Since the World Wide Web entered our lives a quarter of a century ago, it has become one of the biggest reasons why smartphones, computers and other communications/data technologies became integral parts of most people’s everyday lives. This has led to an ever-increasing number of US workers who are involved in manufacturing, maintaining and repairing these devices and the communications networks they require to work.
To get a picture of the impact the Web has had on employment, it is useful to study the statistics published by the Occupational Employment Statistics program, a joint state and federal effort that records the compensation and structure of the country’s workforce.
The latest estimates, published last year and based on statistics collected between November 2009 and May 2012, show that roughly 3.9 million employees, or three percent of the country’s payroll, work in what might best be described as “core” technological jobs. In other words, these are not people who simply make use of computers in their jobs, but their work actually involves creating that technology for the rest of society.
How did those figures change over the last 15 years? That is rather difficult to answer. The first cross-industry data available was published in 1997, nearly ten years after the Web was born. Occupational definitions and categories changed over time, so not all the data from 1997 can be directly compared with that of 2012. Nevertheless, if one considers the tech-related job categories that can broadly be compared to those of 2012, it seems that in 1997, about 2.2 million people, or 1.9 percent of the workforce, were employed in the technology sector.
That means that around 3.7 million new jobs have been created by the industry over the past 15 years.
The occupational descriptions, which show exactly how different the structure of the technological industry is in 2012 from that of 1997, are even more interesting. A couple of occupations, such as information security analysts and web developers, simply did not exist in 1997 or went under different names.
Others have grown dramatically, such as support specialists, software developers and programmers. The demand for a few job categories, such as computer operators, has declined over the last 15 years.
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