Mama, don’t let your babies grow up to be computer service technicians

According to a new ranking of careers, programming jobs are desirable, but computer support roles not so much

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Apparently, repairing computers for a living is less desirable than managing a sewage treatment plant or killing pests

Image credit: flickr/BY-YOUR-⌘

Yesterday CareerCast came out with their annual Jobs Rated report, which ranks 200 jobs based on a combination of pay, hiring outlook and work environment. While it included neither the best job (actuary) nor the worst job (newspaper reporter), the news was generally good for the IT sector - except for one group of workers. Based on their findings, it’s much better to be a software engineer (ranked #3) than a computer service technician (#113).

Looking through the full list of rankings, here are four IT-specific jobs that were included:

Job Overall Rank Income Work Environment Stress Hiring Outlook
Software Engineer 3 $89,147.00 49.00 12.00 17.67
Web Developer 24 $78,191.00 49.00 22.00 19.91
Computer Programmer 38 $73,176.00 47.00 11.00 10.76
Computer Service Technician 113 $36,164.00 55.00 12.00 5.64

Data source: CareerCast

You can read the gory details on their ranking methodology here. Otherwise, when looking at the numbers above keep in mind that higher income and hiring outlook scores are good, while higher work environment and stress scores are bad.

Based on these rankings, code writers are generally in a good spot, with all three such jobs being ranked in the top 40. Software engineers, though, as defined by CareerCast (“Researches, designs, develops and maintains software systems along with hardware development for medical, scientific, and industrial purposes.”) are generally better off than web developers (“Creating and maintaining layout, navigation, and interactivity of intranet and internet websites.”) or computer programmers (“Organizes and lists the instructions for computers to process data and solve problems in logical order.”). 

The one thing that really jumped out at me about these three jobs was that web developers have significantly more stress than the other two. Having worked in all three roles over the years, I can’t say I found that to be true, although maybe it has to do with supporting public facing web sites or applications that have to work 24x7? Still, I found it surprising.

Then we have the poor computer service technician ranked way down the list at #113. The role, defined as someone who “Repairs malfunctions, maintains service according to manufacturers' schedules, and sometimes installs computers and peripheral equipment,” makes less than half of what coders do, with a less desirable work environment and a much worse hiring outlook. The stress level, though, isn’t any worse (and is much less than that for a web developer). Assuming these jobs are your traditional help desk/user support type of roles, I find it surprising that the stress level isn’t higher. I never worked in that job, though, so I’m just guessing.

To put it into perspective, computer service technician was ranked lower than jobs like forklift operator (#112), automobile mechanic (#102), pest control worker (#95), sewage plant operator (#87), nuclear decontamination technician (#65) and bricklayer (#53). Really? Fixing printing problems is worse than being a pest control worker, a job which “Controls, manages, or removes unwanted creatures, such as roaches, rats, ants, termites, and bedbugs, that infest buildings and surrounding areas.”? Wow.

So, the bottom line, apparently, is mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be computer service technicians. Or newspaper reporters. Have them learn to program instead.

Read more of Phil Johnson's #Tech blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Phil on Twitter at @itwphiljohnson. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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