Advanced degrees often needed for high-tech jobs in state
by Lynne W. Jeter
Published: May 24,2004
Listen up, college grads. Unless your networking skills are extraordinary, you might need an advanced degree to land that great technology job.
“In agricultural technologies, many research jobs are requiring advanced degrees,” said Luther Epting, director of the Mississippi State University (MSU) Career Center. “A baccalaureate is not generally going to get one heavily involved in research in any area. In our state, at companies like Delta Pine & Land, where genetics plays an important role, recruiters are looking usually for master’s degrees and some doctorates. Even though Ph.D. recruiting is very specialized and focused and there aren’t large numbers graduating, they are finding places.”
Jim Aviles, technology manager and career counselor for the University of Southern Mississippi (USM) Career Services, said advanced degrees are practically required for scientists.
“If you graduate with just a bachelor’s degree, you’re going to be a lab tech and there’s not a lot of room upward,” he said.
Ed Bocko, managing director for Mass.-based PROTRAN Resources, a consulting and recruiting firm for high-technology companies, said the nationwide outlook for technology jobs varies by the level of degree.
“It’s best for those with master’s degrees, mostly in life sciences and engineering,” Bocko told USM students on May 7 during a career counseling presentation on “the nuts and bolts of the job market that students need to hear.”
What market factors are impacting the sluggish information technology (IT) job market? Trends in higher education, outsourcing, immigration and employment. Among the highlights from a Washington, D.C.-based Commission on Professionals in Science and Technology report on IT workforce trends, released last fall:
• IT employment has been declining since reaching peak levels in 2000;
• During the last decade, the percentage of foreign-born IT workers has doubled, and the use of L-1 visas for foreign employees of multinational businesses has tripled;
• The number of computer science college students jumped 40% in 1995-96, leading to record numbers of new degrees in IT disciplines through the 2001-02 academic year; and
• Outsourcing of IT work to foreign locations has quadrupled, from $300 million in 1995 to more than $1.2 billion in 2001.
On average, it takes most technology graduates six to eight months of constant searching to find a job, said Aviles.
“In general, most companies are looking for technology grads with at least two to three years of experience plus certifications,” he said. “It’s the old chicken-and-egg thing. A lot of graduates don’t have the experience to get those jobs. Plus, there are a lot of people since the dotcom bust who are competing for them. Outsourcing is taking a lot of technology jobs to India and third world countries, so the number available is fewer in some cases.”
What’s hot, what’s not
In Mississippi, systems analysts and designers are high-demand jobs. Next are troubleshooters, said Aviles.
“However, in this case, networking and desktop troubleshooters are competing with candidates with associate’s degrees,” he said. “They can do almost as much as a graduate with a bachelor’s degree, in terms of technology, even though their education is not as well-rounded.”
In the Gulf Coast MSA, home of the Stennis Space Center, more than 22,000 technology positions exist in areas involving computer management, programming and consulting, architectural engineering, healthcare technology, the gaming industry, technology sales of scientific products, technology-related administration support, technology installation and maintenance, automated teller machine (ATM) repair and telecommunications repair, said Lyn Stabler, vice president for policy and analysis for the Mississippi Technology Alliance (MTA).
“We run a 24/7 job fair on our Web site,” said Michael Olivier, co-founder of the Gulf Coast Technology Council. “Students post r
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