Information technology certification has never been an adults-only endeavor. An increasing number of high school students in the U.S. and elsewhere get certified each year. Some are even looking for full-time IT jobs. The boundaries of IT certification have been pushed so far in some instances as to suggest that no age limits of any kind apply.
Now there are numbers to back up the notion that, in fact early entry into IT certification and IT employment is a real phenomenon. A feature posted at CompTIA's IT Careers Blog last week spotlights the increasing frequency of teenage certification and includes a snapshot of CompTIA's own research into the matter. CompTIA recently found that more than half of its certificants are age 29 or younger. And between 2013 and 2104, CompTIA tracked a 4 percent increase in the total population of certificants younger than 30.
It's not a runaway trend, by any means. In our recent Salary Survey, Certification Magazine tracked responses from more than 18,000 certified individuals. A mere one-tenth of one percent were age 18 or younger, and just 6.5 percent landed between the ages of 19 and 24. The biggest segment of the total survey population, on the other hand, is the group of respondents between the ages of 25 and 34: 39.7 percent of respondents showed up in that bracket.
And there's also evidence that the crowd at the top is shrinking. Just 26 percent of those who took the survey were age 45 or older at the end of 2014.
The IT Careers Blog feature points to some increasingly familiar lines of thinking to explain the shift toward youth in IT certification. While many among the current generation of parents got started in technology at a young age, their children have, in many instances, been familiar with smartphones, tablets and other such devices more or less since toddlerhood. And today's schoolchildren learn technology many times faster than even kids just a decade older.
Even among older learners, however, fascination with technology is taking hold. CompTIA's charitable Creating IT Futures Foundation released a report this week about career interest among African-American and Latin-American teens. Students were asked to name their top career interests from among a field of 60 categories that included everything from careers in business to careers in sports and music. Even with that kind of competition, however, three of the top career choices were IT-specific endeavors.
Those not-so-usual suspects, all three of which are among the report's Top 10 career choices, are computer technician, computer design engineer and software programmer.
There's been a fair amount of hand-wringing in recent years over what might become of the global IT workforce as first-generation computer and IT workers, whose careers began in the 1970s, arrive at retirement and leave active IT employment behind. Maybe it won't be so hard to replace that group after all.