FBL Financial Group's Horton began as a programmer but needed to change skills to keep up with technology. Today, he helps map out systems used by FBL Financial. "The days of being a lifetime programmer went away quite awhile ago," Horton says.
Ken Brucker has been out of work for two years, a victim of the dot-com bust, and wouldn't mind taking a job at less than the $60,000 a year he earned in his last post as a software-quality-assurance engineer. "I was just one of the people that rode the edge of the IT bubble when the market washed out," he says. Living in a back room of his mother's San Diego home, Brucker, 39, believes the longer he goes without finding a full-time job, the less attractive he'll be to prospective employers, despite a resumé that includes a number of software-assurance jobs dating back to 1994.
For the unemployed--and the employed, as well--additional training could prove beneficial. However, from a compensation perspective, getting certified in a specific technology doesn't always pay off. While 40% of staff respondents say they hold Microsoft Certified Professional certificates, only 3% of those surveyed say they received a bonus for being certified in a specific technology or product. That, of course, doesn't account for the base pay many IT pros receive because they hold certifications. "Rightly or wrongly, companies place a value on certification, and it will up your salary within a five-year period by as much as 50%," Meta Group's Schafer says.
Chasing a graduate degree might help land a better job or get a higher salary than pursuing a certification. "There's a glut of certifications, so I decided to go to graduate school and be different," says Capital One's Valdez, who's working on a master's degree specializing in information security at Capella University.
Maybe the biggest challenge of all is seeing things in the right perspective.
-- with Chris Murphy
Illustration by Gordon Studer