Top 10 IT Skills In-Demand for 2021

ITCareerFinder breaks down the latest employment and wage data and speaks with technology executives to identify the hottest skill sets of 2021 (and beyond).

Top Technology Skills 2021

Possessing the right combination of technical expertise, soft skills and practical experience can help you impress potential employers and land a high-paying job in one of the fastest growing fields in information technology.

In fact, according to PayScale’s data team, knowledge of high-demand technologies and key fundamentals boosts compensation by 14% to 26%.

If you’re looking to advance your career by acquiring new skills or certifications, here are ten of the hottest areas of technology you may want to consider and the best skills to learn in each:

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Top Scholarships for STEM, CS and IT Majors

There's a wide range of scholarships for aspiring tech pros; here are some of the most interesting and valuable.

This page will be updated continually with the latest and greatest scholarships and deadlines.

best information technology scholarships

Information technology is among the most lucrative and opportunity-rich domains in the modern workforce, and a college degree is the best way to get a leg up in this competitive field. However, in today’s economy, paying for school can be challenging. Thankfully, there’s a variety of scholarships that can help you fund a world-class education in CS (computer science), IT (information technology) and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) disciplines.

We scour the web, evaluate and reevaluate the most dynamic scholarships with the biggest payouts to find the best awards for students pursuing a career in IT. Most of the scholarships on this list are tech-focused, but we’ll also feature some undeniable awards that can be applied toward any field. Some contests only accept applicants from a certain demographic or socioeconomic group - in these cases we’ll outline those requirements in the scholarship’s description.

Here are our favorite scholarships for computing and information technology majors:

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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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The Best Cities for Tech Jobs

ITCareerFinder analyzes key data points in technology, employment and livability to uncover the best cities for IT professionals to live and work in.

This page will be updated annually with the latest and greatest tech cities. Current year: 2022.

Many of the best computer jobs can now be done remotely. This is a welcome change for many of us. For everyone else, choosing the right city to live, work and play in can be vital to happiness and success. This study combines statistical analyses of the high-tech workforce and livability factors in over 150 cities across the nation to find the best places to live in - or relocate to - as an IT professional.

collage of best tech cities

To determine the best cities for tech jobs, we analyzed key employment data such as IT salaries, the number of jobs and the percentage of workforce in technical roles from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, as well as the leading indexes for cost of living and quality of life, because after all, once the 9-to-5 is over you still have to live there.

Jump down to the bottom of the page for the ranking methodology and source list, or read on for this year’s top 8 cities for IT professionals.

Here are the best cities for technology jobs and workers:

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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.

Find schools that align with your goals.

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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12 Top Paying IT Certifications for 2022

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: 2022.

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 certifications 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 2022.

  • SANS/GIAC Security Expert (GSE)

    The GSE certification is the most prestigious and valuable credential, topping Foote Partners’ recent list of highest-paying certs. However, it’s also among the most difficult to earn.

    With companies everywhere looking for solutions to burgeoning cyber security issues, GSE's rigorous, hands-on exam, lab exam and experience requirements – covering general security skills, incident handling, intrusion detection and analysis – sets it apart and makes it particularly valuable for individual contributors said David Foote, Foote Partners’ chief analyst & CRO.

    In fact, employers are willing to pay high salaries and median cash bonuses or premiums equivalent to 13% of base salary to tech workers and leaders who get GSE certified.

    For example, according to Foote Partners’ 2022 IT Professional Salary Survey, the average total cash compensation (including premiums) for certified cyber security specialists is $108,703, while certified senior-level specialists earn $133,161. Meanwhile, PayScale reports that the average salary for GSE-certified information security analysts is $100,000 and $189,000 for penetration testers.

    Before you start spending that extra cash, note that the pre-requisite baseline for the GSE is: GSEC, GCIH, GCIA with two Gold certifications.

  • GIAC Exploit Researcher and Advanced Penetration Tester (GXPN)

    Clearly, the demand for penetration testing skills and certifications will remain constant going forward, driven by regulation, compliance and ongoing business risk Foote said. That’s why employers are willing to pay median cash bonuses or premiums equivalent to 12% of base salary to professionals who attain the GXPN certification. Moreover, PayScale puts the average salary for GXPN certified IT pros at $107,000.

    The GXPN certifies that network and systems penetration testers, incident handlers, application developers and IDS engineers have the knowledge, skills, and ability to conduct advanced penetration tests, model the behavior of attackers and improve security in the popular Windows and Linux environments.

    Applicants need to pass a 3-hour proctored exam to earn the highly valuable GXPN.

  • GIAC Security Leadership (GSLC)

    For current information security managers, security professionals with leadership responsibilities or IT pros looking to move into management, earning the GSLC certification can boost your career and help you score a median cash bonus equivalent to 12% of base salary. The 3-hour proctored exam covers management issues related to the overall security lifecycle including governance and technical controls, incident response, staff, projects, application security and more.

    Currently, managers of information security with the GSLC earn average total compensation of $147,080, while lead IT security specialists earn $152,143 and directors of information security earn $200,006 according to the 2022 IT Professional Salary Survey. PayScale puts the average salary at $113,000 with senior leaders earning close to $200,000.

    Best of all, applicants can qualify through a combination of practical work experience, training, college courses or self-paced study.

  • InfoSys Security Architecture Professional (ISSAP/CISSP)

    “With millions of people working from home and connecting to an organization’s internal network remotely, the role of security architect is more important than ever,” Foote said.

    Companies are having to “rearchitect everything” to increase security and reduce the risk of cyber-attacks and data breaches he expanded.

    It’s no wonder that the CISSP with the architecture extension has increased in value. According to Foote, security architects can command premium pay equal to 12% of base salary and total cash compensation of $130,770, leaving little doubt that the ISSAP certification is a worthwhile investment for professionals who want to build on their expertise in information security architecture.

  • InfoSys Security Engineering Professional (ISSEP/CISSP)

    If you have two or more years’ experience in engineering and already hold the CISSP, obtaining your ISSEP certification can lead to greater opportunities and higher wages. This in-demand cert has increased in value by 33% over the last six months and commands average pay premiums of 12% on top of average annual base salaries of $151,000 according to PayScale.

    To sit for the ISSEP examination, you must be a CISSP in good standing and have two years cumulative, paid work experience in one or more of the five domains of the CISSP-ISSEP CBK.

  • Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)

    Most IT pros start their journey to ISSEP or ISSAP concentration by earning a valuable core security credential and prerequisite, the CISSP certification. This baseline, vendor-neutral cert – which covers 8 domains and general concepts of information security – can benefit the careers of everyone in IT.

    To illustrate, PayScale lists some 350 job tiles under the CISSP with an average salary of $117,000. If you want to specialize in cyber security, The New York Times reports that there will be 3.5 million unfilled jobs globally by 2021, up from one million positions in 2014.

    Suffice it to say, showing employers that you not only understand security concepts, principles and tools but also the most pertinent issues around cyber security, will greatly increase your power at the salary negotiation table.

  • Six Sigma Master Black Belt

    Having a Six Sigma Master Black Belt certification signals to employers that you have the skills and knowledge to manage projects successfully, a passion for quality and process improvement, and the ability to lead and coach team members. In fact, because of its focus on improving profitability, many companies are actively recruiting Six Sigma Black Belts and market demand is higher than ever.

    Speaking of profitability, the market value increase for Six Sigma Master Black Belt certification was 9.1% in the six months through July 1, 2021 and the average total compensation was listed at $169,170 in Foote Partners’ IT Salary Survey.

    Applicants are required to pass an exam, have a minimum 4 years’ experience executing Six Sigma Projects in a Black Belt Capacity (or equivalent), and submit a project for review on a pass/fail basis.

  • The Zachman Certified Enterprise Architect

    In the past, enterprise architects found it hard to prove their worth to the organization and sustain job security, so the Zachman Framework was born. In a nutshell, the popular framework helps resolve those issues by providing a matrix or formal way to manage a company’s enterprise architecture and assets.

    With businesses grappling with rapid transformation and accelerated AI, enterprise architecture is making a comeback and some companies are even making the Zachman certification a requirement Foote said. A distinctive element of this program is reality-based learning or the process of integrating theory with work and life experience. Even better, the average premium for certificate holders is 12% on top of base salaries averaging $135,003.

  • Certified Scrum Master

    Why is scrum the most popular Agile framework for iterative software development? Because it’s easy to implement and it works. While product owners, project managers, developers and also trainers and coaches can benefit from certification, the World Economic Forum ranked scrum master 6th in their list of product development jobs of tomorrow. And employment data firm Burning Glass predicts a 37.9-percent increase in demand for scrum masters over the next ten years.

    What’s more, according to Foote Partners’ data, certified scrum master certification holders can command 11% in median pay premiums or bonuses above base salaries averaging $96,785.

  • PMI Program Management Professional (PgMP)

    How does an experienced and successful project manager take their career to the next level? By becoming a program manager. However, even though program management is a well-paid next step, becoming proficient at managing multiple related projects is not easy.

    Earning PMI's Program Management Professional certification can help you move forward with confidence, demonstrate your competency to prospective employers and earn median pay premiums of 11% above base salaries that range up to $126,000. Plus, both high school and college grads can qualify by meeting the hands-on experience requirements and passing two evaluations.

  • CompTIA Cybersecurity Analyst (CySA+)

    Data shows that earning CompTIA's intermediate-level CySA+ certification may help you earn more money and elevate your career no matter which role, area of specialization or industry you pursue. For example, InfoSec puts the national median salary for someone with CySA+ certification at $74,952 per year, but as high as $152,806 depending on your location and role.

    Plus, the hands-on, performance-based and multiple-choice assessment is also approved by US Department of Defense to fulfill Directive 8570.01-M requirements.

    After validating that you have the skills, techniques and knowledge to prevent, detect and combat cyber security threats inside and outside of organization, employers will reward you with bonuses or premium pay ranging from 8% to 13% of base salary according to Foote Partners.

  • Certified Cloud Security Professional (CCSP)

    With Gartner forecasting that worldwide spending on public cloud services will grow 23.1% in 2021 to total $332.3 billion in the wake of the pandemic, earning the CCSP certification is a great way to show that you know how to secure critical assets in the cloud and earn median annual pay premiums of 11%, regardless of your level or position.

    Although PayScale puts the average salary for CCSP certified pros at $118,000, the sky’s the limit. IT managers can earn base salaries of $185,000, while CTOs can earn $250,000.

    While the CCSP isn’t for newcomers, showing commitment to ongoing development can demonstrate your leadership potential to employers and lead to new and exciting career opportunities.

Final Thoughts

Although almost any certification can enhance your resume and raise your market value, it’s clear that companies are most concerned about advanced persistent threats and protecting valuable data and information. Until supply catches up with demand, earning any one of these cyber security certifications can give you a competitive advantage and the best opportunity to earn high salaries, bonuses and potentially move into management.

Methodology

Our list of the top-paying IT certifications is based on customized data contained in the latest Foote Partners’ IT Skills and Certifications Pay Index and the firm’s 2022 IT Professional Salary Survey. The reports are based on compensation data provided by 3,805 private and public-sector employers in 83 American and Canadian cities who report pay for their 345,313 technology professionals in the US and Canada.

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20 Things I've Learned from 20 Years in IT

Veteran systems administrator and project manager, Scott Matteson, shares tips and insights from his 2+ decades in the IT field.

IT Career Tips Advice

Working in the field of Information Technology means more than fixing computers or troubleshooting email issues. Thriving in this career requires you to sort out an intricate tangle of problems, priorities and people on a daily basis. Keeping your technical skills relevant and up-to-date is always a challenge, but one that’s well within reach if you train on the job, enjoy learning new things, and keep your thumb on the pulse of the tech community.

However, it’s harder to figure out how to deal with “back end” tasks like juggling priorities, managing stress and developing positive working relationships with peers, customers and managers. In fact, handling interpersonal relationships can be more challenging (and rewarding) than managing the tech itself – and it’s essential since the technology goes hand in hand with the people who use it.

IT roles are changing; support may be located remotely, systems might be off site, and some jobs will disappear entirely. However, there will always be pain points, pressure and personalities in the field. I've worked in the IT space since 1994, primarily in the realm of support and implementation. Along the way I've made a few observations with accompanying advice which I want to share with you. Many of these apply to my role as the “go-to” guy who can get things running, but I think they are universally relevant to any role where you're seen as a resource or a decision-maker on which other people depend to do their jobs.

So without further ado, here are 20 things I've learned in my 20 years in IT:

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Top Paying Technology Jobs in 2022

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

This article will be updated annually with the latest tech jobs and salaries. Current year: 2022.

Best Paying Tech Jobs

Pay may not be everything, but it’s very important. How important? According to a workforce 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.

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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Online Tech Schools

IT Boot Camps

Gain the skills to pursue sought-after IT careers in just 24 weeks. Available boot camp topics include Coding, Cybersecurity, UI/UX Design & Data Analytics.

These technical boot camps from top universities are offered as a combination of self-paced online content and live, instructor-led virtual classes.