Got a knack for network systems? You're in demand

U.S. jobs forecast details in-demand IT careers

Looking for the hottest IT jobs over the next decade to help keep your career on track?

Then take a look at this week's latest jobs forecast from the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in which five IT jobs were named among the "30 fastest-growing occupations" expected from 2006 through 2016.

Topping the list are network systems and data communications analysts, with an expected 53.4% increase in jobs in the period, from 262,000 jobs in 2006 to 402,000 in 2016.

Fourth on the list are computer software application engineers, with an expected growth rate of 44.6%, from 507,000 jobs in 2006 to 733,000 by 2016.

The other three key IT job growth tracks, based on the forecast, are the following:

  • Computer systems analysts, 29% growth, from 504,000 to 650,000.
  • Database administrators, 28.6% growth, from 119,000 jobs 154,000.
  • Systems software engineers, 28.2% growth, from 350,000 jobs to 449,000.

The forecast, conducted every two years by the bureau, analyzes historical employment trends and includes interviews with industry officials, university administrators and employment experts, as well as additional research to prepare the projections, said Roger Moncarz, a supervisory economist at the BLS Office of Occupational Statistics and Employment Projections.

"A lot goes back to growth in these industries," Moncarz said. "It's really the industry growth that's fueling the [projected] job growth."

Past forecasts have been fairly accurate over the years, Moncarz said. "In terms of the big picture, the fact that there are IT jobs on this list means that there will be demand for these workers over the next decade."

Jim Lanzalotto, vice president of strategy and marketing at Philadelphia-based employment and outsourcing agency Yoh Services LLC, said the BLS forecast confirms what his company has been seeing in the IT marketplace -- healthy continuing demand for certain skills.

What makes the latest projections unusual, Lanzalotto said, is that they come amid uncertainty in the U.S. economy as a whole that has been fueled by the recent mortgage crisis, high energy prices and volatile corporate earnings reports. Because of those problems, many economists and experts were already expecting to see job losses, Lanzalotto said, but they were taken aback when November's nonfarm jobs actually increased by 85,000.

"The expectation was that it was going to be fairly apocalyptic just before the holidays, that we were going to lose all these jobs, but it was not the case," he said. "It was a pleasant surprise."

Instead, Lanzalotto said, the BLS projections indicate expectations based on historical trends and industry needs, and "right now in this marketplace ... the demand continues to be very strong for technology, IT, clinical research and scientific jobs."

While the demand is expected to be there, Lanzalotto said, it's questionable whether there will be skilled IT workers to fill them. "That's the problem," he said, because enrollments have been down in IT programs in colleges and universities due to past IT downturns, such as the dot-com crash of 2000. Those events left many IT workers out of work, and those job losses are still in the minds of college students as they choose their career tracks, he said.

The latest BLS job growth projections also list a variety of non-IT jobs, including personal and home health care aides, 50.6% growth; home health aides, 48.7% growth; veterinary technologists and technicians, 41% growth; personal financial advisers, 41% growth; and medical assistants, 35.4% growth.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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