Learn Or Be Left Behind
IT pays well, but it's unforgiving for pros who let their skills get stagnant. It's a learn-or-be-left-behind profession. Like the bank data analyst who taught himself SQL and SAS, IT pros can't count on their employers to keep them up to date. About half of IT pros in our survey attended company-paid training, and a smaller percentage paid their own way for training (about 15%) and certification courses (6%). Thirty-eight percent of staffers and a third of managers received no training in the past year.
Andrew Young offers a reminder that an IT career requires a mix of skills, timing, and good luck. After Young graduated with an IT degree in 2007, he got a job with Cincinnati-based grocery chain Kroger, working to improve processes using Six Sigma practices. He enjoyed the experience but itched to get more directly involved with technology. We constantly hear CIOs talk about the need for people who understand both business and IT, so Young's Six Sigma experience and IT education would seem to be ideal. But Young had trouble getting back into an IT shop. Part of it was timing: This was 2009 and 2010, when hiring freezes, layoffs, and unpaid time off were de rigueur.
So Young enrolled in 2010 in an IT management master's program, which he's due to finish in June. As soon as he enrolled, employers got more interested in him--including Kroger, which moved him into a business analyst job. Young gets some tuition reimbursement, but only one-fourth of the IT pros who responded to our survey get that benefit. Only one-fifth get reimbursed for certification training.
Few IT pros are clamoring for college coursework. Only 10% of staffers and 7% of managers think taking college-level technology or business courses would be "most useful" to their careers. Fifteen percent of managers think an MBA would be most valuable. By far the most in demand is tech-specific training, sought by 76% of staffers and 54% of managers. Despite employers' great demand for analytics skills, only 6% of staffers or managers see statistics or analytics training as the most useful to their careers.
Whether it's formal coursework or on-the-job training, IT pros know they need to constantly add to and update their knowledge base. Even if IT salaries are up slightly, IT pros can't just wait for the economy to lift their boats amid the forces of automation, cloud computing, and outsourcing. IT is a diverse industry, and there's never been one path to professional success. Roles as diverse as architect, project leader, and information security specialist remain promising, as do those that blend business, technology, and analytical skills. --With Doug Henschen
Biggest IT Paychecks: Wall Street, And San Francisco