After two decades of working in the technical training industry, I’ve found software development roles need people who have the skills to do the job, regardless of whether those skills come from a bachelors in computer science or a certification course on the internet.
I’ve worked in various roles focused on technical training before moving to Skillsoft, where I’m the VP of Tech Products, figuring out what developers want to learn today and how we can give them the skills they need to succeed.
Recently, we surveyed 9,300 tech professionals to learn more about their roles, salaries, skills, certifications, and more. There are three main roles I’ll focus on below.
I’ll also explore the broader trends that might help shape your career path and look at practical ways you can get the most out of your education and training, whether you’re just starting out, looking to level up, or trying to hire and retain the best technical talent.
Part one: The highest-paying roles
According to our research (and research from others too), these roles rank among the highest-paying in tech today:
- Enterprise cloud architect
- Security architect
- Data scientist / architect
Enterprise cloud architect – Average: $172,241
Enterprise cloud architects do the high-level technical planning and design work for an organization’s infrastructure, including its apps and other products. They design the architecture of systems, craft deployment strategies, and manage the long-term stability, resilience and security of systems, services, and products.
Depending on the maturity of the organization, this role might also involve crafting a migration strategy: deciding what to take along, what to deprecate, and how to make the change with the least disruption. And of course, if you find success and growth, you’ll have to start thinking about change management and upgrading your site reliability engineering (SRE) team.
For those who aspire to this role (or hold it today), the combination of cloud and security could be a huge opportunity for you.
People in this role, on average, hold roughly five certifications. Global Knowledge’s annual “15 Top-Paying IT Certification List” shows those with cloud-related certifications tend to make the highest salaries. Those with the Google Cloud Professional (GCP) Cloud Architect certification make an average of $169,029, ranked number two on the list just behind those with a GCP Data Engineer certification.
However, 70% of cloud architects don’t have any security certifications—even the basics. This is a spot where a lot of folks can bolster their skill set and value. Despite the gap, more architects are seeing the value in security credentials. About one-quarter of architects say they plan to pursue a security certification in the year ahead.
Here some resources to help you become a cloud architect:
Skillsoft Aspire Journey – DevOps Engineer to Cloud Architect (features 39 courses)
Skillsoft Aspire Journey — Network Security Specialist To CloudOps Security Architect (features 35 courses)
Certification Prep Guide: How to Become a Google Certified Professional Cloud Architect
Security architects – Average: $137,776
Due to the overwhelming need for cybersecurity professionals, organizations tend to compensate security professionals higher than most. Security architects design the security systems, and by extension, they are the ones on the line when something goes wrong with the defenses.
This is an in-the-trenches role. You don’t just say how it should work, you make it work. This group, more than cloud, seems to value certifications. Almost all (94%) hold a certification, with 87% pursuing more.
Only one-in-five security architects seek cloud certifications, so bolstering your skills in this area might help you stand out from the crowd. What’s more, a lot of organizations are most exposed in their APIs and front-end services. If you can improve DevSecOps, it alleviates a lot of the pain later on.
For security architects interested in additional certifications, these two disciplines can add value to your resume: Agile or DevOps. In today’s world, DevSecOps is imperative and helps security professionals deploy best practices in their organizations and adapt rapidly to ever evolving threats.
- Skillsoft Aspire Journey – Security Analyst To Security Architect (features 44 courses)
- Certification Prep Guide: How to Earn Your CompTIA Security+ Certification (another top-paying certification)
Data scientist – Average: $121,853
This is the newest and hardest to pin down, with specific job titles varying greatly. These are folks building data pipelines, warehouses, and storage. They work on data analysis, building dashboards, and research and experimentation.
Because of the growing demand for data scientists, organizations continually place higher and higher values on this skill set. While organizations like Indeed report an annual average salary of $121,853, Robert Half says people in this role could make up to $135,000 or more.
For data roles, if you’ve already got the basics or advanced skills, layering on cloud, operations, and security skills will set your resume apart from the pack—especially when considering how the three roles mentioned here work together. Think of these areas as the three legs of a stool in a modern organization: They make up different sides of the same operation. You you build a cloud, you secure it, you need to ingest data to learn and improve.
If this is your intended specialty, thesee these resources below can help you progress your career:
- Skillsoft Aspire Journey – Data Analyst to Data Scientist (features 100 courses)
- Recommended: Essential Math for Data Science (features 35 courses)
Enjoying this piece? Listen to an interview with the author, Skillsoft’s Mike Hedrickson.
Part two: How to make the most of educational opportunities
You know some of the roles and skills that might be worth pursuing. What’s the best way to get the education or training you need?
Let’s break it down across three dimensions:
- Beginners: folks who are just starting their careers and hoping to break into a new role.
- Intermediate and advanced: folks who already have experience but want to level up or change their career.
- Managers and executives: folks who employ developers and want to ensure they can learn and grow.
A lot of folks can get caught in analysis paralysis when it comes to starting their coding education. My first piece of advice would be that you learn best when you feel comfortable and motivated. Everyone learns in different ways.
We live in an amazing time when access to training in software development is widely available across the internet, often at little or no cost to start. You should think about what makes sense in terms of the time and budget you have available, then decide what style works best for you.
The modality is key. Consider your options:
- Mentoring / coaching
- Instructor-led training
- On-demand courses
- Peer groups
- Practice labs
Second, make it your hobby. Half an hour a day goes a long way if you keep it up for one year. It will provide more value than an in-depth course you start and never finish.
Intermediate and advanced
When I speak with more experienced developers about the keys to lifelong learning, I hear how it’s vital to carve out time to study each day or each week. Consistency is key.
Work with your manager and any direct reports to put time on the calendar for improving your existing skills or adding new ones.
Also, consider how you plan the steps in your journey and what tools you use. If you like and identify with what you do, you will enjoy it more. That will help you get through any career doldrums.
Remember when you were a kid and the best teachers made learning fun? I challenge you to find that joy again and recognize that enjoying education is a mindset you can hone.
Managers and executives
When creating career paths for individuals and showing them what they can aspire to, it’s important to keep them motivated.
How do you hire and retain the best technical talent? It turns out salary isn’t the only, or even the most important, motivator. In our research, opportunities for growth and development rank highest, with work-life balance not far behind.
At a CIO conference, someone asked me, “What if I train someone and get them a certification and they leave, you know, because it makes it easier for them to leave?”
And my answer to them was, well, what if you don’t train them and they stay right there? If you want people to be trained and educated and moving forward, invest in them.
If you invest in them, they will stay.
Giving employees a clear view of career paths and ladders can also be motivating. Not everyone wants to be an application architect, but even if they don’t want to hold that position, knowing what skills go into it at your organization is something a lot of devs want to understand.
Work-life balance and growth opportunities are key
We started out this blog talking about salary, and of course, compensation is important. But what we found in our research was that people care more about opportunities for growth and development than they do compensation.
The highest percentage of respondents to our survey (59%) say they value opportunities for growth above all else. Compensation came next at 39%, but work-life balance followed closely at 31%. Work-life balance ranks highly in importance broadly, and a lack thereof is cited as a leading reason for why people change employers.
The data speaks for itself. But I would add that one of the greatest aspects of this field is that people have a passionate, lifelong love of learning and self-improvement. Bettering oneself can renew energy, focus, and hope in people at every level of their career. At the end of the day, people want a sense of purpose. Working toward their goals and aspirations gives them that.
In the annual IT Skills and Salary Report, we go a lot deeper into in-demand areas of tech, the highest-paying certifications, and more. You can read the entire report here.
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