January 24, 2018

Busting Tech Career Myths, Part 5: ’Money Is the Main Benefit of Having a Tech Job’

cash Interest in tech careers is rising among teens, but many don’t have a role model to help grow that interest. That’s what CompTIA’s latest research, “Youth Opinions of Careers in Information Technology,” reveals.

When we surveyed more than 1000 teenagers in the 13-17 age bracket last year, we discovered most see IT careers as lucrative opportunities to do creative, innovative work. Most teens we polled also believe technology fields offer the chance to work in appealing business environments with smart people and plentiful jobs.

However, we found teens hold some negative perceptions about tech jobs, too. Nearly half of teenagers are concerned that careers in IT could be isolating, with long stretches of sitting alone in front of a computer all day – a notion I debunked in my last installment in this series (see below).

Greater exposure to technologist mentors could help dispel these misunderstandings among teens. That is why, as a technologist and technology industry leader dedicated to attracting new generations of workers into our field, I have been knocking down fallacies about tech careers. So far, I have slammed:

  1. “Technology is all about coding, math, and science.”
  2. “Working in technology requires a four-year college degree.”
  3. “If it’s not at Facebook or Google, it’s not a technology job.”
  4. “A tech career means being stuck at a desk.”

In this post, let’s KO this monetary misconception:

Myth No. 5: Money Is the Main Benefit of Having a Tech Job

Many technology jobs pay well, offering salaries significantly higher than the national average of all occupations. And yes, unemployment in tech is low, and the future of tech professions looks good. Per the US Bureau of Labor Statistics’s Occupational Outlook Handbook, the availability of IT jobs is projected to grow by 13 percent between 2016 and 2026.

So, how could a high likelihood of economic gain deter today’s teens from becoming tomorrow’s technologists? Because money isn’t the only driver for young people. In CompTIA’s 2015 “Teen Views on Tech Careers” survey, we learned that having a job they love and helping other people were near the top of the list of what urban teens want in their careers. Like scientists, mathematicians, and engineers, people working in technology like to solve problems. Driven by curiosity and empathy, they use big data to alleviate homelessness, for example, or get technology in the hands of people who lack economic opportunity. But this sort of impact on society is hard for young people, who haven’t spent much time working outside of school, to visualize.

That’s why technologist role models are critical to shrinking the tech talent gap – and why my organization is dedicated to facilitating and amplifying these role models’ influence on teenagers. Through curricula, projects, partnerships, and mentorship, our NextUp initiative aims to tap into the passion today’s teens have for technology, spark their curiosity, and build a generation of technologists for tomorrow. Drawn from the ranks of a spectrum of businesses, NextUp volunteers are working technologists who mentor students in hands-on STEM projects while sharing why they love their careers.

Our research shows many of today’s teens want their work to affect more than their bank accounts. Working in a tech career holds the promise of so much more than just earning a good salary. We believe the best way to demonstrate that fact is to expose young people to successful technologists who already live their dreams.

In my next article, we’ll topple the myth perpetuated by well-meaning but uninformed parents: “My kids won’t listen to me.”

Charles Eaton is executive vice president of social innovation for CompTIA and CEO of Creating IT Futures.

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Charles Eaton is a father to four children, ranging from elementary-school age to working adult, and leads three philanthropic endeavors for CompTIA, the world's largest IT trade association, including Creating IT Futures, CompTIA's IT workforce charity. His first book, "How to Launch Your Teen's Career in Technology: A Parent’s Guide to the T in STEM Education," is available at www.tinstem.com.