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Tough Money: Technology

Technically Working

Careers in Technology Come in All Shapes and Salaries


Technically Working

Technology companies will be a powerful force in Southern California's economy as it moves into the 21st century. The number of high-tech start-ups that call the Southland home is growing rapidly, bringing many well-paid jobs to the area. In fact, high-tech firms based in the Los Angeles area are having a tough time finding enough programmers, animators and graphics artists to meet their needs. Many of these start-ups are smaller companies that are difficult for job seekers to tap into without connections. Experts suggest those looking for jobs in technology build networks with people involved in this industry as a way to discover new openings. Some examples of the technology jobs you can expect to find how much you can expect to make doing them:

Biotech researcher. Fuses biology and technology to create medicines and medical devices. Annual salary: $20,000 to $30,000 for a recent graduate; up to $50,000 with a master's degree.

CEO of a start-up. Average annual salary in the Los Angeles area, $200,000 plus 6% to 10% of the company. For a marquee name, $300,000 plus 10% of the company.

Chief technology officer of a start-up. Serves as a company's high-tech visionary by studying market trends and talking with customers about their needs. Average annual salary in the Los Angeles area: about $190,000 and 4% of the company.

Computer animator. Creates computer-generated characters, backgrounds and 3-D graphics used in movies and video games. Annual income: $30,000 to $50,000.

Computer chip designer. Designs the tiny silicon chips that are the brains of computers and other electronic devices. Annual income: starts at $35,000; $80,000 for those with experience.

Computer designer. Develops such computer system components as printers, disk drives, modems and speakers. Annual income: starts at $40,000 with a bachelor's degree; from $50,000 with a master's degree.

Computer technician. Installs, maintains and repairs computer equipment. Average annual salary: $32,000.

Corporate product support. Provides assistance to clients with the company's hardware or software products. Average annual income: $17,000 to $39,000.

Database specialist. Designs, installs, updates, modifies, maintains and repairs computer databases, usually as part of a project group or team. Average annual salary: $32,000 for a lower-level position; $47,000 to $75,000 for a more senior position.

Electrical/computer engineer. Designs, builds, tests and evaluates computer chips, circuit boards, computer systems and peripheral devices. Average annual income: $47,712.

Graphic designer. Uses computers almost exclusively for design, sketching and image manipulation. Average annual salary: $21,000 to $24,000 for an entry level position.

Graphical user interface designer. Creates menus and icons that allow computer users to navigate different programs. Candidates must have graphic design and software engineering skills. Annual income: $28,000; $40,000 with more than five years' experience.

Help desk support and training personnel. Answers questions for users of computer hardware and software and provides training. Average annual salary: $20,000 or less (entry-level) to $42,000 (managers).

Management information systems director. Manages information systems and computing resources for an entire organization. Average annual salary: $60,000 (small business) to $75,000 (large business).

Manufacturing engineer. Designs the equipment that powers devices like cellular phones, VCRs and semiconductors. Annual income: starts at $35,000; $70,000 with 10 years of experience.

Multimedia producer. Takes a vague plot or concept and through programming and artwork melds it into a computer program with graphics, text and digital audio and video. Annual income: starts at $30,000; $100,000 or more for talented freelancer.

Network specialist. Responsible for the design, security and administration of company networks. Average annual salary: $53,750.

Programmer. Writes detailed instructions that tell computers to perform certain functions. Average annual salary: $37,056.

Quality assurance specialist. Evaluates and tests new software programs to ensure they work as designed. Average annual salary: $16,000 to $32,000; $30,000 to $65,000 with a computer engineering degree.

Software distributor. Tests software programs and decides how to distribute them. Annual salary: $35,000 at a major company, $20,000 at a smaller firm; increases to $45,000 with experience.

Software engineer. Writes lines of code in computer language that control the way a software program looks, feels and runs. Annual income: $25,000; for experienced engineers working in a hot area such as database programming.

Systems analyst. Oversees the development process for new software and hardware. Usually specializes in business, scientific, engineering or microcomputer applications. Average annual income: $42,768.

Technical support specialist. Helps an organization's computer users. Annual average salary: $17,000 to $39,000, depending on education and experience.

Vice president of marketing for start-up. Average annual salary in the Los Angeles area: $175,000, plus 1.5% to 3% of the company.

Webmaster. Manages a site on the World Wide Web and creates content, adapts existing content to a Web-friendly format, operates Web server software and administers the system. Annual income: $20,000; $50,000 for those with experience.

Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics; "100 Jobs in Technology" (Macmillan) by Lori Hawkins and Betsy Dowling; Jeff Christian, Christian & Timbers; Jack Kyser, Economic Development Corp. of Los Angeles County

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