10 most demanding IT jobs, rated

On average, a new survey finds, IT professionals are required to be available to work 119 hours in each 168-hour week.

Many readers have been tethered to a pager (or now a smartphone) at some point in their career, driving down to the data center at 2 am to restart a system or fix a corrupt file in the database. It's not fun, but in an always-on, 24x7x365 world, someone has to keep the lights on. And while great strides have been made in IT automation, there still needs to be human operators to keep things humming.

Photo by Michael Krigsman

Photo by Michael Krigsman

Along these lines. Emerson Network Power just released an interesting report on “The Most Always-On IT Jobs,” based on a survey of 792 IT professionals in Asia, Europe, Latin America and the United States. The criteria is that these are jobs in which the IT professional has to be always available, always working at peak capacity and always accurate.

The top 10 "Always On" IT positions include the following. Interestingly, it includes most major IT jobs. What does this tell us? Emerson notes this as well, stating that all IT jobs are highly Always-On, averaging a score of "71" on a 0- to 100-point Always-On scale.  On average, the survey also finds, IT professionals are required to be available to work 119 hours in each 168-hour week. The higher level the job, the more Always-On.

1. Executive Director/Administrator: "All survey respondents performing this high-level role agree they work on many projects at once, and that their work requires a high level of intelligence.... They are accountable for success, and that translates into high job demands.... These IT pros have their heads and hands into every aspect of the job: strategic, operational, technical."

2. IT Procurement Manager: For these folks, the phone never stops ringing. "These Always-On professionals point to multiple pressures: urgency, demanding clients (often in different international time zones), staying up on the latest equipment, filling pressing staffing needs."

3. CIO: CIOs in the Emerson survey say they need "to work on many projects at once and make important decisions quickly. And those decisions can be required any time....  Other respondents mention they have to be available to take emergency calls and have been tracked down even on vacation. Demands of the job also include motivating and orchestrating the work of others, making sure all team members are performing to their abilities and 'getting everyone on the same page' for projects."

4. IT Manager/Director: "Professionals in this role might be called on to put out fires or do routine work at any time, including nights and weekends....  Respondents say demands on the IT manager/director include juggling several projects at once, solving problems quickly and working at peak capacity at all times.... Respondents say they have responsibility for a large portion of the company’s budget and for leading the meetings he or she is in."

5. IT Operations Manager: "Respondents employed in IT operations give many titles, including technician, manager, analyst, operator and specialist. They report working on high-stress projects with constant time pressure and responding to after-hours incidents.

6. Data Center Manager: This is also a job requires a high level of intelligence, necessary in a role "encumbered with multiple responsibilities and high-stress demands. For example, data center managers were in the top three for 'dependencies/multi-tasking,' the top four for 'availability' and the top five for “quick response.”

7. Engineering: "Perfection, quick response, good communication and time management skills, and the ability to work on structure and design are cited as job demands."

8. IT Security: "Making emergency decisions is noted as a typical demand of the job. Likewise, 89% of the security pros agree or strongly agree they make important decisions quickly – the highest score of all the IT roles. On the other hand, this group scores lowest on quick response. More than half (57%) of IT security respondents agree that success depends on things out of their control. While being in control and accountable can contribute to Always-On, we think lack of control can lead to frustration in a role that generally is Always-On."

9. Applications/Software Developer: "One-third or less of professionals in this category report having no time for quality work (33%) and no time to think things through (26%). Demands of the job include developing new applications for the workplace or industry, some involving highly complex issues. So it’s not surprising that 87% of respondents agree that others depend on their work a great deal."

10. Database Manager:"The survey responses from database managers reveal an Always-On profile similar to applications/software developers." A majority, 87%, of database managers say "others depend on their work a great deal. Where the two areas diverge is on certain indicators of working capacity/bandwidth. Over half (58%) of database managers agree they have no time for quality work, and 47% agree they have no time to think things through."