“Which skills are most valuable to me?” That’s a question that some technologists constantly ask, and it’s a good one: Knowing the right skills can keep you employed, and give you the leverage to negotiate for better salary and benefits from your employer. But as with so many things in tech, the “right” skills constantly shift, and 2020 is no different, according to the latest Dice Salary Report.
For example, there are certain, often-popular skills—such as Python, or how to best utilize various tools for back-end development—that never go out of style. However, those skills also evolve at a pretty rapid clip, and you risk falling behind if you don’t constantly keep your knowledge sharply honed. It’s an exhausting treadmill for any technologist to step onto, but it’s worth it if you can truly stand out from the pack because you’ve mastered the latest updates.
With new technologies, especially complicated ones such as machine learning or artificial intelligence (A.I.), a relatively small pool of experts can command high salaries and lots of benefits from hungry employers. For example, top-tier A.I. researchers, such as the autonomous-driving experts at Google, have managed to rack up millions of dollars in compensation over the past few years.
Very old technologies, such as mainframes that were first brought online in the 1960s and 1970s, can also draw high salaries, if only because there are relatively few people left who’ve mastered them.
We also have technologies that have been around for quite some time, have a large install base, and benefit from numerous technologists knowing them inside and out. For example, iOS powers many millions of devices, and many thousands of technologists can build an iOS app or integrate iOS into a company’s broader tech infrastructure. In such cases, it can be hard for any technologist to earn a massive salary on the scale of, say, a top-notch machine-learning researcher; but nonetheless, the constant demand for those skilled in the technology ensures that salaries stay pleasingly high.
With all that in mind, we’re highlighting some top skills from the Salary Report. These skills not only pay splendid salaries, but they experienced notable year-over-year growth… and there are many roles that demand their use. As you can see, companies’ growing thirst for storing, managing, and analyzing data is also driving growth and salaries with regard to skills.
Average salary: $116,949
Roles that demand it: Mobile Application Developer, Web Developer, Software Developer, QA Engineer, Computer Programmer
Launched in 2014 (and updated continuously ever since), Swift is a general-purpose, multi-paradigm, compiled programming language developed by Apple for iOS and its other operating systems. More and more, businesses need technologists to create apps that run on iOS. As a result, the demand and salary associated with Swift rose by more than 15 percent, hitting $116,949. Those developers who’ve mastered Swift should also know Objective-C, Apple’s much-older programming language, which is nonetheless fully featured and used to maintain legacy code.
Average salary: $134,462
Roles that demand it: Business Intelligence Analyst, Technology Consultant, Business Intelligence Architect, Security Management Specialist, Database Administrator
HANA, an in-memory relational database-management system built by SAP, features an average salary of $134,462 (9.4 percent growth year-over-year) for positions it's associated with. The platform’s selling point is speed; in addition, HANA is offered as an Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) through Amazon Web Services (AWS) and other cloud vendors. HANA is often associated with positions such as business Intelligence analysts and tech consultants, both of which must rapidly process databases for insights.
When it comes to databases, ERP, and CRM, both SAP and Oracle are locked in a tough battle with cloud vendors such as Salesforce and Microsoft, and the market could change radically in coming years, along with the enterprise-software skills that pay the most.
Although many companies have other database-management systems in place, HANA is still used by shops that bought heavily into SAP products, and it’s integrated tightly into those companies’ data infrastructures. In other words, like many enterprise-software products, it’s quite “sticky,” even if the install base (and the number of professionals who are skilled in its use) is relatively low vis-a-vis the overall tech industry. That stickiness, and the high specialization of the technologists who work with it, help drive demand and salaries upward.
Average salary: $133,695
Roles that demand it: Statistician, Software Developer, Business Intelligence Architect, Cybersecurity Engineer, Market Research Analyst
Cloudera includes various data-management and analytics tools (either on-premises or via the cloud). Thanks to partnerships with Oracle, Intel, and other companies, these tools have a pretty significant enterprise footprint, which is why employers are interested in technologists who know their way around the various Cloudera packages. In 2019, salaries associated with Cloudera grew by nearly 9 percent to $133,695. Both data-related occupations and a variety of others, including sales engineers, request Cloudera at significant levels.
Average salary: $132,708
Roles that demand it: Data Engineer, Data Scientist, Database Architect, Data Warehousing Specialist, Sales Engineer
Many companies utilize the MapReduce framework when crunching through enormous datasets on sprawling hardware clusters and grids. Working with MapReduce is a highly specialized skill; technologists want a setup that will reliably process data at an acceptable rate, with a trade-off between computation and network-communication costs (which is why it’s often better to go with another method when dealing with datasets on a single machine or a tiny cluster).
Given how MapReduce is utilized in everything from machine learning to document clustering, it’s considered invaluable at many organizations. Thanks to that, salaries associated with MapReduce rose by nearly 8 percent in 2019, to $132,708. MapReduce is frequently associated with data-related roles, from engineers and scientists to architects and warehousing specialists.
Average salary: $134,557
Roles that demand it: Data Engineer, Database Architect, Software Developer, Data Scientist, Validation Engineer
Apache Kafka is an open-source stream-processing framework that allows companies to more effectively manage real-time data feeds; it’s great for real-time analytics and managing data across dispersed systems.
It’s a valuable and highly specialized tool, which is why salaries associated with it were the highest of any skillset in 2019 ($134,557); in addition, year-over-year growth hit 5.5 percent. This rise in salary for Kafka is closely linked to the 38 percent growth in the number of job postings requesting the skill in 2019. Moreover, more than 30 percent of software engineer job postings and 11 percent of data engineer job postings requested the skill. As this platform trends upwards, large businesses that need technologists who know it include Deloitte, JPMorgan Chase and Capital One.
Skills Are Open to Anyone
Here's the full list of skills from the Dice Salary Report, with accompanying salaries and year-over-year changes:
Given the notably low unemployment rate in tech at the moment, technologists have a lot of leverage when it comes to negotiating salary and benefits. But employers are also amenable to paying for employees' continuing education (in fact, they may prove more amenable to that than giving out raises); it's always worth asking your manager about up-skilling and course opportunities.