Imagine spending your day “teaching” a robot to unload a dishwasher. Now imagine making six figures doing it. Hard to believe? We thought so, too.
Robot training is a real job—and that’s only the tip of the emerging technological iceberg. Tech developments of all kinds are giving rise to new jobs, many of which pay better than industry averages.
This job boom is fueled by the ever-growing tech sector in the U.S. Heck, Apple more than doubled its market capital between 2014 and 2018, and Facebook nearly tripled its market cap in the same period (though both companies have hit stumbling blocks more recently). You can thank our voracious tech appetite for that—not to mention the increased affordability of tech materials.
Given this rapid growth, we decided to rank the hottest emerging tech jobs of 2019. The cryptocurrency industry drove the most impressive growth, with positions skyrocketing 3,300% from 2014 to 2018 according to a LinkedIn study. But we want to know more. What else is booming, and what’s the next big thing?
For our study, we classified “emerging” as jobs that are new to the tech world in the last five to 10 years. On top of that, we wanted to see salaries above $61,000/year, which is the national average of tech workers with a bachelor’s degree. We also wanted to see job growth that doubled year over year since 2014.
Using these criteria, we selected the following top 15 emerging tech jobs of 2019:
1. Embedded Systems R&D Test Engineer
Sector: Self-Driving Automobiles
Average Annual Salary: $238,000
If you thought self-driving cars were cool, just think of being the Embedded Systems R&D Test Engineer who makes them. As of late 2018, there were 46 corporations working on self-driving cars, including notable automakers Tesla and Ford and tech behemoths Google, Intel, and Amazon. Given the demand of autonomous car engineers, is it any wonder that the University of Toronto now offers four courses specifically on self-driving automobile tech?
2. Deep Learning Architect
Sector: Artificial Intelligence
Average Annual Salary: $213,700
Artificial intelligence may really be taking over the world; three AI jobs made our top 15 list. Deep learning architects command the highest salary, though, and little wonder. This “brand” of artificial intelligence involves coding machines to process information for themselves. The field is relatively new and already reached a market value of $18 billion in 2018, according to Markets and Markets, with a projected growth rate of nearly 42% from 2018 to 2023. Given this growth, those on the forefront of deep learning are said to be facing Steve Jobs-esque celebrity.
3. Machine Learning Engineer
Sector: Artificial Intelligence
Average Annual Salary: $213,000
The vision of a robot-ruled dystopia is far from reality with machine learning, or ML. Unlike other areas of A.I., ML is involved in more of our everyday lives than most realize—from speech recognition software programs such as Siri, to behind-the-scenes spam-slammers on social media platforms. These applications are only the beginning, with machine learning engineers regularly creating new “smart” tools for communication, transportation, and the exploding world of Internet of Things (IoT). If you doubt its growth, consider the industry’s booming market value; ML will pole-vault from $1.29 billion in market value in 2016 to a projected $40 billion by 2020, according to Orbis Research.
4. 5G Solutions Engineer
Average Annual Salary: $197,000
It’s all about those Gs for telecommunications engineers chasing the next-generation of mobile broadband networks. Said to be hitting the market in 2020 with 20 to 100 million projected users by 2021 (according to Statista), 5G is truly the future of communications. And with speeds up to 20 times faster than sluggish 4G, we’ll likely see 5G engineers creating networks designed to power more than just our smartphones; the growing portfolio of Internet of Things (IoT) devices, like WiFi connected thermostats and app-controlled lights, are sure to be connected as well.
5. Blockchain Developer
Average Annual Salary: $162,500
As the coding architects of Bitcoin and its cryptocurrency compatriots, blockchain developers are, not surprisingly, in high demand. According to research by Markets and Markets, blockchain’s global market size will grow from $1.2 billion in 2018 to over $23 billion in just five years, equalling a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 80.2%. It’s no surprise, then, that the demand for blockchain developers has increased by 400% since 2017, according to Hired.com.
6. Director, Cannabis Technology
Average Annual Salary: $158,500
Only nine states currently boast legal recreational marijuana use, which means the cannabis industry is yet in its infancy. Still, the industry is riding high; the legal cannabis market is estimated to hit $25 billion in market value by 2025, up from $8.5 billion in 2017. That equals a CAGR of nearly 15%, according to a study by New Frontier Data. With the rise of legal marijuana, new jobs are cropping up to fine-tune growth processes and business management. Center to all of this is the tech that makes greenhouse automation and pot processing possible—led by the directors of cannabis hardware automation.
7. Big Data Architect
Sector: Artificial Intelligence
Average Annual Salary: $151,000
In the midst of the digital age, there is no shortage of information being created and shared on the Internet. In fact, a Hewlett Packard study showed that digital content is set to increase 50-fold between 2010 and 2020. The problem? We’re running out of places to store it—at least using traditional storage methods. Thank heaven for big data architects who are tackling the problem head-on by building increasingly complex computer databases. Case in point: IBM’s famed supercomputer, Watson, which uses big data architecture to house new information. That information makes it possible for us to ask Watson just about any question we can think of and get an immediate, accurate response.
8. Cloud Architect
Sector: Cloud Computing
Average Annual Salary: $139,000
While Watson’s filing away data for future generations, cloud architects are working to develop near-term solutions to our storage problems. Using a web of servers from across the globe, these architects create a seamless connection of data storage points that are easily accessible via our computers and phones. That’s got big appeal for businesses and individuals alike; according to a study by global communications provider CenturyLink and Statista, the cloud computing market will reach $411 billion in total revenue by 2020—a remarkable leap from $180 billion in 2018.
9. Geospatial Software Engineer
Sector: Aerospace Technology (Drones)
Average Annual Salary: $115,500
It’s no longer just the CIA that has their hands on drones. Since the mid-2000s, drones have become available for both commercial and personal use. Sales of recreational drones alone are expected to grow from $2.5 million in 2016 to $7 million by 2020 and, according to a report by Goldman Sachs, drone technologies are estimated to reach a total market value of $100 billion by 2020. That’s where geospatial software engineers come in; these innovative designers use new and developing technologies such as GPS, satellite imagery, and laser mapping to create complex layers of interconnected geographic information that give drones their “sight”—making tasks like automated crop dusting and aerial photography possible.
10. Simulation Engineer
Sector: Research & Design
Average Annual Salary: $101,700
Simulation has been around for a while; it enables products designers to create animated 3D models of their designs, which they can then test without developing a physical prototype. But simulation technology has been getting really real lately—like, spooky real. Companies are now using simulation for airplane testing, golf course design, and even molecular exploration at NASA. Mark Hindsbo, vice president of simulation software company ANSYS, has estimated that simulation usage will double in the next year—a jump from its previously steady 8.5% growth from 2017 to 2018.
11. Cell Engineer
Sector: Alternative Energy & Automobile Manufacturing
Average Annual Salary: $101,000
Electric cars gained popularity in the late 1990s when Toyota released the Prius. That fandom exploded in the 2000s and sparked the development of hybrids across many automakers. Still, it wasn’t until Tesla began general production in 2008 that electric cars were seen as somehow both manly and sexy. While electric cars currently represent only 2% of the auto market, that number is expected to reach 14% by 2025, according to Statista — owing to dropping material costs. That affordability is thanks to cell engineers who are constantly improving the electric batteries that power the vehicles.
12. Quantum Computing Researcher
Sector: Quantum Computing
Average Annual Salary: $97,500
Quantum computing may seem like fantastical science to those on the outside, but those on the inside know it’s the very real future. But what is it exactly? Put simply, quantum computing researchers work to apply the low-energy and high-storage properties of atoms to computing. According to a report by Quantum Computing: Technologies and Global Markets, the industry is projected to grow at a rapid rate of 37% from 2018 to 2022, with an estimated market value reaching $2.2 billion by 2025—up from a paltry $39 million in 2017.
13. Productivity Developer
Sector: Sharing Economy Programming
Average Annual Salary: $93,000
Technology serves many ends, and one of them is making business more productive. This is where productivity developers come in—making programs, particularly those in the sharing economy world of AirBnB and Uber, as efficient as possible without direct human oversight. These positions grew out of the needs of the peer-to-peer (P2P) marketplace, wherein individuals conduct business directly with other individuals, bypassing companies altogether. As we all know, the “share it all” industry is in full bloom; market value for P2P is expected to grow from $15 billion in 2014 to $335 billion by 2025, according to research by Statista.
14. Tech Vlogger
Average Annual Salary: $85,500
Thanks to the video-hosting site, YouTube, it seems almost anyone can be a vlogger these days. That hasn’t always been true, however. YouTube launched in 2005, but it wasn’t until 2009 when vlogging became a career—thanks to widespread reach of the platform’s videos and the correlating emergence of big-money vlogging ads. But what do these tech heads do? Essentially, they film masterful, quick-hit videos with product reviews, how-tos, and troubleshooting guides—among other content offshoots. The average salary for a professional tech vlogger may not sound astronomical at $85,500, but the potential is. Just ask YouTube phenom PewDiePie, who made $15.5 million in 2018 alone from live streaming his video-gaming.
15. Live Streaming Engineer
Sector: Video Production
Average Annual Salary: $77,500
If you happen to be one of the millions who enjoy watching Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon, you have a live streaming engineer to thank. There’s no question that streaming services hog our attention these days; Netflix alone grew from 48 million subscribers in 2017 to 55 million by mid-2018 in the U.S. Not a small jump? Consider their sales—from a measly $8.8 billion in 2015 to $15.8 billion in 2018, according to MacroTrends. It’s the job of the live streaming engineers to design and build the infrastructure for these platforms, and their future is bright. While Netflix is currently the streaming king, entertainment giants Viacom and Disney are working on building their own live streaming platforms.
The top 15 hottest emerging tech jobs of 2019 were selected based on four main criteria: market value of each job’s industry, projected market growth of those industries, availability of positions, and average annual salary.
Estimated Market Value
Market value tells us how much an industry t is worth at a given time, primarily based on revenue generated by companies within the market. Comparing the industry’s past value and projected future value is indicative of the field’s growth, helping to uncover which areas of tech are hot, and which are, well, not.
Projected Market Growth
We wanted to be sure that even if the fire is burning hot today, that it will be even bigger in the future. That’s why we looked for a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of at least triple that of the average growth of the global economy (current 5.4%). CAGR is commonly used in the investment industry to indicate projected growth.
Availability of Positions
There are undoubtedly some incredible tech jobs cropping up, but many are few and far between. We identified those positions that are becoming widely available, meaning that there are at least 100 open positions that can currently be found at various companies across the country.
Average Annual Salary
Let’s face it—there are a ton of cool jobs with low salaries, but we’re talking hot jobs, and hot jobs have high salaries. To find these, we looked for tech jobs that have average annual salaries higher than $61,000, which is the national average for those in the tech sector who have a bachelor’s degree.
Tech jobs are shaping the future of American business. This may be Jetsons-level stuff, but it’s not happening in the future—it’s happening now. Getting into an emerging tech job is a smart move, as those who start early are likely to find their professional career explode in the next 10-15 years. Plus, they’ll be involved in some serious “Back to the Future” magic.