Companies are in a tight spot. Technology is evolving at a breakneck pace, leading to increased consumerisation of popular offerings such as cloud computing and data analytics. IT security, meanwhile, struggles to keep up with evolving network threats even as employees look for better access and consumers demand better service. For IT professionals, this presents a unique opportunity — as noted by a recent ISACA report, there’s a widening “skills gap” in the industry. While all tech sectors are dealing with increased demand, the hot ticket for 2016 is big data: Effective analysis and insight are critical for organisations to stay ahead of the curve. Here’s a look at three big data jobs that offer big career prospects. 

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Big data architect

Interested in building a big data strategy from the ground up? That’s the role of big data architects, responsible for creating the blueprints of data management systems. As noted by V3, there are huge career opportunities for qualified IT pros — with the right company you could make north of $200,000 per year. Of course, landing this job requires both industry experience and commensurate training. The V3 piece points out that companies looking to fill the skills gap are seeking the best of the best — IT pros who are experts in the field and stand head and shoulders above the crowd.

The role of big data architect is ideal for a tech pro looking to take ownership of a company’s big data strategy and get in on the ground floor. Skills required include the ability to collaborate with multiple IT teams, research new data opportunities, define needed technologies and create an end-to-end strategy for managing and analysing big data.

Technology is evolving at a breakneck pace, leading to increased consumerisation of popular offerings such as cloud computing and data analytics

Big data engineer

According to Information Week, big data engineer ranks as the third-“hottest” IT job in 2016 with a top-end salary of approximately $190,000. In many respects this role is a mix of data scientist and engineering positions; you’ll be required to build on the existing big data framework in place and develop new ways to handle information. For example, big data analysis using MapReduce or Hadoop is critical, along with data warehousing, transformation and data collection. Bottom line: In this role, big data is your baby, from start to finish — and everywhere in-between. For many IT pros, this career track offers the benefit of working within an established structure but thinking outside the box to get the job done.

Big data consultant

Not all big data jobs are FTEs. For many companies, the drive to secure top-tier talent collides with IT budget constraints, leading some to choose outsourced data experts over hiring in-house experts. For IT professionals, going the consultant route offers the benefit of flexible scheduling and separation from office politics — your task takes top priority. According to Forbes, the emerging discipline of data consultant requires a varied skill set. For example, in 2015 the demand for VMware expertise in big data jobs rose almost 800 percent, while open source bumped up 333 percent, and Python programming knowledge increased by nearly 200 percent. As a big data consultant you could be tasked with any project at any time — an ideal fit for IT pros looking for a challenge that comes with solid compensation.

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Big data is big business. Architects, engineers and consultants stand out as some of the top-performing jobs in 2016.