March 29, 2024

5 Tech Career Paths (and How to Get Started Right Now)

A career in tech has a lot of exciting plus sides:

  • High salaries and rising freelance/contractor rates
  • A fast-growth sector with an increasing number of opportunities
  • A huge variety of job roles, niches, and specializations—from IT to product engineering, to digital marketing, data analytics, and plenty more. 

The beauty of tech is that it’s such a broad industry. Not only do you have dozens (or even hundreds) of specializations to choose from, but each one offers its own career pathway. This means there’s no single route into tech—it entirely depends on what kind of area you want to operate in. 

Your challenge to break into tech can be broken down into three parts:

  • Picking the right tech niche from a huge range of options
  • Getting the training and qualifications you need to get started in your new career
  • Landing a great tech job and kicking off your upward trajectory

This post is going to give you all the information you need to tackle these challenges. 

First, you’ll get a useful list of niches and specializations to get you started. Then, we’ll explain how you can get trained up for some of these roles, and which certifications you’ll need to get the attention of recruiters. Finally, we’ll offer some advice about landing your first job in tech. 

Climb Hire is a non-profit organization dedicated to preparing low-income and overlooked working adults for a career in tech. To kickstart your technology career, discover our courses and apply now.

Picking the Right Tech Niche

Choosing the right niche in the tech industry first begins with getting to know the options. With such a vast selection, this initial step may seem daunting. To save you some time and energy, we’ve given you an overview of some of the most sought-after tech niches below. 

The list of job roles and categories below is somewhere you can start mapping out your potential tech career path. It’s by no means perfect, and nor is it exhaustive. Some categories overlap (e.g. IT roles and technical product roles), and there are various ways to describe the different types of jobs in these categories. Nevertheless, this is an important first step. 

1. IT (Information Technology)

In a sense, tech is synonymous with IT. The term “IT” dates from the early days of computers, but it’s still in use today to describe a variety of job roles and responsibilities. 

When companies are advertising IT professionals, they’re usually expecting someone who knows how to manage computer systems, troubleshoot and fix problems, keep them safe from hackers, ensure data is accurate, and help others with their daily computer use.

Subsets of IT include:

  • Technical support (IT support)—with an average base salary of $50–60kprimarily focuses on assisting users with computer-related issues. Support specialists are responsible for troubleshooting hardware and software problems, providing guidance on software installations and configurations, resolving network connectivity issues, and offering technical assistance. This often happens via phone, live chat, or email interactions—but can also happen in person, in an office environment. 
  • Cybersecurity—which has a high average base salary over $100kis a field dedicated to protecting computer systems and data from cyber threats. Cybersecurity professionals find and fix vulnerabilities, prevent unauthorized access, and respond to security issues. This job requires understanding security principles, using security tools, and staying digitally vigilant. 
  • System, network, and database administration jobs pay around $70–80k, on average. These professionals manage an organization’s IT infrastructure—keeping servers, networks, and databases running smoothly and securely. Their tasks include installing software, fixing problems, and ensuring security. They need to understand computer systems, networks, and databases and stay updated on new tech.

Combined, there are more than 90,000 vacancies in the U.S. right now for jobs mentioned in the above roles (and this is a conservative estimate). There’s a high demand, and the range of job titles and descriptions in this sector is massive.

Note: We’ll explain more about getting into the IT path later, but if you’re interested in this career path, Climb Hire offers a free hands-on training program that will provide you with the skills and knowledge to launch a successful IT career.

2. Digital Marketing

Digital marketing has seen exponential growth in recent years, and continues to thrive. Businesses rely on marketers skilled in online audience targeting, content creation, analytics, and marketing automation to connect with customers and potential customers. You’ll need expertise in these areas and a proven track record of driving results in lead generation, customer acquisition, and brand awareness to capture the attention of recruiters. 

Digital marketing career paths include:

  • Pay-per-click (PPC) marketing, which is dominated by Paid Search—particularly Google Ads. The average base salary in this field is $60–70k, depending on where you get the data. Professionals in PPC marketing manage online advertising campaigns, strategically bidding on keywords to ensure their ads appear prominently in search engine results pages (SERPs). Their day-to-day tasks involve continuously monitoring campaign performance, adjusting bids, and refining targeting strategies to achieve maximum return on investment (ROI) for businesses.
  • Search engine optimization (SEO)—with an average salary matching PPC at $60–70k—involves optimizing web content to enhance visibility and ranking in search engine results pages (SERPs). SEO professionals employ strategies like keyword optimization, content creation, and link building to attract organic (non-paid) traffic to websites. 
  • App/digital product marketing—with a manager’s base salary averaging $120k—revolves around promoting mobile applications and digital products to drive user engagement and revenue. Through data analysis and continuous refinement, marketers in this niche employ strategies like app store optimization (ASO), mobile advertising, and social media marketing, to increase downloads and user retention. 
  • Conversion rate optimization (CRO) has an average base salary of $65–75k. CRO specialists focus on improving website effectiveness by getting more visitors to take action, like making purchases, filling out forms, or signing up for newsletters. They achieve this through techniques like A/B testing, user experience enhancements, and analyzing data.
  • Digital analytics—showing $80–90k as an average base salaryencompasses collecting, analyzing, and interpreting data from digital marketing efforts. This helps measure performance, track important metrics, and make informed decisions to improve campaigns and strategies. Given the need to measure results, solid analytical skills are key in this field.
  • Social media marketing (SMM) comes with an average base salary of $50–60k. The work involves promoting products or services through social media platforms to engage with target audiences and drive brand awareness, traffic, and conversions. In this field, you’ll need creativity, strong communication skills, and a good understanding of social media platforms to create content and strategies that truly connect with users. 
  • Email marketing—with an average base salary ranging from $50–70kentails creating targeted email campaigns to engage subscribers, nurture leads, and promote products. Success requires expertise in email marketing strategies, knowing how to segment audiences, and crafting compelling email content.
  • Content marketing and copywriting—with an average salary of $60–70kentails planning and creating engaging content and persuasive copy tailored to resonate with specific audiences, get new customers, and drive brand awareness. If you have a knack for storytelling and strong writing skills, this may be a natural digital marketing path.
  • Growth marketing/growth hacking has an average base salary ranging from $70–90k. Growth marketing professionals do a bit of everything with a focus on new and innovative tactics. They do data analysis, run experiments, optimize user acquisition and retention efforts, and monitor key performance indicators to drive rapid growth for a company (often a startup). Creative thinkers, analytical problem-solvers, and natural hustlers may find it exciting to explore a growth-hacking career. 

A quick search shows around 85,000 vacancies for jobs in digital marketing, which is just scratching the surface of what’s available. And many of the skills across digital marketing paths overlap. For example, mastering PPC or content is useful in multiple areas, like SEO, email marketing, and SMM. This versatility means expertise in one area can translate into proficiency elsewhere, broadening your career prospects.

3. Product 

Like IT, “Product” is a broad category that encompasses several specializations. What brings them together is the focus on a digital product—or for some companies, a portfolio of digital products. These products include mobile apps, business apps, web-based platforms and tools, online communities, etc. Broadly, Product roles involve overseeing the development and lifecycle of digital products, ensuring they meet user needs, business goals, and market demand. This includes defining product requirements, conducting market research, and making strategic decisions to drive product success and growth.

Subsets of Product include:

  • Web development and software development have an average salary range between $80–120k, with software developers landing on the higher end of the scale. Professionals in these fields create and maintain websites, apps, and software. They work with teams to turn user needs into functional digital products. This involves tasks like coding, testing, and staying up-to-date on new tech to make sure products work well, stay secure, and are scalable.

    (With many of these technical roles—even in entry-level jobs—you’ll need to have knowledge of one or more programming languages. For example, HTML, Java, JavaScript, CSS, or Ruby.)
  • Product engineering involves designing, developing, and optimizing digital products to make sure they work well for users and help businesses succeed. It includes different areas focused on making these products innovative and efficient.

    • Cloud engineering—with an average base salary between $90–120k—focuses on designing, building, and managing cloud-based infrastructure and services. Cloud engineers work with platforms like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform to ensure the reliability, scalability, and security of digital products in the cloud.

    • Systems engineering comes with an average base salary between $95–110k. Systems engineers focus on designing and integrating complex computer systems to ensure they operate effectively and efficiently. They deal with things like hardware, software, and networks (how everything connects). Their job is to make sure everything runs fast, doesn’t break, and is easy for people to use.

    • DevOps engineering (short for Development Operations)—with an average base salary well above $100k—involves bridging the gap between the teams responsible for creating software and those responsible for deploying and maintaining it. They focus on continuous integration, continuous delivery, and infrastructure as code to speed up building and releasing software.
  • User experience (UX) encompasses the overall experience that users have when interacting with a digital product, system, or service. Understanding users’ needs, preferences, and behaviors allows UX professionals to create intuitive, efficient, and enjoyable front-end experiences. 

They apply their expertise across different industries, including software development, web design, and product design. Specific roles include:

  • UX design—with an average base salary of $93–110k—involves creating intuitive and user-friendly interfaces for digital products or services, conducting user research, creating blueprints and prototypes, and collaborating with different teams to ensure that the final product is just right.
  • UX research—with an average base salary of $70–80kfocuses on understanding user behaviors, needs, and motivations through qualitative and quantitative research methods, such as user interviews, surveys, and usability testing. They gather insights that inform the design process and improve the overall user experience.
  • Interaction design (often referred to as user interaction or UI) jobs pay an average salary of $85–110k. UI professionals design the interactive elements of digital products, such as buttons, menus, and navigation systems. They focus on creating intuitive and efficient user interactions that enhance usability and accessibility.
  • Product design—with an average base salary of $95–120kis related to UX but has a broader scope of responsibilities. Product designers are involved in all stages of the development process, from conceptualization and design to implementation and improvement. They work closely with teams that include engineers and marketers to ensure products meet business goals and user needs, while also matching brand style and technical requirements.

In total, there are hundreds of thousands of U.S. job openings for the roles mentioned above. 

4. Data

Data “literacy” is pretty important for most jobs in the tech industry. But data-focused roles embrace a deeper focus on the information that’s required to make strategic decisions. The field includes a wide range of job titles with varying responsibilities. 

Data roles include:

  • Data architecture—with an average salary ranging from $85–130kis about organizing and designing how data is stored and used in a company. Data architects work closely with other teams to understand what a business needs from its data. They then create systems to make sure data is kept secure, easy to find, and useful to different departments. They may also make sure that the data being used is accurate.
  • Data science—with an average base salary over $100kmeans finding important information in big sets of data using advanced math and computer skills. They use tools like Python and R to study data, make predictions, and solve complex problems.
  • Data engineering comes with an average base salary of $95–130k. The work may involve building and managing systems to collect, store, and handle data. Data engineers create structures to organize data, automate tasks, and make sure everything runs smoothly. They collaborate with data scientists and analysts to make data available for important company decision-making.
  • Data analysis jobs have an average salary of $75–85k. Data analysts study data to find trends and insights for businesses. They also clean and organize data, use statistics to understand it, and create reports to share findings. 
  • Machine learning engineering comes with the highest average base salary on this entire list at $125–165k. Professionals in this field focus on designing, implementing, and maintaining machine learning systems that automate decision-making processes. Machine learning engineers develop algorithms and models using large datasets, deploy them, and improve their performance.

Similar to Product job vacancies, a quick search turns up hundreds of thousands of jobs available in the data sector of tech. As data becomes increasingly crucial for businesses across industries, the demand for skilled professionals who can extract valuable insights from data continues to grow. 

5. Project Management

Project management is a critical component of any industry, especially tech. Project managers ensure that projects are completed on time, within budget, and according to specifications. In tech companies, the responsibilities of a project manager can vary from job to job.

Unlike traditional project management roles, project managers in tech often require a strong understanding of technical concepts and tools, such as Agile methodologies (Scrum, Kanban). From overseeing the creation of mobile apps to managing the launch of web-based platforms, effective project managers possess a blend of leadership, communication, organization, technical knowledge, and problem-solving skills. 

With an average salary base of $75–100k, project managers in the tech industry are often responsible for overseeing the entire lifecycle of digital projects, from initiation to completion. Project management vacancies in the U.S. tech industry are abundant, with a quick online search turning up about 10,000 jobs right now. 

How to Pick the Right Tech Career Path

Nobody can tell you exactly which tech career path you should choose. Your decision will depend on a number of interlinked factors, including (but not limited to): 

  • Your personality, interests, and natural skill set; this will guide you towards areas where you’ll thrive and find fulfillment. Are you analytical by nature? Do you like helping people? Are you inherently organized? Are you creative? What types of tech roles excite you when you read about them, and why? These are the kinds of questions you can ask yourself before you pick a tech career path. 
  • Your personal situation regarding time and resources. Some careers require more technical and professional training than others. Do you have the time and resources to get a full Bachelor’s degree or beyond? Or is it more feasible to find a short-term training program? 
  • Your income expectations. Certain tech roles have higher average salaries than others (information we’ve included above), so it’s important to consider your financial goals and how they align with the earning potential of different career paths.
  • The job market demand and growth projections for specific roles. While the entire tech industry is experiencing rapid growth, growth rates for different specializations can vary across regions. 

General Advice for How to Get into Tech 

In our recent post about how to get into tech, we outlined four concrete things you need to land a great job in tech. These were:

  • Proof of technical skills. For example, an industry-recognized certification (or, alternatively, a technical degree from a community college). Not only do these kinds of qualifications show that you know your stuff, but they also indicate that you’re committed, hardworking, and diligent. Very attractive qualities to recruiters. (In the next section, we’ll explain how you can get your industry-recognized certification through Climb Hire). 
  • Industry or workplace experience. By definition, this is pretty tricky if you’re just starting out. But you can acquire experience by working on your own side projects, volunteering at a non-profit or community project, or doing an internship. You can also relate other experiences to the demands of a tech job. For example, jobs in the service industry or retail can demonstrate valuable experience for customer-facing tech roles. 
  • Soft skills. Even in tech, technical skills aren’t everything. Soft skills, also known as transferable skills, are equally vital—things like interview skills, teamwork and conflict resolution, time management, and critical thinking. While these skills are valuable across all industries, demonstrating proficiency in them to prospective tech employers will up your chances of getting hired. Training programs that incorporate soft skills development are ideal.
  • The right attitude. Recruiters and employers value candidates who demonstrate the right attitude for the job. Showing commitment to and interest in their organization, along with a genuine passion for the work can set you apart. Even if you lack experience, a positive attitude goes a long way.

Your Path to Getting Certified

To get certified in tech fields, there are two primary options:

  1. Doing it on your own through self-guided study and taking the certification exam without any formal support.

  2. Mentored education, where good programs will come with guidance from knowledgeable instructors, connecting with peers who share similar goals, and honing soft skills essential for securing tech positions.

Mentored learning is a smart move, as it provides accountability and access to teachers who will help if you’re struggling with the material. Some guided learning options include community college, private tutoring, and specialized training programs, such as Climb Hire.

Why Choose Climb Hire? What Sets Our Program Apart?

Climb Hire is a non-profit organization helping low-income and overlooked working adults start their career in tech. Through our specialized training programs, Climb Hire equips students (known as Climbers) with technical skills, soft skills, and a professional network to launch successful tech careers.

Thanks to our training programs, over 80% of Climbers secure employment within six months of program completion, often seeing their salaries double to over $50k.

And here’s an especially exciting part: all students who enroll in one of our programs in 2024 will receive free tuition (with no strings attached!), courtesy of our generous donors. Plus, choosing Climb Hire for your tech training comes with additional benefits beyond the tech skills training:

  • Practical experience through labs or keystone projects, as every course includes hands-on exposure to tech industry work.
  • One-on-one assistance in refining your soft skills, including how to craft a top-notch resume and cover letter as well as prepare for interviews.
  • Genuine connections and camaraderie among classmates through small learning groups known as “pods.” 77% of Climbers say that the community-oriented learning network is a pivotal aspect of the program for them.
  • Dedicated support for job hunting, as Climb Hire provides every student with a Career Development Advisor who assists in securing a job upon program completion.
  • Access to our supportive community and extensive alumni network, offering valuable professional connections and ongoing support.

Climb Hire’s Programs for Getting into Tech

Climb Hire is currently offering two programs that will get you started on your tech career path, each of which includes dedicated training to earn official certifications:

  1. IT support, with hands-on learning labs and a focus on IT security principles. This track consists of a six-month program designed to equip you with all the necessary skills to launch your career in IT. You get all the great benefits listed above—a network of supportive peers, job search help, and more—and you graduate with an official CompTIA A+ certification. This is a preferred qualification for tech support and IT operational roles, and recruiters love to see them on an applicant’s resume. 
  2. Digital marketing, with an emphasis on Paid Search Marketing. This four-month program trains you for important certifications in digital marketing. You get the same incredible network, guided learning from professionals, and hands-on experience—and when you graduate, you’ll have a Google Ads Search Certification and you’ll be a Meta Certified Digital Marketing Associate.

    Plus, you’ll get hands-on experience planning and executing digital marketing campaigns for actual clients as a fundamental part of your keystone project.

Thanks to our donors, both of these programs are completely free for students starting in 2024. Begin your path to becoming a skilled tech professional today. Apply now!

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