It seems like every time I turn around I'm hearing about a new specialty in the computer field. This is mostly a problem for me when writing this column. It also comes up when looking for work, but I've learned to look at job descriptions not job titles and do keyword searches. However, when I saw Michael Farr's Top 100 Computer and Technical Careers: Your Complete Guidebook to Major Jobs in Many Fields at All Training Levels at my local library, I thought that it might be a good way to find out about the many specialties I've never heard of. Unfortunately, I was disappointed, this book does not go into that level of detail about different computer careers. In fact, it only discusses about 10 very broad categories of computer careers based on the Department of Labor's classifications, like "Computer Scientists and Database Administrators." The majority of the careers in this book are either technical or use technical or computer skills, although as the book points out, most careers now expect at least a minimal comfort level with computer applications. I was surprised by how many of the careers discussed are in the health care industry, but on reflection, health care careers are very technical and I know quite a few people who have gone from computing into nursing or other healthcare careers.
However the book contains much more than descriptions of 100 careers. Although Top 100 Computer and Technical Careers is not what I expected, I was actually quite impressed with it. The first section of the book contains surveys, forms and tasks to help you figure out what career or careers are good picks for you based on interest, required skills, and what type of preparation you are willing or able to do. I was particularly struck by the balance between realism and following your dreams and desires. This section uses the second section, which contains details about the featured careers, as a resource. Each career area is split into eight sections - "Significant Points", "Nature of the Work", "Training, Other Qualifications, and Advancement", "Employment", "Job Outlook", "Earnings", "Related Occupations" and "Sources of Additional Information." Most of this information is identical to what's in the Occupational Outlook handbook, but in slightly more readable form. The bulk of the remainder of the book is a set of worksheets to help optimize your job search from resume writing to interviewing and salary negotiation.
I would highly recommend this book to anyone with a technical or scientific bent who is looking to start or change their career path. I was particularly impressed with the fact that the book is updated regularly. I wish I had had this book when I was younger and considering different career paths. Although I checked this book out from the library, I would recommend purchasing it as you will want to use the worksheets and make notes in the book.
Michael Farr. Top 100 Computer and Technical Careers: Your Complete Guidebook to Major Jobs in Many Fields at All Training Levels. Fourth edition. (Indianapolis: JIST Publishing, 2009.)
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