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May 6, 2016

By Lisa Dare



Machine learning engineer

Real, usable artificial intelligence is the end game for information technology. Working on this sci-fi field allows you to shape and interact with the future. If you’re creative, mathematically oriented and have wide interest and knowledge about computer science as well as other disciplines (e.g., linguistics), you might love a machine learning engineer position.

Ways to prepare for this job: AI requires broad knowledge of computer science, and you’ll need foundational knowledge of data structures, statistics and algorithms. Knowledge of Big Data tech like Hadoop, Spark and MapReduce is an asset, and lots of companies look for a C#, Python or Java coding background. Getting a master’s degree or PhD in computer science or mathematics definitely helps, too.

Interested in diving in to these fields? Top schools like Stanford and Caltech offer free or cheap MOOCs about artificial intelligence, machine learning and related topics.

Read: specific ways MOOCs can help your IT career

Indie game developer

Ever fantasized about creating your own video game? You could work on specific projects for a big gaming house, but if you want creative control you can become an independent video game developer, working alone or in a small team to create and sell a game, typically in an app store.

How to become an indie game developer

A good way to get started is create a simple game in your free time and get it into Google Play or a similar store. If you want to plunge in headfirst, you’ll need to brush up the legal issues and develop a marketing plan. You’ll probably need substantial savings, and don’t forget to include funds for freelancers. You’ll also need to master a few simple skills, no big deal (I joke): coding, level design, creative design, animation and writing, among others.

Related jobs: Character designer, level developer, game designer

If you're curious about whether you'd enjoy this path, read Sarah Woodrow's terrific article, 7 truths about indie game development

Virtual Reality Designer or Engineer

The coming wave of virtual reality products means a lot of exciting jobs for talented IT pros, particularly VR designers. As a designer in this new space, you’ll create prototypes, test new ideas and work with creative teams to come up with new concepts. This work requires well-rounded vision, creativity and strong technical skills—and consequently, the line between designers and engineer is blurring.

Ways to prepare for this job: Many start as a UI designer or developer. You’ll need to add 3D modeling skills, and many jobs look for specific Unity experience. It also helps to have a gaming background. If you’re more on the engineering side, you’ll likely need skill in C or C# programming. 

Read about other coveted IT jobs like ethical hacker—and what they pay



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