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Salary is a critical aspect for many people when searching for a job or deciding on a career. A higher salary is also among the top reasons people cite while changing jobs. In a market economy, every employee wants the highest possible monetary return for their invested time and effort. If you are considering a career or job change to increase your earnings, we have prepared a list of the highest-paying jobs in the U.S.
1) Site Reliability Engineer
Site reliability involves a set of principles and practices for which companies usually prefer to hire an expert. Site Reliability Engineers (SRE) bridge the development and operations teams in the software and IT product cycle. They use automation tools to create software systems that solve problems. The problems typically involve analyzing logs, testing production environments, and responding to any issues. The nature of their job requires them to focus on automation and bringing new features to production as quickly as possible.
An SRE works between development and operations and keeps shifting between them. Their job is often confused with that of a DevOps engineer, specializing in handling an IT product’s development and operation. But SREs focus more on system reliability, whereas DevOps is a more infrastructure-oriented role. SREs handle the following responsibilities:
- System availability and performance
- Change management
- System monitoring
- Capacity planning
- Emergency response
To become an SRE, you need some experience in a DevOps role and demonstrate expertise in process automation. They usually hold a bachelor’s degree in computer science or an IT-related discipline. Their salaries vary between $150,000-$180,000. If you are experienced enough and targeting the right companies, you may also find some employers ready to pay more than $220,000 annually.
2) Software Engineering Managers
As the job title suggests, Software Engineering Managers manage and oversee a team of software engineers that design and develop applications. Their job requires extensive knowledge of software development and the IT product life cycle. A software engineering manager usually handles the following responsibilities:
- Submit proposals, get approval, and report progress to upper management.
- Ensure market-leading products and set achievable yet high standards for their team
- Direct their team’s work to ensure timely project delivery
- Achieve team and business objectives while maintaining best practices
- Manage their budget and resources as per the project’s requirements.
- Monitor the progress throughout the development process and explain the product viability to management and the user.
3) Enterprise Architect
A survey from 2016 by Innotas revealed that 55% of all IT projects fail. The respondents admitted focusing too much on timely delivery rather than deriving business value from these projects. The problem arises from not aligning the IT goals with the business goals. Enterprise Architects (EAs) attempt to solve this issue by improving the existing IT infrastructure of an organization to optimize business operations. An EA handles the following roles and responsibilities:
- Analyze, define, organize, and document every aspect of an organization and interrelationships of critical business domains
- Identify and implement a business vision and future plan
- Effectively explain the business enterprise at all levels of supervision
- Engineer business architecture models that reflect organizational strategies and goals
- Evaluate accounting models for discrepancies or vulnerabilities
- Improve the IT department’s functions to support the overall strategy and reduce costs
- Formulate employee development and talent management plan to support future growth
In simpler words, they play a key role in ensuring that the IT infrastructure meets the needs of the organizations. The job of an EA is highly complex and can vary in scope depending on the challenge an organization faces. Because of the complex nature of the job, EAs earn some of the highest median salaries in the U.S.
The average experience required to work as an EA is at least 5+ years and ideally 10+ in a similar role. Depending upon your experience, you can expect an annual compensation between $130,000-$160,000 and nearly $200,000 as a Director of Enterprise Architecture. But the national average is close to $152,000. In terms of education, an undergraduate degree in computer science or an IT discipline is preferred. You can also get graduate certification in Enterprise Architecture from Penn State University to give your resumé a boost.
4) User Experience Manager
User Experience or UX Managers are responsible for supervising and managing a team of UX designers. They manage their team to deliver on the needs and expectations of the organization from the UX team through planning and resource management. They accordingly align the team with organizational strategy and objectives, identify opportunities, minimize risks, or create new products. UX managers need to be domain experts while combining their expertise with managerial responsibilities and organizational strategy. They need to:
- Understand the user perspective and business vision
- Evaluate the technology and system requirements
- Prioritize and allocate resources
- Recruit talented UX designers who are a fit for the culture
- Liaise with middle and upper management to connect and prioritize user experience design and research in the decision-making process
- Encourage the continual optimization of product development.
UX managers’ job postings usually ask for more than five years of experience in design, analysis, research, or a UX-related role in a similar industry. Depending upon your experience and the companies you target, you can expect anywhere between $90,000-$155,000, while the national average is $141,000. You would need a bachelor’s degree in design, computer science, IT, or business in terms of education. A master’s degree in similar disciplines will also improve your chances. If your education is not in design, you can improve your chances by doing a UX certification course online.
5) Solutions Architect
A Solutions Architect designs and implements the solutions to organizations’ business problems. First, they examine a problem, evaluate available technologies, and develop the best possible software solution. Then, they design, describe, manage and outline the phases and requirements to make the solution work.
They build a technical vision for the solution and develop a budget for developing the software product. After the stakeholders approve the project, they monitor the process and report it to the stakeholders. The duties and responsibilities usually include:
- Developing recommendations and blueprints for proposed solutions
- Design, debug and analyze the performance of the software solution
- Record and share the best practices for new solutions
- Process improvements
- Communicating progress and features to customers, partners, and other stakeholders
- Formulating proof-of-concept projects to validate the proposed software
- Evaluate and validate solutions designs from other team members
There are three practices of Solutions Architect, the AppDev Solutions Architect, the Platform Solutions Architect, and the Data Solutions Architect (the database or AI/ML practitioner). You will need an undergraduate degree in IT, information systems, software engineering, or computer science to enter one of these practices. However, many aspiring solutions architects choose a master’s degree to specialize in a particular field.
In addition to technical skills, you will need communication, analytical, and project management skills to succeed in the role. You will also need nearly 7+ years of experience in architecture or a supervisory role. With appropriate skills and background, solutions architects can expect an annual salary of $120,000 – $165,000, with the national average being $135,000.
6) Strategy Manager
The strategy Manager reviews an organization’s strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities in view of its strategies and goals. They assess organizational performance and formulate strategies to achieve practical goals. Strategy managers usually handle the following duties and responsibilities:
- Implement processes to improve organizational effectiveness while building competitive advantage.
- Conduct research and analysis of operations, stakeholders, and operational effectiveness to support the long-term corporate strategy.
- Manage and lead one or multiple departments to minimize risks and meet challenges and goals.
- Align departments, plans, processes, and resources with the organizational strategy and assess market trends and competition.
- Support senior executives in the decision-making process by identifying threats and opportunities, monitoring and reporting projects, and presenting their findings, projections, and recommended actions.
Strategy Managers usually have an undergraduate degree in business, business administration, and computer science. However, a postgraduate degree is beneficial, MBA is recommended. Also, prior experience in a consultant position can help. Strategy Managers earn between $130,000-$200,000 depending on company and experience, but the national average is $134,000.
Salary and compensation are not the only things that make a career lucrative, but the high-income jobs give us a peek into the career trends and valuable skills for the future. There are many aspects to consider while planning your career. While high income is an attractive perk, we also recommend comprehensively assessing your career preferences, personality, priorities, and future plans while making such a decision.