? Here’s how veterans can navigate the transition into employment in the IT job market.

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Jobs You Can Get with a Computer Science Degree

ITCareerFinder breaks down the most sought-after information technology jobs you can get with a degree in computer science. Delve into each role for marketable courses and electives, salaries, recommended degree programs and insider tips.

computer science degree jobs

There’s never been a better time than now to pursue a career in IT. The proliferation of emerging technologies in mobile and cloud computing, soaring demand for data science, programming and cyber security skills, and the increased automation (for better or worse) of legacy roles in retail and manufacturing, are just some of the factors driving a golden age for tech employment. There are infinite paths to the IT job of your dreams, but whichever road you choose there’s a good chance that earning a degree in computer science (CS) will be your first step.

CS curricula and the jobs you can land with a computer science degree vary widely, but there are some core subjects shared by most undergraduate computer science programs. The core curriculum in a CS associate or bachelor’s degree typically includes programming and software development, data structures and algorithms, operating systems, and applied mathematics. There are many CS specializations that dive deeper into one or more of these core areas, and plenty of computer science majors designed to prepare you for a specific IT career path. Your personal passions, resources like time and money, and the job you’re shooting for will dictate the computer science program that’s right for you.

The curriculum in a graduate computer science program builds on the undergrad coursework above. Generally, a computer science master’s degree dives deeper into the technical skills you learned as an undergrad, with a greater focus on a specific career track and potential management roles. MBAs in computer science concentrate on the business side of things; here you will learn to use computing skills to set and achieve organizational goals. Doctoral and PhD degrees in computer science tend to focus on research and scientific advancement; these programs are geared toward jobs like computer research scientist and CS professor.

This article will lay out some of the best jobs you can achieve with a computer science diploma (“best” in this case means top-tier salaries, an aggressive hiring forecast, and a high rate of upward mobility). We'll also highlight the courses and electives you should pursue to maximize your job prospects in each role, recommended degree levels, and earnings.

Here are the best jobs you can get with computer science degree:

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The Best Free Online Computer Courses

The Internet boasts a wealth of free computer training for those who know where to look. Here are some of the best free online courses available right now.

This article will be updated continually with the latest and greatest schools and courses.

Rankings are unbiased; ITCareerFinder receives no compensation from links to the best free online courses.

best free online computer courses

Nonprofit organizations, technology companies, and educational institutions provide free computer courses across all IT subjects and skill levels. Some do this to expose more people to their software or hardware, while others strive to make top-notch education more accessible. Regardless of the training provider’s mission, self-motivated learners can capitalize on this massive cache of free online computer training to grow their skill set, earn certifications to validate their expertise to prospective employers, and gain exposure to new IT careers.

To compile our list of the best free computer courses, we looked at numerous factors including relevance of curriculum, ease of accessibility, course quality, and provider reputation. We also endeavored to represent the top training options across multiple categories and skill levels.

In no particular order, here are our favorite online training providers and their best free computing courses:

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Required Skills for Cyber Security Professionals

Required Cyber Security Skills

The demand for dedicated cyber security talent is higher than ever before, and it's unlikely to decelerate any time soon. Many companies are feeling the pressure from an ever-growing threat landscape, and are compelled to seek out professionals who can help protect the organization from harm. According to a study conducted by the Center for Cyber Safety and Education and (ISC)², the workforce shortage in the cyber security industry is projected to hit 1.8 million by 2022. There's no better time for professionals in the cyber security field to hone and expand their skill set, becoming a valuable asset in the process.

When it comes to developing these skills, it helps to view them in the context of cyber security specialties. While job roles and day-to-day responsibilities often overlap, and professionals must adapt to new knowledge all the time, these specialties can still help an aspiring cyber security professional focus on a group of skills that are most appropriate for them.

The following are in-demand cyber security specialties and the skills you need to excel in each one:

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Best Computer Jobs for the Future

best-computer-jobs-for-future

Trying to determine your ideal IT career path? Want to know which computer jobs will be in the greatest demand, offer the highest salaries and best opportunities for advancement once you finish training? ITCareerFinder assembled this comparison of the decade’s hottest technology careers to serve as your guide. These 10 computer jobs will experience the fastest growth, pay salaries well above the national average, boast top employment rates, and offer a range of opportunities for promotion.

Best Computer Jobs

Compare the best computer jobs by employment projections, key growth factors, salary and more, then click the links of your favorite IT career paths for deep dive career profiles featuring skills and responsibilities, desirable certifications, wage analyses, education requirements, training & degree programs, local job openings, and tips from IT insiders.

Methodology used to discover this decade’s best computer jobs centered around a four-point weighted analysis of employment growth forecasts from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook, IT salaries from Indeed.com, the ratio of job listings to qualified applicants on leading technology job boards, and potential for upward mobility based on interviews with technology and employment experts, as well as recent IT hiring trends.

Discover the 10 best computer jobs for the future:

  1. IT Security Specialist

    IT Security Specialist career growth

    IT Security Specialist Employment Projections | 2020 - 2030

    Key Growth FactorsSecurity will remain a top concern for IT executives and hiring managers as the frequency, scope, and complexity of cyber attacks continues to escalate. Year after year, IT executives report actively seeking professionals with information security skills, but finding it difficult to locate good talent. This indicates an incredible opportunity for technology professionals to advance their cyber security skills and certifications. Computer security skills in the greatest demand include IT operations security, secure web and mobile application development, risk management, information assurance, network security, and cloud security.
  2. Mobile Application Developer

    best mobile app developer jobs

    Mobile App Developer Employment Projections | 2020 - 2030

    Key Growth FactorsMobile application development is one of the world's fastest growing occupations. As smart phones and tablets continue to change the way we communicate, do business, and access news & entertainment, the demand for new and innovative mobile apps is growing at an incredible speed. This increased demand translates to one of the largest IT skills gaps ever realized – there are simply more mobile application development job openings than skilled developers to fill them. Google's Android and Apple's iOS (iPhone, iPad & Apple Watch) platforms will continue to offer the most career opportunities for mobile developers - view this graph for a breakdown of mobile OS market share.
  3. Software Engineer

    Best Software Engineer Jobs

    Software Engineer Employment Projections | 2020 - 2030

    Key Growth FactorsWorkforce demand for software engineers will rise along with technological advancement and the growing ubiquity of software. For example, rapid adoption of cloud technologies is driving demand for applications software engineers who can build secure and scalable cloud programs. Likewise, as the proliferation of computer systems continues and software spreads into new industries and smart devices, the need to develop the computer systems that power these initiatives will create jobs for systems software engineers.
  4. Video Game Designer

    Best Video Game Designer Jobs

    Video Game Designer Employment Projections | 2020 - 2030

    Key Growth FactorsThe $140+ billion dollar gaming industry has more than tripled in size over the last decade. Beyond the booming market for PC and console games, the increased popularity, processing power, and graphics capabilities of mobile devices has unlocked a new world of job opportunities for video game designers, artists and programmers. Game designers with mobile development expertise will be especially sought after as smart phones and tablets continue to change how video games are played. Game designer employment will also benefit from emerging technologies and rising demand for augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) applications.
  5. Computer Systems Analyst

    Computer Systems Analyst career growth

    Computer Systems Analyst Employment Projections | 2020 - 2030

    Key Growth FactorsAs organizations continue to increase their reliance on technology, computer systems analysts will be needed to increase the efficiency of existing technologies and architect new systems. Health care is a key industry for systems analyst job growth, as aggressive government mandates and funding initiatives continue to drive increases in electronic medical record (EMR) adoption, electronic prescription services, and other health-centric software projects. The U.S. Department of Labor also predicts a 43% increase in systems analyst hiring at IT consulting firms, which translates to a huge amount of freelance and contract employment opportunities in this job role.
  6. Web Developer

    Best Web Developer Jobs

    Web Developer Employment Projections | 2020 - 2030

    Key Growth FactorsEach year, a record number of businesses bring their offerings to the Internet. As the number of products and services online continues to grow, web developers and designers will enjoy increased job opportunities. Proliferation of social networks will boost demand for web developers as businesses look to engage a new generation of customers and spur a competitive advantage in this rapidly growing space. Responsive web design, user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) skills are a hot commodity in this position as displays must increasingly adapt to varying device sizes and types, e.g., smart watches.
  7. Health Information Technician

    Best Health Information Technician Jobs

    Health Information Technician Employment Proj. | 2020 - 2030

    Key Growth FactorsHealth care will produce more new computer jobs through 2025 than any other single industry. Aggressive government mandates and funding incentives for medical practices to adopt centralized electronic health records is driving unprecedented hiring of health information technicians trained and certified in these new technologies. Health information technicians may earn the lowest starting salary on this list, but the required education is the quickest (typically a 2-year degree program in Health IT), plus candidates learning now will be well-positioned for lucrative management positions as the health IT job market continues to mature.
  8. Technology Manager

    Best IT Manager Jobs

    Technology Manager Employment Projections | 2020 - 2030

    Key Growth FactorsJob growth for information technology managers is directly tied to the growth rates of the IT workers they supervise. Record-breaking growth in a variety of technical jobs – including software development, project management, data analytics, and cloud computing – will continue through 2025 and beyond, in turn fueling strong demand for talented IT managers. Additional growth will be driven by increased focus on information security and the hiring of additional cyber security personnel.
  9. Database Administrator

    best DBA jobs

    Database Administrator Employment Projections | 2020 - 2030

    • 10-Year Growth Pct: 8% (much faster than avg.)†
    • 10-Year Growth Volume: 13,200 new jobs
    • Average Salary: $99,000
    • DBA Career Path ››
    Key Growth FactorsBusinesses are racking up impressive amounts of digital information, spurring the need for trained and certified DBAs to store, organize, analyze and secure this data. In addition, as more databases are connected to the Internet and cloud, data security will become increasingly vital and complex; database administrators and developers - especially those with information security skills - will be hired to protect corporate data from hackers and other cyber threat vectors.
  10. Network Administrator

    Network Administrator Job Growth

    Network Administrator Employment Projections | 2020 - 2030

    Key Growth FactorsDemand for network administrators will rise as organizations invest in new computer systems and network technologies to increase productivity and gain a competitive advantage. The rapid adoption of mobile and smart devices and cloud computing means more organizations will use the Internet to conduct business online, translating to increased job opportunities for network professionals who can help businesses securely wield these emerging technologies.

Links Favored by Blog Readers:

The average ten-year growth rate for all occupations is 8% (bls.gov)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' Occupational Outlook Handbook • Indeed.com

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Highest Paying IT Degrees

Highest Paying IT Degrees

While money isn’t everything when choosing a career, with the average total cost for a 4-year college degree reaching approximately $122,000, you certainly want to invest in a program that will increase your chances of landing a high-paying job after graduation and foster long-term success.

For many, a degree in information technology is probably your best bet. According to the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard, bachelor’s degrees in computer science and engineering lead to the highest salaries. Mathematics and business rank among the top paying fields, too.

Computer and mathematical occupations are expected to grow 12.1 percent between 2019 and 2029 (much faster than the 3.7% growth rate for all occupations) according to new data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). And many companies are still hiring for entry-level roles in IT and computer tech, despite the pandemic.

Whether you are already working toward a degree or shopping around for colleges, read on to learn more about the top paying degrees you need to land your dream job in IT.

(Note: Unless otherwise stated, all salaries cited in this post were taken from sites that collect data anonymously from employees.)

Here are the top paying bachelor's degrees in information technology:

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Top Paying Technology Jobs in 2021

ITCareerFinder analyzes wages and hiring data to identify the highest paying information technology jobs.

This article will be updated annually with the latest jobs and salaries. Current year: 2021.

Best Paying Tech Jobs

Pay may not be everything, but it’s very important. How important? According to a recent study by Indeed, 93% of tech workers cite pay and benefits as the most important factor when considering a new job.

What’s more, in a rapidly changing field like information technology, workers often need to reach into their own pockets to acquire new skills and maintain their marketability. In other words, to make money in tech, you need money to invest in professional development. Enough said.

To help you maximize your income potential, here is a look at 12 of the highest paying technology jobs, why they are so valuable to employers, and what you need to land a position.

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12 Top Paying IT Certifications for 2021

ITCareerFinder examines salary data and hiring trends to determine the top paying IT certifications and why they demand a premium.

This article will be updated annually with the latest credentials and wages. Current year: 2021.

Top Paying IT Certifications

Do IT certifications really pay off? It depends.

According to the IT Skills and Certifications Pay Index published by renowned analyst firm Foote Partners LLC, tech certifications continued their three-year plunge in value during the third quarter of 2021 and are now at their lowest point since early 2013.

However, there are still some IT certificates that employers are willing to pay extra for.

To ensure that you invest in the training and certifications that offer the highest potential return, here are 12 of the highest paying IT certifications for 2021.

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Online IT Schools