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Part-time jobs scarce in IT

Experts cite unique demands of profession for lack of 20-hour-a-week opportunities

By , Network World
August 13, 2007 11:41 AM ET

Network World - The lazy days of summer might have you thinking about how nice it would be to cut back on your work hours -- permanently. However, unlike many professions where opportunities for part-time workers are growing steadily, most employers would rather their IT staff work more hours, not fewer.

Due to the nature of supporting technology users, which because of its urgency and complexity is often more than a full-time job, and the fact that there are almost more available jobs than IT professionals -- technology job placement firm Robert Half Technologysays the IT unemployment rate is less than 2 % -- companies are less apt to let a valuable IT professional cut back on hours than, say, an accountant or marketer.

Case in point; on Aug. 1 listed 717 part-time positions in IT, while there were 1,718 part-time accounting positions available and 4,815 part-time nursing positions.

“IT problems are 24 hours a day, 365 days a year,” says Ilyse Shapiro, founder of, a Web site launched in March designed to connect experienced professionals in a variety of industries with employers looking for part-time, flexible, virtual or seasonal employees. Shapiro says there are very few companies looking for permanent, part-time IT help. “With BlackBerries and laptops, everybody is working 24 hours a day, so I’m not seeing as many part-time positions as I would like to in this field.”

One IT professional says that because the job isn’t task-based -- rarely is something truly "finished" in IT -- it’s difficult to quantify the work involved, and therefore hard to come up with a scaled-back version of the position.

“A big component of IT work is ongoing support, even after the project or task is completed, which doesn’t lend itself…to part-time help,” says Richard Cummins, director of the technology services group with Community Medical Centers’ corporate information systems in Fresno, Calif. Another issue is the frequency with which IT professionals need to be trained and retrained. “To remain competitive in the IT market, especially as an engineer, it requires a lot of hands-on training on a full-time basis.”

Another reason that may contribute to the scarcity of part-time IT jobs is the abundance of contract or project-based work available.'s Shapiro believes this is because technology needs can be very specific -- an XML developer or Oracle database administrator, for example -- and employers often want the flexibility to bring on a skilled professional with the sole purpose of completing a project, instead of having to train someone on staff.

Occasionally companies will hire extra IT workers with limited hours to provide additional support on a help desk, says Brian Gabrielson], vice president with Robert Half Technology, especially those companies with customer-facing help desks that need more workers during crunch times. And growing companies with changing needs may hire a part-time IT professional before they see the need for a full-time staffer. But otherwise there is little demand from either employers or job seekers for part-time IT positions, he says.

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