The global market demands highly efficient communications, and time-to market pressures require ever-greater efficiency; rapidly changing customer requirements demand organizations that can react quickly. And as levels of management are downsized and workers' responsibilities increase, they need more information, and they need it faster to help the organization compete. This distribution of information has resulted in an unprecedented dependence on information systems.
From 1984 to 1994, the number of computer jobs grew 150%.7 The sector is expected to grow another 150% in the next eight years.7 There are more that 190,000 unfilled Information Technology positions nationwide, and the need for computer specialist will increase 91% by 2005.7 Worldwide revenue for Information Technology professional services was $118 billion in 1995 and is projected to grow at 16.9% to $258 billion by 2000.6 A recent study by the Information Technology Association of America reveals 346,000 IT jobs are currently vacant in U.S. companies, leaving 1 in 10 jobs unfilled.9 The U.S. Commerce Department's Office of Technology Policy report, America's New Deficit: The Shortage of Information Technology Workers, indicates between 1996 and 2006, more than 1.3 million new systems analysts, computer scientists, engineers, and programmers will be required to meet industry's demands.3
The demand for "networking" to facilitate the sharing of information, the expansion of client/server environments, and the need for specialists to use their knowledge and skills in a problem solving capacity will be a major factor in the rising demand for systems analysts.2 Falling prices of computer hardware and software should continue to induce more businesses to expand computerized operations and integrate new technologies. In order 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 able to apply them to meet the needs of businesses.
Employment of computing professionals is expected to increase much faster than average as technology becomes more sophisticated and organizations continue to adopt and integrate these technologies, making for plentiful job openings. Growth will be driven by very rapid growth in computer and data processing services, which is projected to be the fastest growing industry.
New growth areas generally arise from the development of new technologies. Therefore, it is important for computer professionals at all levels to keep their skills up to date. The expanding integration of Internet technologies by businesses, for example, has resulted in a rising demand for a variety of skilled professionals who can develop and support Internet, Intranet, and World Wide Web applications.10 Growth in these areas is also expected to create demand for computer scientists, computer engineers, and systems analysts knowledgeable about network, data and communications security.
System analysts perform many services including customized computer programming services and applications and systems software design; the design, development, and production of prepackaged computer software; systems integration, networking, and reengineering services; data processing and preparation services; information retrieval services including on-line data bases and Internet services; on-site computer facilities management; the development and management of data bases; and a variety of specialized consulting services. Many work for government agencies, manufacturers of computer and related electronic equipment, insurance companies, financial institutions, and universities.8
Since employers look for the most qualified applicants possessing a high level of technical expertise, individuals with an advanced degree in computer science, management information systems (MIS), computer engineering, or an MBA with a concentration in information systems should enjoy very favorable employment prospects.4 College graduates with a bachelor's degree in computer science, computer engineering, information science, or information systems should also enjoy very favorable prospects, particularly if they have supplemented their formal education with some level of practical experience. College graduates with non-computer science majors who have had courses in computer programming, systems analysis, and other data processing areas, as well as training or experience in an applied field, should also be able to find jobs as computer professionals. Those who are familiar with client/server environments, CASE tools and object-oriented programming, Internet, Intranet, and multimedia technology will have an even greater advantage, as will individuals with significant networking, database, and systems experience. Employers will continue to seek computer professionals who can combine strong programming and traditional systems analysis skills with good interpersonal and business skills.5
Regardless of college major, employers generally look for people who are familiar with programming languages and have broad knowledge of and experience with computer systems and technologies, strong problem-solving and analysis skills, and good interpersonal skills. Courses in computer programming or systems design offer good preparation for a job in this field. For jobs in a business environment, employers usually want systems analysts to have a background in business management or a closely related field, while a background in the physical sciences, applied mathematics, or engineering is preferred for work in scientifically oriented organizations.7 Since employers generally look for experience, entry-level employees enhance their employment opportunities by participating in internship or co-op programs offered through their schools. A related background in the industry in which the job is located, such as financial services, banking, or accounting, can also give an applicant an edge.
Systems analysts must be able to think logically and have good communication skills. They often deal with a number of tasks simultaneously; the ability to concentrate and pay close attention to detail is important. Although many computer specialists sometimes work independently, they often work in teams on large projects. They must be able to communicate effectively with computer personnel, such as programmers and managers, as well as with users or other staff who may have no technical computer background.
Systems analysts normally work in offices and usually work about 40 hours a week.1 However, evening or weekend work may be necessary to meet deadlines or solve specific problems.8 Given the technology available today, telecommuting is becoming more common for computer professionals.6 More work, including technical support, can be done from remote locations using modems, laptops, electronic mail, and even through the Internet. An average income in the Information Technology industry is $46,000.4 Like other workers who spend long periods of time in front of a computer terminal typing on a keyboard, systems analysts are susceptible to eye strain, back discomfort, and hand and wrist problems such as carpal tunnel syndrome or cumulative trauma disorder.2
The competition in this market includes other Oklahoma Management Information System majors, highly skilled workers with hands-on experience, and also highly skilled foreign workers. The number of Information Technology graduates who are U.S. citizens is declining; of 2600 Information Technology graduate degrees awarded in 1995, more than 1000 were to foreign nationals.9 The number of university degrees awarded in computer and information technology sciences has been falling since the mid-eighty's.9 Computer consulting companies are also taking steps to ensure that they have skilled workers, even if that means recruiting foreign workers. The Senate committee approved a bill to raise the number of "H-1B" visas, which allow foreign high-skilled workers to remain in the United States for up to six years.9 Computer companies argue that the shortage of available talent would dampen the industry's explosive growth. Information System enrollments plunged 50% in the last decade.3
The Information Technology marketplace for the foreseeable future will experience dramatic growth. For Information Technology providers and consumers, the challenge is to develop effective--and cost-effective--strategies to locate and develop the resources needed to keep the "Information Revolution" prospering.
1. Callaway, Erin. (1998, February). IT openings: All may apply, Will training programs produce people that IT managers want to hire? On-line. Available: http://www.zdnet.com/pcweek/news/0223/23jobs.html.
2. College Grad. Your Career in Information Technology Consulting. On-line. Available: http://www.collegegrad.com/jobs.
3. Department of Commerce. (1998).
America's New Deficit: The Shortage of Information Technology Workers.
Washington, DC: Office of Technology Policy.
4. Gibbins, Bob, "Internet business growing faster than economy," Tahlequah Daily Press, 15 April 1998, A1.
5. Kane, Margaret. (1997, February). Salaries for IS professionals soar amid shortages. On-line. Available: http://www.zdnet.com/pcweek/news/1229/29mcio.html.
6. News and World Report Inc. Computer Engineering. On-line. Available: http://www.usnews.com/usnews/edu/beyond/bcchot6.htm.
7. News and World Report Inc. The Fastest Growing Occupations: 1994 to 2005. On-line. Available: http://www4.usnews.com/usnews/edu/beyond/bccfast1.htm.
8. News and World Report Inc. Find Your Career. On-line. Available: http://www.usnews.com/usnews/edu/beyond/bcchot.htm.
9. Peterson, Robert, & Forcier, James. (1998, April). The Economics of the Information Technology Worker Shortage. On-line. Available: http://www.itaa.org/workforce/resources/a19980425.htm.
10. Sullivan, Eamonn. (1998, January). A good systems professional is hard to find. On-line. Available: http://www.zdnet.com/zdnn/content/pcwo/0109/269721.html.