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Specializing in These 4 Tech Skills Isn’t Just Smart—It’s Lucrative

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If you’re ready to ditch outdated 9-5 office schedules and salaries that bear a depressing resemblance to minimum wage, tech careers are one of the most direct ways to get there. But if tech is the way to workplace happiness, what exactly is the way toward working in tech? The answer is learning tech skills, of course!

On its own, that’s not a very helpful answer, but don’t worry, I won’t leave you hanging. In the spirit of narrowing down the nebulous idea of “tech skills” into an actionable list of things to learn, I’ve rounded up four tech skills that are both smart and lucrative specialties. Each of these individual skills can put you on the road to making money in tech—or to getting a salary bump even outside of tech—but stacking two or more together will blow open the doors to a tech career. And since a career in tech can run the gamut from a part-time tech side hustle to full-time employment, I’ve included examples of average full-time salaries from Glassdoor and hourly freelance rates from Upwork associated with the jobs linked to each skill.

If you’re ready to learn more about any of these skills after reading, you can find free beginner tutorials on sites like Codecademy and Coursera, while deeper dives can be had through instructor-led courses from online schools like Skillcrush.

1. HTML/CSS

While there are certainly non-coding roles and career paths available in the tech industry, the endless appetite for web content means that learning how to code and becoming a web developer is a guaranteed fast track to tech jobs. Research backs this up, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics citing a projected 15 percent growth in web developer jobs between now and 2026.

Among the different skills used to build websites, the two most foundational are a pair of markup languages called HTML and CSS. These two programming languages are used to create basic, static web pages, with HTML defining the parts of a page and CSS determining the style (things like fonts, colors, layout, etc.). On their own, these two skills won’t take you to the top of the tech payscale, but they have a huge return on investment when it comes to getting started in tech—particularly when you consider that HTML and CSS can actually be learned in a matter of weeks. After putting in those weeks and getting a handle on these basic skills, you’ll already have unlocked opportunities for paid side-hustle work. Meanwhile, adding HTML and CSS to your resume can lead to a potential pay bump even at non-developer specific jobs.

If you want to increase the amount of web developer work you can do and the money you can earn, you’ll need to stack additional skills on top of HTML and CSS (see JavaScript below). You can only get so far as a developer with the ability to create static web pages. But, considering how quickly you can specialize in these two skills, they’re a no-brainer to pick up.

Front-End Developer Average Yearly Salary (most positions require additional skills like JavaScript and WordPress): $88,680/year

Front-End Developer Average Hourly Rates on Upwork (most rates include additional skills like JavaScript and WordPress): $48/hour

2. JavaScript (jQuery/JavaScript Frameworks)

JavaScript (JS) is a skill that—if added to a foundation of HTML and CSS—will significantly boost your job and money making opportunities in tech. But what exactly is it? While HTML and CSS are used to build static web pages, JavaScript is the coding language used to bring sites to life with dynamic content. When you visit a website or web app with features like animated graphics, forms that offer autocomplete suggestions as you type, photo slideshows, and just about anything that involves web page content changing without requiring a user to manually reload the page, those features were likely built using JavaScript. And because these kinds of features are such ubiquitous parts of the internet landscape, you can see why knowing how to use JavaScript is among the web’s more sought after and lucrative skills. As of this writing, Glassdoor has nearly 25,000 JavaScript developer jobs listed.

In addition to JavaScript itself, there are a number of JS-related tools that you can learn after you’ve familiarized yourself with the language. JavaScript libraries like jQuery are collections of pre-written JavaScript code that can be plugged into web projects. This allows developers to save time on re-creating basic JS functions, like interactive forms and image galleries.

Meanwhile, JavaScript frameworks like Vue.js and React.js are collections of libraries that can be used as templates for web projects. JS frameworks not only provide pre-written code (similar to jQuery), but they also provide a structure for where your JS code should go, helping projects become more efficiently and uniformly arranged.

JS and its adjacent tools will level up your tech job prospects exponentially—but you’re probably wondering: Is JavaScript hard to learn? Surprisingly, not at all. While learning JS might take a bit longer than HTML/CSS, “longer” means a matter of months versus years. This short learning period combined with the overwhelming demand employers have for JS and JS framework skills means JS specialization is a must for breaking into tech and making all the money.

JavaScript Developer Average Yearly Salary: $72,500/year

JavaScript Developer Average Hourly Rate on Upwork: $51/hour

3. WordPress

You might already be familiar with WordPress.com, a blog hosting platform similar to sites like Wix and Squarespace that allows you to create websites using a series of pre-made templates and plugins. WordPress.com is designed to be used without any specific tech or web know-how, but that’s not where the WordPress story ends. For people looking to get more customization, WordPress.org lets users download the WordPress CMS (Content Management System) software program, a powerful tool for web development. Using the WordPress CMS, developers can create, publish, and manage digital content online, but they’re able to do so through a user interface where changes are reflected immediately after pressing a “Publish” button (as opposed to the less streamlined experience of coding sites from scratch).

The WordPress CMS platform can also accommodate a range of skill sets and skill levels. Tech newcomers can use pre-existing templates and follow menu cues through the user interface to build basic WordPress sites (similar to using WordPress.com), but as you layer on skills like HTML, CSS, and PHP (a scripting language used to create custom WordPress themes and behaviors), you’ll be able to create your own WordPress page templates and site features, giving you the same kind of options for customization you’d have when coding from scratch.

Because of this versatility, the WordPress CMS is a widely-used tool for building sites that will appeal to side hustle clients as well as full-time employers. (Web technology survey site W3Techs cites WordPress CMS as owning 60 percent of worldwide CMS usage.) Simply knowing how to build basic websites with WordPress is enough to open up work as a WordPress developer, and WordPress’ sliding skill scale will allow you to learn gradually as you go—all qualities that speak to the wisdom of WordPress specialization.

WordPress Developer Average Yearly Salary: $61,442/year

WordPress Developer Average Hourly Rate on Upwork: $51/hour

4. User Experience (UX)

All of the above skill examples have a return on investment that far outstrips the time and money it takes to learn them. However, they’re all skills that have to do with the hands-on part of building websites and web applications. So what if tech’s perks sound amazing to you, but you don’t see yourself as a web developer? No problem. There’s a lot more to tech than building websites, and you don’t even have to sacrifice high job availability (or high pay!). UX (User Experience) is a tech field that focuses on improving the experience that users have with products like websites and web apps. And this isn’t done by sitting in front of a screen and coding—it’s accomplished by interviewing users, listening to their feedback, understanding their problems with a product, and finding creative ways to solve those problems. While that might not sound like the most “tech” thing ever, UX is actually on the forefront of the tech industry with over 43,000 jobs currently listed on Glassdoor.

UX a different kind of specialization than the skills listed above—not only because it isn’t coding-forward, but because it doesn’t involve learning a single language or discrete set of rules. UX is a synthesis of communication and listening skills, UX-specific terminology and tools, critical thinking, and problem solving. But just like more coding-specific skills, you can start to tackle UX through tutorials like these from Lynda, or through paid, online UX classes.

UX Professional Average Yearly Salary: $86,927/year

UX Professional Average Hourly Rate on Upwork: $53/hour

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4 comments

  1. Quintin Metter Replied

    Oh my goodness! an amazing article dude. Thank you Nonetheless I am experiencing challenge with ur rss . Don’t know why Unable to subscribe to it. Is there anyone getting an identical rss problem? Anyone who is aware of kindly respond. Thnkx

  2. Jane Laudani Replied

    I signed up for Break into Tech in December 2017, and have been making payments on the tuition ever since. However, soon after, I discovered that my Cancer returned, and I have been involved in treatment, and moving to a house big enough for a work space, ever since.
    Today I had a follow up appointment with my lead doctor, who declares me cancer free at this time!!! How can I resume classes with SkillCrush at this time?? I have two Masters Degrees in the helping professions and am not tech savvy, so the role of User Interface greatly appeals to me! How can I “begin again” with you???

      • Tammy Replied

        Jane-congrats on the news! This  is my 3rd time starting over bc of life. Can just start wherever you left off or I just decided to start all over again since it had been a year. Grasped so much more this time. 
        Its all under orientation once you sign in. Under classes on the dashboard. 
        Good luck and know there’s plenty of us restarting! 

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