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The 6 Hottest Tech Careers of 2012

As our reliance on computers and Web applications grows, so does the demand for technology professionals. The surge will create more than one million new technical positions by 2020, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects. The U.S. News Best Technology Jobs list includes software and Web developers, database administrators (DBAs), and computer systems analysts. Several of those jobs also wove their way onto this year's list of the top 25 jobs.

If you're interested in entering this profession, here's more information about the six best tech careers:

1. Software Developer. Tasked with writing code and designing or customizing computer applications, software developers top this year's list of best technology jobs. The U.S. Labor Department reports that software developers earned a median salary of $87,790 in 2010.

2. Database Administrator. DBAs create security mechanisms to protect company data and also ensure that databases run efficiently. This occupation is on track to experience 30.6 percent employment growth in the next decade, the BLS reports.

3. Web Developer. Web developers spend much of their days designing and maintaining websites. The BLS predicts a 21.7 percent employment increase for this profession over the next decade.

4. Computer Systems Analyst. These professionals are tasked with configuring hardware and software as well as designing and developing computer systems. Employment growth for computer systems analysts is expected to reach 22.1 percent by 2020, the BLS projects.

5. Computer Programmer. Computer programmers, who rely on languages like C ++ and Python to write software applications, earned a median annual wage of $71,380 in 2010, according to the BLS.

6. Civil Engineer. The average civil engineer doesn't earn as much as our No. 1 job, software developer, but this profession earns a spot on the roster of Best Technology Jobs. Civil engineers raked in an impressive median salary of $77,560 in 2010, according to the BLS.

Here are tips for those interested in working in the technology field:

Hit the books. Whether it is a bachelor's, master's, or certificate in a computer science-related field, some form of post-secondary education benefits those interested in breaking into a technical field. Some of the most commonly earned bachelor's degrees include management information and information technology. Continuing education courses in Web or information systems (for which some employers are willing to foot the bill) are also encouraged. Available through universities and community colleges, these classes provide technology workers with a meatier understanding of the equipment and platforms they work with daily.

Build an online presence. Nelly Yusupova, the chief technology officer for Webgrrls International (an international online and offline community for women interested in new media) and founder of DigitalWoman.com, says building an online profile like a JavaScript-crafted or html-encoded personal Website is the first crucial step to applying for a technology job. By maintaining an online portfolio, applicants can differentiate themselves from their competitors and gain an edge in the application process.

Showcase your digital skills. If you're a JavaScript developer, Yusupova suggests you "build a cool, little app" written completely in that language to demonstrate what you can do. "Or if you're an html or Web developer, build some websites and showcase your expertise," she says. "That way you can actually point to something you've built and talk about it in the interview."

Get the training. Eileen Hasson, president of Connecticut-based information technology solutions firm The Computer Company, Inc., urges those interested in pursuing a career in technology to match book knowledge with hands-on training. "Until you actually touch it, feel it, go through all the nuances, you don't know the experience," she says.

Get certified. Even if you earn a computer science-focused certification at the most basic level, some training is better than none at all. The credential is not required as experience trumps all (even age), Hasson says. But earning certification can still help.

Enhance troubleshooting prowess. Hasson says viruses aren't the only dangers that threaten computer system productivity. Internet connectivity hiccups and other factors play a role, too, and technicians should know the difference.

Cultivate customer-service skills. Some might not realize it, but personality is a major component in the information technology (IT) field. "Most people think of IT as people sitting in a corner," Hasson says. "Don't be afraid or so shy to use those customer-service skills. To explain to other people what's going on in layman's terms helps as well."

Embrace the challenge. Finally, breaking ground quickly can provide tech workers with a sense of satisfaction and excitement. This is certainly the case for Stephanie M. Cockerl, a computer programmer and Web developer for 15 years, and the founder and principal of Web consultation company nextSTEPH. "The exciting thing about what I do is how relatively quickly everything is built," she says. "I studied architecture in college. However, my work-study job was in a computer lab. It's relatively faster to build a website than a building. That explains it all."



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