Editor's Desk

Vertical Limit

Tech workers span the spectrum of industry, from fast food to furniture.

Knowing the future looks bright for our jobs and that growth is possible can be a great comfort. (I once worked for a firm that sold parts for mechanical cash registers; I wouldn’t want to be there anymore.)

For that reason, I’m going to share some interesting data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Eight of 10 of the fastest growing occupations between 2000 and 2010 will be computer related, in this order: software engineers, applications; support specialists; software engineers, systems software; systems administrators; systems and communications analysts; desktop publishers; database administrators; computer systems analysts.

Of course, by sheer number, fields like fast food and customer service will offer more jobs over the decade; but, overall, the 2,825,870 of you in IT will grow to be about 3,900,000 by 2010. (That number also encompasses about 95,000 people who work in the math trades, but it’s small enough that I’ll ignore it.)

What’s just as intriguing to me is examining what industries you work for. According to 2001 numbers for all computer jobs, insurance carriers employ 119,170 of you. Health services has 67,220. Air transportation has hired 14,170 computer specialists. Food stores employ 7,030 of you. Museums and the like employ 1,050 of you. Exactly 210 of you work in the metal mining business.

Drilling down specifically on jobs for network and computer systems administrators, 40 of you work for furniture and fixture companies. A hundred of you work for railroad transportation firms. Another 320 of you work in the real estate field.

In the past I’ve tended to group all network admins as if you do the same job; but the fact is, you probably don’t. I stood in line for a bus at a conference recently and talked to a woman who managed the network for a gravel company in the Midwest. She said their biggest challenge is keeping communications lines open because the blasts and heavy equipment use that took place at all the different quarries played havoc on wire. She came to the conference to seek some pretty specific solutions; an enhanced Active Directory wasn’t going to fix her work-related headaches.

Microsoft has begun tackling some of the largest vertical segments—financial services and healthcare—with specific product lines. I’d like MCP Magazine to start doing the same, but not necessarily just for the biggest segments. The problem is, I don’t know what it is you need to get your jobs done. Would it be useful to get all 250 of you who work for auto dealers and gas station companies together online, on a conference call or in the same room, to share your unique challenges? Is there something unique about the industry you’re in that you don’t think anybody else faces? I’d like to hear about it at dian.schaffhauser@mcpmag.com.

And if you’re pondering a move to a new industry, you might want to check out your prospects first with the Bureau of Labor Statistics. You can find it online at www.bls.gov.

About the Author

Dian L. Schaffhauser is a freelance writer based in Northern California.

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Reader Comments:

Sat, Mar 1, 2003 tom Anonymous

The individual ratings didn't seem to add up to 3 1/2 stars, so I calculated the average myself: Before this rating, a total of 17 ratings (of which 10 were 1 star) yielded 34 points - exactly 2 stars on average. In order to get to better than 3 1/2 stars, Dian apparently spotted herself 20 5-star ratings (134/37 = 3.62). Who are you trying to fool, Dian? Your readers, your boss, your coworkers, or yourself? If you want good scores, write good articles - with insight and multiple sources. By the way, how many of the visible 5-stars are yours under psuedonym? Dian, I nominate you for MPC - Most Pathetic Columnist.

Sat, Mar 1, 2003 Kevin Chicago

Why is it that Leftists like A-Geek always confuse insults with arguments? Calling names is for the playground, not an intelligent forum (unless, of course, you're afraid of getting beat up on the playground and prefer the anonymity of the internet). The fact is, Reagan's tax cuts plus victory in the Cold War during the 80's set up the prosperity of the 80's and 90's. Remember Carter's Misery Index - Unemployment Rate plus Inflation - running at 22 when Reagan took over? Remember Marxism on the march in Angola, Mozambique, Zambia, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Columbia and Cambodia in the 70's? (I bet that makes you nostalgic, doesn't it?) All Bill Clinton will be remembered for is missing the chance to strangle Al Queda in it's cradle after the initial 1993 WTC attack, ignoring the 1995 discovery of a plan to use airliners as guided missiles (operation Bojinka), gutting and making politically correct our intelligence services, and masturbating on a fat chick's face while economic, social and political storm clouds gathered. The internet boom and bust - driven by extremely powerful forces - would have happened under ANY Presidents - even if George W. had gone first and Slick Willie second. And, to get back on the subject of this column, let me say again that Dian Schaffhauser regurgitating a few statistics is a piss poor excuse for journalism for which I would dock points from a high school freshman English student.

Fri, Feb 21, 2003 A-Geek New York

Frank, get real. More tax relief, even for the rich, is going to fix the economy? You weren't around in the '80's, I take it. Our experimentation with Reaganomics back then turned out to be an utter disaster--one which all of us are still paying for today in the form of interest on the billions of dollars added to the national debt.

But, now, here we go again. I guess we just don't learn from our mistakes, do we? Don't tell me you actually buy the nonsense the Bush team is cooking up to justify their hand-outs to the rich.

Our profession requires an ability to think deeply. Those who can do it well have no trouble finding work, even today, except maybe in economically moribund places such as Upstate New York or the sticks of Appalachia. If you use the same thought process to arrive at policital opinions that you do to design an application framework or a database, then that might explain your predicament. Maybe if you got into the habit of thinking a little bit now and then instead of just swallowing the opinions of others without first processing them, you'd find it easier to stay employed.

Thu, Feb 13, 2003 Dana Rothrock Houston, TX

Tech News Reporters are Smarter Overseas.

The obvious lack of intelligent Tech News Reporters in the United States must be corrected immediately by adding the Tech News Reporter job category to all H-1B, TN, and L-1 visa programs lest we fall behind in the global marketplace of idiotic reporting.

Thu, Feb 13, 2003 JohnK PA

I undertand that a lot of the US engineers are angry and are looking at the H1 visas as unessesary evil. I agree that that the programm has to be enforced and monitored. (BTW to get H1 you have to prove that there is no US candidate with your skills) In many cases the H1 programm is good for US economy and US citizens since it imports only talanted and skilled engineers fom all over the world that pay great ammount of taxes and work very hard so that if you are left without a job you can collect benefits and go on training paid by the H1 holders.
Now, please answer yourself the question: Would you rather have the vast majority of programming, IT support, Data Centers and manifacturing be outsourced to other countries and NO TAXES will be paid to uncle Sam or you would rather have more competition on US soil. May I remaind that this country is built from emigrants (unless you are Native Indian) and it is what it is because of the imported great minds such as Einstain and so many other unknown names.

Thu, Feb 13, 2003 Erik NY

The BLS neglects to mention what's actually happening with the IT industry. I'm not talking about offshoring, outsourcing or H-1b's either...the entire job description is shifting. It used to be enough to be just the "computer guy" locked up in the server room. There are still positions like that, but don't expect any growth in them. New IT jobs require the ability to interface with the customer and blend in with the rest of the corporate culture. IT now requires business smarts, a good attitude and no "I will Not Fix Your Computer" T-shirts @ work. :-)

My empirical observation has been that if you can't adjust to this reality, you'll wind up working for an outsourcer or not working at all. I had my first IT job with an outsourcer, and this was back when the economy was still good. The pay was awful, the hours worse, and I wouldn't expect much advancement unless you can be one of the slick salesmen/project managers.

Hard Truths About IT 2.0:
1. Programming is not a black art anymore. Good programming is, but no business in the world is going to care as long as they have all those spare CPU cycles and RAM sitting around... If you're a pure coder, go work for Microsoft or another software company, because you're gonna get outsourced in the next 5 years.

2. Those who can see the big picture of IT will survive. It's not enough to just keep the systems running. You have to prove to employers that you can actually save them money (or cost them less, at least.)

3. Outsourcing is here to stay. Pick up Computerworld or another one of the "suit" IT magazines. Chase just signed a $5 billion deal with IBM. Other similar megadeals are coming. If you want to stay out of indentured-servitude-land, learn to play nice with the business. :)

4. The high salaries are gone. They're not coming back. Just accept it, and you'll be happy. IT can still provide you a stable living; you just won't be buying new BMWs every year. I'm very happy making a decent salary in a good work environment.

Thu, Feb 13, 2003 Anonymous Colorado

Dian, did you get Gartner's latest article. 45-50% of Canadian / U.S. jobs will be outsourced by 2005. People at my work who are taking courses at technical schools say that Java classes are closing down because they can't get students to take the courses. Most are heading into the medical field. What does that tell you about employees confidence in the American I.T. sector. We have to stop living in "lala" land. Our company is farming out certain projects to India this very month!!! Sorry folks, days are over when corporations value there employees...all that matters now is the bottom line, and keeping share holders happy.

Thu, Feb 13, 2003 Kim Sacramento

The future MIGHT be bright for IT professionals IF congress would change the H-1B law only allow companies to hire nonimmigrants upon showing that no qualified U.S. workers exist. Incredibly, I been unable to find a single congressman who supports this. They overwhelmingly voted to allow employers to hire nonimmigrants in spite of 200 qualified U.S. resumes on their desk. DOL does not comply with their own mission statement on foreign labor certification, and has rubberstamped 500,000 foreign workers since 2000 - at a time when the actual number of jobs has decreased. SEVERAL HUNDRED THOUSAND AMERICAN IT WORKERS are now unemployed thanks to Congress. More info at my "Report to Congress" website:

Thu, Feb 13, 2003 Linda NC

Oh. please. Surely you didn't fall for the government's rosy jobs picture? American IT workers are losing jobs to imported labor and to offshoring. Greedy corporations aren't about to pay American wages when they can get away with paying half or even one third to cheaper foreign labor. The government takes campaign contributions from rich corporations. Then they pass laws to benefit these corporations. Then they release "statistics" to justify their actions. Then they blame Americans for not being smart enough or educated enough or skilled enough to do the jobs and they pass phony education laws. Why not interview some of the unemployed programmers and engineers for your next article?

Wed, Feb 12, 2003 Bob Dallas

Please provide numbers that total. I could not find the 2.8 million IT people you mentioned in paragraph 3 placed into categories of paragraph 4. Paragraph 4 mentions barely over 200,000.

I'm an unemployed programmer in Texas (military veteran also) who cannot get a job where H1-B visa personnel have no problem.

Wed, Feb 12, 2003 Jeremy MD

I took a 50% cut in pay in 2002 after getting layed off in 2001... and had to take a job for which I am grossly overqualified.

I don't know where the Government get's their stats, but they are, from where I'm sitting, way off base. So there are going to be more IT jobs in the future -- where??? I work in healthcare now, and they are so cash strapped they can't afford to hire new people. And with the advent of HIPAA, they are going to have a hard time of things.

The only place I see hiring on the computer job sites are DoD contractors that require the applicants already have clearance. But none of them want to shell out the money to clear any new people if they don't have to. And nobody is paying relocation expenses anymore -- if you can't afford to move to where a job is, too bad -- they have plenty of local people.

And of the jobs that I have seen listed in the paper, most are essentially asking for "super gurus" - people that can program in 10 different languages, know the ins and outs of niche applications, know Unix, NT, Java and .NET -- and be able to leap tall mainframes in a single bound.

So lets look at the breakout between "entry-level" jobs created, and jobs for the average IT guy. Zero growth in both places. And with colleges spitting out "computer science" majors in droves out into the real world, you might as well give up. If you're a computer god, then you might have a chance -- against all the other computer gods.

Oh... as to the number of MCSE's out of work -- find out how many actually have experience. That could be a telling factor.

Heck, even Einstein would have a hard time finding a job -- tho, he'd be part of that 95,000 that is such a small portion they are not even being considered.

Wed, Feb 12, 2003 Anonymous Anonymous

You might want to clarify your material better. I left a job at the 2nd largest insurance carrier in the US. Got out just before they moved all their help desk to Ireland. I am currently working at a large bank that is shipping all their IT to Canada. If your article is meant to imply that these jobs will be available in the states, then I believe you are sadly mistaken.

Wed, Feb 12, 2003 Travis Houston

although the article makes me feel hopeful for the future. I agree with Frank from Indianapolis. It is a bad situation for many laid off IT workers right now.

Wed, Feb 12, 2003 Anonymous Anonymous

Dian avoids the IT unemployment situation in the article. Dian, guess how many MCSEs that are US citizens are out of work right now.

Wed, Feb 12, 2003 Frank Indianapolis

Uh, gee, lemme think for a second.... Wrong!

There is no growth in our beloved IT industry anymore. 1998 is over, it's the year 2003 and there are too many wannbes for not enough jobs. There will be no growth until the economy in this country picks up (Federal tax decrease for everyone, including the "rich" is needed people!) and most of the flybynight certification schools go away. I got laid off last fall and most of the people who were left had less experience than I. And much lower salaries. I have a few leads, but if they don't pan out, it's back to college ASAP.

Thu, Jan 30, 2003 Anonymous Anonymous

Thanks for the industrywide perspective!

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