As technology continues to automate, accelerate, and connect the global marketplace, the importance of the IT specialist's role cannot be overstated. Never mind that hundreds of dot-coms have vanished or downsized in the last year and a half - information technology continues to remain at the forefront of the U.S. economy. Who hires IT specialists? Everyone - IT crosses almost every public and private sector: major corporations, the Government (particularly the Department of Defense - the largest employer of the IT workforce), small business, non-profits, etc. With roughly 1.6 million IT openings, and only about 40,000 students graduating from technology-related fields each year, one job in every dozen will be vacant this year, according to a recent study by the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA).
But don't expect a return to the boom-time mentality anytime soon. Many IT specialists say the down turn has provided an appreciation for job stability, benefits, and solid retirement plans. Accordingly, despite lower salaries, many IT specialists have turned to yesterday's less-than-glamorous organizations (government, insurance, product distribution, and health care) in this rocky economy.
Life as an IT Consultant:
Though many associate IT with technology companies, businesses in virtually all industries - from nonprofit organizations to investment banks - have an IT staff to remedy everyday computer problems and maintain and upgrade computer systems (in fact, non-technology companies remain the largest employers of IT workers with 9.5 million compared with 900,000 IT workers employed elsewhere). Accordingly, there is no typical "day in the life" of an IT professional. Laid-back, casual work atmospheres and flexible hours are common, but for those accustomed to a more structured, conservative work environment (there are a few out there), corporate giants and law firms hire IT specialists as well. In addition, independent IT consultants are able to strike a unique work/life balance that's difficult to achieve as a full-time employee - a 6-figure income and 8 weeks of vacation a year are possible. However, many independent IT consultants (though certainly not the majority) feel the stress of developing clients and marketing themselves is simply not worth the flexibility.
IT specialists with 1-2 years experience generally earn between $50,000 - $60,000/year (excluding bonuses, profit sharing, etc). As you gain experience, salaries increase gradually, to $100,000+ (again excluding bonuses, etc.). For those of you looking for a little more money, it's certainly available. Chief Technology Officers (CTOs) report an average salary of approximately $140,000 and CTOs with a proven track record can earn as much as $350,000 in base salary at a large company.
MBAs have no place in IT.
While the majority of IT positions require no formal education, MBAs with a technical background can serve as translators between those who formulate business strategy and those who implement the technology that drives it. As more money is invested in IT, upper management expects IT staff to know how to maintain strategic planning, capital budgeting, and economic controls. MBAs with a technical background are in a unique position to serve in that capacity. Accordingly, these hybrids have quickly become hot properties.
The job market for high-level IT executive posts is not going to pick up anytime soon.
The number of new opportunities for those who want to leave their current posts, or for those who hope to move up into the CTO ranks from lower-level IT management jobs will increase in the very near future. In fact, a May 2002 report from the ITAA projects an aggregate demand for IT workers of 1,148,639 in 2002, of which 578,711 positions are expected to go unfilled due to a lack of qualified workers.