The explosive job growth of the information technology industry began just about two decades ago, and it has barely slowed down since. While the "dot bomb era" of the late 1990s through the early 2000s did its fair share of damage, the more recent recession that started in December of 2007 and ended in June of 2009 barely even slowed it down.
As interesting as it is to look at the past, however, learning about the future health of this industry is much more important to people considering an information technology job.
There's very good news on that front if you are among them, or if you already work in this field. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts continued above-average job growth for the technology sector over the next several years.
Responsible for this growth are changing technologies and organizations' adaptation of them. For example, the increased adaptation of cloud computing and cybersecurity will lead to increases in employment, and a rise in other technologies including health care IT, mobile networking, and data management will also contribute to a strong outlook for the information technology field.
Basic Facts About the IT Industry
- As of 2014, there were 3.9 million people working in IT occupations. This included those employed in the computer systems design and related services industry -- what we commonly refer to as the IT industry -- as well as individuals doing technology-related jobs in other fields.
- Employment of people working in IT occupations is expected to grow 12 percent from 2014 through 2024. 488,500 jobs will be added during this period.
- Traditionally, there has been a lack of diversity in this field. Women and minorities are severely underrepresented. An abundance of whites, Asians, and men work in this industry, while relatively few African Americans, Latinos, and women do, when compared with other private industries ("Diversity in High Tech," U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.)
- Companies comprising the IT industry are entities that offer custom computer programming, computer systems design, computer facilities management, and other computer-related services. IT jobs can be found outside this industry as well. Industries that hire tech workers include information, educational services, administrative and support services, wired telecommunications, government, finance and insurance, software publishing, and management of companies and enterprises.
- Although there are information technology jobs around the country, the majority of opportunities are centered around certain areas. The top U.S. city for tech employment is Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina. Other places to which you can consider relocating to improve your chances of finding a tech job are Nashville, Tennessee; Austin, Texas; and Fort Collins, Colorado.
If you want to join the IT industry, you have many options.
Let's first take a look at computer and information technology occupations. While many people in these professions work in the IT industry, many also work in other sectors. What makes these occupations appealing, in addition to their excellent job outlook, are the potential earnings. IT professionals earned a median annual salary of $82,860 in May 2016. Compare this to the median annual wage of $37,040 for all occupations.
Computer and IT occupations are technical jobs that involve doing things like implementing technology, designing computer networks, coding, and developing software and websites.
The nine occupations below have excellent outlooks.
- Computer and Information Research Scientist
- Computer Network Architect
- Computer Support Specialist
- Computer Systems Analyst
- Database Administrator
- Information Security Analyst
- Network and Computer Systems Administrator
- Software Developer
- Web Developer
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts employment growth that is either faster than, or much faster than, the average for all occupations for the period that began in 2014 and will end in 2024. There is no reason we shouldn't expect this trend to continue well into the future as technology continues to evolve and experts who know how to create and implement it are needed. Notably missing from this list are computer programmers, an occupation that will experience an 8 percent decline by 2024.
IT professionals are employed in every industry you can think of, but they are, not surprisingly, most well represented in the information technology industry. They make up 56 percent of all workers in that industry, though.
What about the other 44 percent? They are the managers, accountants, administrative workers, wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives, advertising sales representatives, customer service representatives, and other workers that businesses need to function.
If you aren't in a computer-oriented career, why should you consider working in the IT industry? Making this choice will allow you to enjoy the benefits that come with its success. Non-tech workers, like those whose work involves computers, also get to enjoy high rates of employment and pay.
Top Tech Employers
If you want a career in the information technology industry, why not set your sights high? You may have a better chance of getting a job with a smaller company, but your ultimate goal can be a job with one of the big industry players. Here are some of them.
Consider first the companies with the highest revenues. These are the top tech companies in the Fortune 500:
- Hewlett-Packard Company
("The Top Technology Companies of the Fortune 500." Fortune.
Next, here is a list of the fastest growing tech companies -- because if you're going to have a career in a fast-growing industry like IT, why not aim for a job with a company that has an extremely promising future? The fastest growing tech companies, according to Forbes, are:
- Qlik Technologies
("Fast Tech 25." Forbes. 2017)
Tech employees' days are typically long. Having an employer that treats its workers well can make this time pleasant. According to employees' reviews, these are the best tech companies to work for:
- World Wide Technology
- Fast Enterprises
("25 Best Tech Companies to Work For in 2016, According to Employees." Business Insider. December 6, 2016)
How to Know If an Information Technology Career Is Right for You
If you want to have a career in information technology, your choices are many: you could pursue an IT occupation in the IT industry, an IT occupation in another industry, or a non-tech occupation in the IT industry. There should be something here for you, regardless of what career is most suitable based on your aptitudes, interests, and other personal traits.
Is there anything to dislike? If a simple 9 to 5 job is what you are after, you should consider a different field. IT workers often work long hours. About 20 to 25 percent of workers in the occupations listed work more than 40 hours a week. And depending on your specific profession, you may have to spend time on-call in case an emergency arises that only your expertise can solve.
Education and Training
How you prepare for an IT career plays a big role in your success. As with any career, you need to acquire the hard skills that will allow you to do your job. For many occupations, this means earning a bachelor's degree. You should attend a strong technical college program.
In an ever-changing field like this one, you will constantly have to upgrade your skills. With those long work hours, you may have little time to do this. Taking online courses can help you keep your skills up-to-date.
Certifications are quite valuable in the IT industry. They serve as proof to employers that you are qualified to perform a particular job. Usually, professional associations and software companies oversee the certification process, which requires candidates to pass an exam after learning a skill, computer language, or software program. Having the right credentials can make you more competitive as a job seeker or as a professional trying to advance to a better-paying and more responsible position.
Which certifications should you get? Time and money will force you to narrow down your options. It is best to go after the ones that will make you most competitive in the hottest technologies. For instance, if you want to build your career in big data, you might pursue these certifications:
- Cloudera Certified Administrator for Apache Hadoop (CCAH)
- Cloudera Certified Professional: Data Scientist (CCP: DS)
- Cloudera Certified Professional Data Engineer
What Skills Do You Need?
As an IT professional, you may need to have knowledge about development tools, programming languages, and operating systems. It is impossible to know everything, but a good place to start is with high-demand skills like the Unix Operating System, Linux Operating System, and Java Programming Language.
Knowing a variety of programming languages can help garner you high earnings. Begin with the highest paying languages, including Ruby, Objective C, and Python.
Getting Hired: How to Find an IT Job
When searching for an information technology job, you can use general job search websites like Indeed.com. There you will find job announcements culled from various sources, including other job listing sites and company websites. Employers also post job openings directly to Indeed. In addition, you can share your resume there so employers seeking someone with your qualifications can find you.
You can also use niche sites that are specifically for employment opportunities in the IT industry. The benefit of using sites like this is that it allows you to narrow down your focus and spend your time more efficiently.
Networking is essential when it comes to locating open positions. If you aren't on LinkedIn, you should be. It will allow you to connect with people in your field or those who know people who are.
A finely-tuned resume or curriculum vitae, while it won't get you hired, will get a potential employer to notice you. Online portfolios are a must for web designers and developers who need to show off their work. If you are trying to build a freelance career, you should get client testimonials.
While a resume or portfolio will bring you to a potential employer's attention, your performance at a job interview can get you the job you desire. As with any profession, you should always prepare for a job interview and think about out how you will respond to any possible question -- including illegal ones.
"Computer and Technology Occupations." The Occupational Outlook Handbook 2016-2017 (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, December 17. 2015).
Csorny, Lauren “Careers in the growing field of information technology services” Beyond the Numbers: Employment & Unemployment, vol. 2, no. 9 (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, April 2013).
"Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services: NAICS 54" Industries at a Glance (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2017).