A career in information technology (IT) revolves around working closely with various technology products, particularly related to maintenance, testing, and support. A developer, on the other hand, is in charge of creating or “developing” apps, software, websites, etc. Both careers overlap but what is the better career option between an IT professional and a developer?
Information technology is a lesser-paying career path than development, but it’s also easier to learn with a slightly higher job satisfaction score. That said, developers will enjoy better prospects and growth than general IT professionals. You can get a job in either profession without a degree.
In this article, we’ll take a deep dive into the various differences between working as an IT professional and a developer, so you can pick the right career path.
Key Differences Between Information Technology and Developer
The following table compares the average salary, learning curve, necessary qualifications, job satisfaction, and growth prospects for information technology workers and developers.
|Area of Comparison||Information Technology||Developer|
|Learning Curve||Comparatively less difficult.||Comparatively more difficult, as you need to have a basic IT understanding and build your development skills on top of that.|
|Necessary Qualifications||Can get a job without a degree.|
Having a certificate helps with employability.
|Can get a job without a degree.|
Having a portfolio to demonstrate skill sets is most important.
|Job Satisfaction||4.03 out of 5||3.77 out of 5|
|Future Prospects||6% growth rate from 2021-2031.|
75,000 new job openings are expected each year.
|25% growth rate from 2021-2031.|
162,900 new job openings are expected each year.
The following sections look into each of these points in greater detail.
Useful link: I already wrote a detailed article about a developer vs. project manager (you would be surprised how much they can earn).
On average, information technology professionals are paid comparatively less than developers.
The average salary in information technology ranges between $39k/year to $98k/year. The median salary for the average IT professional is around $58k/year.
That said, the exact salary will vary depending on experience, where you work, and most importantly, your job profile/role.
For instance, the average salary for someone in “IT support” is around $54k/year, while a person in “IT system administration” can expect around $58k/year.
In comparison, the average salary of a developer ranges from $52k/year to $108k/year, with $74k/year being the median.
Here also, your skill set and what you “develop” will greatly impact your salary.
The average salary of a “web developer” is $60k/year, whereas the average salary of a “mobile app developer” is $76k/year.
In general, learning development is more difficult than general information technology.
It’s worth noting that IT is an umbrella term, and development, technically, falls under it.
That said, the more generic and standard IT roles are currently denoted as “IT” jobs, whereas more specialized IT roles have their own branches. For instance, development is a specialized branch of IT that deals with the creation, maintenance, and upkeep of software and software-based products.
Now, “development” – being a specialized branch of IT – requires more knowledge and training, making it comparatively more difficult with a longer learning curve.
For the most part, a developer can fill in for an IT professional with little or no extra training, but the same is not true the other way around.
You can get a developer or IT job without a degree.
Entry-level IT jobs rarely require applicants to possess a CS (Computer Science) or IT degree. You can easily apply for a role as an IT help desk tech, support specialist, or jr. systems administrator just by proving your skills and knowledge in the subject – usually assessed during the interview phase.
However, some companies might require you to at least have a certificate. For instance, the CompTIA A+ certification is usually all you need to land a help desk job.
Similarly, in reference to development, a solid portfolio of work can get you hired as a developer by most employers. If you have built a few websites or apps (even as unpaid work) that demonstrate your understanding of software and web development, it should be enough to get you the job.
That said, even though having a degree isn’t necessary to land a job, getting one will give you an edge over other applicants and help you grow in your career.
Jobs in IT offer slightly better satisfaction ratings compared to developer job roles.
Payscale surveyed around 981 IT specialists who gave their jobs an average satisfaction score of 4.03 out of 5. At the same time, another similar survey pooling over 2500 software developers led to an average job satisfaction rating of 3.77 out of 5.
To summarize, the national average job satisfaction score is around 51%, or 2.51 out of 5, as per the Conference Board.
As such, a job in IT or development offers a comparable level of job satisfaction that’s way above the national average.
Development has a better prospect with a higher number of expected job openings in the future compared to general IT professionals.
As per data collected from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), we can expect to see around a 6% employment growth rate in IT from 2021-2031. This accounts for about 75,000 new job openings each year.
On the flip side, developers will see a 25% hike in employment rates over the next decade. This means close to 162,900 new openings for developers alongside quality assurance testers and analysts.
So clearly, if you want to build a skillset that’ll stay in demand and guarantee employment over the coming years, then development is definitely a better choice than general IT skills/jobs.
Developers earn more with a median salary of around $74k/year compared to IT professionals’ average of $58k/year.
But at the same time, learning development and becoming a developer is also more difficult than simple IT professions. That said, neither developers nor IT professionals need to have a degree to apply for most job roles.
Other than this, both professions enjoy similar job satisfaction scores that are well above the national average.
Finally, looking at future growth and employability prospect over the years, developers have the upper hand over general IT workers.