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Building a Workforce for the Information Economy (2001)

Chapter: Appendix B: Estimating the Size of the IT Workforce

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Suggested Citation:"Appendix B: Estimating the Size of the IT Workforce." National Research Council. 2001. Building a Workforce for the Information Economy. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9830.
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APPENDIX B

Estimating the Size of the IT Workforce

Analysts who have recently examined the size of the IT workforce have developed a wide range of estimates that have varied from just under 2 million to nearly 10 million. These different estimates can be explained but not precisely reconciled.

Estimates of the IT workforce depend, first, on the definition of “IT worker” used. For example, estimating the number of Category 1 IT workers would yield a result (Table B.1) very different from that obtained by estimating the combined total of Category 1 and Category 2 workers (Table B.2). Similarly, estimating the number of individuals in software occupations would be a different exercise from estimating the number of individuals in both software and hardware occupations. Second, estimates depend on the data set used in the analysis and on the occupational categories in that data set used as a proxy for IT workers as defined by the analysts. Finally, estimates depend on whether the analyst focuses on the number of individuals employed, the number of individuals in the labor force (employed plus unemployed who are seeking work), or the number of positions a firm has (filled or vacant).

B.1 ESTIMATING THE CATEGORY 1 IT WORKFORCE

As Table B.1 shows, analysts have derived estimates for the number of Category 1 IT workers ranging from fewer than 2 million to more than 3 million. These estimates are not directly comparable because of the differing definitions and data sets used.

Suggested Citation:"Appendix B: Estimating the Size of the IT Workforce." National Research Council. 2001. Building a Workforce for the Information Economy. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9830.
×

TABLE B.1 Comparing Recent Estimates of the Size of the Category 1, or “Core,” IT Workforce

Federal Agency/Analyst/Organization

Description of Groups Included in Estimate

Estimate of IT Workforce

Capers Jones, Software Productivity Research (1999)

1998 software occupation groups

2,034,000

U.S. Department of Commerce, Digital Workforce (1999)

1998 Current Population Survey (CPS): computer systems analysts and scientists, computer programmers (all)

2,084,000

Ellis and Lowell, “Core Occupations in the U.S. Information Technology Workforce” (1999)

1998 CPS: computer systems analysts and scientists, computer programmers (all)

2,084,000

NRC staff analysis

1998 Occupational Employment Survey (OES): estimate of Category 1 occupations

1,649,210

 

1998 and 1999 CPS: computer systems analysts and scientists, computer programmers (employed)

1,985,166 (in 1998)

2,092,866 (in 1999)

 

1998 and 1999 CPS: computer systems analysts and scientists, computer programmers, computer engineers, computer science teachers (employed)

2,363,309 (in 1998)

2,477,779 (in 1999)

Information Technology Association of America, Help Wanted (1998)

Number of positions in core IT occupations: programmers, systems analysts, computer engineers, and scientists

3,354,000

SOURCES: Jones, Capers, 1999, “The Euro, Y2K, and the US Software Shortage,” IEEE Software 16(May/June):55-61; Ellis, Richard, and B. Lindsay Lowell, 1999,“Core Occupations of the U.S. Information Technology Workforce,” IT Workforce Data Project: Report 1 (New York: United Engineering Foundation, January), available onlineat <http://www.uefoundation.org/itworkfp.html>); Department of Commerce, 1999, The Digital Workforce: Building Infotech Skills at the Speed of Innovation(Washington, D.C.: Department of Commerce, June), pp. 21-31; InformationTechnology Association of America and Virginia Tech, 1998, Help Wanted: 1998: A Call for Collaborative Action for the New Millennium(Arlington, Va.: ITAA).

Suggested Citation:"Appendix B: Estimating the Size of the IT Workforce." National Research Council. 2001. Building a Workforce for the Information Economy. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9830.
×

TABLE B.2 Estimating the Size of the Total (Category 1 + Category 2) IT Workforce

   

Estimate of IT Workforce

Federal Agency/Analyst/Organization

Description of Groups Included in Estimate

Category 1

Categories 1 and 2

Capers Jones, Software

1998 software occupation groups

2,034,000

 

Productivity Research (1999)

1998 software occupations, including support occupations

 

2,383,500

U.S. Department of Commerce

     

Digital Workforce

(1999)

1998 Current Population Survey (CPS): computer systems analysts and scientists, computer programmers (all)

2,084,000

 

Digital Economy

2000 (2000)

1998 Occupational Employment Survey (OES): Estimate of a “middle range” of all IT workers

 

5,300,000

Information Technology Association of America

     

Help Wanted

(1998)

Estimate of number employed in “core” IT occupations: programmers, systems analysts, computer engineers/scientists

3,354,000

 

Bridging the

Gap (2000)

Estimate of Category 1 and Category 2 positions in private, for-profit firms based on NWCET skills standards

 

10,009,503

NRC staff analysis, 1998 Occupational Employment Survey

Category 1 occupations

1,649,210

 
 

Category 1 occupations plus computer support specialists and computer programmer aides

 

2,170,780

 

All Category 1 and Category 2 occupations based on Digital Economy 2000 (2000) (see Table B.6)

 

5,308,000

Suggested Citation:"Appendix B: Estimating the Size of the IT Workforce." National Research Council. 2001. Building a Workforce for the Information Economy. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9830.
×

NRC staff analysis, 1999 Current Population Survey

Computer engineers, computer system analysts and scientists, computer programmers, computer science teachers: employed, bachelor's degree or above

1,637,244

 
 

Computer engineers, computer system analysts and scientists, computer programmers, computer science teachers: employed, all education levels

2,477,779

 
 

All Category 1 and Category 2 occupations (see Table B.5)

 

3,445,297

SOURCES: Jones, Capers, 1999, “The Euro, Y2K, and the US Software Shortage,” IEEE Software 16(May/June):55-61; Department of Commerce, 1999, The Digital Workforce: Building Infotech Skills at the Speed of Innovation(Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, June), pp. 21-31;Department of Commerce, 2000, Digital Economy 2000 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, June); InformationTechnology Association of America and Virginia Tech, 1998, Help Wanted: 1998: A Call for Collaborative Action for the New Millennium(Arlington, Va.: ITAA); Information Technology Association of America,2000, Bridging the Gap: Information Technology Skills for a New Millennium(Arlington, Va.: ITAA, April); Department of Labor, Bureau of LaborStatistics, Occupational Employment Survey, 1998, and Current PopulationSurvey, 1999, special tabulations.

Capers Jones, based on data from his firm, Software Productivity Research (SPR), estimated a population of slightly more than 2 million IT workers employed in software occupations.1 His narrow focus on software reflected his intent to examine the effect of the Euro conversion and the Y2K bug on the need for software programmers. His estimate, developed by extrapolating the characteristics of SPR's client group to the national population, must be seen as a rough indication at best of the population of software workers. Other estimates, described below, include both software and hardware occupations.

1  

Jones, Capers. 1999. “The Euro, Y2K, and the US Software Shortage,” IEEE Software 16(May/June):55-61.

Suggested Citation:"Appendix B: Estimating the Size of the IT Workforce." National Research Council. 2001. Building a Workforce for the Information Economy. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9830.
×

The Department of Commerce, Ellis and Lowell, and the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA) all used a broader definition of “core IT occupations”—“the study, design, development, implementation, support or management of computer-based information systems,” as described by ITAA and echoed by Ellis and Lowell.2 However, each of the three studies used different occupations and data sets. The Commerce Department and Ellis and Lowell counted programmers, systems analysts, and computer scientists in the Current Population Survey (CPS), a monthly survey of households conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau for the Bureau of Labor Statistics. ITAA looked at these occupational groups plus computer engineers in a survey developed and fielded by ITAA. Because of these differences, the three studies arrived at different estimates of the same population (see Table B.1).

Because the Department of Commerce and Ellis and Lowell used the same definition of an IT worker, the same data set (the CPS), and the same occupational categories, they arrived at the same result: 2,084,000 individuals whose occupations were “computer systems analysts and scientists” and “computer programmers.”3 Had the Commerce Department and Ellis and Lowell restricted their analysis to just those employed in these occupational groups, rather than all workers (employed or unemployed), their estimate would have been slightly lower, at 1,985,166 in 1998, as shown in Table B.1. (This number grew to 2,092,866 in March 1999.)

Many complications arise in using the CPS to estimate the size of the IT workforce. CPS occupational categories and job titles were developed for the 1990 Census. Given the growth and change in information technology in the decade since, these old occupational categories do not begin to address the many new dimensions of IT development, networking, support, and applications. Thus, Census coders must map many new occupations onto old occupational categories, leaving considerable ambiguity as to who is being counted in what occupational groups. A couple of examples illustrate:

2  

Ellis, Richard, and B. Lindsay Lowell, 1999, “Core Occupations of the U.S. Information Technology Workforce,” IT Workforce Data Project: Report 1 (New York: United Engineering Foundation, January), available online at <http://www.uefoundation.org/itworkfp.html>; Department of Commerce, 1999, The Digital Workforce: Building Infotech Skills at the Speed of Innovation (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, June), pp. 21-31; Information Technology Association of America and Virginia Tech, 1998, Help Wanted: 1998: A Call for Collaborative Action for the New Millennium (Arlington, Va.: ITAA).

3  

Ellis and Lowell derived the estimate of 2,084,000 using the CPS average for the first three quarters of 1998. Using the most recent results available to them in November 1998, they arrived at a figure of 2,217,000.

Suggested Citation:"Appendix B: Estimating the Size of the IT Workforce." National Research Council. 2001. Building a Workforce for the Information Economy. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9830.
×
  • First, some non-Category-1 IT workers may be counted among Category 1 workers. For example, it is not clear which occupational group Census coders place help-desk staff into. Some help-desk staff may be categorized as “computer programmers,” but others may be coded into an occupation that may or may not be readily identifiable as computer-related. If they are categorized as programmers, then not all individuals in the estimate of the Category 1 IT workforce are strictly Category 1 workers.

  • Second, depending on the categories used as proxies for the Category 1 workforce, one may derive an estimate that either does not include some Category 1 IT workers or may include as part of Category 1 some individuals who are not IT workers at all. The Census counts computer engineers, who are Category 1 IT workers, as electrical and electronic engineers, an occupational group that includes non-IT workers. To ignore electrical and electronic engineers, estimated at 663,882 in 1998, is to omit from the estimated number of Category 1 IT workers some (computer engineers) who are clearly Category 1 workers. To include them all is to potentially include some non-IT workers in Category 1.

Using the CPS, NRC staff developed an alternative estimate of the Category 1 workforce that helps account for some of the shortcomings in that data set. This estimate uses the definition of Category 1 developed and used by ITAA and Ellis and Lowell. It includes computer systems analysts and scientists, computer programmers, and computer science teachers—all discrete occupational categories in the CPS. It also includes computer engineers, which is not a discrete category but one which can be estimated roughly based on ratios from other data sources.

Although “computer engineers” is not a discrete occupational group within the CPS, it is a discrete group in the Occupational Employment Survey (OES), and it is disaggregated even further—into computer engineering-hardware and computer engineering-software —in the National Science Foundation's SESTAT system (a system of surveys on science and engineering personnel). As shown in Table B.3, all three of these data sets indicate that the total population of electrical, electronic, and computer engineers ranges from about 630,000 to 690,000. As estimated by the OES and the SESTAT, computer engineers account for 47.8 and 52.6 percent, respectively, of this total population. Because the SESTAT data set more fully disaggregates the computer engineering occupation into software and hardware, the committee assumed that the 52.6 percent figure is probably more accurate.

To estimate the number of computer engineers counted in the CPS, the committee multiplied the CPS total for employed electrical and electronic engineers (692,987; Table B.4) by 0.526 and added the result

Suggested Citation:"Appendix B: Estimating the Size of the IT Workforce." National Research Council. 2001. Building a Workforce for the Information Economy. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9830.
×

TABLE B.3 Estimate of the Population of Electrical, Electronic, and Computer Engineers in Government Data Sets, most recent years

Data Set

Electrical/Electronic Engineers

Computer Engineers, Hardware

Computer Engineers, Software

Total

Computer Engineers as Percent of Total

1997 CPS

—692,988—

692,988

Not applicable

1998 OES

328,410

—300,830—

629,240

47.8

1997 SESTAT

317,478

47,368

304,613

669,459

52.6

TABLE B.4 Current Population Survey (CPS) Estimate of Employment and Unemployment in Computer and Computer-related Occupations, 1999

Occupation

Employed

Unemployed

Total

Electrical and electronic engineers

692,987

9,138

702,126

Computer systems analysts and scientists

1,453,072

25,683

1,478,755

Computer programmer

639,794

11,679

651,472

Computer science teachers

20,402

0

20,402

Subtotal—Category 1

2,806,255

46,500

2,852,755

Technical writer

78,201

570

78,771

Computer operators

340,011

10,822

350,833

Peripheral equipment operators

8,164

0

8,164

Data processing equipment repairers

335,777

13,375

349,152

Electrical and electronic technicians

460,899

7,910

471,094

Subtotal—selected support occupations

1,223,051

32,678

1,258,014

Total

4,029,306

79,178

4,110,769

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, CurrentPopulation Survey, 1999, special tabulation.

(364,511) to the CPS estimate of the number of employed computer systems analysts and scientists, computer programmers, and computer science teachers. Table B.5 shows the result—an estimate of the employed Category 1 IT workforce as totaling 2,477,779.

Table B.1 shows that the Occupational Employment Survey, another U.S. government data source, provides an estimate of the Category 1 workforce. The OES, a survey of public and private employers conducted

Suggested Citation:"Appendix B: Estimating the Size of the IT Workforce." National Research Council. 2001. Building a Workforce for the Information Economy. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9830.
×

TABLE B.5 NRC Estimates of Employed and Unemployed Workers in Computer and Computer-related Occupations, 1999

Occupation

Employed

Unemployed

Total

Computer engineersa

364,511

4,807

369,318

Computer systems analysts and scientists

1,453,072

25,683

1,478,755

Computer programmer

639,794

11,679

651,472

Computer science teachers

20,402

0

20,402

Subtotal—Category 1

2,477,779

42,169

2,519,947

Computer technical writera

41,134

300

41,434

Computer operators

340,011

10,822

350,833

Peripheral equipment operators

8,164

0

8,164

Data processing equipment repairers

335,777

349,152

13,375

Computer techniciansa

242,433

4,161

247,795

Subtotal—selected support occupations

967,518

28,658

997,378

Total

3,445,297

70,827

3,517,325

NOTE: Based on the Current Population Survey with adjustments for computer engineers, computer technical writers, and computer technicians.

aComputer engineers were estimated as 52.6 percent of the CPS category of electrical and electronic engineers, which includes computer engineers. The same percentage was used to estimate the number of computer technical writers among technical writers and the number of computer technicians among electrical and electronic technicians.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, CurrentPopulation Survey, 1999, special tabulation.

by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, estimated a total of 1,649,210 Category 1 IT workers in 1998. These individuals were employed as computer engineers, systems analysts, database administrators, programmers, computer science teachers, and all other computer scientists.4

4  

The committee believes it is likely that the OES figure underestimates the size of the IT workforce. The OES data for a given year are drawn from a rolling sample of firms surveyed over a 3-year period. That is, the sample is divided by three, with one-third of all firms in a given industry surveyed each year. For 1998, then, data include survey results based on the 1996, 1997, and 1998 surveys. This approach would tend to produce an underestimate in a given year for any rapidly growing field such as IT. For example, if a constant per-year growth rate of 14.5 percent is assumed for this period, as in the CPS, data from 1996 should be adjusted by 31 percent and data from 1997 by 14.5 percent. Thus, the figure for IT occupations in 1998 might be adjusted upward by as much as 15 percent, to approximately 2,250,000.

Suggested Citation:"Appendix B: Estimating the Size of the IT Workforce." National Research Council. 2001. Building a Workforce for the Information Economy. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9830.
×

These Category 1 estimates from government data sources are substantially lower than the ITAA estimate of 3,354,00 (see Table B.1), based on querying a sample of companies nationwide about their number of programmer, systems analyst, and computer engineer/scientist positions. Because of the ITAA question's ambiguity—“About how many [programmer, systems analyst, computer scientist or computer engineer] positions do you have in your entire company?”—it is not clear whether respondents gave the number of filled positions or the total number of positions, filled or vacant. Based on other questions in its survey, ITAA estimated vacancies for these positions at 346,000, which may or may not be included in the figure of 3,354,000.

However it is interpreted, the ITAA estimate may serve as an upper bound on the number of Category 1 workers, although it is important to note that the estimate is based on responses from 532 firms out of a sample of 1,493 (survey response rate of 36 percent). By contrast, the OES had a sample size of more than 400,000 establishments in each of the years 1996, 1997, and 1998, for a total sample size of more than 1.2 million establishments on which to base its 1998 estimates.

B.2 ESTIMATING THE LARGER IT WORKFORCE

While estimates of the number of Category 1 workers vary substantially, estimates of the combined number of Category 1 and Category 2 workers vary still more. The myriad ways in which IT has penetrated our economy, society, and workplace complicate setting bounds on the Category 2 workforce. Most would agree that Category 2 includes technical support specialists, such as help-desk staff, PC support specialists, and technical writers. Should it include individuals who work in such diverse occupations as telephone operator, cable installer, business analyst, desktop publisher, digital animator, or one of the many more occupations involving IT infrastructure and use?

Table B.2 summarizes estimates (from several sources) of both Category 1 workers and the total of Category 1 plus Category 2 workers. The variations in the estimates are substantial, both in the base (i.e., Category 1, as described above) and in the ratio of Category 2 to Category 1 workers.

As noted above, the Category 1 estimates developed by Capers Jones were focused narrowly on software occupations. Similarly, Jones defined Category 2 workers as including a limited range of support occupations (sales and marketing specialist, customer support representative, systems administrator, software librarian, and various process improvement, planning, and cost estimating specialists). These support occupations increased his estimate of the IT workforce by just 17 percent, from 2.03 million to 2.38 million.

Suggested Citation:"Appendix B: Estimating the Size of the IT Workforce." National Research Council. 2001. Building a Workforce for the Information Economy. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9830.
×

The CPS can also be used to estimate the number of workers employed in selected support occupations. At least five occupations in the CPS—technical writer, computer operator, peripheral equipment operator, data processing equipment repairer, and electrical and electronic technician—can be readily identified as including a substantial number of IT workers. If all of the individuals in these categories were included in the estimate of the IT workforce, the total would grow by more than 1.2 million (see Table B.4). But assuming, based on the rationale described above, that about 52.6 percent of all technical writers and electrical and electronic technicians are actually engaged in IT work, it can be estimated that about 967,518 employees work in IT-related support occupations. When this set is added to the number of Category 1 IT workers estimated by the NRC (2,477,779), the result is an increase of 39 percent, for an overall employed IT workforce of 3,445,297 (see Table B.5).

There are yet other CPS occupational categories that potentially include IT workers, depending on an analyst's definition. For example, computer artists are coded as “photographers” and computer graphics illustrators are coded as “painters, sculptors, craft-artists, and artist-printmakers. ” Similarly, computer systems administrators are coded as “managers and administrators, not elsewhere classified” and computer publishers-editing are coded as “editors and reporters.” It is impossible to estimate what percentage of workers in these categories and other categories qualify as IT workers. Accordingly, it is not possible, by using the CPS, to derive an accurate estimate of the “total IT workforce” or of the ratio of Category 2 to Category 1 workers.

If a limited range of computer support occupations—computer support specialist and programmer aide—is added to the OES estimate of Category 1 workers (Table B.6), the estimated size of the IT workforce grows by 32 percent, from 1.65 million to 2.17 million. Other estimates based on the OES have included an even broader range of occupations as defining Category 2 employment. In 2000, the Department of Commerce used the OES to derive a “middle range” estimate of Category 1 and Category 2 workers of about 5.3 million.5

In Table B.6, NRC staff have derived an estimate of the IT workforce using the occupational categories listed in the Commerce Department's Digital Economy 2000 report as applied to OES data. The range of OES occupations used by the Commerce Department to derive the broader estimate includes such diverse categories as engineering, mathematical, and natural sciences managers; electrical and electronic engineers; computer

5  

U.S. Department of Commerce. 2000. Digital Economy 2000. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, June, p. 46. In 1999, the Department of Commerce, in Digital Workforce, used the CPS to estimate a core IT workforce of about 2.1 million.

Suggested Citation:"Appendix B: Estimating the Size of the IT Workforce." National Research Council. 2001. Building a Workforce for the Information Economy. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9830.
×

TABLE B.6 NRC Staff Estimate of Employment in Computer and Computer-related Occupations

Occupation

Employment

CATEGORY 1 OCCUPATIONS

 

Computer Engineers

300,830

Systems Analysts, Electronic Data Processing

552,530

Data Base Administrators

89,680

Computer Programmers

573,850

Programmers, Numerical Tool and Process Control

8,980

Computer Science Teachers, Postsecondary

24,470

All Other Computer Scientists

98,870

Subtotal: Category 1

1,649,210

COMPUTER SUPPORT OCCUPATIONS

 

Computer Support Specialists

455,950

Computer Programmer Aides

65,620

Subtotal: Support Occupations

521,570

OTHER OCCUPATIONS

 

Electrical and Electronic Engineers

328,410

Engineering, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences Managers

345,790

Technical Writers and Editors

49,180

Electrical and Electronic Engineering Technicians and Technologists

299,020

Broadcast Technicians

37,240

Billing, Posting, and Calculating Machine Operators

88,600

Duplicating, Mail, and Other Office Machine Operators

189,120

Computer Operators, Except Peripheral Equipment

198,920

Peripheral EDP Equipment Operators

25,130

Data Entry Keyers

416,520

Communications Equipment Operators

280,780

Central Office and PBX Installers and Repairers

41,950

Telegraph and Teletype Installers and Maintainers

1,030

Telephone and Cable Television Line Installers and Repairers

193,850

Data Processing Equipment Repairers

61,680

Electronics Repairers, Commercial and Industrial Equipment

66,360

Electrical Power-Line Installers and Repairers

97,000

Other Electrical and Electronic Equipment Mechanics, Installers, and Repairers

109,470

Electronic Semiconductor Processors

63,110

Electromechanical Equipment Assemblers, Precision

55,370

Electrical and Electronic Equipment Assemblers, Precision

188,700

Total (Category 1, Support, and Other)

5,308,010

NOTE: Based on occupational categories designated by the Department of Commerce, using the Occupational Employment Survey, 1998, in its Digital Economy 2000.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, OccupationalEmployment Survey, 1998, special tabulations.

Suggested Citation:"Appendix B: Estimating the Size of the IT Workforce." National Research Council. 2001. Building a Workforce for the Information Economy. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9830.
×

support specialists, electrical and electronic engineering technicians and broadcast technicians; various communications equipment and office machine operators; and a variety of assemblers, installers, and repairers of electronic and communications equipment. The addition of many of these occupations has the virtue of including individuals who manufacture, install, repair, and operate the hardware that is critical to the functioning of IT and, especially, telecommunications. However, while the OES categorization of IT-related jobs is more differentiated than that of the CPS, it still lacks currency and sufficiently fine granularity to match the range of today's IT jobs. Thus, the OES categories include many individuals who are not likely to be IT workers in the strictest sense, and they omit many who work in other dimensions of information technology, such as networking and applications. An estimate based on the Commerce Department occupation list, as applied to the OES, must, then, also be seen as rough at best.

At a minimum, though, these estimates from the CPS and OES suggest at least a lower bound on the size of the Category 1 IT workforce, the size of the total IT workforce, and the ratio of Category 2 to Category 1 workers. These surveys point to a Category 1 workforce in 1998 and 1999 of 1.65 million to 2.5 million and an overall IT workforce in the range of 3.45 million to 5.30 million. They suggest a ratio of Category 2 to Category 1 workers of at least 1:1.

The ITAA's surveys, by contrast, provide an upper bound on these estimates. As discussed above, ITAA estimated the number of employed individuals in core IT occupations in 1998 at more than 3 million. Based on its most recent survey, reported in Bridging the Gap, the ITAA estimated a larger total IT workforce of just over 10 million positions based on skill standards and occupational groupings developed by the Northwest Center for Emerging Technologies (NWCET).6 Together, these estimates provide an upper bound on the estimate of Category 1 workers (3.35 million), the total IT workforce (10.0 million), and the ratio of Category 2 to Category 1 workers (about 2:1).

Despite the ITAA's care in elaborating some definitions in its survey—distinguishing IT from non-IT firms and classifiying skills based on the NWCET skills standards—the actual question used in estimating the size of the IT workforce is rather vague. According to Bridging the Gap, Appendix VI, IT hiring managers were asked, “How many people in IT-related positions does your company employ? ” The report states that “the response of these IT managers was predominantly focused on IT development and support activity,” but how such a focus was achieved —

6  

Information Technology Association of America (ITAA). 2000. Bridging the Gap: Information Technology Skills for a New Millennium. Arlington, Va.: ITAA, April.

Suggested Citation:"Appendix B: Estimating the Size of the IT Workforce." National Research Council. 2001. Building a Workforce for the Information Economy. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9830.
×

through follow-up questions or a clearer definition of “IT-related position”—is not specified. The ordering of the question on workforce size in the questionnaire is also unspecified but may have had an appreciable impact on the final estimate; a respondent who has already undergone a battery of questions related to the NWCET skill set may be able to provide a more accurate estimate (and have a clearer idea of what “IT-related position” means) than a respondent asked a vague question at the start of the questionnaire. Thus, the question used by ITAA to develop its IT workforce estimate of 10 million may have been overly broad. The committee also notes that several other aspects of the 2000 ITAA survey, such as the representativeness of the sampling frame, how the final sample was constructed, and the response rate, raise concerns about the reliability of its estimate.

B.3 CONCLUSION

Because they are based on different data sets and count different populations, it is impossible to reconcile the varying estimates of the size of the IT workforce produced by various analysts drawing on U.S. government or private data sources. Nevertheless, it is the judgment of the committee that the size of the Category 1 workforce is very likely now, or soon will be, in the range of 2.5 million or more. It is also the judgment of the committee that the size of the Category 2 workforce is at least equal to that of the Category 1 workforce, and may well be larger. Thus, the size of the overall IT workforce is at least 5.0 million, with approximately 2.5 million Category 1 workers and a number of Category 2 workers that is at least as large. To its credit, the most recent ITAA survey explicitly includes a wide variety of Category 2 workers who are not captured systematically in any government data. The committee urges federal data collection efforts to obtain estimates based on similar occupational categories so that policymakers may have up-to-date data based on large-scale government surveys on which to base policy decisions.

Suggested Citation:"Appendix B: Estimating the Size of the IT Workforce." National Research Council. 2001. Building a Workforce for the Information Economy. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9830.
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Suggested Citation:"Appendix B: Estimating the Size of the IT Workforce." National Research Council. 2001. Building a Workforce for the Information Economy. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9830.
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Suggested Citation:"Appendix B: Estimating the Size of the IT Workforce." National Research Council. 2001. Building a Workforce for the Information Economy. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9830.
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Suggested Citation:"Appendix B: Estimating the Size of the IT Workforce." National Research Council. 2001. Building a Workforce for the Information Economy. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9830.
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Suggested Citation:"Appendix B: Estimating the Size of the IT Workforce." National Research Council. 2001. Building a Workforce for the Information Economy. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9830.
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Suggested Citation:"Appendix B: Estimating the Size of the IT Workforce." National Research Council. 2001. Building a Workforce for the Information Economy. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9830.
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Suggested Citation:"Appendix B: Estimating the Size of the IT Workforce." National Research Council. 2001. Building a Workforce for the Information Economy. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9830.
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Suggested Citation:"Appendix B: Estimating the Size of the IT Workforce." National Research Council. 2001. Building a Workforce for the Information Economy. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9830.
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Suggested Citation:"Appendix B: Estimating the Size of the IT Workforce." National Research Council. 2001. Building a Workforce for the Information Economy. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9830.
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Suggested Citation:"Appendix B: Estimating the Size of the IT Workforce." National Research Council. 2001. Building a Workforce for the Information Economy. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9830.
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Suggested Citation:"Appendix B: Estimating the Size of the IT Workforce." National Research Council. 2001. Building a Workforce for the Information Economy. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9830.
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A look at any newspaper's employment section suggests that competition for qualified workers in information technology (IT) is intense. Yet even experts disagree on not only the actual supply versus demand for IT workers but also on whether the nation should take any action on this economically important issue.

Building a Workforce for the Information Age offers an in-depth look at IT. workers-where they work and what they do-and the policy issues they inspire. It also illuminates numerous areas that have been questioned in political debates:

  • Where do people in IT jobs come from, and what kind of education and training matter most for them?
  • Are employers' and workers' experiences similar or different in various parts of the country?
  • How do citizens of other countries factor into the U.S. IT workforce?
  • What do we know about IT career paths, and what does that imply for IT workers as they age? And can we measure what matters?

The committee identifies characteristics that differentiate IT work from other categories of high-tech work, including an informative contrast with biotechnology. The book also looks at the capacity of the U.S. educational system and of employer training programs to produce qualified workers.

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