What Color Is Your Parachute? 2017: A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers

IT Career Outlook

1. Occupations
2. Career Growth
3. Training and Education
4. Where IT Jobs Can Be Found
5. Job Security vs. Career Security

IT is one of the greatest careers you can have. It offers excellent Job opportunities. Professional workers enjoy the best prospects, reflecting continuing demand for higher level skills needed to keep up with changes in technology.

1. Occupations

From programming to system support, most occupations are technical oriented. Technical skills are the foundation in IT occupations. In the following paragraphs, we'll have a brief review on some of common IT occupations. Be aware of that, IT is a changing world. Therefore in IT industry, occupational titles shift rapidly to reflect new developments in technology.

Programmers

Programmers write, test, and maintain the detailed instructions, called programs or software, which computers must follow to perform their functions. These programs tell the computer what to do, such as which information to identify and access, how to process it, and what equipment to use.

Programmers write these commands by breaking down each step into a logical series, converting specifications into a language the computer understands. While some still work with traditional programming languages like COBOL, object-oriented programming languages, such as C++ and Java, computer-aided software engineering (CASE) tools, and artificial intelligence shells now are being used to create and maintain programs.

Programming languages and tools allow portions of code to be reused in programs that require similar routines. Many programmers also customize a package to clients' specific needs or create better packages.

Software engineers

Software engineers must possess strong programming skills, but are more concerned with developing algorithms and analyzing and solving programming problems than with actually writing code. These professionals develop many types of software, including operating systems software, network distribution software, and a variety of applications software.

Computer systems software engineers coordinate the construction and maintenance of a company's computer systems, and plan their future growth. They develop software systems for control and automation in manufacturing, business, and other areas. They research, design, and test operating system software, compilers-software that converts programs for faster processing-and network distribution software.

Computer applications software engineers analyze users' needs and design, create, and modify general computer applications software or specialized utility programs. They analyze user needs and develop software solutions.

Systems analysts

Systems analysts analyze and solve problems in IT systems. They study business, scientific, or engineering data processing problems and design new flows of information.

Systems analysts tie together hardware and software to give an organization the maximum benefit from its investment in machines, personnel, and business processes. To do this, they may design entirely new systems or add a single new software application to harness more of the computer's power. They use data modeling, structured analysis, information engineering, and other methods. Systems analysts prepare charts for programmers to follow for proper coding and also perform cost-benefit analyses to help management evaluate the system. They ensure that the system performs to its specifications and test it thoroughly.

Database administrators

Database administrators determine ways to organize and store data and work with database management systems software. They set up computer databases and test and coordinate changes to them. Because they also may be responsible for design implementation and system security, database administrators often plan and coordinate security measures.

Network or computer systems administrators

Network or computer systems administrators install, configure, and support an organization's LAN, WAN, network segment, or Internet system. They maintain network hardware and software, analyze problems, and monitor the network to ensure availability to system users. Administrators also may plan, coordinate, and implement network security measures. In some organizations, computer security specialists are responsible for the organization's information security.

Network systems and data communications analysts

Network systems and data communications analysts design, test, and evaluate network systems, such as local area networks, wide area networks, and the Internet. They perform network modeling, analysis, and planning and may deal with the interfacing of computer and communications equipment. With the explosive growth of the Internet, this group includes a variety of occupations relating to design, development, and maintenance of websites and their servers.

Computer and information systems managers

Computer and information systems managers direct the work of systems analysts, computer programmers, and other computer-related workers. They analyze the computer and information needs of their organization and determine personnel and equipment requirements. These managers plan and coordinate activities such as the installation and upgrading of hardware and software; programming and systems design; the development of computer networks; and the implementation of Internet and Intranet sites.

Computer and information scientists

Computer and information scientists work as theorists, researchers, or inventors. They apply a higher level of theoretical expertise and innovation and develop solutions to complex problems relating to computer hardware and software.

Computer support specialists

Computer support specialists provide technical assistance, support, and advice to customers and users. This group of occupations includes workers with a variety of titles, such as technical support specialists and help-desk technicians. These troubleshooters interpret problems, and provide technical support for hardware, software, and systems. Support specialists may work either within a company or other organization or directly for a computer hardware and software vendor. They answer phone calls, analyze problems using automated diagnostic programs, and resolve recurrent difficulties encountered by users.

Computer operators

Computer operators provide maintain and support to ensure that computer systems run as efficiently as possible. Depending upon the size of the computer installation, they may work with mainframes, minicomputers, or networks of personal computers. They oversee regular operations and solve problems that surface within the system. Peripheral equipment, such as printers and tape drives, and the console of the computer itself must be correctly accessed and controlled. As errors arise, operators respond by resetting controls or terminating the run. In some establishments, they keep logs of malfunctions, suggest the acquisition of new equipment, or supervise and train other operators or peripheral equipment operators.

Data entry and information processing workers

Data entry and information processing workers transfer information from audio or printed forms to a computer system. Many also manipulate or edit existing data or proofread entries to an existing database. Increasingly, data are entered into computer systems at the point of origin, as in the case of automatic teller machines and sophisticated optical character readers, which scan a document and copy the information to the computer.

Hardware engineers

Computer hardware engineers design, develop, and test computer hardware, such as computer chips, and supervise its manufacture and installation. One of the goals of computer hardware engineering is to design and produce computing devices that function efficiently and economically.

2. Career Growth

IT professionals have great career growth potentials. Given the increasingly widespread use of information technologies and the overall rate of growth expected for the entire industry, most occupations should grow very rapidly, although some much faster than others.

High growth opportunities

As firms continue to install sophisticated computer networks, set up Internet and Intranet sites, and engage in electronic commerce, the most rapid growth will occur among computer specialists such as:

  • Software engineers
  • Systems analysts
  • E-Business application developers
  • Enterprise Database specialists
  • Network and computer systems administrators
  • Computer support specialists
  • IT managers

Rapid growth also is expected among computer hardware engineers. Employment of computer repairers also will grow rapidly due to increasing dependence of business and residential customers on computers and sophisticated office machines.

Slow growth areas

U.S. Department of Labor projected that the employment of programmers should continue to expand, but more slowly than that of other IT occupations, as the proportion of programmers decreases in relation to computer software engineers and other computer specialists.

Employment of administrative support occupations, including data entry and information processing workers, also is expected to grow more slowly than the rest of the industry.

And, as network/Internet environments and automation continue to increase productivity, automated operating packages and robotic equipment should continue to reduce the need for computer operators.

3. Training and Education

Unlike other professional fields such as science and engineering, IT industry counts more on hands-on experiences than formal education. Because of rapid changes in IT, employers often scramble to find workers capable of implementing "hot" new technologies. Continuous training on latest technologies is important for all IT workers.

Although there are no universal educational requirements, a bachelor's degree is usually asked. However, a high school diploma with some self-trained experience would be accepted for entry-level positions. On-the-job training is commonly offered for lower level positions in IT industry.

Programmers commonly hold a bachelor's degree in diversified majors. Some hold a degree in computer science, mathematics, or information systems while others have taken special courses in computer programming to supplement their study in fields such as accounting, inventory control, or other areas of business. Because employers' needs are so varied, a 2-year degree or certificate may be sufficient for some positions so long as applicants possess the right technical skills.

Most computer systems analysts and computer engineers, on the other hand, usually have a bachelor's or higher degree and work experience. Many hold advanced degrees in technical fields or a master's degree in business administration (MBA) with a concentration in information systems, and are specialists in their fields.

For systems analyst, programmer-analyst, or even database administrator positions, many employers seek applicants who have a bachelor's degree in computer science, information science, or management information systems (MIS).

Computer and information systems managers usually require a bachelor's degree in a computer-related occupation combined with work experience. Employers, though, often prefer a graduate degree, especially a master's degree in business administration (MBA) with technology as a core component.

Voluntary certification is available through organizations such as the Institute of Certification and Computing Professionals (ICCP) and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Computer Society. All leading vendors offer certification programs on their products and technologies. Although professional certification is not mandatory, it provides a jobseeker a competitive advantage.

The size of the firm and the local demand for workers also may influence training requirements for specific jobs. Smaller firms may be willing to train informally on the job, whereas larger organizations may pay for formal training or higher education.

4. Where IT Jobs Can Be Found

IT is everywhere. In North America, from coast to coast, from small town to major metropolitan area, from home-based shop to big corporation, near or far away, there is one for you.

Geographically IT job opportunities are more concentrated in major metropolitan areas including:

  • San Francisco / Silicon Valley / Northern California
  • Southern California / Los Angeles
  • Seattle / Portland / Pacific Northwest
  • Washington, D.C. / Baltimore
  • New York City
  • Boston metropolitan area
  • Chicago
  • Atlanta
  • Texas - Dallas and Houston
  • Florida - Miami and Tampa
  • Greater Phoenix, AZ area
  • Minneapolis and St. Paul

However, if you don't like big city atmosphere, you don't have to relocate in order to get an IT job. No mater where you live, there are plenty IT works in town. With some efforts, you can even find an ideal IT job in your neighborhood community, and walk to work.

5. Job Security vs. Career Security

Job security is what we all love, and we are missing nowadays. Look back a few decades, our fathers used to work the same job in the same company till retirement. Then they were usually honored by a gold watch and certainly enjoyed pension paychecks for life time. That's what so called job security, it is a sweet thing.

Is there job security in IT career? You'd better not count on it. In such a dynamic industry, for sure you are not going to work the same job with one company for long. Looking around you'll see all the moves - startups, re-orgs, merges, lay-offs that all would impact your career. In fact, most IT professionals work for small companies where stability is a question. Even with well established giant firms, job security is not assured. Unlike traditional industries, IT world never adopted such a culture.

Is there still job security around, anyway? Yes, if that's what you are looking for, there are two areas to go. One is public sector - federal jobs, state jobs, and local government jobs offer much better job security than private sectors. The other area is a few well established traditional big corporations. For instance, Harley-Davison is a good one.

As for IT, no job security, period.

However, don't be discouraged and scared. Forget about job security. Here you can build a better thing, more solid, more secure, more profitable, - career security. While you may not always keep your job, you can certainly find another one, a better one. You are not secured by your job but secured by a successful IT career.

Having career security, you are no longer afraid of losing job, lay-offs, company re-orgs, and economy slow-downs. Career security does not security a specific job, but can secure your paycheck.

But, career security is not granted by the IT industry. You must build it, and of cause, first know how. That's what this book is for. Our book reveals the roadmap toward a successful IT career that secures your life professionally, finically, and emotionally. What we are offering you is a solid package of practical action guide. With all these proven strategies and tactics, you'll achieve the IT career success you deserve.