The 309-item survey was administered via WebSurveyor (a web-based survey software package) for a period of approximately three weeks. A total of 359 respondents answered questions about their demographics and then a variety of questions about desired characteristics for entry-level information technology employees with bachelor degrees. All respondents rated the importance of various soft skills and business skills. They then chose one or more of the eight-job cluster categories that they felt they had expertise in and rated the importance of various characteristics for these areas.
Employees of sixteen information technology companies in central Arkansas responded to the survey. These companies were Acxiom, Alltel, Aristotle, Arkansas Science and Technology, ARKSYS, BEI Sensors and Systems, CD Resources, Connect4Business, Custom MicroSystems, Department of Information Systems (State of Arkansas), EDS, ESI group, Inacom, Innovative Solutions, Southwestern Bell, and USNR-Hemco Division. Regarding 'the highest level of education achieved' by the respondents to the survey, a majority identified themselves as having a bachelor's degree (58%). (See Figure 1). Other respondents (listed in descending order) identified themselves as having a master's degree (17%), associate's degree (10%), post high school technical training (4%), doctoral degree (2%), and high school degree (2%). Approximately six percent of respondents chose the 'other' category. These individuals included responses such as military education, college education without graduating, and graduate education without obtaining the terminal degree. (It should be pointed out that all percentages reported in this section are rounded off to the nearest whole number.) Respondents also indicated their academic major (or primary concentration of study) while in college. There was a wide array of responses representing the diversity of programs typically offered at colleges and universities. A sampling of majors of the respondents includes accounting, biology, business, chemistry, computer science, education, English, engineering, finance, journalism, marketing, mathematics, music, nursing, pharmacy, political science, psychology, physics, religion, sociology, statistics, technology, and zoology. While there was a tendency for many respondents to have a computer/technical background, it is clear that information technology companies hire people from a wide range of educational backgrounds, including business, the natural sciences, arts, humanities, and social sciences.
There is a somewhat even distribution of primary computer programming languages used regularly in the information technology firms of central Arkansas. (See Figure 3.) Respondents could make multiple responses to this question. In descending order, this list is SQL (20%), 'C" (15%), 'C++' (14%), COBOL (12%), HTML (12%), Java (5%), RPG (4%). Nineteen percent of respondents also chose the 'other' category and typed in their own responses. Although most of these responses were only represented once, two of the responses received a high number of entries. They were Assembler (25 respondents) and Visual Basic (43 respondents). Respondents also were asked about the primary operating systems that are used by their company. They could make multiple responses to this question. Responses (in descending order) were Windows NT (26%), Windows 95/98 (26%), Main frame (23%) Unix (22%), and Mac (1%). Nine percent of respondents chose the 'other' response and typed in their answer. Multiple entries to this 'other' response were OS/400 (23 respondents), Novell (5 respondents), and Linux (3 respondents).
In the sections that follow, the results of respondents to the major categories of the survey are presented. The summary figures presented in each of these subsections are organized in the same manner. The job-related characteristics presented on each figure are listed in descending order, according to how desirable the group of respondents rated them (for an entry-level employee with a bachelor's degree). Each figure shows how many respondents rated the characteristic as either Extremely Important (EI), Very Important (VI), Somewhat Important (SI), Not Very Important (NVI), and Not Important at All (NI). The characteristics are sorted primarily according to median response. It must be pointed out that a lower median score (i.e., '0') corresponds to a higher rating (i.e., Extremely Important characteristic). A secondary sort also was performed on the characteristics listed in each figure. This sort was performed on a number that was calculated to represent the importance of the characteristic. To accomplish this, the average number of respondents for the Extremely Important and Very Important responses were averaged. Finally, the last column of each figure (N) lists the number of responses for each characteristic.