IT Education: Moving Beyond Tech Skills
Like journalism or medicine, information technology is a field that demands accuracy. Whether you're a support specialist answering a help line or a high-level manager overseeing an entire computer system, mistakes can have a devastating ripple effect through a department or even a whole organization.
That's why it's critical for job seekers to show they have the required technical skills, and that their knowledge is current. A thorough grasp of the technical is an absolute requirement for any serious IT candidate. But some scholars and employers argue that it's also increasingly important for IT job seekers to develop so-called "soft" skills like communication and problem solving.
A 2007 study sponsored by Boston Area Advanced Technological Education Connections, an organization based at the University of Massachussetts, Boston, draws some interesting conclusions about the skills IT applicants need.
"[O]ne significant finding from our respondents is that certain IT skills that may still be prized as achievements by some schools and students are completely assumed by business," the study's author writes. "In particular, basic user skills and facility with the basics or desktop operating systems are considered in the same way as eating with utensils. No one would think of telling a potential employer they know how to use a knife and fork, yet some students and schools make more of basic IT user skills than appropriate in this day and age."
Workers around the world have the same "knife-and-fork" skill set, they argue, so to stay competitive in the global marketplace, American workers need the soft skills: to be teamwork-oriented, self-motivated problem-solvers with a keen grasp of the larger picture.
This way, they're a vital part of the firm's intellectual capital, which is much harder to outsource. As the report's authors write: "What defines the Information Age is the power of ideas ... Whether it's Boeing or the Boston Symphony, the ability to leverage ideas can make or break the enterprise." And ideas tend to be leveraged in the core of a company's operations.
So how to create a resume that reflects technical as well as analytical skills? Professional experience, recommendations and education all help. Some employers consider college graduates more likely to be well-rounded, broad thinkers. College diplomas aren't required for many IT jobs (especially for technicians, support staff and some lower-level administrators), but they are often preferred, and about half of all applicants for IT jobs have them.
That's according to a recent CareerBuilder survey of more than 2.7 million job applicants. Among its findings: people seeking IT jobs are more likely to have completed college than applicants generally. The survey, which was conducted from January 2009 through September 2011, included 45,941 applicants for IT positions.
Forty-seven percent of these IT job seekers had college degrees, compared to 35 percent of the larger applicant pool. Advanced degrees were also more prevalent among the IT crowd: 15 percent had master's degrees, compared to 10 percent overall.
A second CareerBuilder survey, this one focused on how job seekers fared after submitting their applications, showed similar results. Also conducted from January 2009 to September 2011, the survey polled 842,405 people, including 20,684 IT applicants. They also tended to be better educated than their peers.
For example, among the IT applicants who got interviews, 51 percent had college degrees and 16 percent had master's degrees, compared to 41 percent and 12 percent, respectively, in the overall applicant pool.
Copyright 2012 Sologig