The best jobs are in tech, and so is the job growth

All signs point to continued growth in IT hiring and salaries, even for humble jobs like tech support

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If you thought that humble support technician was going the way of the telephone operator, you are in for a pleasant surprise. Job openings for the man or woman who picks up the phone when you call the help desk soared last year, and that job is now one of the fastest-growing occupations in IT.

That fact is one of the hidden nuggets in a very bullish report by CompTIA, an industry group that issues certifications and follows trends in the industry. (CompTIA’s report is based in large part on a survey of 649 selected companies, ranging from mom-and-pop shops to members of the Fortune 500.)

The 46-page report projects that IT spending in the United States will grow by 5.1 percent this year and represent more than $1 trillion in hardware, software, and services. That growth number is several percent points higher than estimates by IDC and Gartner, but even their less-bullish data indicates a significant expansion in IT.

In 2014, IT employment grew by 2.4 percent. Although that doesn’t sound like much, it represents more than 100,000 jobs. If the projections by CompTIA and others hold up, the economy will add even more this year.

Tech dominates the best jobs in America

A separate report by Glassdoor, a large job board that includes employee-written reviews of companies and top managers, singled out 25 of the “best jobs in America,” and 10 of those were in IT. Judged by a combination of factors -- including earnings potential, career opportunities, and the number of current job listings -- the highest-rated tech job was software engineer, with an average base salary of $98,074.

In the last three months, employers have posted 104,828 openings for software engineers and developers on the Glassdoor job site, though many are no longer current. (Glassdoor combines the titles of software developers and software engineers, so we don't know how many of those positions were just for engineers.)

The highest-paid tech occupation listed on Glassdoor is solutions architect, with an average base pay of $121,657.

Looked at more broadly, the hottest tech occupation in the United States last year was Web developer, for which available jobs grew by 4 percent to a total of 235,043 jobs -- a substantial chunk of the 4.88 million employed tech workers, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

As for tech support, jobs in that occupation increased by 2.5 percent to 853,256, which is a bit more than overall tech job growth of 2.4 percent.

Taken together, the two new reports provide more evidence that we can expect at least another year of buoyant employment prospects in IT -- and give rough guidelines of the skills you need to get a great job and the potential employers you might contact.

Hiring across the economy

Most striking is the shift in employer attitudes over the last year or two, says Tim Herbert, CompTIA’s vice president of research. “There’s less concern about the bottom dropping out,” he said. Even worst-case estimates by employers are not at all bad, he adds.

The survey found that 43 percent of the companies say they are understaffed, and 68 percent say they expect filling those positions will be “challenging or very challenging.” If that’s the case, supply and demand should push salaries even higher.

One of the most positive trends in last year’s employment picture is the broad wave of IT hiring stretching across different sectors of the economy. Companies that posted the largest number of online ads for IT-related jobs were Accenture, Deloitte, Oracle, General Dynamics, Amazon.com, JP Morgan, United Health, and Best Buy, according to Burning Glass Technologies Labor Insights, which tracks online advertising.

“Information technology now pervades the entire economy,” says CompTIA’s Herbert. What’s more, technologies like cloud computing and software as a service are cheap enough and stable enough for small and medium-sized businesses to adopt, which in turn creates even more job opportunities, he notes.

For tech pay, the bucks start here

Here are the 10 “best” IT jobs and their average base salaries according to Glassdoor's weighting of various factors:

  • Software engineer: $98,074
  • Database administrator: $97,835
  • Product manager: $113,363
  • Data scientist: $121,657
  • Solutions architect: $121,657
  • QA engineer: $77,499
  • Network engineer: $87,518
  • IT project manager: $103,710
  • Mobile developer: $79,810
  • Sales engineer: $91,318

And here are the 10 IT occupations that grew the fastest last year, according to the Department of Labor:

  • Web developer: Up 4 percent
  • Information security analyst: Up 3.6 percent
  • Computer systems analyst: Up 3.2 percent
  • Software applications developer: Up 3.1 percent
  • Software systems developer: Up 2.8 percent
  • Computer user support specialist: Up 2.7 percent
  • Computer and information systems manager: Up 2.5 percent
  • Database administrator: Up 2.4 percent (the tech jobs' average)
  • Computer hardware engineer: Up 2.2 percent
  • Network and computer systems administrator: Up 1.8 percent

A year from now, a list of the IT occupations that grew the fastest in 2014 will likely be quite similar, says Herbert.

There are plenty of issues that are of concern in the technology industry, but for now, employment is a very bright spot.

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