Monday, April 23, 2012

Employment Projections for Information Technology, 2010-2020

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Information Technology is one of the fastest growing career clusters. According to estimates by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Information Technology employed 3.7 million people in 2010 and is expected to employ 4.5 million by 2020. Employment in IT occupations is projected to grow by 22 percent between 2010 and 2020—faster than the expected growth rate for all occupations of 14 percent.

Despite the importance of information technology for the American economy, the BLS does not track many detailed occupations in this field. In contrast to the 110 occupations that are tracked in Manufacturing, the BLS tracks just ten very broad "computer occupations." In 2010, the BLS revised the occupation coding system, but did not add any additional detailed computer occupations. The ten broad occupations for which we have employment data and projections are:

IT Occupations Tracked in the
ComputerWorld 2011 Salary Survey
Salaries for Staff and Entry-level Positions
Occupation TitlesBase Salary
and Bonus
2011- 12
Business intelligence analyst$85,715 0.90%
Communications specialist$69,423 1.90%
Computer operator/
Lead computer operator
$58,146 0.90%
Database administrator$95,186 1.90%
Database analyst$83,042 1%
Database architect$114,593 1.90%
Database developer/modeler$103,426 0.30%
E-commerce specialist$97,660 2.20%
Enterprise architect$116,731 0.80%
Help desk/
technical support specialist
$55,622 1.10%
IT/IS technology
/business systems analyst
$84,376 1.40%
Information security specialist$90,596 1.40%
groupware specialist
$98,931 6.10%
Network administrator$63,411 1.40%
Network architect$108,755 3.40%
Network engineer$88,421 3.10%
Programmer/Analyst$79,705 1.80%
Project leader$96,561 1.80%
Quality assurance specialist$82,784 1.50%
Senior systems analyst$98,670 1.50%
Software developer$90,345 1.90%
Software engineer$105,191 3.40%
Storage administrator$82,106 3%
Storage architect/engineer$111,263 4.30%
Systems administrator$75,616 2.70%
Systems analyst$79,689 1.60%
Systems architect$109,007 2.80%
Systems programmer$105,550 1.30%
Technical trainer$67,248 1.70%
Technician$52,722 0.50%
Web developer$76,988 3.30%
Webmaster$70,707 1.10%
Source: ComputerWorld Salary Survey 2012,
  1. Computer and Information Systems Managers
  2. Computer Systems Analysts
  3. Computer Programmers
  4. Software Developers, Applications
  5. Software Developers, Systems Software
  6. Database Administrators
  7. Network and Computer Systems Administrators
  8. Computer Support Specialists
  9. Information Security Analysts, Web Developers, and Computer Network Architects
  10. Computer Occupations, All Other
The ComputerWorld annual salary survey, on the other hand, tracks 31 staff and entry level positions and an additional 20 mid-level and managerial positions. Sources such as this one, which provide data on salaries and the rate at which they are changing, are probably a better guide to choosing a specific career in Information Technology than the BLS data.

Cluster Overview: Expectations for Change, 2010-2020
The BLS projects that computer occupations overall will grow by about 22 percent, faster than average, through 2020. Demand for Database Administrators and Systems Software Developers is projected to rise rapidly, by more than 30 percent. Computer Programmers are expected to have the slowest rate of growth, just 12 percent, perhaps because this occupation is the most susceptible to offshoring.

Although a 22 percent rate of growth seems very promising, it's not necessarily seen this way within the computer industry itself. According to the ComputerWorld write-up on the recent projections,

"The IT employment growth rate projected by the BLS was characterized as "anemic" by Victor Janulaitis, CEO of Janco Associates, a research firm that analyzes IT wage and employment trends.
'When you consider the overall demand for systems and applications in high-growth markets like China and India, [the BLS projections] mean the U.S. will be doing a diminishing portion of the development and implementation work,' said Janulaitis. 'If that's the case, the U.S. will no longer be the leader in IT.'  'The BLS projections are a bad sign for the U.S. IT graduates from universities. Those numbers do not cover the net growth necessary to give all of the graduates jobs,' Janulaitis added.

However, the ComputerWorld article concludes that things may not turn out to be this bad because the computer industry is notoriously difficult to project. The BLS does a much better job of projecting occupations, such as teachers, for example, that change slowly and are heavily dependent on population change. It is much more difficult to foresee what will happen in IT occupations, which can be revolutionized virtually overnight by technological innovation that we cannot currently imagine.

Furthermore, the BLS is not even attempting to project the ways that demand for IT skills is expanding and IT requirements are being integrated into other occupations, particularly those in business, management, science, and engineering. These changes mean that students who graduate with strong IT skills are likely to be among the most employable of all graduates for the foreseeable future. However, in this field as in all others, many routine tasks are being automated or outsourced. Students will need more than basic skills to be successful.

Projections Data: What the BLS tells us about employment
Every two years the BLS releases new national employment projections for over 700 different occupations. The projections include five important pieces of information discussed in this post.
Estimated 2010 employment: The estimated number of jobs or positions in each occupation. (This is a count of positions, not workers; many people have two jobs).
Projected 2020 employment: The estimated number of jobs or positions in each occupation. (A count of positions, not workers; many people have two jobs).
Numeric Change 2010-2020 or "New Jobs:" Most occupations are expected grow by 2020 as employers  create new positions or "new jobs."
Percent Change 2010-2020: The percent increase or decrease in employment over the decade. This information helps us compare the rate of change across jobs of different sizes.
Job Openings 2010-2020: Job opportunities arise in two ways: when employers create new jobs and when workers retire or leave an occupation and need to be replaced by new hires. The BLS projects how many people will be retiring from each occupation over the decade and combines this with the number of new jobs to predict how many "job openings" will become available. Even shrinking occupations have job openings because employers  need to replace some of the people who retire with new worker
Pathways Overview
Although I have just raised a number of doubts about the usefulness of the BLS projections for Information Technology careers, I still want to include a summary of the projections here. They do illustrate the best estimate that BLS experts can make given the data that are currently available, and given that no one has a real window into the future, they may be the best that are possible.

The national system of career clusters divides the Information Technology cluster into three pathways: Information Support Services, Network Systems, and Programming and Software Development.
  • Programming and Software Development is the largest pathway by far, including five occupations tracked by the BLS. In 2010, this pathway employed over 2.1 million people, over a million more than both of the other two pathways together. Programming and Software Development is projected to employ 2.6 million by 2020, an increase of almost half a million. This pathway is also projected to have the greatest number of job openings between 2010 and 2020.
  • Network Systems is projected to be the fastest growing pathway between 2010 and 2020. Network Systems is projected to grow by 26%, increasing employment from 760,000 to  over 950,000 by 2020. 
  • Information Systems only includes two occupations tracked by the BLS, Compute Support Specialists and the catch-all category Computer Occupations, All Other. Computer Support Specialists are projected to be the slowest growing of all of the detailed computer occupations. The "all other" category is barely growing. 
Pathways Employment Overview (in 1000s)

Pathways and Number of Occupations Included Employment 2010Employment 2020New JobsPercent ChangeJob Openings
Information Support Services (2)816.8939.1122.315%321.1
Network Systems Pathway (3)760.3956.5196.226%318.3
Programming and Software Development (5)2,128.52,619.2490.723%819.2
Total (10)3,705.64,514.8809.222%1,458.6

Job Openings and New Jobs
The BLS projects "job openings" for each occupation that arise from the combination of new jobs and the need to replace workers who retire. In total, the Information Technology cluster is projected to add over 800,000 new jobs through 2020, and to have over 1.4 million job openings.  The occupations expected to have the most job openings between 2010 and 2020 are:
  • Computer Support Specialists
  • Computer System Analysts
  • Software Developers, Applications
  • Software Developers, Systems Software, and
  • Network and Computer Systems Administrators

The graph below shows the number of job openings projected for IT occupations.

Complete Listing
The table below gives a complete picture of projected change in the Information Technology career cluster between 2010 and 2020.

Employment Projections (in 1000s)

Pathways and Occupations Included
Employment 2010Employment 2020New JobsPercent ChangeJob Openings
Information Support Services Pathway816.8 939.1 122.3 15%321.1
Computer Occupations, All Other209.7 222 12.3 6%51.6
Computer Support Specialists607.1 717.1 110 18%269.5
Network Systems Pathway760.3 956.5 196.2 26%318.3
Information Security Analysts, Web Developers, and Computer Network Architects302.3 367.9 65.7 22%110.3
Network and Computer Systems Administrators347.2 443.8 96.6 28%155.3
Database Administrators110.8 144.8 33.9 31%52.7
Programming and Software Development Pathway2,128.5 2,619.2 490.7 23%819.2
Computer Programmers363.1 406.8 43.7 12%128.0
Computer and Information Systems Managers307.9 363.7 55.8 18%102.8
Computer Systems Analysts544.4 664.8 120.4 22%222.5
Software Developers, Applications520.8 664.5 143.8 28%197.9
Software Developers, Systems Software392.3 519.4 127.2 32%168