What is an IT Job? (Full Guide with Salaries) | Career Sidekick

What is an IT Job? (Full Guide with Salaries)

What is an IT job - guide

You’ve probably heard that IT jobs offer high pay and fast career growth, and it’s true in most cases. 

But what are the best IT jobs? And how do you get these positions?

In this article, we’ll look at:

  • What is an IT job?
  • What are the typical salaries for these jobs?
  • What type of background do you need for these positions?
  • Which IT jobs pay the most?

Let’s get started…

What is an IT Job?

IT stands for “Information Technology”. IT jobs are positions in the fields of computer software, hardware, data storage/retrieval, and computer support. Information Technology is a fast-growing industry that offers many high-paying jobs and career growth. It’s also one of the best fields to find remote work. 

(If that interests you, see our list of remote job boards here.)

Now that you know what an IT job is, let’s look at how to get into this field and what types of specific jobs are available.

What is a Typical IT Job Salary?

Because IT is such a broad field with many types of jobs, the typical IT salary can range from $40,000 up to more than $200,000. Your salary as an IT worker will depend on your role and how much technical knowledge is required, as well as the type of company you’re working for (tech-focused companies and financial institutions tend to pay their IT staff more).

Is a Specific Background Required for IT Jobs?

IT is such a broad industry that you can break into it with virtually any background… including without a college degree. 

However, there are some positions that do require a specific background. For example, you’re going to be very unlikely to get a Data Science position without a strong background in mathematics – usually a formal education (Master’s degree or Ph.D.)

However, while certain IT jobs do require a particular background  – virtually anyone can break into some part of the IT industry and take part in the high-pay, rapid growth, and relatively good job security.

To help show you how this is possible, let’s look at some specific types of IT jobs below. You’ll see that it’s not just programmers – you can work in customer support, IT help desk, and more.

Examples/Types of IT Jobs:

1. Software Engineering

Becoming a software engineer is one of the most common ways to get a job in IT. While many people earn a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science, it’s also possible to land a great software engineering job by being self-taught or going through a coding boot camp, which typically lasts a few months.

Some employers strongly prefer software developers and engineers with a formal 4-year education, but many others don’t care. 

The key is to be able to show your ability – by creating software and doing real projects that you can show to employers. 

Typical Salary for Software Engineers:

Depending on your seniority, the type of job you obtain, and the industry it’s in, a software engineer can earn anywhere from $50,000 to $150,000+. I’d say that $50,000 is on the VERY low end and would most likely happen if you work for a company that isn’t very technology-focused, and has you in more of a support role.

So that’s one tip to boost your salary as an IT worker: Find a software-focused company where your work is vital to what they’re doing. If you can do this, you’ll earn more money in your career. Or, find a financial institution. They always seem to pay their software engineers a lot, based on what I’ve seen working as a recruiter. 

2. Web Design

Every website and web application needs a design team, along with the engineering & development team.

So if you don’t want to learn programming but still want to have a part in building technologies and influencing how software progresses, then web design could be a good IT job choice for you.

Like software engineering, there are formal degrees and academic programs that help prepare you for this, but it’s also possible to be self-taught or take an accelerated program that is not part of a 4-year university degree.

Here’s an example of a formal degree that does lead to this type of IT job, though (seen on LinkedIn):

IT jobs and careers - required education for web designer

Average Salary for Web Designers:

According to PayScale, the typical web designer will earn an average of $50,000 per year. It’s possible to earn more ($70,000+) as you gain experience or if you find an employer where web design is particularly important to what they do.

3. Cyber Security Expert

We’ve all read about security or data breaches by now… usually multiple times per year. These mistakes are costly for companies, and they’re investing more into staff that can help secure and protect their data from hacks and other malicious activity online.

This type of IT job does require an advanced background and training, though. Some universities offer a degree in cyber security – either a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree – which will help prepare you for this career.

This is also an important focus within military operations, so it’s possible you could study IT and hone your skills in the military as well if that interests you.

4. Data Science & Data Engineering

This is really two different types of IT jobs, but we’ll combine them here to make it easier to explain.

The basic idea is: Companies are collecting more and more data – for advertising, for strategic decision-making, and more. Some of the biggest and most profitable companies on earth, like Facebook and Google, and have practically built their business on collecting data.

So these companies need data scientists to interpret and work with the massive data sets that they’re collecting, to make the information useful and helpful. 

And they need data engineers to write programs and scripts to process and work with the data… because you can’t do it manually at the scale that these companies are operating at.

Data engineers are quite similar to software engineers (mentioned at the start of this list of IT jobs), except with a narrower and more specialized focus.

Expected Salary for Data Scientists and Data Engineers

It’s very common for data scientists & engineers to earn $100,000+. It’s also possible to earn above $200,000 in either field.

These people have the potential to earn their company a lot of money, and therefore are paid extremely well. It’s also a difficult skill set that requires an understanding of software as well as advanced mathematics, algorithms, statistics and more. 

5. Server/Database Engineers and Administrators

Every time you see a website or app, there’s a lot going on that you can’t see – mainly, how the “front end” or the piece that’s visible is interacting with the database to store information, retrieve information, etc.

And this has to happen QUICKLY for most websites/apps. Think about when you type a search into Google, Facebook, or LinkedIn… and how quickly those results come back. But for you to get those results, the website needs to retrieve info from its database.

And there are professionals who create the code and architecture of these databases, and people who oversee them and make sure they’re running smoothly, too.

Typical IT Salary for Server/Database Jobs:

The salary you can expect to earn will vary depending on your specific role and type of company. It’s possible and common to earn more than $100,000 in this field, though. 

An engineer who is building the server architecture or creating the system will typically earn far more than the person who is simply maintaining it. It’s a more advanced skill-set that requires more training and experience on average.

6. IT Support/Help-Desk

If you don’t have a fancy degree or a desire to work in a cutting-edge field like data science, but you’ve always liked IT and technology and want to be involved, you could look into IT help desk jobs.

In this type of IT job, the staff work to ensure that all employees and systems in a company can continue to operate and have working technology. 

When I was working as a Recruiter and had trouble setting up my new headset to make phone calls, an IT help desk technician came and did some troubleshooting at my desk.

When my computer wasn’t letting me sort my emails the way I wanted, I messaged the help desk staff and they responded with a solution.

And this type of job will allow you to work in any industry. The staffing agency that I worked at had IT support staff. Banks have IT support staff. Non-profits have IT support staff. You get the picture! So you’re not just limited to software start-ups and tech companies with this IT career choice. 

Typical/Expected Salary:

These might not be the highest paying IT jobs, but they can still pay quite well and it’s possible to earn $100,000 or more as a Director or Head of IT Support for a larger company. 

The average base pay for a Help Desk Technician is $41,842 according to Glassdoor.

7. IT Customer Support

In this type of IT job, you’re working with the customers/clients of your employer to troubleshoot tech problems and help them use the product they bought.

So while IT Help Desk (mentioned above) is there to help a company’s employees, IT Customer Support is there to troubleshoot problems for customers.

In this job, you’ll typically take incoming phone calls or emails and respond to help solve customer problems.

This can be a good entry-level tech job and will allow you to advance into other IT areas as you grow your career. 

For example, you could become a team lead and focus on managing a support team, or you could become a Project Manager and lead new initiatives and projects in the company once you understand their products/services well enough. 

IT Customer Support Salary:

On average, you can expect to earn $44,619 as a support specialist, according to Payscale.

However, this number will vary depending on your city/location and industry. So it’s possible to earn more than $50,000. This can increase further after a year or two on the job and a promotion to Team Lead, Supervisor, etc. So while this field doesn’t pay as well as some other IT positions that we’ve looked at, it does offer room to advance!

Which IT Jobs Pay the Most?

The IT jobs that pay the most are jobs involving building/growing the company’s core products and services. In a technology company, this includes software engineering, systems engineering, product management, and more. Positions involving maintenance, support, testing, and quality assurance (QA) will typically earn less.

Less-Technical Jobs Available in Software Technology Industry

If everything above sounds far too technical but you still want to work in a start-up or software tech company, don’t get discouraged. There are a lot of business-related positions in these companies, too.

For example, you could work in sales & marketing or product management. I’ve spoken to quite a few Product Managers as a recruiter (which is different than Project Manager, believe it or not), and many earned $100K-$150K. These people aren’t writing code or building apps and software products. Instead, they’re managing the improvement of a specific product or group of products over time… through planning new features, gathering customer feedback, coordinating with design and development teams as they roll out new features, etc.

So there are far more jobs in tech than just the IT positions we looked at above. And they pay very well, too. 

And the best part is – many of those jobs can be obtained with a business degree, or virtually any college degree (or in some cases, without).

Summary of Career Opportunities in Information Technology

We’ve talked about the different career opportunities in IT above, how much various positions pay, and what it takes to get into them.

To choose the best career for you, think about the following factors:

  • What interests you
  • How much time/money you’re willing to spend on education
  • What your strengths are as a worker

And the examples of IT jobs and careers that we looked at earlier are just a small sub-section of the total opportunities in this industry, so keep that in mind.

If you like the idea of working in Information Technology but you’re not sure one of the career paths above is quite right for you, then I recommend using this as a starting point to continue your research and continue finding out about more of the possibilities.

Tech & IT is a massive, fast-growing industry that’s only going to see higher demand and higher pay for its workers in the coming decades. Now is a great time to be looking into Information Technology careers and exploring the options. 

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