Increasingly, technology is leaving its imprint on our daily routines, from the smartphones and computers we use at work to the tablets we poke at home.
With the explosion in technology platforms has come an expansion in job opportunities. And geographically, there are no bounds to where you can practice your expertise: Try life as a computer systems analyst on the fast-paced, urban streets of Washington D.C., or head for the sun-covered hills of Silicon Valley as a Web developer.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that the tech boom will create more than one million new jobs by 2020.
Here is a closer look at the nine occupations on U.S. News's list of Best Technology Jobs.
[See: The 25 Best Jobs of 2013]
1. Computer Systems Analyst. With a surgeon-like knowledge of a desktop, these professionals design and develop computer systems and are well-versed with hardware, software, and networks. According to the BLS, this profession is on track to add 120,400 jobs between 2010 and 2020.
2. Database Administrator. Companies enlist database administrators to set up databases that meet their needs. To ensure databases operate efficiently, these professionals upgrade and modify them as needed. The BLS predicts a 30.6 percent employment increase for this profession this decade.
3. Software Developer. These professionals design software systems for applications, like mobile shopping and banking, to make our lives easier. While writing software code is a major part of the job description, it also encompasses testing and debugging software. This profession is expected to add 143,800 jobs by 2020, according to the BLS.
4. Web Developer. The core of a Web developer's duties is designing and maintaining websites, including site layout and function. The bulk of that work requires skills of differing classifications: creative and technical. The former consists of making a user-friendly design and organizing content so that it's easy to navigate, while the latter consists of monitoring website performance and capacity. The BLS predicts 21.7 percent employment growth for this profession between 2010 and 2020.
5. Computer Programmer. To ensure computers operate at their peak, programmers rewrite, debug, maintain, and test and retest software and programs critical to achieving certain tasks. These professionals earned a median salary of $72,630 in 2011, according to the BLS.
6. Mechanical Engineer. Methodical in their work, mechanical engineers deploy their considerable math skills to construct various devices from scratch. The BLS reports that these professionals earned a median salary of $79,230 in 2011.
7. Information Technology Manager. Playing the dual role of technical doctor and protector, IT managers troubleshoot problems like a faulty email account or an application that won't open, all while keeping a company's network safe from more dangerous threats like hackers. These professionals earned a hefty median salary of $118,010 in 2011, according to the BLS.
8. Computer Systems Administrator. These professionals keep the heart of a company's computer network healthy and stable by maintaining servers and ensuring employees stay plugged in. The BLS predicts this profession will add 96,600 jobs by 2020.
9. Civil Engineer. From the blue print to the build-up, civil engineers are the creative force behind things we rely upon daily, including buildings, bridges, and highways. Between 2010 and 2020, employment in the field is expected to grow by 19.4 percent, according the BLS.
[Read: The Best Jobs of 2013.]
Here's more advice on what it takes to break into the technology field:
Don't let your degree become a deterrent. As an undergraduate student studying English, you spent your weeknights absorbing Hemingway and Steinbeck. But on weekends, you tinkered with computers. Now out of college, you find the job market much more hospitable toward your tech skills than your literary talents. Afraid of what tech recruiters might think of your academic background? Don't discount your candidacy just because your diploma doesn't read "computer science," says Ken Roth, chief operating officer of dbaDirect, a database consulting firm. "You can transition into [database administration], like many technology jobs, from an unrelated field," he says.
But a specific degree doesn't hurt. While the lack of a tech-related degree won't doom your candidacy, having one helps—particularly in professions heavy on programming. "If you're going to be a game programmer, you really need a computer science degree to start with. It gives you a depth of knowledge to draw upon," says Shawn Leaf, studio tech director for the video game development company n-Space.
The power of problem-solving. Roth says his firm is different from others in the database administration field when it comes to its hiring practices: It puts fresh-out-of-college graduates on the payroll. If less-experienced candidates can demonstrate strong problem-solving skills, dbaDirect is willing to fill in the knowledge gaps. "A lot of database administration is all about problem-solving," he says, adding, "If someone has good problem-solving skills, we can teach them everything they need to know about the database."
Know the fundamentals, but learn new trends. Being rooted in the core concepts of a field will serve you well in the jobs you eventually land. But you must also be proactive in acquiring new knowledge. "It all comes back to the computer-science fundamentals, but people find new ways to apply them," Leaf says.
Have a digital portfolio. Unlike other jobs that may require a dull dissertation as proof of knowledge, employers in the technology sector may ask for a highly interactive body of work.
One way to showcase your know-how is to "[make] a game on your own or with your friends," Leaf says. You can learn how to do this through either formal academic coursework or online forums offered by Unity Technologies or the Unreal Developers Network.
Customer consideration. Throughout the day, you may spend more time with computers than people. But a friendly demeanor and solid communication skills come in handy when you're interacting with customers. "The other thing we're going to look for," Roth notes of prospective hires, "is that they interact very well with customers, because we are a service provider."