5 highest-paying IT jobs for every stage of your career

Whether you are entry-level, mid-level or executive-level, CIO.com has you covered as we identify the highest-paying IT roles for every stage of IT careers.

5 highest-paying jobs for every stage of your IT career
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5 Top-Paying IT Jobs for Every Stage of Tech Careers

Highly successful careers in IT take careful planning. Sure, demand for highly skilled IT workers isn't slowing down, but some in-demand IT skills and roles pay more than others. Here, using data from cloud compensation software and solutions provider PayScale, we've put together the top five highest-paying IT jobs for every stage of your IT career — whether you're just starting out, have a few years of experience under your belt, or are moving into an executive role.

Note: Compensation data is median pay based on total cash compensation (TCC), which combines base annual salary or hourly wage, bonuses, profit sharing, tips, commissions and other forms of cash earnings. It does not include stock, retirement benefits or the value of healthcare benefits, for example.

5 highest-paying entry-level IT jobs
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5 highest-paying entry-level IT jobs

 If you're just getting started in IT, the following five IT roles are in high demand, resulting in the highest compensation among entry-level IT jobs. Note that here entry level is defined as having zero to five years of experience in all applicable jobs in the field, not just the current job.

5. Computer and information research scientist
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5. Computer and information research scientist

Computer and information research scientists design and develop new technology solutions and find new purposes and uses for existing tech. They can be found in almost all industries; technology, of course, but also medicine, science and manufacturing.

These scientists study and solve complex computing problems that can lead to better networking technology, faster compute speeds and improved security, among other things. A knowledge of machine learning and algorithms is necessary, as many people in these roles are tasked with creating and improving algorithms to make computers run as efficiently as possible. A bachelor’s degree is the minimum requirement for these roles.

Median pay: $98,200

4. Senior user experience designer
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4. Senior user experience designer

A user experience (UX) designer works with designers, engineers, product managers and end-users to create a friendly, intuitive user experience for technology products. This role is a combination of hard tech skills and design knowledge mixed with a healthy understanding of human cognitive science and how users interact with technology.

These roles often work closely with the design team to create prototypes and mockups, and work with product engineers and marketing and sales teams to incorporate user feedback, business requirements and the results of usability studies.

Median pay: $98,300

3. Software architect
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3. Software architect

A software architect (SA) is responsible for the initial design and development of new software or extensive software revisions. The SA defines product requirements and creates high-level architectural specifications, ensuring feasibility, functionality, and integration with existing systems/platforms for internal use or for customers.

The role requires a bachelor's degree and, while still considered an entry-level position, an SA may be expected to have an advanced degree in area of specialty and may manage and guide other developers through the project to completion.

Median pay: $98,900

2. Senior software engineer
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2. Senior software engineer

A senior software engineer works to design, develop, implement and debug software solutions; both new and legacy. A senior software engineer may also have responsibility for managing and mentoring junior developers and helping them grow their knowledge and expertise. They also must work with users and business leaders to determine what solutions will work best given the needs of both.

The role doesn’t necessarily require a bachelor’s degree, but in today’s IT market, it’s recommended. Some software engineers are self-taught, or have completed bootcamp or similar certification and competency training.

Median pay: $103,400

1. Principal software engineer
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1. Principal software engineer

Principal software engineers are in charge of most of the technical aspects of an organization's software projects. Their primary function is scaling software projects efficiently while maximizing performance and minimizing costs. They also oversee development teams and coordinate strategies to make sure the technologies are interconnected and product lines are working smoothly. Principal software engineers focus on best practices and standards of design, application requirements and proper maintenance.

A bachelor's degree in computer science is usually the minimum educational requirement, although a certificate from a reputable coding bootcamp, demonstrable proficiency, or a Certified Software Development Professional (CSDP) certification along with hands-on experience in a previous position is also generally accepted.

Median pay: $124,800

5 highest-paying mid-level IT jobs
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5 highest-paying mid-level IT jobs

 You have paid your dues in an entry-level job and are ready to move up. For mid-level IT pros these five hot roles are both in high demand and extremely lucrative. Here, mid-level is defined as having five to ten years of experience in all applicable jobs in the field, not just the current job.

5. Software architect
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5. Software architect

A software architect works with or under a principal software architect, and is also tasked with identifying and evaluating software product requirements and their limitations to make sure solutions will work within larger business system functions. Software architects solicit the input of users, solution sponsors and executives to make sure the software meets the requirements, vision and needs of the business and customers; drive innovation and research into new methods and technologies and also help position overall IT department and software development strategy.

The software architect role requires a bachelor's degree, as well as proven “soft skills” like business analysis, research skills, communication and negotiation.

Median pay: $139,400

4. Principal software engineer
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4. Principal software engineer

Principal software engineers are in charge of most of the technical aspects of an organization's software projects. Their primary function is scaling software projects efficiently while maximizing performance and minimizing costs. They also oversee development teams and coordinate strategies to make sure the technologies are interconnected and product lines are working smoothly. Principal software engineers focus on best practices and standards of design, application requirements and proper maintenance.

Principal software engineers often manage teams of developers. A bachelor's degree in computer science is usually the minimum educational requirement, although a Certified Software Development Professional (CSDP) certification along with hands-on experience in a previous position is also generally accepted.

Median pay: $142,300

3. Principal software architect
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3. Principal software architect

A principal software architect is tasked with identifying and evaluating software product requirements and their limitations to make sure solutions will work within larger business systems and functions. Principal software architects solicit the input of users, solution sponsors and executives to make sure the software meets the requirements, vision and needs of the business and customers; drive innovation and research into new methods and technologies and also help position overall IT department and software development strategy.

The principal software architect role requires a bachelor's degree, as well as proven “soft skills” like business analysis, research skills, communication and negotiation.

Median pay: $144,500

2. ASIC design engineer
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2. ASIC design engineer

An ASIC (application-specific integrated circuit) is a circuit that has been customized for a specific use; for example, in robotics or IoT applications. An ASIC design engineer typically designs and develops large, complex ASIC designs that focus on making the ASICs themselves more efficient.

A bachelor’s degree is usually the minimum educational requirement for this role, as well as several years of experience in ASIC design. In addition, strong programming skills and a solid understanding of computer architecture is preferred.

Median pay: $149,600

1. Chief architect of IT
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1. Chief architect of IT

The chief architect role is one that's highly political and extremely complex, and the job description varies widely from company to company. That said, there are some commonalities; the chief architect of IT must understand all aspects of a business' processes, infrastructure, applications and initiatives — in other words, the entire organization's IT blueprint. They are then tasked with ensuring that every part of the business operates in sync with these strategic IT initiatives.

The role requires a bachelor's degree, significant experience and extensive technical and soft skills, and often reports directly to the CIO.

Median pay: $166,100

5 highest-paying senior and executive IT jobs
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5 highest-paying senior and executive IT jobs

Ah, senior management - this is where all your hard work and political maneuvering pays off, literally. Senior and executive roles not only come with big responsibility, in the IT field, they also come with big paychecks.

Senior and executive roles are defined has having more than 10 years of experience in all applicable jobs, not just the current job, and include only management, senior and executive-level roles.

5. Vice president of IT
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5. Vice president of IT

The vice president of IT is responsible for strategizing and planning an organization's IT future, as well as implementing new technology and maintaining current systems. The VP of IT also ensures teams are effectively supporting maximum uptime and stability in the company’s computer systems and networks. The essence of the role is technology leadership, and the VP of IT must use both technical skills and soft skills — leadership, communication, negotiation and analysis — to lead an IT-focused business successfully.

In many organizations, the VP of IT role is a stepping stone to the CIO position. Most companies require a master’s degree in computer science or IT, while some organizations require an MBA, since extensive business knowledge is critical to the role.

Median pay: $169,600

4. Vice president of software development
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4. Vice president of software development

A vice president of software development leads development efforts and the subsequent sales processes for their organizations. This role has responsibility for scheduling, team creation, delegating and assigning tasks, managing andmentoring junior employees and supervising software developers. That involves plenty of motivation to ensure software solutions are created efficiently and effectively, as well as training and continuing education for software teams.

VPs of software development also conduct regular research into new technology, and may also contribute ideas to improve productivity and the product development and delivery cycle.

A bachelor's degree in a computer science field is generally required for this position, and some employers may require a master's degree. This work often requires working under pressure and time-constraints, so multitasking skills are also beneficial. 

Median pay: $172,800

3. Senior software development director
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3. Senior software development director

A senior software development director is in charge of an organization’s software development strategy, including the teams in charge of designing, developing, modifying and upgrading software systems and general computing applications.

Senior software development directors consult with customers, engineering staff and other executives to determine software development needs and priorities, as well as overall strategy and execution of the general direction a company’s taking with their software. Hard technical knowledge, good time management and coordination skills, as well an in-depth knowledge of math, science, engineering and technology are necessary for success in this role. 

A bachelor’s degree or post-baccalaureate certificate in computer engineering, computer programming, computer science or a similar field is typically required.

Median pay: $184,100

2. Chief information security officer
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2. Chief information security officer

A chief information security officer (CISO) is responsible for strategy, operations and budget for the protection of enterprise information and data assets. They not only develop and communicate security strategy and policy, but are responsible for the applications, tools and infrastructure to support those security activities.

CISOs also manage all teams, employees, contractors and vendors involved in IT and data security and provide training, management and mentorship. A bachelor’s degree in computer science, IT security or a related field is the minimum requirement, although some organizations require a master’s degree, continued specialized training and professional certifications.

Median pay: $188,500

1. Vice president of e-commerce
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1. Vice president of e-commerce

The vice president of e-commerce is responsible for all a business' e-commerce activities, including channel development strategies, web architecture and infrastructure requirements, and collaboration with IT, sales, supply chain and operations teams to successfully execute on e-commerce business strategies. The VP of e-commerce must have extensive experience with e-commerce concepts, best practices, processes and strategies, as well as excellent communications, negotiations and strategic planning skills.

The role requires at least a bachelor's degree and, at many organizations, a minimum of 15 years of experience in the field.

Median pay: $221,200