Is the IT market returning to specialization?

By Jason W. Eckert

Until the mid 1990s, the IT market largely consisted of professionals who specialized in one or two technologies. You were either a “Novell Administrator” or a “UNIX Administrator” or a “Banyan Vines Administrator” or a “Windows Administrator” or a “Database Administrator”, etc. Back then, an IT Administrator had a small, yet specialized skill set.

Since the mid-1990s, IT Administrators have gradually been expected to perform multiple roles. Now, the title Administrator usually means database administrator, email administrator, Active Directory administrator, UNIX/Linux administrator, programmer (scripting), network administrator, and performer of miracles all at once.

However, today we have far more technologies than ever before and I see some trends that suggest that the IT job market is starting to favour specialized skills over general ones.

Firstly, the Microsoft certification tracks are now specialized. Instead of obtaining an MCSE (Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer) after writing 7 exams that test the various administrative areas of the Windows operating system, you simply write a single certification that tests your skill in a specialized subject to obtain a MCTS (Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist). You can get an MCTS in SQL, or an MCTS in Exchange, or an MCTS in Active Directory administration, and so on. This modular certification structure was created by Microsoft from feedback by colleges in North America. These colleges, in turn, gave this feedback based on the needs of the job market in their geographical area.

Secondly, most employers today seem to favour specific certifications (that provide a benchmark of ability in a specialized skill area) to degrees and general experience.

Thirdly, most of the IT jobs that our graduates have obtained at triOS College primarily encompass a single technology such as SQL or Exchange, and have a few minor components such as network administrator or support.

Does anyone else see this trend?

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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