Whether you’re still in school or recently launched a tech career, you need to start thinking about your next career move now. As tech evolves at a fast pace, professionals need to stay ahead of the curve. That means continuously investing in skills training and professional development. Actively networking, adding programming languages, and researching the industry can translate into better career prospects.  This guide walks through the key steps to advance your technology career.

Build marketable new skills and knowledge

Adding marketable skills to your resume helps professionals advance. Thanks to the rapid evolution of the tech industry, professionals must keep their knowledge and skills current. Fortunately, learners benefit from a variety of options to strengthen their tech skills. From accelerated bootcamps to master’s programs, here are the best ways to expand your skills. 

Try a tech bootcamp

A coding bootcamp helps newcomers break into the field. Bootcamps also help current tech professionals add skills and transition into new roles. In the skills-based tech field, employers hire job candidates who demonstrate proficiency in their tech stack. A focused bootcamp can provide those job-ready skills. Bootcamps focus on specific languages and technologies, including Python, Java, and the C-family languages. Specialized bootcamps also teach niche areas like Raspberry Pi and Arduino. Most bootcamps take between 12-24 weeks to complete.

Find the right bootcamp for you

What’s the right bootcamp to advance your technology career? The answer depends on your goals, experience, and timeline. Before enrolling in a bootcamp, consider factors like the cost, the time commitment, and the delivery format. Many bootcamps offer in-person and online options, for example.  Prospective students should also examine the content focus of different bootcamps to make sure programs align with their career goals. Learners study many popular programming languages in bootcamps. Unlike degree-granting programs, most bootcamps do not hold accreditation. However, some colleges offer bootcamps and hold programmatic accreditation from organizations like ABET, which accredits computer science and tech programs. Finally, research whether bootcamps offer career services, including mock interviews and career coaching. 

Pursue an advanced degree

A master’s degree opens new doors for technology professionals. Many employers prefer to hire candidates with a graduate degree for management roles, Some career paths, including in data science, require a master’s degree. Finally, professionals with a master’s degree earn higher salaries than those with a bachelor’s degree. Earning a master’s degree typically takes two years, though some programs offer an accelerated one-year route to a degree. Learners should always choose an accredited program. Why an online program might work for you: Online programs prioritize flexibility. Distance learners enrolled in asynchronous courses arrange their assignments around other responsibilities, including their work schedule. And accelerated online programs help students reach their educational goals in less time. Many accredited universities offer online tech degrees, including MBA and computer science degrees.

Useful master’s degrees for tech

A master’s degree helps tech professionals advance their careers and increase their earning potential. Here are some of the most useful master’s degrees for tech.  MBA in information technology: An MBA in information technology strengthens IT skills while providing advanced business training. MBA students take core classes in management principles, project management, and strategic analysis. Online MBA programs balance the business coursework with classes in IT management, technology forecasting, and tech leadership. The degree leads to opportunities as an IT manager, management analyst, or consultant. MBA in information systems management: An MBA in information systems management blends business and technology. Through core MBA courses, learners strengthen their strategic decision-making skills, broaden their understanding of organizational behavior, and build leadership abilities. Information systems MBA courses cover database administration, systems design, and business IT analysis. Graduates work as IT managers and directors. Master of science in computer science: A computer science master’s degree builds advanced technical skills. Students strengthen their systems architecture and coding design skills. They also expand their theoretical and conceptual understanding of computer science concepts. Within a computer science program, learners specialize in areas like cloud computing, information security, software engineering, and machine learning. Master of science in information systems security: A master’s in information systems security prepares graduates for supervisory roles in cybersecurity. Graduate learners study network security, preventing piracy, and protecting online information. In addition to technical training, information system master’s programs incorporate business skills. Most programs take one to two years, and many universities offer online options. 

Watch for opportunities in growing fields

The tech field continues to grow and evolve. But some fields show more promise than others. These new and rapidly expanding fields offer more job openings, a greater potential to advance, and the possible willingness to hire candidates with less experience. Here are the most exciting tech fields if you want to advance your technology career. Internet of things: The rise of the “smart home” represents a small fraction of the broader shift known as the internet of things (IoT). Internet-enabled physical objects play key roles in healthcare, security, transportation, and manufacturing. Within the IoT field, professionals work as product managers, IoT software developers, and IoT architects.  Automation: Automation continues to drive change in the workforce, and technology professionals build the tools that automate complex processes. Within the growing automation field, specialists work in areas like cybersecurity, project management, and quality assurance. In addition to building automated systems, automation professionals work in testing and maintenance.  Blockchain technology: Blockchain technology creates a public record of digital transactions––a valuable and secure tool for diverse industries. In financial services, healthcare, and cryptocurrency, blockchain technology has driven changes. Common job titles include blockchain developer, blockchain project manager, and blockchain quality engineer.  Data science: The growing field of data science uses algorithms and computing technology to understand complex problems and process large datasets. Within the field, professionals specialize as data engineers, designing processes to manage data, or data analysts, crunching numbers using algorithms. Other titles include data engineer and data architect. Machine learning and artificial intelligence: Machine learning and AI offer many growth opportunities. With diverse companies interested in human-computer interaction, AI algorithms, and other forms of machine learning, the growing field provides career advancement opportunities. Common job titles include machine learning engineer, data scientist, or information intelligence engineer.

Set your sights on the best technology jobs

Setting clear career goals helps tech professionals advance their careers. But before targeting top tech jobs, professionals must research the experience, education, and job requirements for different roles. For example, many employers prefer candidates with a graduate degree for supervisory or research positions.  Similarly, salary data and projected job growth help professionals make informed decisions. Networking with upper-level employees provides real-world advice––and even remote workers can network. This section introduces top-paying tech careers to help professionals move up the ladder.

The highest-paying tech jobs

Tech careers offer above-average salaries. The following top-paying jobs in tech, according to May 2020 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), all offer six-figure median salaries. These tech jobs also provide many pathways to advance your technology career. Computer and information systems managers: Also known as IT managers, computer and information systems managers oversee organizations’ technology needs. They manage a team of employees and help organizations meet their technology needs. Entry-level roles typically require a bachelor’s degree and at least five years of experience; some employers prefer candidates with a master’s degree. 

Median salary (2020): $151,150Projected job growth (2020-30): 11%

Computer and information research scientists: Computer and information research scientists use technology to solve problems. They develop new programming languages, write new algorithms, and determine how to use computing to resolve complex issues. Most positions require a master’s degree in computer science or a closely related field. Some computer scientists hold a doctorate. 

Median salary: $126,830Projected job growth (2020-30): 22%

Computer network architects: Computer network architects develop and maintain networks to share data and communicate between computing devices. They create intranets for businesses, develop cloud infrastructure for large corporations, and design custom networks depending on the organization’s needs. Entry-level positions typically require a bachelor’s degree and no professional experience. 

Median salary: $116,780Projected job growth (2020-30): 5%

Software developers, quality assurance analysts, and testers: Software developers, testers, software engineers, and quality assurance analysts make sure software programs run as designed. They also create applications to meet user needs. Testers and quality assurance analysts identify bugs in the code and develop solutions. These roles typically require a bachelor’s degree with no professional experience requirement. 

Median salary: $110,140Projected job growth (2020-30): 22%

Information security analysts: Information security analysts protect private data from breaches or attacks. They implement security procedures to halt cyberattacks and investigate if an attack occurs. Information security analysts also implement security procedures and test an organization’s security. Entry-level roles require a bachelor’s degree with less than five years of experience. 

Median salary: $103,590Projected job growth (2020-30): 33%