Oregon’s Computer Occupations: Working on the Internet of Things

by Emily Starbuck

May 1, 2017

With 50,900 workers in 2016, Oregon ranks 23rd in the nation for total employment in computer and mathematical occupations. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Employment Statistics, computer occupations made up nearly 3 percent of Oregon’s total employment in 2016. The Portland metro area employed the most workers in these occupations (43,130 workers), followed by the Salem and Eugene metro areas (3,130 and 2,650 workers respectively).

Variety in Computer Occupations

There are many different computer occupations, from programming and back end development, to customer-facing roles in tech support. One out of four Oregonians employed in a computer-related field in 2016 worked as software developers for computer applications. Software developers design, test, and create computer applications for consumers using a variety of coding languages and tools depending on the application.

A customer-facing occupation, computer user support specialists, made up 15 percent of Oregon’s computer-related employment. Computer support specialists provide tech support to users for both software and hardware. These workers may assist users online, over the phone, or in person as needed. Computer user support specialists may work for a software or service company, but they are also commonly found working within a non-IT company to provide tech support to their coworkers.

Thirteen percent of the computer occupation workforce in Oregon were employed in a computer occupation not otherwise specified in the current Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) system. Some jobs that fall into this category include web administrators, software quality assurance engineers, video game designers, and more. In 2018, the Bureau of Labor Statistics will release an updated version of SOC codes, which will break out the employment for some computer occupations in more detail.

Higher Wages and Educational Requirements

Computer occupations in Oregon pay about 1.7 times more than the average for all occupations. However, wages vary across occupations and metro regions. Statewide, computer and information research scientists have an annual average wage of $145,384, while computer user support specialists have an annual average wage of $51,580 – still higher than the statewide average for all occupations. Regionally, computer occupations in the Portland tri-county area (Multnomah, Washington, and Clackamas counties) pay the highest average wage of $87,258, while Eastern Oregon pays the lowest average wage of $57,106.

This wage disparity among occupations is due in part to the education requirements for each occupation. Most computer occupations require a bachelor’s degree to be competitive in the labor market, which results in higher wages. The lowest paying occupation, computer user support specialists, also has the lowest entry-level education requirement, requiring postsecondary training. Workers in these fields who want to move up to a higher-paying position must pursue higher education. Luckily, the majority of Oregon’s colleges and universities offer degrees that are applicable to computer occupations, such as computer science, computer programming, information technology, and computer engineering.

In addition to higher education, employers may require that workers know a variety of popular coding languages for programming positions. According to data from Help Wanted OnLine, Java, Python, C/C++, and SQL are the most commonly requested programming skills in job ads for computer occupations. Workers can learn these programming languages or brush up on their skills at code schools, both in person and online. While these schools do not provide accredited degrees, they allow workers to increase their skills alongside formal education or on the job training.

Supply and Demand

The Oregon Employment Department (OED) developed the Occupational Prioritization Tool (OP4T) to inform decision making regarding public investments in training for workforce needs. The tool ranks occupations on several factors, including recent labor demand, supply shortages and surpluses, wages, and total projected openings from 2014 to 2024. OP4T only ranks occupations that require some level of postsecondary training or beyond for an entry-level position. You can find a full list of OP4T rankings on our website here.

All 13 of Oregon’s computer occupations are included in the OP4T rankings, as all occupations require training beyond high school. Many computer occupations received high OP4T rankings. Software developers for applications ranked third out of 516 occupations, with high demand, high wages, and the most projected openings of any computer occupation. Computer network support specialists had the lowest OP4T ranking, coming in at 253 due to lower demand, wages, and openings.

Positive Employment Outlook

OED projects that there will be 16,614 job openings in computer occupations from 2014 to 2024. The majority of openings will be new growth openings, rather than replacement openings for workers leaving the occupation for reasons such as retirement. All computer occupations are projected to grow faster than the statewide average, except for computer programmers, which are projected to grow by 3 percent over the next decade. Software developers will have the most job openings at 3,277 statewide, followed by computer user support specialists with 2,567 job openings.
For job seekers in this field, the best outlook lies in the Portland tri-county area; OED projects that 77 percent of all computer occupation openings in the next 10 years will be in this region. Portland also has the highest average wages at $87,258 annually. Rural areas such as Eastern and Southwestern Oregon will have the fewest total openings, mostly concentrated in lower paying occupations.

Overall, the outlook for computer occupations is bright. Technology is rapidly evolving, which creates new opportunities and careers in tech fields. Workers with higher education that are able to stay current with new programming languages and platforms will find many job opportunities in Oregon and across the nation.

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