There are many different ways to categorize the opportunities for work in information technology (IT). Because IT is so important to all businesses, and the focus for an employment sector of its own, IT is and should remain a fertile ground in which to plant and nurture careers for the foreseeable future. That said, let’s try to understand where the best and most abounding opportunities might be found in this field.
It’s Not Always About Money
Legendary 20th century bank robber Willie Sutton is rumored to have responded to the question about why he robbed financial institutions during the depression by saying “Because that’s where the money is.”
Indeed, IT jobs can also offer seemingly stratospheric salaries to certain practitioners. But when you look more closely at who’s getting the big bucks in IT, as it is in most fields of endeavor, those who earn big are usually also those with some combination of high-value attributes (more than one, in fact).
These high-value attributes often include the following:
- Advanced degrees
- Highly developed and high-demand skills
- Strong and impressive work histories of some duration (usually 10 years or more)
- Lots of positive personality traits and soft skills
When looked at from the perspective of “What have these high earners got that I don’t?” the answers can be illuminating and will often explain salary differentials extremely well.
Figuring Out What’s Hot in IT
CompTIA does a lot of work in tracking IT employment and job supply and demand data. The Employment Tracker does a great job of focusing on the IT component of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics monthly jobs report. It also identifies the Top 5 Occupation Job Postings every month, which is a terrific source of information about not just top opportunities, but how they compare to one another.
For the past year and more, the following items have appeared in that Top 5 list:
- Software developer/web developer
- Computer user support specialists
- Computer systems engineers/architects
CompTIA also addresses another white-hot IT employment area nicely through the CyberSeek Cybersecurity Supply/Demand Heat Map. This tool includes a color-coded U.S. map to show where cybersecurity jobs are most likely to be found, provides information about supply (low) and demand (very high), and more.
Among other things, it also indicates a total for cybersecurity job openings at the national level (more than 300,000 at the moment) and provides a Top 9 list of the leading cybersecurity job titles. This, too, provides food for thought and can help drive career planning and job search activities.
Getting from Here to There
The tricky part about finding opportunity on the IT job front is to understand that jumping into a high-demand, high-salary position requires more than waving a magic wand. It’s a good idea to aim high when planning your career ambitions and aspirations. But it’s also unrealistic to think that you can attain such lofty goals quickly or easily. If that were true, there would be little demand for such skills and knowledge anyway.
Thus, figuring out where to start means taking a first step (or series of steps) to lead you where you eventually want to go. Let’s look at what it takes to be a software developer, as an example:
- Basic understanding of computer science and operations
- Knowledge of one or more operating systems, programming languages, development environments and tools
- Useful understanding of code design and system architecture
Each of these sub-requirements can be learned:
- Some or all would benefit from a college degree in computer science (or an equivalent slate of online courses or other reasonable facsimiles), especially operating systems, code design and system architecture.
- Others will benefit from classes, courses, coding academies or boot camps, particularly programming languages and development environments and tools.
- All will benefit profoundly from time spent and effort expended actually developing software and taking that work through its normal lifecycle (requirements analysis, design, implementation, test, deployment and maintenance) with some understanding of how release cycles are planned, scheduled and carried out in the workplace.
Ultimately, this means learning about some kind of job (or family of jobs) that interests you and taking the time to understand what you need to know and be able to do to fill such a position (or positions). Then you can use those job and salary surveys you see in the trade press all the time, the CompTIA tools, and other sources of information, to seek out and find actual and related opportunities.
If you take care of the work involved in figuring out what you must know, learning that material and scoping out the job market for matching positions, the opportunities will present themselves to you, as if by magic. Except, of course, there’s really no magic involved: just a lot of planning, time spent and hard work.
Not sure what IT path is right for you? Take our quiz to find out your IT personality.