Want a Hot Career? Think About IT

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Want a Hot Career? Think About IT

Whether you are considering a career change or searching for that first job, your prospects are greatly improved if you have skills in information technology, or IT.

That is according to a report last month from the Ministry of Labor and the Korea Manpower Agency on the 20 most promising jobs. More than half of the jobs that made it onto the list were computer-related, showing that for the foreseeable future the IT sector will continue to be where the growth jobs are.

Among the IT sector jobs highlighted were game contents developer, fiber-optic telecommunications specialist, database manager, Internet business jobs, systems engineer and industrial robot controller.

The job of a game contents developer, a relatively new category, involves writing game scenarios, programming and designing computer games. Fiber-optic telecom specialist is emerging as a job with a bright future, given the growing telecommunications industry and its extensive infrastructure. Internet business is an area that is hugely popular among the so-called "Generation-N" (Net generation). Basic Internet skills are easily acquired regardless of one's education level and once the skills have been mastered, it is relatively easy to start up a business as an online entrepreneur. (While the technical demands of creating a start-up are relatively simple, finding an Internet business concept with staying power is quite another matter, as the number of dot-com crashes in the last year or so has shown.) Job candidates with Internet business skills enjoy a definite advantage in the competition for jobs in information service providers (ISPs), e-commerce businesses and retail companies.

The computer, electronics and semiconductor industries have for a number of years been top of the list of big employers and continue to offer growing job opportunities.

A number of new high-growth jobs made it to the list, reflecting the new demands of the time. Investment consultant, advising clients on the stock market, is much sought-after. Logistics managers, who specialize in information packaging, storing, unloading, transportation, processing and retail will also be in high demand as logistics become ever more important. Another job rising in prominence, as robots come to dominate assembly lines, is industrial robot controller.

Jobs once shunned as "3D" - dirty, dangerous and difficult - are now making a comeback as new technologies improve work conditions. In the waste management sector, one can find jobs in landfill, manure processing plants, sewage treatment plants and a growing number of companies specializing in environmental management.

However, one caveat about IT sector job demand should be heeded. While the sector has great growth potential, employment prospects hinge on the job-seeker's skills level. "There is a huge demand for core technologies specialists, such as computer programmers and system analysts, but at low-skill level, those jobs that require only vocational training or junior college education, there isn't that large a gap between demand and supply now," said Kim Han-joon, a researcher at the Work Information Center of the Korea Manpower Agency, whose team is working on a report on IT sector job outlook due at the end of the year.

The Korea Labor Institute drew up a list of growth jobs for the next five years last year that also highlights the growing demand for personnel in computer-related sectors. After researching 367 different jobs, the government think-tank estimated that the demand for computer programmers would swell 38 percent by 2005, creating jobs for some 46,200 persons. The institute's report, like the Korea Manpower Agency's latest report, also predicts that stockbrokers and financial specialists will continue to be in high demand, enjoying a 27 percent growth by 2005. Interestingly, the demand for education specialists is expected to grow 29 percent.

Computer-related jobs were also prominent among the 16 promising occupations highlighted in "21st Century Challenge! Professional Jobs, Click! Information on Certification," a booklet published by the labor ministry last December. However, the non-techies among us need not despair - clinical speech therapist, social worker, advertising and marketing manager and fund manager also made it onto the list.

The booklet listed a number of novel jobs that may sound a bit far-fetched, at least here in Korea in the near future, but are interesting nevertheless. These include: G.Os, or gentils organisateurs, activities leaders whose job descriptions range from sports and recreational instructors to guides at resort facilities; sommeliers, or wine stewards; tree therapists, who manage and care for trees; and children's play instructors, who encourage and teach children to play.

As with any type of prediction, forecasting the demand for particular jobs is a risky business, especially as fast-evolving technologies can make today's boom job sector history tomorrow. This is particularly so in Korea, where the lack of accumulated data make it hazardous to make periodical predictions on the job market. "We now refrain from making predictions about promising jobs because there have been some off-target predictions in the past," said Chun Dong-young, an official at the Korea Manpower Agency.

In the United States, the Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes a guide every two years forecasting growth jobs for the next decade. Computer engineer, computer specialist and systems analyst occupy the top three spots among the fastest growing occupations in the 2000-2001 edition of the Occupational Handbook.

by Kim Hoo-ran

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