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IT Careers: Top-Paying Fields for Grad Students

Author: Michael Hoffman

Editor: Kim Zaski

With a median salary of $100,530 and an above average growth rate, graduating with a master’s in IT is a great career move. This guide explores today’s top fields for recent grads.

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A young women with dark hair and glasses points to code on a computer monitor while a man looks over her shoulder.

If you’re looking for a career in a professional field that’s both challenging and rewarding, it’s hard to beat information technology. Besides high demand and great pay, there are lots of different IT occupations to choose from, each with its own unique job duties and skills requirements.

Finding the one IT occupation that fits your talents and interests is critical to your career success. Another key to success is the right degree. Earning your IT bachelor’s is a great and often necessary place to start your career. Advancement is another issue. Moving up the career ladder is quite competitive, so you’ll likely need a graduate degree.

That’s what this guide is about. We’ll introduce you below to 10 of the best paying and most in-demand jobs for IT grad students today to help you locate the one that’s right for you. You’ll also find answers to the most frequently asked questions about IT degrees and careers.

Today’s Top 10 IT Careers by Salary & Growth Rate

We think of IT as a single industry, but “information technology” is really an umbrella term for a range of professional fields. Below are descriptions of 10 of the most popular fields, along with examples of some of the hottest jobs for each.

Business Analytics

Business analytics uses quantitative methods to analyze business-related data and data sets to help companies make informed decisions and improve efficiencies. The continuing explosion of big data is helping drive the strong demand for competent business analytics professionals in today’s job market.

To get started, you’ll need a business analytics bachelor’s degree. For career advancement, employers look for a business analytics master’s or MBA with business or management analytics concentration.

Career Spotlight: Business Intelligence Analyst

Business intelligence analysts, like all business analytics professionals, collect and analyze business-related data to help their organizations make informed decisions. Business intelligence analysts have traditionally focused on the use of data in the management of their business’s day-to-day operations. Today, business analysts also use data to make predictions about and create strategies for future business growth.

Career Median Salary Projected Growth (2022-32) Top Industries

Business Intelligence Analyst



Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services; Finance and Insurance

Source: O*Net Online, 2023

Computer Engineering

Computer engineers are the designers and builders of all types of computer-related devices, including both hardware and software aspects of computing. Computer engineering degree programs combine study in computer science and electrical engineering, covering subjects such as computer architecture, microprocessors, circuit design, software engineering, data analysis, IT security, and networking.

Specialization plays a key role in computer engineering programs, with many students opting to concentrate on specific areas of the field such as telecommunications, cybersecurity, robotics, software, and embedded systems, among many others.

Career Spotlight: Computer Hardware Engineer

Among the highest-paid of all IT professionals, computer hardware engineers design, build, test, and maintain computer systems and equipment of all kinds, including circuit boards, processors, memory and storage devices, routers, networking equipment, mobile devices, and more.

Computer hardware engineers work closely with software engineers to ensure that the hardware they develop works seamlessly with the latest software.

Career Median Salary Projected Growth (2022-32) Top Industries

Computer Hardware Engineer



Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services; Manufacturing

Source: O*Net Online, 2023

Computer Forensics

Computer forensics is the IT field that combines computer science, investigative techniques, and the law to collect and analyze data from computer systems, networks, storage devices, and wireless communication systems. Data is used to help prosecute cybercriminals, as well as prevent cyber threats and crimes.

Computer forensic experts are often tasked with recovering data lost in a cyberattack. Most entry-level positions in this well-paying, in-demand field require a bachelor’s degree, but advancement in the field will likely mean earning a master’s in forensic accounting.

Career Spotlight: Digital Forensics Analyst

Digital forensics analysts, also known as computer forensics analysts, investigate computer-based crimes to obtain and develop legally-admissible physical and documentary evidence. Common work tasks include examining data and records, writing evaluations and reports, analyzing computer and network security systems, and making recommendations for the improvement of those systems.

Career Median Salary Projected Growth (2022-32) Top Industries

Digital Forensics Analyst



Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services; Government

Source: O*Net Online, 2023

Computer Science

Computer science is the study of how computers and computer systems work. While that can include all aspects of the field, computer science is primarily focused on software and systems, including software theory, design, development, application, and maintenance.

Popular areas within the computer science field include artificial intelligence, database systems, networks, graphics, programming languages, bioinformatics, and software engineering. If your talents and interests include logical and analytical thinking, mathematical and technical skills, and attention to detail, a career in computer science may be right for you. To build your skills, there are master’s degrees in computer science, many offered online to help you continue to work as you earn your degree.

Career Spotlight: Computer & Information Systems Manager

Among the highest-paid and most in-demand of all IT professionals, computer and information systems managers oversee all computer-related activities of their company or organization, including determining and implementing long-term organizational IT goals. Entry-level positions can be obtained with a computer science bachelor’s degree, but a master’s in computer science is often preferred by employers.

Career Median Salary Projected Growth (2022-32) Top Industries

Computer & Information Systems Manager



Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services; Information

Source: O*Net Online, 2023


Microsoft defines cybersecurity as, “a set of processes best practices, and technology solutions to help protect your critical systems and network from digital attacks.” Digital attacks are a greater concern today than ever before, which is why the cybersecurity field is among the hottest in the IT industry.

Subfields in cybersecurity include application security, cloud security, infrastructure security, network security, and security of the internet of things (IoT). A bachelor’s degree is typically required for entry-level and mid-level cybersecurity jobs, while advanced specialist and management positions usually require a master’s in cybersecurity.

Career Spotlight: Information Security Analyst

Information security analysts oversee security measures for an organization’s computer networks and information systems. Critical thinking, active listening, complex problem solving, and oral and written comprehension are among the most valuable professional skills needed. With a projected job growth of 32% between 2022 and 2032, information security analyst is one of the top IT occupations.

Career Median Salary Projected Growth (2022-32) Top Industries

Information Security Analyst



Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services; Government

Source: O*Net Online, 2023

Data Analytics

Data analytics is the science of collecting and analyzing raw data in a way that allows organizations to make informed data-driven decisions. To do this, data analytics combines the subfields of data analysis (data extraction), data science (data theory and forecasting), and data engineering (building of data systems).

Entry into the field typically requires a bachelor’s degree in data analytics or a closely related major, while a master’s degree in data analytics (sometimes in a specialized area within the field) is commonly needed for career advancement.

Career Spotlight: Database Architect

Database architecture is all about the design and methodology of database systems. Database architects collaborate with data analysts, software engineers, systems architects, and others to design and code new databases based on industry and business requirements.

People in this role also document technical requirements and specifications, create and enforce database system standards, and more. Important job skills include critical thinking, complex problem solving, judgement and decision making, and reading comprehension.

Career Median Salary Projected Growth (2022-32) Top Industries

Database Architect



Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services; Finance and Insurance

Source: O*Net Online, 2023

Data Science

Data science means extracting useful insights from data by combining mathematics, statistics, advanced analytics, specialized programming, and more with specific subject matter. Findings are then converted into actionable information, used by organizations to make better decisions.

You can start your career with a data science bachelor’s degree, but you’ll be looking at earning your data science master’s, likely with an area of concentration, to move into advanced specialized practice and leadership positions. Many master’s programs are available online, and there are scholarships and resources for data science master’s students to help with program costs.

Career Spotlight: Data Scientist

Data scientists are the data detectives of the IT profession. Job tasks include extracting and processing large sets of data with statistical software, determining groups to be surveyed using sampling techniques, applying algorithms in the prediction of outcomes in specific areas of interest to companies and organizations, and more.

As a data scientist professional, you’ll enjoy solid earnings and, with a 2022-2032 projected growth of 35%, you can be assured of exceptionally high demand and job security for years to come.

Career Median Salary Projected Growth (2022-32) Top Industries

Data Scientist



Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services; Finance and Insurance

Source: O*Net Online, 2023

Health Informatics

Health informatics is the interdisciplinary field which concerns the application of informatics (algorithms, structure, behavior, etc.) to health-related data and information to improve efficiencies for healthcare providers and subsequent patient outcomes.

Important applications of health informatics today include the practice of predictive medicine, epidemic tracking, and the growing use of electronic health records. A bachelor’s degree in health informatics, information technology, or a closely related major can get you started, but many employers prefer job candidates with a health informatics master’s for entry-level jobs and supervisory positions.

Career Spotlight: Health Informatics Specialist

Health informatics specialists apply their expertise in informatics and health services to design, develop, and maintain computerized healthcare information systems. Hard skills in computer programming, data analytics, healthcare IT, and management are required. Soft skills needed include oral and written comprehension and expression, analytical thinking and inductive reasoning, and personal and professional integrity.

Health informatics specialists with a master’s degree are commonly employed in middle to large healthcare facilities such as hospitals, clinics, and even private physician’s offices. Other major employers include government agencies, pharmaceutical companies, medical device manufacturers, and health and life insurance companies.

Career Median Salary Projected Growth (2022-32) Top Industries

Health Informatics Specialist



Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services; Finance and Insurance

Source: O*Net Online, 2023

Information Systems

The term “information systems” is broadly used to describe the combination of hardware, software, and networks used to collect, store, analyze, and use data. Informed decision-making is the goal, critical to the success of businesses, organizations, and agencies in every sector of the economy. Examples of information systems types include computing platforms, data warehouses, geographic information systems, management support systems, search engines, and more.

Entering the information systems profession can be done with a bachelor’s or, in some cases, an associate degree. But for a career with a real future, you’ll need a master’s degree in information systems.

Career Spotlight: Computer & Information Research Scientist

Computer and information research scientists focus on the theory, design, creation, and development of computer and information systems of all kinds. A master’s degree is common for most advanced positions, and top-tier jobs are often held by those with an IT doctoral degree, an MD, or JD degree.

Knowledge of computers, engineering, mathematics, technology, and administration and management principles is essential in this well-paying, in-demand field. Skills required include critical thinking and complex problem solving, judgement and decision making, and oral and reading comprehension.

Career Median Salary Projected Growth (2022-32) Top Industries

Computer & Information Research Scientist



Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services; Government

Source: O*Net Online, 2023

Software Engineering

Software engineering is the subfield of computer science focused on the design, development, testing, maintenance, and updating of software for IT systems and applications of every type. Software engineers typically work in teams that include senior systems architects, data scientists, and fellow software engineers.

Specific tasks include writing and testing code, optimizing software for scalability and speed, ensuring compatibility with platforms, developing and enforcing IT standards within infrastructures, maintaining documentation, and more.

You can launch your career with a bachelor’s degree in software engineering or a closely related computer science major. However, many jobs – even entry-level ones – require a master’s degree in software engineering. And you’ll certainly need a master’s to move up the career ladder into administrative and management positions.

Career Spotlight: Software Developer

Software developers design, develop, and customize software for discrete applications for clients in all industries across all economic sectors. Common job activities for master’s level software developers include meeting with clients to determine their software needs, analyzing data to identify software requirements and specifications, modifying software to improve performance, supervising the work of team members, and developing testing procedures and routines. Important skills include analytical thinking and problem solving, self-motivation, strong oral and written communication skills, and the ability to work effectively with others.

Career Median Salary Projected Growth (2022-32) Top Industries

Software Developer



Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services; Information

Source: O*Net Online, 2023

FAQs About IT Careers & Degrees

Is it worthwhile to earn a master’s degree in IT?

Absolutely. Besides the fact that an IT degree from a reputable college or university is likely the first thing an employer will look for on your job application, there’s plenty of return on investment (ROI) data out there to support the tremendous worth of earning an IT degree.

For example, the Education Data Initiative places the ROI on a computer science degree at 40% for the first 10 years of employment (which is substantially higher than nearly all other degrees) and a whopping 823% after 40 years of employment. And a recent (March 2024) study published by the American Education Research Association found that engineering and computer science majors enjoyed the highest returns in income among 10 broad college majors.

Can I earn a master’s in IT if my undergrad degree is in another field?

The simple answer is yes, but, in most cases, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree in a major closely related to that of the master’s program. For example, admission into the MS in Information Technology program at Arizona State University requires a bachelor’s or master’s degree in IT or a closely associated field such as computer science, computer engineering, or applied computing.

There are also some programs that will admit students with a bachelor’s in a non-IT related field upon completion of IT prerequisite coursework or a bridge program, including, the Master’s in Information Technology (IT) Management Bridge Program from Grand Canyon University.

Do you have tips on finding and choosing online IT master’s degree programs?

There’s no real secret to finding the best online IT master’s program for you. If you’ve decided on a specific IT field, it’s time to go on an online program search. There are many online master’s programs in IT, or you can choose an online MBA in information technology. Beyond the specific major, factors you want to consider include proper accreditation, study options (full- or part-time), completion times, content delivery formats (fully-online, hybrid), and the availability of specializations or concentrations.

And, of course, you’ll want to consider program cost and financial aid opportunities. Finally, don’t hesitate to contact a program admissions representative at each school you’re considering. They can fill you in on program details and answer any questions you might have.

What scholarships or financial aid resources are available to help offset the cost of my IT degree?

Good news: The full range of financial aid is available to qualifying IT students at all degree levels. You just need to be sure that the degree program you choose is properly accredited. Popular resources include scholarships and grants, assistantships, and fellowships (primarily for IT grad students), work study, employer tuition reimbursement programs, and VA benefits.

The best place to start your funding search is through the financial aid offices of the schools you’re considering. Online searches are also useful. For example, Purdue Global offers this look at current scholarships for IT students.

Who are some major employers in the IT field?

The list of major IT employers includes some of the largest in the country. According to Glassdoor.com, those companies include IBM, Amazon, AT&T, Apple, Microsoft, and Dell. Other big employers of IT professionals include Accenture, Verizon, JPMorgan Chase & Company, and the Bank of America.

You may be surprised to learn that another huge IT employer is the U.S. military, particularly the Air Force and Army. Major non-tech industries that hire lots of IT talent include healthcare, manufacturing, retail, and education.