IT Job Titles: Exploring Some of the Most Sought-After Roles in America
Over half a century ago, the Harvard Business Review first coined the term “information technology” (IT) to explain the impact of data processing combined with mathematical methods in decision-making.1 The authors wrote, “Over the last decade, a new technology has begun to take hold in American business, one so new that its significance is still difficult to evaluate.”1
Despite the authors making some bold—and reasonably on the mark—predictions about the implications of IT, they’d likely marvel at where the field is today. Since the article’s publication in 1958, information technology has only continued to grow in scope, significance and complexity. This is great news for anyone interested in technology as the value of these roles in society today is immense.
But if you’ve been researching IT job titles, you’ve probably seen an avalanche of terms, like engineer,developer and analyst, paired with every tech term you can think of. If you’d like a little help deciphering what some of the most commonly sought-after job titles in the U.S. are all about, you’ve come to the right place.
To make that happen, we’ve analyzed over one million job postings seeking applicants with a college education in any IT-related discipline to identify a list of some of the most commonly sought-after IT jobs.2
Exploring 7 IT job titles employers are looking to fill
As you might expect, when looking at over one million job postings, there’s a wide variety of specific job titles with minor variations based on factors like seniority (for example, “Junior” or “Senior”) or the specific platforms or technologies the role focuses on. This list is a distillation of these roles highlighting some of the more common options.
1. Software engineer
Software is everywhere these days, and someone has to do the “engineering” that guides its development! Software engineers take responsibility for the whole software development life cycle. They are responsible for evaluating the needs of users and stakeholders and then creating a plan for the design, testing and development of that software.
Software engineers may also play a role in the programming and development of software, but as engineers, their responsibilities typically encompass more of the high-level, systemic planning and implementation—not just creation of individual segments of code or functionality.
2. Software developer
Software developers are in charge of developing and implementing new or updated software products. Other job titles in this area include specific areas of expertise, such as Java software developer, C# software developer, .Net software developer, etc.
The work of a software developer can depend heavily on the application—some focus their efforts on building and adjusting software for very niche, specific commercial uses that may require knowledge of legacy systems. Others may be focused on developing net-new software applications for broader audiences.
For more details on how this role differs from software engineering, check out “Software Careers: Comparing Developers vs. Engineers.”
3. Project manager
Project managers plan, implement and manage IT-related projects. This role is the bridge between business stakeholders and the technical experts and specialists executing a project. Their role is to ensure the work progresses efficiently and on time, often facilitating communication between the groups as issues arise.
These professionals need to make sure the project stays on schedule and within the budget. They communicate with stakeholders regularly, set milestones, adjust plans for any hiccups along the road and generally take responsibility for ensuring the project’s completion.
Companies sought this job title as well as the more-specific title of IT project manager.
4. DevOps Engineer
Traditionally, software development teams and IT operational teams worked separately, often creating an inefficient and expensive gap between functions that increasingly need to work together. Development operations (DevOps) is a philosophy or approach that aims to bridge that gap by blending the expertise of development professionals and IT operations professionals to create a more efficient development process.
A DevOps engineer is basically a software engineer within the DevOps culture. In addition to the more standard software engineering skill set, they often have a strong understanding of systems administration and operations automation. They introduce processes, tools and systems to balance needs throughout the software development life cycle.
5. Data engineer
Anyone interested in technology has known the immense importance of data-centric work for a while now. Data engineers build the algorithms to sort through raw data—connecting the strategy of finding data and the information their organization seeks with the highly technical process of constructing an architecture to accomplish those goals.
These professionals use programming languages, develop data set processes, acquire data and make sure their algorithms collect what the business needs. They also work to improve the reliability and efficiency of the data and deliver reports to stakeholders on their findings.
6. Systems administrator
Systems administrators are the overseers of an organization’s hardware, software and user accounts. While many top technology job titles involve building new systems, this one is about maintaining, streamlining and optimizing.
Systems administrators install any applications a company needs, update systems for new software, and keep hardware, software and account access working correctly.
7. Information security analyst
Information security analysts protect an organization’s digital assets from cyberattacks. This typically involves monitoring networks for security breaches and investigating them, implementing security software and other countermeasures, conducting penetration testing, and creating security practices and policies for an organization.
Information security (also called cybersecurity) analysts need to continually research trends in IT and cyberattacks. Given the fact that many security exploits rely on human error to gain access, these IT professionals are often responsible for educating organizations and employees on best practices for security. Additionally, they work to develop fail-safe systems and data recovery plans in order to keep the damage from a security breach contained and as minimal as possible.
Is your dream technology job title on this list?
As you can see, the principles behind many of these roles are similar—create, analyze, optimize, protect. Beyond that, these jobs offer tons of choices for professionals seeking roles in specific interest areas.
Technology covers so much ground in every industry, and this list only scratches the surface of what companies are looking for. These roles require specialized skills, and many of them are tied to two prominent areas of study: Computer Science and Information Technology.
If you're curious about what makes those two fields different, or about the specific subject areas they cover, check out “Computer Science vs. Information Technology: Decoding the Differences.”
1Harold Leavitt and Thomas Whisler, “Management in the 1980’s,” Harvard Business Review, November 1958 [accessed May 2021] https://hbr.org/1958/11/management-in-the-1980s
2Burning-Glass.com (analysis of job postings requiring a degree in information technology, Mar. 1, 2020 – Feb. 28, 2021)