If you were in IT in the 1990s or early 2000s, you could probably tell some stories about things that have dramatically changed.

Today’s opportunities and challenges in tech careers were virtually impossible to imagine before the Internet was widespread, before smartphones existed, and before connectivity was expected everywhere we go.

Recent Bureau of Labor Statistics data indicates that there are nearly 4 million American workers in “core” technology jobs. However, in reality, there are probably many more.

These figures don’t include self-employed consultants, which make up a significant proportion of IT workers. Then there’s the fact that IT is so engrained throughout businesses, that many jobs not considered “core” tech jobs nonetheless require many of the same skills.

The massive amount of change that the technology space has seen over the last 20 years has brought about evolution and revolution for IT careers. Today, we discuss a few things that have evolved in the last couple of decades for IT jobs, and the opportunities and challenges they brought with them.

Jobs that never existed before

IT is now engrained at every level of business, in every department. Programmers and software developers may now find themselves working in marketing agencies. The CTO and his or her team have influence over the operations of the entire company, as technology drives the success of virtually every area of business.

Not only do tech jobs now exist in companies or departments where they didn’t 20 years ago, but entire new specialties have emerged. From mobile app development to cloud computing to security, IT workers are seeing all kinds of skill sets and roles that no one even imagined just a decade or two ago.

Technology Job Red Flags

Rise of remote work

Among occupations of all kinds – not just tech – remote work has become much more common. Many types of IT jobs lend themselves well to the remote working arrangement, but it comes with pros and cons. Companies are able to access much larger pools of workers.

This is great for getting the right talent, but it makes the scene more competitive, too. If you’re a job seeker, you no longer are up against just those candidates in your geographical area. The good news is, you no longer have to limit yourself to just local jobs anymore, either.

If you’re concerned about getting a competitive salary, evidence suggests that remote IT workers tend to be paid similarly to their onsite counterparts. Just know that, when it comes to researching and asking for a salary range, companies may or may not base their pay scales on the local market.

Some will pay based on the company’s location, and some on the worker’s. It’s worth getting a feel for how a remote company will set salary ranges, and be prepared to negotiate accordingly.

Network Engineering From A Distance

Changing security concerns

DDoS attacks. The Internet of Things. Ransomware. Do you remember the first time you heard these words and phrases? None of them were in our lexicon 20 years ago, but most people are familiar with them today. Cybercriminals are excellent at coming up with new and creative ways to achieve financial gain, sabotage operations, or just make life harder for tech users.

There was a time when financial organizations and large corporations were favorites for hackers. But no industry is exempt anymore, meaning that security expertise is required at all sizes and types of organizations.

In addition, it’s not all about the technical aspects of security. Social engineering means that every company’s biggest cybersecurity liability is its people. This requires IT professionals to stay up on the latest trends in technical defenses as well as automation, monitoring, policies, and training.

Education and certifications

Cisco’s CCIE certification was introduced in 1993, and was well-respected for its testing of practical skills. The CCNA came five years later, in 1998, allowing for more entry-level professionals to have a credential that would help them break into the field.

In our most recent annual survey of IT professionals, Summit found that the CCNA remains the certification that the largest proportion of respondents want.

However, there are many other certification and education options available to IT workers today. The Project Management Professional (PMP) certification is one of the most popular and valuable in tech. Summit’s most recent survey (which skews toward networking professionals, of course) showed that this was among the most coveted, not far behind Microsoft’s MCSE and Cisco’s various credentials.

A fifth of Summit’s survey respondents also said that, when it comes to the skills they’re seeking, “soft” skills like communication are highly valued, even more than some “hard” skills like coding. The range of skills and training available and beneficial for IT workers today is only limited by your time and interest.

Want more information to keep you competitive in your IT career? Check out Summit’s free ebook, The State of IT Employment 2018.