Working in tech can be lucrative. A growing need for tech workers is resulting in a nationwide talent shortage, which means people with the right skill sets are being offered competitive pay in order to fill the gap and keep businesses on the cutting edge.
That's likely why 89% of people who changed careers into the tech industry did so in pursuit of more money, according to new survey from job site Indeed. While tech jobs generally pay well, people take an average of 12 months to decide to officially make the leap — about two months longer than people who switch into other industries.
Paul Wolfe, Indeed's senior vice president of global human resources, tells CNBC Make It the need to learn new skills is likely why people take longer to decide whether the transition will be worthwhile.
That's because, while plenty of soft skills like adaptability and time management can transfer between industries, technology jobs often require knowledge of specific systems and programs, which workers generally have to learn on their own.
According to the survey, 36% of people who switched into tech enrolled in specific training programs in order to make the transition, with the most common paths being going back to college for a tech-specific degree, or seeking out tech certifications. Forty-six percent of career changers reported using these routes to prepare for a new tech job, compared with just 23% who said they enrolled in a bootcamp to learn new skills.
The financial cost of switching is one major factor in the decision-making process. People who pay to learn technology skills spend an average of $38,507 on their continued educations; meanwhile, workers changing careers in other industries spend an average of $15,715.
But Wolfe says the investment seems to pay off. According to the survey, 81% of tech career-changers recouped on the financial investment they made to make the switch.
In some of the most competitive job markets for tech, software engineers of varying specialties easily earn upwards of $150,000, according to data from Hired, a tech recruitment platform.
Although learning tech skills can be expensive, more than half of tech career-changers reported they didn't have to pay anything to take crucial tech courses to make the switch. Instead, they were able to utilize free online resources to teach themselves and practice new tech skills to prepare them for their new career.
Popular learning platforms like LinkedIn Learning, Degreed, Coursera, edX, FutureLearn and Udacity provide free or low-cost training programs.
Gabrielle Hempel, 28, made the jump from working in pharmaceutical regulation to cybersecurity about two years ago. She paid $100 a month to enroll in a program with Cybrary, a crowdsourced cybersecurity and IT learning and career development platform. Within eight months, she secured a role as a security analyst with Accenture, earning a pay bump of $40,000 more per year than her previous job.
Apprenticeships can also allow employers to nurture internal talent to fill in-demand tech roles. Tony Byrd, 27, was able to transition from working at a coffee shop on an IBM campus to becoming a software engineer with the IT company. He was able to triple his salary after the one-year, full-time program.
Another major investment tech career-changers make is relocating for a new job, something nearly half of workers from the Indeed survey reported doing.
Location may be one of the biggest barriers to transitioning into tech. Just five metro areas (San Francisco; Seattle; San Jose, California; Boston; San Diego) accounted for 90% of all U.S. high-tech job growth between 2005 and 2017, according to research from the Brookings Institution and Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, as reported by The Wall Street Journal.
Wolfe notes that, while the survey didn't ask people specifics around where they moved or why, "these tech hubs tend to offer more job opportunities for those looking to land a tech role because they have a higher concentration of tech jobs available and are also likely to offer higher salaries to tech job seekers."
While these cities may offer a lot of high-paying job opportunities in tech, they also boast some of the highest costs of living in the country.
Regardless of the commitments necessary to making the switch, 92% of new tech workers reported they were happier with their jobs since making the career change.
The Indeed report also notes that "breaking into tech" might look more like a natural progression than a total career change. For example, a visual designer may learn how to code in order to become a UX designer for mobile apps, or a product manager may move from a retail brand to a company that offers technology services.
And according to Udemy's 2020 Workplace Learning Trends Report, workers across all kinds of industries, from marketing to sales to finance, are picking up more tech and data analytics skills in order to perform their jobs. These could be early indications of how technology skills will become more integral across all types of work in the future.
"The overall takeaway is that organizations are becoming more data-driven," Jennifer Juo, who leads Udemy's content marketing team, told CNBC Make It. "That's partly because they're harnessing the power of AI, and there's a need to analyze and process data across all kinds of roles."
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