Fastest-Growing Tech Occupations Include Data Scientists, Engineers

The 2020 edition of Dice’s Salary Report showed significant salary growth for certain kinds of skills, including Swift and Kafka. Now let’s take a deeper dive into the tech occupations that enjoyed the biggest increases in salary between 2018 and 2019. Based on our analysis, it’s clear that employers are hungry for technologists who can carry out a variety of tasks, from analyzing data to building applications (as well as making sure those applications go into the world relatively bug-free).

The data from the Salary Report was drawn from 12,837 technologists. In addition, the occupations below the chart also incorporated data from Burning Glass, which collects and analyzes millions of job postings from across the country, for data-points such as time-to-fill and most-requested skills. (Burning Glass defines “Defining skills” as the day-to-day tasks and responsibilities of a particular job, while “Distinguishing skills” are advanced skills that are called for occasionally, and really come into play with highly specialized employees.)

As you can see from the following list, a broad spectrum of occupations enjoyed gains, which is a reflection of all kinds of companies and industries needing a range of technology services:

Let’s break some of these occupations down a little further. As you’ll see, many of these jobs require a range of skills (and sometimes a good deal of experience) in order to attract the eye of employers.

Security Engineer 

Average salary: $121,228 
Growth: 9.5 percent
Defining skills: Information Security, Network Security, Vulnerability Assessment, Intrusion Detection, Security Operations 
Distinguishing skills: NIST, Threat Analysis, Nessus, Vulnerability Analysis, McAfee 

In the wake of several high-profile data breaches over the past few years—including Equifax, Facebook, Marriott International, and other big brands—companies are more cognizant than ever that a security breach can cost corporate reputations and lots of money. No CEO wants to be dragged before Congress to explain how their company accidentally let a hacker steal personal information from 50 million customers. 

At the same time, the increasing complexity of corporate IT infrastructure makes it harder to secure than ever. That’s why companies really want highly specialized security engineers who can recognize (and patch) the vulnerabilities that inevitably pop up in the system. Those engineers are very hirable if they possess certifications such as CompTIA Security+, Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), and GIAC Certified Incident Handler (GCIH).  

Employers really want security engineers who can conduct a vulnerability analysis, model threats, and figure out how to prevent data loss. As a result, salaries (on average) have risen from $110,716 in 2018 to $121,228 in 2019 (representing 9.5 percent year over year growth). Businesses that are hiring security engineers include Target, U.S. Bancorp and Northrop Grumman. Employers that are looking to hire security engineers can expect an average of 40 days to fill a vacancy. 

Project Manager 

Average salary: $116,012 
Growth: 4.6 percent 
Defining skills: Budgeting, Scrum, Microsoft Project, Stakeholder Management, SDLC (Systems Development Life Cycle) 
Distinguishing skills: Business Analysis, ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library), Lifecycle Management, Systems Development, Agile Development 

Project managers are some of the most vital technologists within a company, which is one reason why they pull down an average salary of $116,012 (with a 4.6 percent growth between 2018 and 2019). As the job title suggests, they guide projects from initiation through planning and execution, which demands high levels of organization, adaptability, and ability to recognize and solve multi-variable problems. With software development becoming exponentially more complicated, the need to manage projects at an exacting, granular level is increasingly important, powering project managers’ growth as a job category. As a result, the average time to fill project manager roles is roughly 38 days. 

In addition to technical proficiency in Agile and various methodologies, project managers must display considerable soft skills; they must communicate progress regularly to senior management, negotiate among team members, and convey plans to external stakeholders. Employers are hiring this occupation at significant volume include Fiserv, IBM, Deloitte and Target. 

Software Developer 

Average salary: $114,336 
Growth: 4.7 percent 
Defining skills: Java, SQL, JavaScript, Python, Object-Oriented Analysis and Design 
Distinguishing skills: Continuous Integration, HTML5, JavaScript Object Notation (JSON), React, PostgreSQL 

The ubiquitous need to build software is why software developers accounted for 12 percent of all tech job postings in 2019; in addition, such roles take an average of 39 days to fill, which hints at the aggressive fight among employers for candidates with the right mix of skills and experience.  

The top employers for software developer positions include tech titans such as IBM, Amazon and Accenture, but even the smallest startups need developers skilled at front-end and back-end tasks. The most common software-development skills include Java, SQL, JavaScript, Python and C++, and software developers are always interested in expanding their skillsets. For example, mobile developers who have spent the past decade building iOS and Android apps using Objective-C and Java are no doubt very interested in Swift (Apple’s new-ish language for iOS) and Kotlin (which Google recently named a “first class” development language for Android). Those developers who specialize will often ask for higher starting salaries and additional benefits.   

Data Engineer 

Average salary: $113,249 
Growth: 9.3 percent 
Defining skills: Python, SQL, Big Data, Apache Hadoop, Extraction Transformation and Loading  (ETL) 
Distinguishing skills: Data Warehouse Processing, Relational DataBase Management System (RDBMS), ElasticSearch, Apache Impala, Apache Oozie 

The challenges facing data engineers will only become more complex in coming years. Everything from IoT devices and wearables to POS dashboards are feeding unimaginable amounts of structured and unstructured data to companies. Data engineers, in turn, must figure out how to store, move, and clean that data so that data scientists and other professionals can analyze it for valuable insights.   

That complexity means that experienced data engineers have a plethora of skills, from Python and SQL programming to working with Apache Hadoop and Scala. That makes them sought-after and highly valuable: Data engineering salaries have increased by more than 9 percent year-over-year, along with a 50 percent increase in job postings. Employers such as Amazon, Accenture and Capital One are all hiring this occupation at a large scale, and, as a result, the average time to fill for data engineers is 46 days. The hunger for these technologists seems unlikely to abate anytime soon, given how badly companies want as much data as possible for their operations.  

Python, machine learning, and Big Data were skills often requested by employers, according to Burning Glass. As datasets grow larger, and the tools to analyze them more advanced, data scientists will also have to consider how artificial intelligence (A.I.), will impact their jobs in future years. On the most straightforward level, A.I. and ML tools will automate many data-science functions, giving more employees the ability to mine data for insight. That means flesh-and-blood data scientists will primarily focus on the thorniest, most nuanced challenges involving their companies’ datasets. 

Data Scientist 

Average salary: $106,298 
Growth: 11.4 percent
Defining skills: Python, Machine Learning, SQL, Big Data, Apache Hadoop 
Distinguishing skills: Scikit-learn, Keras, Pandas, Classification Algorithms, NumPy 

It’s one thing to collect massive amounts of data from clients, customers, and other sources; it’s quite another to successfully analyze that data in ways that executives and employees can utilize to make the business grow. Because data science is often as much an art as a science, it requires quite some time to master; and because of that, data scientists with the right mix of skills and experience can command sizable average salaries (there’s also data science certifications that can help boost your salary). Between 2018 and 2019, the average data scientist salary grew from $95,404 to $106,298, representing more than 11 percent growth, along with a 7 percent growth in job postings. The average time to fill data scientist roles is 46 days. That growth and demand is directly attributable to industries collecting more data (such as finance), as well as companies recognizing the value of analyzing it in order to enhance corporate strategy. Specifically, businesses looking to hire data scientists in high volumes in 2019 included Bayer, Capital One, Facebook and Amazon. 

Python, machine learning, and Big Data topped the most-requested skills. As datasets grow larger, and the tools to analyze them more advanced, data scientists will also have to consider how artificial intelligence (A.I.), will impact their jobs in future years. On the most straightforward level, A.I. and ML tools will automate many data-science functions, giving more employees the ability to mine data for insight. That means flesh-and-blood data scientists will primarily focus on the thorniest, most nuanced challenges involving their companies’ datasets; employers will certainly ask about those capabilities during any job interview.  

Quality Assurance (QA) Engineer 

Average Salary: $91,098 
Growth: 5.0 percent 
Defining skills: Selenium, Atlassian JIRA, Automated Testing, Performance Testing, Regression Testing 
Distinguishing skills: Scenario Testing, Apache Jmeter, Unit testing, JUnit, TestNG 

Quality assurance engineers ensure that company standards are met at each step, no matter how fast and complicated the project. QA is so central to software-building that those technologists who specialize in it can command a generous salary: $91,098 on average in 2019, representing an increase of 5 percent from 2018. The salary for these professionals is also matched by the time to fill: 39 days on average.

Some of the top skills requested for QA engineers include Selenium, Java, SQL and Python—which is unsurprising, considering that Java and Python are two of the programming languages that a vast majority of apps are built in, and SQL is a vital part of most database work (Selenium is an open-source framework for testing web applications). Top employers in the market for QA engineers include Apple and Amazon.