Chicago Skyline


If you’re looking to break into tech, you may be considering a few facts. Of course, we all consider the skills needed for a specific role as well as our desire to work in a particular technical focus. However, the one thing most people tend to focus on when considering if a job is the right fit for them is usually how much money they’ll be making. Honestly, you can’t blame tech career hopefuls for prioritizing their payday! 


The cost of living nationwide is continuing to grow considerably as we move into a new era of technological innovation. However, when living in a major city such as Chicago, there are inevitably more costs to deal with. While the average cost of housing in Chicago is around $229,000, this number is actually significantly lower than other tech hubs of the US. Additionally, Chicago’s median salary that is needed for one person to live comfortably in the city is around $68,000.


As you’ll soon find out, the best and brightest tech minds of Chicago are generously compensated for their expertise and innovative work ethic. With so many different tech jobs to choose from, how can tech professionals both new and seasoned discern which job prospects are worth their time? Stick around for the breakdown of the highest paying jobs in Chicago. 


The Birth of Fintech 


Charts on a computer.


One of the biggest boosts to Chicago’s economic stability took place all the way back in 1882 with the opening of the Chicago Stock Exchange. With this opening came a wave of financial investment bankers, loan companies, and much more. Almost every major bank in the United States has an office in Chicago. With the age of technology and innovation came a new way of doing things financially. 


If you happen to have a bank account, chances are you’ve checked your balance online or on your phone before. If you’re into stocks, you even have the ability to make live trades in seconds, all with a couple of swipes on your phone. This innovation didn’t happen overnight but it did happen in part due to the sweeping movement of Chicago’s technology and financial sectors. This merging of industries has given way to a new time of technology; Fintech. 


As the name might suggest, Fintech is the merging of both the financial and technology industries. This means that technological advancements are made to support and build upon the financial industry. This work ends up benefiting both industries as tech continues to innovate and finance continues to automate, secure, and boost their systems. And Fintech is continuing to get bigger. Last year alone, Fintech companies raised almost $40 billion from global investors. This number was up 120% from 2017.


There are currently over 400 companies in Chicago that could be classified as “Fintech”. From major companies such as Discover and Venmo to smaller startups, there are a multitude of Fintech companies in the Chicago area that are changing the way the tech scene operates. 


Signs of a Great Chicago Tech Job


Thumbs up.
A healthy work culture is highly important to your career and health!


It’s important to remember that humans are more than just numbers. While money is a great tool that can unlock many doors in life, we also have basic needs as humans that money alone can’t always fulfill. When trudging through the thousands of current tech jobs available in Chicago, it’s important to keep an eye out for a few major things. 


1. Work Culture


One of the most important aspects of the workplace is the social atmosphere that comes along with it. Do you vibe with your coworkers and team? Do you feel safe and comfortable during your day to day activities? Do you feel that your superiors foster an open and nurturing learning environment? 


While you don’t have to be best friends with all your coworkers, working in an environment where you feel comfortable and accepted is an absolute must if you’re going to maintain your mental health throughout your career. Regardless of the amount you make on paper, some hostile work environments just aren’t worth the immense havoc they wreak upon your mental and sometimes physical health. 


2. Work/Life Balance 


This one goes hand in hand with number 1. While the tech industry is notorious for long hours and overtime, it’s important to realize that this work method may not be sustainable forever. Finding a job that encourages a strong work/life balance is absolutely crucial to building a long-lasting and successful tech career. 


Additional perks to be on the lookout for include paid time off, casual workdays, work from home options, work retreats/outings, and just a general dedication to downtime. While these perks alone may not make or break your job experience, they are certainly a great bonus! 


3. Workplace Perks


Speaking of perks, these are actually some of the biggest positives of working in the tech industry. Tech companies both big and small are constantly competing for talent and competent employees. As an effect of this, many companies have resorted to incentivized perks as a way to retain and attract employees. 


These could include anything from free food, free transportation, complimentary gym memberships (or even office gyms!), paid time off, cool office gadgets, trendy workspaces, and much more. While you shouldn’t base a job offer solely on the offered perks (no matter how good your company’s lunch specials are!), the job benefits are definitely something to keep in mind when scoping out potential employers. 


Highest Paying Tech Jobs in Chicago


US Dollar Bill.
Tech remains one of the most lucrative career markets in the world.


Now that we’ve gotten a bit of background in regards to how big Chicago’s tech scene actually is, you’re probably ready to get down to the important stuff. With so many jobs and so much demand for qualified technical experts, which job opportunities pay the highest?  Let’s break down the highest paying jobs in Chicago. 


1. Cloud Architect – $176,000 per year 


As the name might suggest, Cloud Architects are responsible for building and maintaining cloud systems. Remember the cloud? The thing that backs up our cellphones in case we drop them too many times. Many people would be hard-pressed to actually explain what the cloud is and what it does. For Cloud Architects, their entire job description is knowing that kind of stuff! 


With the world of technology only getting bigger and the demand for more data storage increasing every day, Cloud Architects are absolutely vital to the future of technology as we know it. 


The average salary for a Cloud Architect in Chicago is around $176,000 per year. This doesn’t include any bonuses, stock options, or perks. Various salaries for this position range from $76,000 to $187,000 per year. 


2. Data Scientists – $100,000 per year 


As the name might suggest, the life of a technical Data Scientist pretty much revolves around one thing; data! Data Scientists are responsible for making sense of large amounts of data and breaking this information down into understandable terms. Data Scientists may spend large amounts of time collecting, cleaning, organizing, and interpreting data. Data Scientists are also responsible for building algorithms that collect and optimize data as well as continuously innovating ways that their company extracts, stores and organizes data. 


Anyway, enough about data…let’s talk about a different kind of number. For such a complicated and prestigious technical job, you could imagine that companies would pay massive amounts of money for Data Science positions. Again, you’d be right.


The average Data Scientist salary in Chicago is $100,000 per year. This, of course, does not include any bonuses, stock options, or fancy office perks and upgrades. On the low end, Data Science newbies earn around $85,000. Seasoned Data Scientists can potentially earn as much as $141,000 per year. If you’re a master of all things numbers and love solving complex problems, Chicago’s massive and lucrative Data Science industry may just be the career for you! 


3. DevOps Engineers – $90,000 per year


DevOps Engineers are one of the lesser-known yet highly important careers of the tech industry. DevOps Engineers are essentially jacks of all trades and are trained in a variety of coding languages and skills. DevOps Engineers manage databases and coordinate with different Software Engineers and IT professionals to ensure that all systems are functioning properly. DevOps Engineers routinely test different code segments, implement changes and updates to programs, and script different elements of code to build and maintain a functional application. 


The average salary for a DevOps Engineer in Chicago is around $90,000 per year. This, of course, does not include any bonuses, stock options, or office perks. 


The low-end salary of a DevOps Engineer is $81,000. Seasoned DevOps Engineers can earn as much as $134,000 per year. 


4. Software Developers – $75,000


As the creative minds behind some of the most prominent programs on the internet and beyond, Software Developers are responsible for working technical magic and putting raw ideas into code and churning out beautiful programs to be enjoyed by millions of users. While this is definitely a job with a ton of responsibility, the payout is pretty outstanding. 


The average Software Developer salary in Chicago is just under $75,000 per year. This, of course, does not include any end of year bonuses, company stock options, or standard office perks like free food, transportation, and those weird looking nap pod things. 


With a starting salary of $65,000 per year, Junior Software Developers are still making a great income before they rise through the ranks of their respective careers. With an average max salary of $117,000 per year, the numbers absolutely speak for themselves when pondering if Software Development in Chicago might be a lucrative career. If you’re looking to create innovative and potentially world-changing programs all while living in one of the most culturally diverse and lively cities in the world, rest assured that you’ll be making a pretty lucrative living while you’re coding away at your trendy new office! 


5. UX/UI Design – $80,000


User Experience or User Interface Design refers to the accessibility and overall look of a webpage. Again, this is one of those tech careers that you don’t think about too much until you encounter a website that lacks a UX/UI touch. 


We’ve all seen those clunky and hard to use websites and applications. Not only are they super displeasing to the eye, but they’re also sometimes so awful that users can’t even fully experience them. UX/UI Designers are responsible for the way a website/application looks, feels, and overall interacts with the user. With the growing number of websites/applications available, this career is definitely one that is here to stay. 


The average salary for a UX/UI Designer in Chicago is around $80,000 per year. This doesn’t include bonuses, stock options, or additional perks. UX/UI Designers can make as low as $62,000 per year and as high as $114,000 per year. 


How Does This Benefit You? 


People smiling using a computer.
How can you use this info to your advantage?


If you’re new to programming or are just considering changing careers to technology, you may be wondering what this all means for you. Even if a high paying job isn’t your only priority when looking for a job in the Chicago tech scene, knowing the highest paying job trends of Chicago’s tech scene can help you decide which career path may be the most stable and successful option for you. 


As you continue to grow throughout your coding journey, keeping yourself informed of the industry’s latest happenings will be absolutely vital to your career success. 

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