The Higher Education IT Workforce Landscape, 2019

Foreword, Introduction, and Key Findings


Since 2002, EDUCAUSE has been exploring the contours of the higher education IT workforce—shedding light on the people who constitute that workforce and their attitudes and perceptions about the work they do. This year we are pleased to offer our fourth comprehensive national research study on this subject. As with our previous studies, this resource is designed to aid IT professionals in their career decision-making and institutions in their support of the people who make up their staff and leadership. More explicitly this year, we've put forth in this report a number of challenges to readers and their institutions to take a closer look at issues of diversity within the higher education IT community and to consider how these issues may open all of us to important changes and opportunities for the workforce in the future.

As part of its recently adopted strategic vision, EDUCAUSE is firmly committed to supporting members and institutions as they address important challenges and opportunities related to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). This report clearly details the many areas of need for walking out this commitment together as a professional community. We find, for example, that compared with the larger US workforce, employees in higher education IT are predominantly white and minority racial-ethnic groups are underrepresented. We also find that Millennials are underrepresented in this workforce and that the representation of women among chief information officers (CIOs) has declined over the past several years. The news, however, isn't all grim; we also highlight a few bright spots. Perhaps most notably, we find that LGBTQ representation in higher education IT is twice that of the general US population and that women have made gains among both IT management and staff. And we are not without promising solutions for the future diversity and inclusiveness of the higher education IT workforce; indeed, throughout this report we point the reader to some helpful resources to aid us all in building toward that better future.

Of course, this report covers many additional topics that I am confident you will find enlightening and helpful: the skills and professional development activities rated most important for IT staff and leadership; important job-retention factors; the career trajectories that lead professionals to positions of higher education IT leadership; and the relationships between IT professionals and other colleagues around the college campus. Whether you are currently part of the IT workforce or sitting on the outside looking in, I hope you will take all of this rich information with you as you continue your professional journey in IT, higher education, or other professional spaces. Most importantly, I hope you will build on the information you find here as you map it onto your own particular institutional environments and professional practices. I encourage you to dig deeply into this report and then move beyond it—pursue the questions it raises for you, and continue on in the discovery that is really only just beginning here.

Thank you for taking the time to read this important work, and best wishes to you on your professional journey.

—Mark McCormack, Senior Director of Analytics and Research, EDUCAUSE


This is the fourth comprehensive research study on the IT workforce in higher education from the EDUCAUSE Center for Analysis and Research (ECAR). Like previous workforce reports, it describes the state of the higher education IT workforce across all organizational levels,1 as well as the demographic makeup of the workforce, the state of hiring in higher education IT, the skills important to succeeding in higher education IT, workforce retention, career paths of CIOs and managers, and the roles CIOs and managers play. This year, we've also included findings on the diversity of the higher education workforce by including demographics on respondent sexual orientation and disabilities to enable dialogue among higher education IT professionals about workforce diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). Because we have consistently found that most higher education IT professionals tend to stay in higher education, we trust this report can offer insights into why this is the case and how valuable employees can be retained. By identifying the trends, needs, activities, obstacles, and goals of the workforce at all organizational levels, our results may offer ideas for sustaining an environment that can meet the ever-evolving needs of stakeholders. Finally, we hope that this report offers clear pathways to increase career satisfaction, opportunities for advancement, and career development.

Key Findings

  • Women continue to be underrepresented in the higher education IT workforce, but their numbers have increased in recent years. Women have made the greatest gains as managers, followed by staff. Despite these gains, the percentage of female CIOs has declined, and considerable work remains in order for women to break through the glass ceilings in higher education IT.
  • The higher education IT workforce appears to be getting older. The median age of higher education IT employees has increased to 50. According to our data, Baby Boomers and Gen Xers are overrepresented and Millennials are underrepresented in the higher education IT workforce. The recruitment and retention of Millennials to the higher education IT workforce will become increasingly important to counter looming Baby Boomer retirements.
  • The higher education IT workforce remains predominantly white. Although the workforce has experienced some moderate improvements with regard to ethnic diversity, our data suggest that minority groups in higher education IT tend to be underrepresented compared with the overall US workforce.
  • The percentage of higher education IT employees who identify as LGBQ is twice that of the general population. LGBQ employees may be more drawn to IT positions in higher education given these institutions' broader commitment to diversity of thought, creed, and demography, creating a more welcoming environment than general IT work environments.
  • The percentage of higher education IT employees who have disabilities and impairments is substantial. About 8% of respondents reported having been diagnosed with a disability or impairment. Of those identifying as having a disability, 27% have a sensory impairment, 22% have a learning disability, 21% have a mobility impairment, and 16% have a mental health disorder.
  • Most CIOs and managers reported that they have been able to fill open positions, but fewer reported being able to create and hire for new positions. Institution size and classification were associated with IT departments' ability to hire. Larger institutions likely have larger IT departments and therefore greater capacity to hire and restructure positions and roles to meet the needs of an extensive organization.
  • Over half of institutions reported not adding any full-time IT positions, and only a little more than a third of institutions reported eliminating positions. Attrition was the factor that contributed to the highest numbers of positions eliminated. When positions were added, they were for creating and maintaining IT infrastructure (e.g., systems administrator) or were necessary to enhance security.
  • Business skills such as effective communication and the ability to manage relationships within the institution were considered the most important skills for job success. Although technical skills such as managing processes and services and engaging in design thinking are somewhat less important, they tend to rank higher than general managerial skills.
  • The professional development activities that most contributed to professional growth were analyzing data for strategic decision-making and attending a conference on higher education in IT. Among all organizational classes engaged in these activities over the past two years, a strong majority assessed these opportunities as moderately or greatly contributing to professional growth in their current position.
  • Quality of life and work environment are the most important factors in keeping employees at an institution. Other generally important factors include occupational stability and benefits. All of these factors were rated significantly higher than monetary compensation across organizational levels.
  • Higher education IT employees across organizational levels and Carnegie classes deemed insufficient staff and financial resources to be major or critical obstacles to effective job performance. IT employees are confident in their abilities and skills to do their work, and they reported gaps in these areas as among the least critical obstacles to effectiveness in their current positions.
  • Competitive compensation and additional budgetary resources were the most important factors to CIOs and managers for adequately maintaining their IT workforce over the next three years. Outsourcing systems, functions, and services and contracting work to be done are among the less important solutions to workforce maintenance.
  • The paths to CIO and manager positions in higher education are related to previous roles, experience in higher education, and education levels. Although managers come from every IT sector and are typically hired to manage units within the sectors in which they have developed specialization and competency, CIOs tend to come from other executive leadership positions. Managers and CIOs both tend to have considerable experience within higher education, but managers appear to be loyal to their institution, whereas individuals aspiring to a CIO position may have to leave their institution. Education levels are associated with moving up the managerial ladder: CIOs and managers have earned more advanced degrees than staff.
  • CIOs who have an appointment to a president's or a chancellor's cabinet more frequently engage in shaping their institution's academic directions and strategic activities than their counterparts who do not have those appointments. CIOs and managers most frequently engage in a collaborative relationship with their institution's chief information security officer.

© 2019 EDUCAUSE. The text of this work is licensed under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 4.0 International License.

Citation for this work
Joseph D. Galanek, Dana C. Gierdowski, and D. Christopher Brooks. The Higher Education IT Workforce Landscape, 2019. Research report. Louisville, CO: ECAR, February 2019.


  1. In our previous workforce reports, we used the term "managerial" to refer to the three types of workforce study respondents: staff, manager, and CIO. This year, we altered the language to avoid confusion with references to those who are managers and to better reflect the hierarchy of roles in IT organizations.