IT Emergent: Top Employment Areas Within IT
The rapid evolution of the IT industry makes it very difficult to pinpoint the “next big thing” in IT employment opportunities. However, the hollowing out of America’s IT job market, security considerations, the emergence of a number of growth fields and the increasing reliance on IT across all vertical markets seem to point the way toward a number of promising IT careers.
Overall, the outlook for IT employment appears to be promising, if not spectacular. JupiterMedia is predicting increased IT sector hiring, for a net increase of 12 percent, during the remainder of the year. Robert Half Technology, a staffing firm for the IT industry, reports that companies are adding to their IT staff while the number of computer science graduates decreases. Those trends are expected to help open up the market for applicants.
Sources show that the United States gained 128,000 IT jobs from 2004 to 2005, or 3.9 percent. Those numbers no longer represent the double-digit growth the industry saw before 2000, but for a lot of quite mature technologies, this nearly 4 percent growth rate is very healthy.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows increasing staffing levels among companies that offer IT services. The number of working IT professionals was at 3.43 million in the second quarter of 2005, nearing the levels seen in 2001, when the number was 3.46 million.
Hollowing Out the IT Job Market
Global economics and other forces have created a “hollowing out” of the IT employment structure—eliminating some jobs, while creating and enhancing other occupations.
Many mid-level U.S. IT jobs have been automated out of existence, while others have followed cheaper labor pools overseas. However, there continues to be a need for entry-level depot service technicians and other positions that need a human touch.
The highest job growth has emerged at the other end of the “hollow”—in higher-end, high-skilled occupations. IT workers who demonstrate the ability to positively impact a company’s business—not just its IT infrastructure—are increasingly in demand.
“Businesses are looking for—and are willing to pay for—IT professionals with comprehensive skill sets that can be used to make the company more competitive and more productive,” said Neill Hopkins, vice president of skills development for CompTIA (the Computing Technology Industry Association). “Just as IT itself has moved from the basement to the boardroom, the IT professional has the opportunity to evolve into something that is much more integral and valuable to the business as a whole.”
Many companies are actively looking for IT project managers to oversee technology projects from an overall business perspective. As IT infrastructure becomes more integral to overall business operations, many management teams are finding it difficult to outsource IT project management and are searching for employees who can guide critical IT plans that impact the bottom line.
For IT professionals, project management offers an attractive career path with many advancement possibilities, as well as the chance to use a multitude of IT and business-related skills every day. Fledgling IT workers can be set on their way to higher-level project management assignments by directing smaller portions of larger undertakings and gaining valuable management experience.
“Project management is a huge opportunity in IT right now,” said Alice Rowland, president of Provisio Inc., a project management consulting firm. “The demand for competent project managers is very high because no one is doing it particularly well right now.
“And, the political climate has created many opportunities to manage regulation- and mandate-compliance projects,” she added. “IT project managers are a valuable asset to business monitoring and supervising federal and state regulatory conformance tasks.”
Many traditional IT companies are reinventing themselves as professional services entities. This development of large IT consulting services is creating a healthy market for IT project managers who can deliver positive impact not only on the IT infrastructure, but also on the efficiency and success of large client companies.
“Companies are making a lot of money as they transition into professional services,” Rowland said. “And, with IT becoming more of an essential business function, consultants who can manage IT projects with the bottom line in sight will be very attractive to these global consulting companies.”
A recent benchmark study by CompTIA hints that the need to secure the IT infrastructure, its traffic and its data may lead to a boom in security-related positions within all industries.
“The Third Annual CompTIA Study on IT Security and the Workforce” found that nearly 40 percent of the 500 organizations polled experienced a major IT security breach—defined as one that causes real harm, results in the loss of confidential information or interrupts business—within the past six months. An estimated $1.4 billion was lost last year due to these security breaches.
“Organizations are relying on the Internet more than ever before, making the storage and housing of personal account information and proprietary data even more vulnerable to identity theft and data corruption,” said Brian McCarthy, chief operating officer for CompTIA. “This is especially true for large organizations with multiple points of vulnerability and thousands of employees.
“And, security assurance continues to depend on human actions and knowledge as much, if not more so, than it does on technological advances,” he added.
Human error, either alone or in combination with a technical malfunction, was blamed for four out of every five IT security breaches (79.3 percent), the CompTIA study found. This fact underscores that businesses in all sectors have a strong need for competently trained and certified individuals to secure and protect their intellectual property and critical business intelligence data.
Government regulatory initiatives, such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) in the health care industry and public companies’ Sarbanes-Oxley Act, also have raised the security stakes for many companies and institutions.
Sarbanes-Oxley, which increased requirements for public companies to better control their accounting, is driving businesses to hire new network engineers and programmers. Network design jobs are becoming increasingly available as testing is completed and the next phase of Sarbanes-Oxley compliance initiatives are implemented.
“The recent and approaching federal security mandates have forced companies to look for IT personnel with specialized skills in network and data security,” Rowland said.
Even if a posted job isn’t titled “security specialist” or something similar, having those security skills and credentials will make IT workers at all levels much more attractive to potential employers.
The $31 billion computer and video gaming business is the fastest-growing entertainment medium in the world, with the potential to surpass both the movie and recorded music businesses. More than 200 million computer and video games are sold to the 140 million gamers in America every year. U.S. gamers spent $7.3 billion in 2004.
There are more than 300 gaming companies in the United States, according to GameRecruiter.com, a Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based company that helps game publishers find qualified job candidates. This exploding market is ripe with employment prospects for individuals with the right skill sets and ambitions. However, entering the ranks of game developers and programmers isn’t as easy as vaporizing animated space invaders or keeping tabs on a virtual family of your making.
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