Employment for many information technology (IT) professionals is expected to increase quickly through 2029. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects annual employment growth of 11 percent for computer and IT careers. Here’s a breakdown of expected growth and available new jobs through 2029 for some popular IT careers:
- Information Security Analysts: +31 percent, +40,900 jobs
- Software Developers: +22 percent, +316,000 jobs
- Computer and Information Research Scientists: +15 percent, +5,000 jobs
- Database Administrators: +10 percent, +12,800 jobs
- Web Developers: +8 percent, +14,000 jobs
- Computer Support Specialists: +8 percent, +67,300 jobs
- Computer Systems Analysts: +7 percent, +46,600 jobs
- Computer Network Architects: +5 percent, +8,000 jobs
- Network and Computer Systems Administrators: +4 percent, +16,000 jobs
Driving this growth are several factors: increased adoption and utilization of technology by business and individuals; expanding use of cloud computing, artificial intelligence, and virtual/augmented/mixed reality; concerns about computer security; growing use of mobile computing devices, and the increasing role of information technology in health care, financial services, and other industries.
The International Data Corporation, (IDC) an American market research, analysis, and advisory firm, predicts steadily growing demand for software, citing increasing interest in collaborative tools, green information technology, e-commerce, and mobile applications. Consumers in the U.S. spent $35.4 billion on video game content in 2019, according to the Entertainment Software Association. Total U.S. e-commerce sales reached $514.8 billion in 2018, according to eMarketer, up from $449.8 billion in 2017. Falling prices of computer hardware and software should continue to encourage more people to use technology and more businesses to expand computerized operations and integrate new technologies. To maintain a competitive edge and operate more cost-effectively, firms will continue to demand computer professionals who are knowledgeable about the latest technologies and can apply them to the needs of businesses.
The information technology industry experienced a small drop in revenue in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. Business lockdowns and work-from-home orders had some companies scale back their budgets in the technology sector. The rollout of COVID-19 vaccine in 2021 and economic recovery will lead to more growth in the information technology industry, according to a report by the Computing Technology Industry Association. The global information technology industry is expected to reach $5 trillion in 2021, which will represent 4.2 percent growth compared to 2020. This will be a return to the growth rate the industry had been experiencing prior to the pandemic. Growth is expected to continue at a rate of 5 percent annually through 2024.
In post-pandemic times, more people will be using technology in more parts of their life than ever before, according to a Pew Research Center study. From telework and virtual schooling to telemedicine, e-commerce, and more, the study predicts that by 2025, "there will be more people working from home, reconfigured work spaces, more virtual social and entertainment interactions, and fewer forays in public than in 2020." This will be a new focus by society on technology companies' power and performance. Moving forward, the expanding integration of Internet technologies, especially for wireless and handheld devices, has resulted in a rising demand for a variety of skilled professionals who can develop and support Internet, intranet, and World Wide Web applications. Growth in these areas is expected to create strong demand for computer scientists, engineers, and systems analysts who are knowledgeable about networks, data, and communications security.
In its 2021 Salary Guide for Technology Professionals, Robert Half Technology identified the following careers as “critical technology roles” (in which job demand was very strong):
- artificial intelligence/machine learning specialists
- business intelligence analysts
- cloud architects
- cybersecurity and data privacy experts
- data analytics and reporting professionals
- data scientists
- developers (database, full-stack, web, software, mobile)
- engineers (cloud, data, DevOps, network security, software)
- help desk and user support professionals
- information technology administrators (database, network, systems).
Robert Half Technology also predicts that, in addition to growth in the technology sector, demand for IT workers will be especially strong in the following industries:
- health care: due to a need to invest in telemedicine, as well as use artificial intelligence (AI), data analytics, cloud computing, augmented reality (AR), and mixed reality (MR) to modernize their operations, improve the bottom line, and provide better or more innovative care to patients
- financial services: which needs experts in AI, machine learning, blockchain, business development, and application programming interface development
- government agencies (at all levels): to upgrade outdated infrastructure, manage digital transformation efforts (including cloud migration), and “offer a more personalized experience to the citizens they serve”
- manufacturing and distribution: because of the need to modernize and automate production processes and the need to introduce and/or expand the use of advanced analytics, AI, robotics, AR, and the Internet of Things.
Cloud computing, which provides products and services as needed via the Internet, has caught on with many businesses and organizations. More than 90 percent of U.S. firms use some form of cloud computing, according to CompTIA, a nonprofit industry trade association. More than 60 percent of those companies reported that cloud components represent at least one-third of their overall information technology architecture. Use of cloud computing is expected to grow quickly in coming years. IDC reports that the worldwide public cloud services market reached $233.4 billion in 2019—up from $160 billion in 2018 and $45.7 billion in 2013. The market is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 22.5 percent through 2022. Although this is anticipated to create an overall rise in demand for IT workers, it may also result in a shift as work previously done by internal IT departments is assigned to cloud vendors.
Computer security is also expected to drive future employment growth. In 2018, more than 2 million cyber incidents occurred, resulting in more than $45 billion in losses, according to the Internet Society’s Online Trust Alliance. Employment of information security analysts is expected to grow by 31 percent from 2019 to 2029, according to the DOL. “Organizations across industries like finance, retail, and education are looking for skilled professionals to design and implement comprehensive information security that covers a wide range of business security priorities,” advises Peninsula Press, a project of the Stanford Journalism Program. Security software such as antivirus programs, firewalls, and other malware detection systems will be in steady demand and require regular updating to keep pace with new types of cyberattacks.
Another strong sub sector is "Big Data." Today, our every keystroke, Facebook “like,” credit card purchase, and many of our offline activities are being collected and analyzed by data analytics firms to help companies sell more products and services to customers. Businesses are using data analytics to assess employee productivity, and government agencies are using analytics to study crime patterns, predict threats of terrorism, and improve the delivery of services to citizens. The Washington Post reports that “it will take an estimated two million new computer scientists, mathematicians, engineers, and statisticians to sort through the cacophony of data.”
The demand for data analytics professionals is prompting renewed interest in the study of statistics. The number of degrees awarded in statistics at the undergraduate level grew by 42 percent from 2014–15 to 2017–18, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Another promising aspect of this trend is that it will result in more women entering the IT industry. Nearly 44 percent of degrees in statistics were awarded to women in 2017–18—a percentage that is much higher than the average for other STEM-related majors.
Employment opportunities in the computer industry are numerous and varied. Flexibility is key because as the industry shifts into new, unexplored areas, computer professionals have to shift as well. In addition, many computer professionals use certain jobs as springboards to other higher-level jobs. For example, few professionals want to work in technical support long term, but many start there to get a foot in the company's door in order to be first in line for any internal positions that open up.
Advanced software capable of writing basic code has eliminated some jobs, and other programming jobs are at risk of being outsourced to other countries. Three traits are essential to aspiring computer professionals: determination to keep up with the latest technology, flexibility, and formal education. Of course, a solid understanding of computer basics is required as well. However, the technology of today will be obsolete in months, if not weeks, and only those individuals who strive to be on the cutting edge will have long-term growth potential.