By Scott Morris
If you’re looking at options for escaping a job you hate, a career you’ve outgrown, or an industry that’s losing its relevance, you might notice that learning tech skills are a beacon of light against an otherwise dreary, uninspiring landscape.
The amount of training you’ll need in order to break into tech can literally be completed in a matter of months, and it can all be done from your own home (or favorite cafe, or local library, or co-working space, or anywhere else where you can access the Internet). That’s a far cry from spending years going to back to school for a conventional degree or certification and trying to cram in-person classes into the rest of your busy schedule—a prospect that’s liable to make you depressed just thinking about it.
But regardless of how convenient it is to learn tech skills and the potential rewards in terms of salary and flexibility once you’ve learned them, it’s still going to be an investment. Sure, it’s not as daunting timewise as going back to a physical school for a multi-year degree (or anywhere near as expensive), but it will require your valuable time and money, so it’s only natural to wonder—is it really worth it?
Tech is a relatively new industry and one that’s constantly changing—will the jobs you’ll be training for now even exist tomorrow? Or is this whole tech thing just a blip on the radar?
The Numbers Don’t Lie
Data directly from the Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts that tech will continue to be an employment juggernaut, well into the next decade. In listing occupations with the most job growth between now and 2026, the BLS has software/application developers slotted fifth (with a 24% growth projection) behind personal care aides, food service workers, registered nurses, and home health aides.
That’s even more impressive when you look at where the 2016 median annual wage stacks up for developers. At $100,080, median developer salaries are the highest of those top five growth jobs (followed by registered nurses at $68,450), and only one job on the list of 30 occupations beats developers’ median salaries (financial managers at $121,750). Now those are some numbers I can really get behind!
Ground Reports Are Positive
While crunching the numbers is an important part of any decision to invest, it’s also vital to talk to the people on the ground. What do real-life tech employers and professionals see when it comes to job growth?
Ryan Sylvia, Managing Director at LABUR LLC, has a big picture perspective on the issue, based not only on projections for the future but also from past experience. Sylvia’s company LABUR got its start right in the middle of the 2007-2008 recession, and so—Sylvia says—while their company continues to witness job growth today, first hand, they’ve also seen how durable an industry tech can be during bleak economic times.
“We had to make a steep climb to get out of some pretty harsh unemployment rates,” Sylvia says, “but even when the demand in other industries and for other skill sets is down, there’s still a need for people with tech skills in companies that are optimizing their technologies.”
Sylvia’s experience confirms what the BLS has to say about tech job growth. Technology has long since stopped being specific to tech companies, and since every company from mom and pop businesses, to multinational corporations, to public agencies and institutions have online presences and technology needs, opportunities for tech professionals are ubiquitous throughout the workforce.
The BLS cites an increase in digital healthcare platforms, a growing number of consumer products that rely on computer and software systems, and an ongoing demand for computer security software, as examples of consistently increasing growth opportunities that are embedded into business needs—regardless of overall economic upticks or downturns. Tech truly is every industry!
Dasha Moore, Chief Operating Officer, and Founder at Solodev, has also seen job growth consistent with the BLS forecast. Moore is in charge of hiring web developers for her company, and she doesn’t see these jobs drying up anytime soon. While Moore says she often hears concerns about future web and software development jobs being outsourced, her own experience with hiring trends suggests this simply isn’t true.
“Here in Central Florida,” Moore says, “we’re seeing an explosion of new tech startups and major investments being made in our area. This is a great sign for our whole economy now and in the future.”
But for Moore, tech job growth isn’t just a matter of multiplying existing jobs—as tech and its business applications continue to evolve, new opportunities arise and bring even more jobs to the market. Moore identities MarTech (marketing technology—the blending of traditional marketing with emerging technologies) as an example of a growth sector that will create more jobs in the coming years, providing further job security and employment opportunities for people with tech skills.
“MarTech is expanding beyond websites, content creation, and paid media management, and increasingly moving toward digital experience personalization,” Moore says. This growing trend of providing finely-tuned marketing experiences based on individual consumers’ interests is dependent on people who can apply the data technologies that make it possible, pointing to even more tech and tech-adjacent jobs on the horizon.
Future-Proofing is Possible
With all these projections about the future job market, you might be wondering if the tech skills you learn today will still be relevant a few years from now. Does continuous growth and evolution mean you’ll be left out in the cold if you don’t predict the exact right skills to specialize in?
“Nothing is more important in the field than staying up to date,” Sylvia says. “The best tech professionals are the ones who have a core skill set, but who are always getting more certifications or taking classes to learn the new stuff, too.” And remember—continuing to learn doesn’t have to involve reinventing the wheel each time. Once you’ve gotten a handle on a few programming languages, nailed down basic design fundamentals, and mastered some key software suites, you’ll have your tech legs under you, which means learning more skills is only a matter of adding additional nuances to the solid foundation you’ve already built.
Moore adds that—in addition to a passion for technology and an understanding of programming languages—leadership, effective communication, and strong analytical skills are all key qualities that add to a “future proof” hiring package.
“Proven capabilities and development in soft skills show a hiring manager or a company leader that you can be entrusted with more responsibilities beyond just coding,” Moore says. Meanwhile, analytical skills remain crucial to getting hired, since executives like Moore “need people who can tell them what the machines can’t.”
Your ability to not only use technology but to analyze the data it yields will go a long way in keeping your tech skills relevant, making sure you’re equipped to ride the wave of tech job growth.
It’s clear—when it comes to the tech job market, growth isn’t just happening, it’s going to keep happening. Which means that if you’re ready for a meaningful career change, now’s the time to start building your own foundational tech skills and putting yourself into position to become a lifelong technology learner.
The bets are in, and the smart money’s on tech jobs in 2018…and beyond!