When it comes to a sizzling job field, the computer and tech arena is hard to beat. Employment in computer and information technology will grow 12 percent from 2014 to 2024, faster than the average for all occupations, predicts the Bureau of Labor Statistics' (BLS) Occupational Outlook Handbook.
Helping drive the growth is a greater emphasis on cloud computing, the collection and storage of big data, more everyday items becoming connected to the internet and the continued demand for mobile computing, the report says.
For an appreciation of the size and variety of this employment field, take a look at big job boards such as Glassdoor.com, Indeed.com and Monster.com. Look too at Dice.com and CrunchBoard.com, the two big technology-specific job sites. You'll see many thousands of postings in too many categories to count.
"For someone in the second half of their career, looking for ways to transition into retirement, or to find better work-life balance, technology jobs are a good option," says Sara Sutton Fell, CEO of FlexJobs, a job board that specializes in part-time and work-from-home positions. Many of the jobs have options for telecommuting, part-time hours and flexible schedules.
How to get in? It will of course help if you're already working in some way in a tech or related field. But you can also make the jump if you're willing to learn new skills and enjoy working with computers.
Here are five well-paying tech jobs that may be for you:
1. Quality assurance specialist
The nitty-gritty: No stone goes unturned here. This is a position for the detail-oriented worker with a discerning eye. You're responsible for making sure software products meet quality compliance regulations and standards through periodic reviews and testing. You may also be the conduit for customers complaining about problems.
Annual pay range: $36,302 to $82,233 for all fields of quality assurance, according to PayScale, an online salary, benefits and compensation information company.
Qualifications: A bachelor's degree in business administration or industrial engineering can be a prerequisite, but requirements vary by company. Certification is often not required but can't hurt. The American Society for Quality offers credentials as a certified reliability engineer, certified quality engineer and certified quality auditor.
2. Technical support specialist
The nitty-gritty: Nerves of steel, a calm, reassuring voice and tech smarts are must-haves for this troubleshooting position. Not everyone is hardwired to calm a frustrated client when a system crashes.
Employment of computer support specialists is projected to grow 12 percent from 2014 to 2024, according to the BLS. Help-desk technicians often work for support service firms that contract with clients that don't have the financial resources to afford their own IT departments. Lower-level tech support jobs can be found in call centers.
Annual pay range: $32,912 to $70,879, according to PayScale. The highest-paid workers, however, earned more than $81,260, according to the BLS.
Qualifications: You may need certifications from a technical school or community college in specialties such as Cisco Networking and Microsoft Access. Employers often will provide on-the-job training about their specific product or service.
Something to keep in mind: For in-house positions, there may be some real-world heavy lifting — desktop computers and monitors can weigh up to 25 pounds.
3. Web search evaluator
The nitty-gritty: Skip the algorithms prowling beneath the cyber surface. Web-based companies and services need the human touch, too. Your job is to play the role of a typical user and rate the quality of the results of a posted internet query, so as to help clients improve the relevance of their search engine results and performance. This is generally an independent contract, part-time venture — plan on around 20 hours a week.
Annual pay range: The average salary is $27,500, according to Glassdoor. Hourly pay typically runs $13.50 to $15. However, you may be paid per task.
Qualifications: Before hiring, many companies will give you a basic course on their operations and then require you to pass a qualifying exam. You'll need a high-speed internet connection and a computer or mobile device such as an Android phone or iPhone.
4. Digital marketing specialist
The nitty-gritty: Do you have a mind for clickbait? Your job is to ramp up your employer's following on social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat. You may also be tasked with tweaking the website's design and keeping it updated and accurate.
Annual pay range: $31,000 to $66,000, according to Glassdoor.com. Salaries vary widely by location. In Washington, D.C., for example, a digital marketing specialist can make $67,900, which is 58 percent higher than the national median.
Qualifications: Strong writing and communications skills are essential. You'll want to be comfortable creating HTML content and working with software packages such as Adobe Creative Suite (Photoshop and Illustrator) and Microsoft Office.
5. Technical writer
The nitty gritty: Writers, get your typing fingers limbered up. If clearly explaining techie topics appeals to you, look no further. The rise of high-tech products in the home and the workplace, and the increasing complexity of medical and scientific information in daily living, are creating many openings for technical writers. These gigs come in a variety of flavors — part time, telecommuting and home-based projects — and run the gamut from writing how-to manuals to tutorials and "frequently asked questions" pages. You might also find yourself writing grant applications.
Annual pay ranges: The median technical writer salary is $54,027, with a range typically between $46,424 and $62,277, according to Salary.com.
Qualifications: Top-drawer writing skills and a yen for technology and scientific subjects. The Society for Technical Communication and other associations offer certification for technical writers. The American Medical Writers Association offers extensive continuing education programs and certificates in medical writing. And some employers provide short-term on-the-job training.
Kerry Hannon is a career transition expert and an award-winning author. Her latest book is Getting the Job You Want After 50 for Dummies. She has also written Love Your Job: The New Rules for Career Happiness and Great Jobs for Everyone 50+: Finding Work That Keeps You Happy and Healthy—and Pays the Bills. Find more from Kerry at Kerryhannon.com.