The tech unemployment rate hit 2.2 percent in September, a slight but noticeable increase from 1.5 percent in August, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Despite that uptick, overall hiring within the tech industry remains strong. CompTIA, a nonprofit association for the IT industry, estimated that the economy added 140,000 tech occupations in September—the 10th consecutive month of growth. Overall, the number of tech occupations in all sectors of the U.S. economy stands at 5.6 million.
For employers across the country, hiring skilled cybersecurity professionals remains a challenge. “It’s been an especially challenging period on the cybersecurity front with attacks on critical infrastructure, the growing threat of ransomware, and of course, new vulnerabilities brought on by the pandemic” Tim Herbert, executive vice president for research and market intelligence at CompTIA, wrote in a statement accompanying the association’s data. “The persistently tight labor market for cybersecurity professionals means employers must cast an even wider net and look internally to develop talent from within their own ranks.”
Another thing to note: Roughly 14 percent of the “emerging tech job postings” were in artificial intelligence (A.I.). Although the broader public might regard A.I. and machine learning as something of a niche industry, technologists are increasingly aware of how A.I. is permeating every aspect of the tech stack. Learning A.I. skills can make you more valuable to employers, whether you use those skills in the service of cybersecurity, datacenter infrastructure, or making consumer-facing services “smarter.”
Adopting A.I. and machine-learning skills can also prove extremely lucrative, as well. O’Reilly estimates the average salary of data and A.I. professionals at $146,000 per year (that’s from 2,778 respondents in the U.S. and 284 in the U.K.), and salaries have increased at an annual average of 2.25 percent. Average compensation was highest in California ($176,000), home of Silicon Valley giants such as Google.
If you want to jump into a highly specialized role such as A.I. developer or cybersecurity expert, though, you’ll need to master a number of complex, rapidly evolving skills. Around 64 percent of respondents to a recent O’Reilly survey said they participated in training or certification courses, and 31 percent claimed to have engaged in 100 hours of training over the past year. While employers remain desperate for technologists, they’re only going to hire those with the skills to actually get things done.