recommended reading

Commentary: The NSA leaker and Highly Skilled but Academically Ordinary Workers

Booz Allen Hamilton has released a new statement on Edward Snowden, its now-former employee and National Security Agency surveillance leaker. In addition to saying it fired Snowden yesterday over code-of-ethics violations, Booz Allen reports that the Maryland native's annual salary was $122,000—far less than the $200,000 Snowden himself claimed to be making.

That's still a lot of money, particularly for someone who reportedly never graduated from high school. 

But the reality is, Snowden is part of a larger economy that tech companies and members of Congress ignore when they discuss high-skilled jobs and immigration. As more of the broader economy moves toward an IT-reliant future, many of the job market's more mundane openings are also falling into the science, technology, math, and engineering categories. You no longer have to be an academic genius to work in STEM fields, if that were ever the case; people like Snowden are evidence that an ability to do the job often trumps a shiny degree. College graduates, Ph.D.s, and patent-seekers inspire the mind with stories of entrepreneurship and innovation. Yet for every one of those supposed geniuses, new research finds, there is another STEM-related job that doesn't call for a bachelor's degree.

Fifty percent of all such jobs in the United States call for an associate's degree or less, according to a report yesterday by the Brookings Institution. What we think of as traditional STEM workers include people like nuclear engineers and biochemists. But also falling into that category are auto technicians, who are increasingly working on sophisticated automotive computer systems; registered nurses, who will be the first to feel the effects of a coming health-IT revolution; and, yes, computer-systems analysts—such as Snowden.

TheU.S. employs nearly 488,000 computer analysts, who make an average of $82,320 a year. In Hawaii, where Snowden spent his final months before fleeing to Hong Kong, noncollege graduates accounted for 49 percent of the STEM workforce. That figure drops to 30 percent for the Washington metropolitan area, which attracts academically qualified talent to a greater extent. 

Congress has mostly referred to "high-skilled immigration" as a synonym for "tech-savvy degree-holders." But if this Brookings report is accurate, our use of academic achievement as a proxy for skills may be off the mark. It's becoming increasingly common to work a high-skilled job and not boast a degree from MIT.

Threatwatch Alert

Thousands of cyber attacks occur each day

See the latest threats

JOIN THE DISCUSSION

Close [ x ] More from Nextgov
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from Nextgov.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • It’s Time for the Federal Government to Embrace Wireless and Mobility

    The United States has turned a corner on the adoption of mobile phones, tablets and other smart devices, outpacing traditional desktop and laptop sales by a wide margin. This issue brief discusses the state of wireless and mobility in federal government and outlines why now is the time to embrace these technologies in government.

    Download
  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

    Download
  • A New Security Architecture for Federal Networks

    Federal government networks are under constant attack, and the number of those attacks is increasing. This issue brief discusses today's threats and a new model for the future.

    Download
  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

    Download
  • Software-Defined Networking

    So many demands are being placed on federal information technology networks, which must handle vast amounts of data, accommodate voice and video, and cope with a multitude of highly connected devices while keeping government information secure from cyber threats. This issue brief discusses the state of SDN in the federal government and the path forward.

    Download
  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.