How to Earn a Six-Figure Salary in the Tech Industry

Learn how to earn a six-figure salary in the technology sector. Explore rewarding careers, education requirements, and top skills needed for tech jobs.

portrait of Stefanie Grodman
by Stefanie Grodman

Published August 25, 2022

Edited by Madison Hoehn
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How to Earn a Six-Figure Salary in the Tech Industry
Image Credit: Westend61 / Westend61 / Getty Images


As of 2022, about 8.9 million people were employed in the technology sector. A fast-growing tech industry demands a large volume of trained workers. Although projected job growth depends heavily on role and industry, tech occupations are projected to grow roughly twice as fast as the national average job growth rate.

Many of these occupations are famously high-paying. According to a CompTIA report, people who work in technology-related occupations earn a median annual salary that is 125% greater than the national median salary. Many tech professionals are able to land six-figure salary jobs.

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What Are Some Six-Figure Tech Jobs?

Computer Hardware Engineer

These professionals design and update hardware for computers and other devices. They conduct tests to evaluate design efficiency and often collaborate with software engineers and other specialists to build cohesive products.

Median Salary: $128,170

Computer Information Research Scientist

These scientists design and improve innovative computer architectures, such as software systems and computing languages, to develop new products. They often conduct research and publish their findings.

Median Salary: $131,490

Software Systems Developer

Software developers create applications and software systems, often taking user experience, marketability, and security into account. They often lead teams of programmers and correspond with stakeholders during the development process.

Median Salary: $110,140

Computer Network Architect

These professionals may plan local or wide area communication networks. They may oversee the installation of hardware and software systems like adaptors, routers, and network drivers.

Median Salary: $120,520

IT Project Managers

These leaders oversee the use of technology within a company or organization. They may lead computer support or IT specialists teams, determine software and equipment needs, and plan updates and installations.

Median Salary: $159,010

How to Earn a Six-Figure Salary in Tech

There are various roles and specializations in the tech sector that allow professionals to earn a six-figure salary. Of course, salary potential depends on the company, location, experience level, and education. The sections below detail ways that workers can pursue exceptionally well-paying tech jobs.

Earn a Bachelor’s Degree

Most high-paying tech jobs — including hardware engineer, network architect, and software developer roles — require at least a bachelor’s degree. Students interested in these careers can pursue undergraduate degrees in areas like computer science, information technology, software engineering, or cybersecurity.

However, pursuing a bachelor’s degree may carry some financial risks. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), public colleges cost in-state students an average of $9,375 per year and out-of-state students an average of $27,091 in the 2020-2021 academic year. Meanwhile, private colleges cost students an average of $3I 2,825. These figures are based on tuition alone — many students pay thousands of dollars in additional expenses like room-and-board, textbooks, meal plans, and student activity fees.

Even so, breaking into certain fields may require a relevant four-year degree. Tech jobs tend to pay new graduates more than many other fields, and since many graduates with technology-related skills can access lucrative entry-level jobs, they may have a greater return on investment.

Earn a Master’s Degree

Although most tech jobs only require professionals to hold a bachelor’s degree, certain industry leaders may be required to hold graduate degrees in areas like software engineering, computer information technology, or computer engineering. Computer and information research scientists, for example, are expected to build expert-level knowledge of hardware-software systems with graduate-level training.

A master’s degree can also be an asset for individuals looking to compete for leadership positions like IT project manager, information systems manager, or computer network architect roles.

However, graduate degrees can also be a hefty investment. The NCES reports that in the 2020-2021 academic year, the average yearly tuition for a graduate program was $12,394 at public institutions and $28,445 at private institutions.

Attend a Coding Bootcamp

Coding bootcamps offer condensed training programs designed to teach in-demand skills like coding, web design, cybersecurity, and data science. These streamlined programs can present excellent opportunities for people looking for a quick career change or who are interested in career training with less substantial time commitments and program lengths.

However, sometimes, tech professionals who choose to complete a bootcamp instead of a college degree may limit their career opportunities. Although many employers view bootcamp training as legitimate, some higher-level jobs still require applicants to hold bachelor’s degrees.

Bootcamps have highly streamlined curricula. While this can be practical for learners, students may not have the opportunity to build a well-rounded background in areas outside of their precise training areas. Although this format can be limiting, motivated tech professionals may build a more comprehensive background through on-the-job training and hands-on experience.

Skills to Earn a Six-Figure Salary

Many six-figure salary jobs are inherently collaborative and involve communication and strategy. Although discussion surrounding success in the tech industry often revolves around concrete metrics like education and training, soft skills can help you boost your current job title and ultimately help you increase your earnings.

Leadership

Strong leadership is one of the top skills for tech jobs. Many tech professionals like software developers, hardware engineers, and computer systems analysts collaborate with different specialists to create cohesive products or networks.

These specialists may have the opportunity to lead teams of programmers or telecommunication technicians. Tech professionals with effective leadership abilities ultimately spearhead more successful projects, which can help them stand out as candidates for lucrative managerial positions, like IT project manager.

Focusing on the “Big Picture”

Successful workers should consider how their role fits into the “big picture” rather than a series of independent tasks. Focusing on the “big picture” is also key when delegating different elements of a project to specialists.

This collectivistic thinking is essential in many high-paying tech occupations where professionals must advocate for tech products or initiatives with executives or shareholders. In many cases, leaders in the tech industry work closely with marketing teams or sales representatives to strategize products’ commercial trajectory.

Reliability

In almost every field, reliability is a skill that higher-ups admire and appreciate. Workers should always aim to be punctual, adhere to deadlines, attend meetings and events, and complete high-quality work.

Reliability keeps workers on good terms with their coworkers and supervisors and underscores professionals’ more technical, “hard” skills. This attribute demonstrates professionalism, integrity, cooperation, and executive functioning, which can help candidates qualify for leadership positions.

Frequently Asked Questions About Six-Figure Tech Jobs

How long does it take to earn six figures in tech?

Experience level is one of the components that most directly impacts projected salary. Few entry-level workers earn six figures, even in lucrative fields. A larger proportion of experienced workers earn six-figure salaries.

However, the amount of time it takes professionals to earn more than $100,000 per year depends heavily on their job title. Payscale reports that software engineers with less than a year of experience start their careers with an average salary of $77,987, while software engineers with 10-19 years of work experience earn an average of $108,591 per year.

Information technology (IT) directors, however, need comparatively less experience to earn six figures. According to Payscale, directors with less than a year of experience earn an average of $79,359, while an IT director with 10-19 years of experience earns an average of $124,517.

What is the highest-paying job in the tech industry?

According to Bureau of Labor Statistics data, computer and information systems managers have one of the tech industry’s highest-paying jobs. As of 2021, these professionals earned a median salary of $159,010 with the potential to earn more within specific industries and specializations.

For example, information systems managers who worked in the information sector earned a median annual salary of $165,940, while those who worked in finance and insurance earned a median of $162,240, and the top-earning ten percent of these professionals earned a median salary of over $208,000.

How rare is a six-figure salary?

How “rare” a six-figure salary is depends greatly on location, training, experience, role, and employer. The BLS reports that as of May 2021, the median annual wage for all occupations was $45,760. In the same year, about 8.7% of the U.S. population reported earning an income of $100,000 or more.

However, workers in the tech industry tend to have much more lucrative career prospects. Many tech professionals earn salaries that reach or surpass the $100,000 mark.

Computer systems analysts, for example, earned a median annual salary of $99,270 in 2021, meaning nearly half these workers earn six figures. Similarly, information security analysts earned a median of $102,600, and software systems developers earned a median of $110,140.

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