Innovators Guide

Systems Designer Job Outlook

The computer systems design and related services industry grew dramatically throughout the 1990s, as employment more than doubled. And despite recent job losses in certain sectors, this remains one of the 20 fastest growing industries in the Nation. However, due to increasing productivity and the offshore outsourcing of some services to lower wage foreign countries, employment growth will not be as robust as it was during the last decade. Job opportunities should be favorable for most workers, but the best opportunities will be in professional and related occupations.

Employment change. Wage-and-salary employment is expected to grow 38 percent by the year 2016, compared with only 11 percent growth projected for the entire economy. In addition, this industry will add more than 489,000 jobs over the decade, placing it among the 10 industries with the largest job growth. An increasing reliance on information technology, combined with the falling prices of computers and related hardware, will spur demand for computer systems design and related services. Individuals and organizations will continue to turn to firms in this industry to maximize their return on investments in equipment, and to help them satisfy their growing computing needs. Such needs include a growing reliance on the Internet, faster and more efficient internal and external communication, and the implementation of new technologies and applications.

The computer systems design and related services industry also has seen an increase in the offshore outsourcing of some of the more routine services to lower wage foreign countries as companies strive to remain competitive. For example, firms have been able to cut costs by shifting some support services operations to countries with highly educated workers who have strong technical skills. This trend, however, will adversely affect employment of only certain types of workers, such as programmers and computer support specialists. Other tasks, such as integrating and designing systems, will be insulated from the effects of offshoring.

Given the overall rate of growth expected for the entire industry, most occupations should continue to grow rapidly, although some will grow faster than others. The most rapid growth will occur among network systems and data communications analysts. The growing use of sophisticated computer networks and Internet and intranet sites will increase the demand for their services. Other rapidly growing occupations include computer software engineers, computer systems analysts, and network and computer systems administrators. Employment of programmers should continue to expand, but more slowly than that of other occupations, as more routine programming functions are automated, and as more programming services are offshored.

The demand for networking and the need to integrate new hardware, software, and communications technologies will drive demand for consulting and integration. A need for more customized applications development, and for support and services to assist users, will drive demand for applications development and facilities support services.

Recent events have made society more conscious of the vulnerability of technology and the Internet, and the increasing need for security will spur employment growth in cyberspace security services. Security specialists will be employed more often to asses a system’s vulnerability, and custom programmers and designers will be needed to develop new antivirus software, programs, and procedures. Therefore, employment of analysts and of consultants in areas such as disaster recovery services, custom security programming, and security software installation services should rise rapidly.

The expansion of the Internet and the proliferation “mobile” technologies have also created demand for a wide variety of new products and services. For example, the expansion of the wireless Internet, known as WiFi, brings a new aspect of mobility to information technology by allowing people to stay connected to the Internet anywhere, anytime. As businesses and individuals become more dependent on this new technology, there will be an increased need for “mobility consultants,” or service firms that can design and integrate computer systems, so that they will be compatible with mobile technologies.

The ways in which the Internet is used are constantly changing, along with the products, services, and personnel required to support new applications. E-commerce changed the nature of business transactions, enabling markets to expand and an increasing array of services to be provided. And, as the amount of computer-stored information grows, organizations will continue to look for ways to tap the full potential of their vast stores of data. Demand for an even wider array of services should increase as companies continue to expand their capabilities, integrate new technologies, and develop new applications.

Job prospects. Given the rate at which the computer systems design and related services industry is expected to grow, and the increasing complexity of technology, job opportunities should be favorable for most workers. The best opportunities will be in professional and related occupations, reflecting their growth and the continuing demand for higher level skills to keep up with changes in technology. In addition, as individuals and organizations continue to conduct business electronically, the importance of maintaining system and network security will increase. Employment opportunities should be excellent for individuals involved in cyberspace security services, such as disaster recovery services, custom security programming, and security software installation services.

Source:  Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2008-09 Edition

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