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Congratulations on taking the first step toward a career in Information Technology (IT)! IT is a highly dynamic field offering plenty of opportunities for personal and professional growth. The IT industry is constantly evolving, with something new to learn every day and high demand for skilled IT professionals.

This guide offers direction on how to start your IT career. It will cover salary figures for specific IT jobs in the U.S. market, the recommended certifications to pursue, the best industries to work in, and continued career growth opportunities.


Salary for U.S. Information Technology Job Roles

When it comes to starting an IT career, salary is undoubtedly one of the most important factors to consider in today’s economy. The salary for entry-level IT jobs varies depending on the position, location, level of experience, and company you work for. According to Payscale, the average salary for someone with less than two years of experience, starting an entry-level IT job in the United States, is $51,000 per year.

Here are some of the entry-level IT jobs (and their respective starting salaries) you can consider pursuing with limited or no experience:

  • Help Desk Technician - $42,000 per year
  • Desktop Support Technician - $48,000 per year
  • Network Administrator - $55,000 per year
  • Junior Software Developer - $60,000 per year
  • IT Security Analyst - $64,000 per year

Network Administrator: The average salary for a network administrator in the United States is $84,810 per year. Network administrators are responsible for managing and maintaining an organization's computer network. They ensure that the network is secure, efficient, and reliable.

Network administration is an essential function in managing computer networks and plays a crucial role in maintaining a network’s security, reliability, and efficiency. Becoming a network administrator knowledge and credentials can be earned via a bachelor's degree in Computer Science or Information Technology, relevant work experience, or industry certifications such as CCNA or CompTIA Network+. Excellent communication and problem-solving skills, attention to detail, and the ability to work effectively in a team environment are also essential qualifications for network administrators.

Help Desk Technician: The average salary for a help desk technician in the United States is $48,106 per year. This role is a technical support position that provides assistance to end-users with their computer hardware, software, and other technology-related issues. These technicians are responsible for troubleshooting problems, providing technical solutions, and ensuring that computer systems and networks are functioning correctly.

Professionals starting in this role might perform duties such as:

  • Responding to user inquiries via phone, email, or chat
  • Troubleshooting computer hardware and software issues
  • Installing, configuring, and maintaining software applications
  • Performing routine maintenance tasks, such as backups and updates
  • Training users on how to use specific hardware and software applications

Individuals pursuing this role should have excellent communication skills, as interacting with end-users who may not have technical expertise, is a primary part of this job. When looking to fill this job role, employers may evaluate competency by the following qualifications:

  • Strong communication and customer service skills
  • Knowledge of computer (and IoT devices) hardware and software
  • Familiarity with common operating systems, such as Windows and MacOS
  • Experience with productivity software, such as Microsoft Office
  • Familiarity with network protocols and basic network troubleshooting
  • Certifications, such as CompTIA A+ and Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA)

While a degree is not always required to become a Help Desk Technician, obtaining relevant certifications will demonstrate knowledge and skills to potential employers. Continuing to pursue further education or training in related fields of networking or cybersecurity, can also help you advance your career and move into other, more advanced roles.

IT Security Analyst: The average salary of an IT Security Analyst in the United States is $85,674, but can range between $77,666 and $95,087. This professional is responsible for protecting an organization's systems and data from cyber-attacks, unauthorized access, and other vulnerabilities that could lead to a breach. These analysts examine systems and networks for vulnerabilities, develop security policies and procedures, and help implement and maintain security measures to ensure the integrity, confidentiality, and availability of data.

To become an IT Security Analyst, typically a bachelor's degree in computer science, cybersecurity, or relevant certifications such as the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) or Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH), is required. Other qualifications for this role include knowledge of security protocols, risk assessments, and incident response, as well as strong analytical and problem-solving skills.

Evaluate your earning potential with the free salary calculator from PayScale.


Certifications to Get into an IT Role

IT certification career pathways

In the IT industry, certifications are an excellent way to demonstrate your skills and knowledge to potential employers, and in the technical community. With that prestige comes a multitude of options to shift through, and confusion on where to start. Trusted vendors around the world create curricula and certifications for their “industry standards” products, systems, and services, but here are the top three certifications you should pursue to get your foot in the door:

  1. CompTIA IT Fundamentals+ (ITF+): The ITF+ certification covers the essential IT skills and knowledge required for entry-level IT jobs, including topics on computer hardware, software, security, and networking. This certification is recommended for individuals who are completely new to IT and want to gain a foundational understanding of IT concepts, or those considering a career in IT. No prior IT knowledge is required to earn this certification
  2. CompTIA A+: The CompTIA A+ certification is another entry-level certification that covers basic IT concepts, overlapping with the ITF+ material, however, the A+ material goes a step deeper, familiarizing learners with operating systems, cybersecurity, virtualization, and networking. Minimal prior knowledge may be required.
  3. CompTIA Network+: The CompTIA Network+ certification takes the basic networking skills you learned in A+ and expands them to cover a corporate setting. Due to their foundational nature, you will often find that entry-level roles require both A+ and Network+ in order to apply. 
  4. Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA): The CCNA certification is a mid-level certification that covers network fundamentals, LAN switching technologies, routing technologies, WAN technologies, infrastructure services, and infrastructure security.

Best Industries for Working in an IT Position

The IT industry is vast, and IT professionals can work in a wide range of industries, but there are some better suited for, and in higher need of, IT professionals than others. Here are the ones to watch:

  1. Healthcare: The healthcare industry is highly dependent on technology, and IT professionals play a critical role in maintaining and improving healthcare technology systems. From the devices to the software used on them, hospitals and other medical facilities rely on always available, confidential, and accurate systems and networks to keep people alive and healthy.
  2. Finance: The finance industry is highly regulated and requires robust IT infrastructure to ensure the security and reliability of financial systems. As witnessed time and again over the past several decades, banking institutions are high-value targets for attackers and require highly skilled teams to safeguard their systems, networks, data, and valued assets.
  3. Technology: Technology companies, including software and hardware manufacturers, are always looking for skilled IT professionals to help them develop, maintain, and support their products. Working in a tech company can provide you with excellent opportunities for career growth and development, and gain unique hands-on experience that will transition anywhere.

Career Growth Opportunities

Information Technology is a dynamic field that offers vast opportunities for career growth and development. Project Management, Data Science, and Cloud and Emerging Technologies, are a few unique areas that are estimated to increase in demand over the next decade. In today's technology-driven business environment, these fields require a deep understanding of IT concepts and technology tools to be successful.

  1. Project Management: IT project management involves planning, executing, and closing projects. Demanding excellent organizational and communication skills, this type of role can lead to a management or leadership position. In Project Management, IT professionals are needed to oversee and manage technology projects, ensuring that they are delivered on time, within budget, and meet the required technical specifications. They play a critical role in coordinating with stakeholders, managing resources, and ensuring that projects align with business goals.
  2. Data Science: Data science is a field that involves using statistical and computational methods to extract insights from data. The related jobs require IT professionals with advanced technical skills to analyze complex data sets and develop insights that can be used to make strategic decisions. Data Scientists, or other similar professionals in this space, use various programming languages and analytical tools to extract meaningful insights from data, which helps businesses optimize their operations and improve their bottom line.
  3. Cloud and Emerging Technologies: Cloud and Artificial Intelligence (AI) job roles require IT professionals with specialized skills in cloud computing, automation, and machine learning. These people are responsible for managing cloud infrastructure, developing and deploying AI algorithms, and integrating emerging technologies into business processes. They are critical to the success of businesses looking to leverage the benefits of cloud and AI technologies to drive innovation and growth.

Starting a career in a technical field like IT can seem daunting with the depth and breadth of information available today, especially if there’s conflicting information about the best place to start. The information presented throughout this guide was meant to provide you with context on recommended jobs and their requirements, industries where skilled IT professionals are in high demand, and opportunities for continued growth to provide direction after entering the industry.


Additional Resources:

CompTIA IT Industry Outlook Report 2023
CompTIA Closing the Data Skills Gap - Whitepaper
Job Seeker Trends 2022
CompTIA Digital Solutions Catalog


 top most in-demand IT tech jobs



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