Thursday, July 27, 2006

Information Technology Jobs

For many years it seems that everyone has been gushing about how great jobs in information technology are. On the surface this idea still has truth to it. If you want to always be able to find work, IT is the industry. Now, before everyone freaks out about that last statement, I have to say that you'll always be able to find work, but it might not be that great. Let me explain.

We've all heard about the high paying software engineer jobs. An experienced programmer with good credentials can potentially make into six figures. IT managers are also up there, especially CIO's (Chief Information Officers). There is definitely money to be made in this business.

The problem lies in the fact that there aren't that many of those high paying jobs to go around. The ones that are out there are not often advertised. The best jobs in any industry are typically filled by word of mouth and networking without even having been put into an advertisement. There is a huge amount of competition for fleeting opportunities.

There are other good jobs in IT that pay relatively well, but salaries (and raises) have taken a dive in the past few years in technical jobs due to outsourcing and downsizing and other economic factors. You can still make a decent living as a programmer, system administrator or in IT management if you find your niche.

There is an abundance of IT jobs that are relatively thankless and menial, though. I know this is another controversial statement, but if you're a lab tech or work at a helpdesk, I'm sorry. The truth of the matter is that these jobs DO tend to be stressful, low-paying and lacking in any sort of gratitude on the part of many of the users you serve.

Be assured that that may be a problem no matter how high up the tech ladder climb. Believe it or not, in many companies technology is still not fully understood or appreciated. Upper management may have a difficult time understanding how their technology staff adds real dollars and cents value to their organization. Their awareness of the value of their technical people is kind of like that of the clueless car owner who realizes the need to change the engine oil only after the engine seizes up.

Another thing to consider about technology jobs is that most people employed in this sector are always playing catch up. That is, technology is always advancing and you have to keep up with it or get left behind. At the pace of today's changes, this is a difficult task. Tech types have to be willing and even eager to absorb new knowledge as it becomes available.

With all of this in mind, is it all worth it? Declining matriculation rates in Computer Science programs at US colleges seem to be telling us that many are now saying no. Still, there will be many opportunities for those who do choose this field. If you want to get into information technology or move up the ladder in the field, knowledge is the key.

Having impressive credentials certainly helps get you in the door, but knowing your way around current technology and being able to hit the ground running is key. Be prepared to know your stuff and above all, have a lust for learning new technology and you'll do well.

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