The number of men and women in computer occupations, informally known as information technology (IT) occupations, rose from 450,000 in 1970 to 4.6 million in 2014 (Figure 1). The increase of IT workers reflects the growth in computer use at home and at the workplace since the introduction of the personal computer in the mid-1970s. Between 1976 and 1984, the number of personal computer sales increased from 40,000 to over 6 million (Reimer, 2005). In 1984, 8.2 percent of households had a computer (File, 2013). This number has increased steadily to 85.0 percent in 2014.1
IT occupations span a number of professions, from computer research scientists and programmers to Web developers and computer support specialists. The U.S. Census Bureau first classified IT occupations in 1970. The initial 3 occupation categories grew to 12 by 2010 (Table 1).2 The expansion in categories reflects the increase in employment in these occupations since 1970. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that employment in computer and mathematical occupations will increase by 18.0 percent between 2012 and 2022 (Richards, 2013). Only 4 of the total 22 occupation groups were projected to grow faster.
This report explores the history of IT occupations between 1970 and 2014, focusing on the growth and evolution of IT occupations. The analysis includes estimates from the 1970, 1980, 1990, and 2000 censuses, and the 2010 and 2014 American Community Surveys (ACS). Additionally, this report provides a detailed description of demographic and employment characteristics of workers in the 12 IT occupations in 2014.
1 Data on household computer use obtained from American FactFinder table DP02. In DP02, computer is defined as a desktop, laptop, handheld computer, or other computer (e.g., tablet). File (2013) uses data from the 1984 Current Population Survey, which defined computers as having “typewriter-like keyboards” and excluded “handheld computers” (Kominski, 1988).
2 The Census Bureau has based its occupation code lists on the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) Manual since the manual was implemented in 1980. The SOC manual is available at <www.bls.gov/soc>. Between 1850, when it first collected occupation data, and 1980, the Census Bureau had created and maintained its own occupation classification.