Different Career Paths in Tech
by Bernadette LeeTechnology is everywhere and the tech industry just keeps growing. And with this growth comes more jobs, but it's not just coding and programming. We asked Steven Ostrowski, Director of Corporate Communications at CompTIA (The Computing Technology Industry Association) about lesser-known tech jobs and what's needed to get one.
When we think tech jobs, programming automatically comes to mind. What are other areas that are often overlooked when searching for jobs in the tech industry?
Coding and programming are certainly positions that employers are looking to fill, and offer opportunities for long-term careers. But tech jobs go far beyond that. What happens once the code is written and the program installed?
For every worker who writes code, there are two technology workers in non-coding roles: desktop support, database administration, network configuration, cloud computing, and cyber security, to name a few. These are good paying jobs, often starting out in the $50,000 range and advancing to six-figure salaries.
In Q3 alone U.S. employers – not just tech firms, but companies in all industries – had 600,000-plus openings for security professionals, network administrators, IT project leads, help desk technicians and other technology roles that keep the businesses of America connected and communicating.
There have been a number of news articles detailing the difficulties women have succeeding in the tech industry. Why do you think this is the case?
The industry has done a historically poor job in recruiting women and, among those that do join the workforce, offering them a clear path for advancement and promotion. Steps to achieve success and growth have been less defined in tech than in other industries.
While conversations about creating gender parity in the IT workforce aren’t new, they certainly have become more frequent and prominent in recent years. More companies are realizing that the only way to get great people is to invest in workforce, diversity and social responsibility.
The response to the previous question included data on the gap between open tech positions and people to fil those jobs. On the horizon you have the pending retirement of Baby Boomer generation workers. So if companies are facing a shortage of workers today, one that’s likely to get worse in the coming years, why would you ignore one-half of the pool of prospective employees?
Beyond simply filling job openings, having a more diverse workforce creates a more diverse culture within the company. That’s good for business. Products and services typically aren’t sold to a narrow segment of the populace. Most companies want to reach as broad a customer base as possible. But if everyone within an organization has a similar background – racial, gender, education, etc. – how can they identify with and serve others who don’t fit into those categories?
What are the salary ranges for a tech job? What are the other benefits of pursuing a job in tech?
Beyond the numbers of open positions quoted above, many of these tech jobs come with salaries well above the average annual wage in the private sector. In fact, every state in the union has technology workers earning significantly more than the average private sector worker, according to CompTIA’s Cyberstates 2016 report.
Annualized average wages for U.S. tech industry workers were an estimated $105,400 in 2015. This represented an inflation adjusted increase of approximately $1,200, or 1.2 percent, from 2014. The average tech wage was more than double the average annualized private sector wage of $51,600 in 2015 (104 percent more).
Do you need to have a computer science degree to work in the tech industry? If not, how can you gain the skills needed for the job?
Students aspiring for a career in the IT industry are often presented with an apparent paradox: technology careers represent readily-available and well-paid work, but are gated by the increasingly inaccessible costs of a four-year degree. Thankfully, this is only half-true. More and more, employers are turning to certifications, internships and apprenticeships to identify and hire capable workers.
For students, this skill-focused alternative to traditional four-year degrees may seem counterintuitive, but it’s a pragmatic approach. Skill-specific training comes at a lower price tag than even public universities, and translates directly to expertise used on the job. Showcasing these qualifications on a resume or cover letter also makes it easier for hiring managers to match their needs against applicants’ skills and experiences. As college affordability becomes more challenging and employer demand for tech-savvy staff swells, workers and businesses are looking a combination of other credentials to meet their needs.
A bachelor’s degree has typically served as the first step into a career in tech, but today’s organizations demand a different mix of skills and experiences. Hiring managers and HR staff are increasingly focused on identifying candidates with specific talents, regardless of where they were acquired.
According to CompTIA’s 2015 study, HR Perceptions of IT Training and Certification, 98 percent of HR and hiring managers are willing to consider qualifications outside of college on an applicant’s resume. Even still, a majority of students and parents view a college degree as a necessary credential within the IT industry. College will always be a beneficial opportunity for millions of students to hone their critical thinking and research skills, but skills and experience are the new currency for budding careers in technology.
How do you recommend finding and landing a job in tech if you are just starting out? What if you are switching industries?
Increasingly, employers seek candidates with the right mix of not only technical skills, but also soft skills. According to analysis of IT job posting data, the top soft skills cited by employers include: communications, problem solving, line-of-business experience, project management, and business intelligence skills. Job candidates that strategically convey these skills will be best positioned with hiring employers.
With many emerging technologies a common disconnect with employers is years of experience. For example, an emerging technology may be just a few years old yet an employer will specify in the job posting five-plus years of experience and a laundry list of skills. One way job candidates can overcome this hurdle is to ensure they offset possible shortcomings with work experience with targeted credentials or certifications. CompTIA research confirms that many employers use credentials and certifications as a means to validate IT skills and topic expertise.
You can kick start a career in tech by supplementing academic credentials and degrees with a professional certification from a reputable organization. While a degree provides students with the concepts of technology, employers are looking for some sort of validation that a candidate understand the technologies they’ll be using in the workplace.
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