I worked in I.T. from 1995 to 2002 when I was let go. Though there was a downturn in the industry that year it had as much to do with Office politics as anything else. Must say I loved the buzz of selling and helping to change the World we live in, but all that backstabbing and rugpulling got me down. + I don't socialise or rub shoulders with no one to get up the ladder.
Anyway I am much happier where I am now and love and respect the people I work for now, and I think they have the same for me.
Well the development sector is getting progressively worse and won't improve. If you know anybody studying now to get into the industry, tell them not to bother and switch to something else.
In a couple decades, most software won't be developed in N. America or Europe. When even a small company needs something they will simply contract out to a middleman who represents any of a million firms popping up in India.
The support sections of the IT industry (administrators, technicians, tech-support etc) will still do okay, though they're likely to be affected somewhat by the increasing losses suffered by the development sector (and I mean, the market is pretty well flooded with these types already). Still, someone has to use all that software the Indians are churning out so clueless office workers will still need help, need their computers fixed and networks managed and setup. Add to the mix the increasing number of computers/internet users, which has not slowed, and they're looking okay.
I'm still making excellent money in development and I'm going to hang on for now but I've noticed the development sector slowly drying up. Even up to late last year I had more work than I could handle and I could choose to be very selective in what I took (to the point where I almost considered just switching to an administrative and management position, handling design and subcontracting everything out... to India heh). But as I was planning out my mid-year 2004, I was only able to find a single opportunity for freelance work under my usual payscale (for what I do, it's pretty much standard fare for me to have work lined up months in advance). It involves architecture that I'm not familiar with so for the first time since I left school I'm going back (well, not so much school as online MS certifications). I took that as a bad omen... or even a premonition if you will . It only gets worse from here from my point of view.
I've been thinking about going back to school for a physics degree (I'd like to eventually end up in 3D programming for some game studio) but I'm increasingly seeing that as too much of a risk. I have a lot of contacts in the gaming industry and getting a job probably won't be an issue, but too many game studios live from release to release... a lot of friends lost their jobs when Dynamix was axed by Sierra/Vivendi for the relatively poor performance of Tribes 2 (they were a couple million in the black, but it was well below the many, many millions Sierra was expecting to earn, so Sierra shut them down - a fairly common story). Too much risk for my tastes, too unstable and from all my friends who work in game development, the pay sucks for the long hours you need to put in as release dates creep up. Add to that an economic model in the electronic entertainment industry totally stinks and makes independent development difficult and you have an industry that, while growing, is inherently flawed IMNSHO. The internet might be the saviour of this flawed model, or it might implode due to piracy. I don't want to be around to find out, though.
So at the advice of my girlfriend I may go back to school part-time... probably for an engineering degree (of what flavour I've not given much thought yet)... whatever the case the next couple of years will be transition for me as I likely jump ship form the IT industry. I've no doubts I could remain employed in some boring office environment, but I'd probably need to take a considerable pay cut from what I make now (as in, probably about 50% and no flexibility) and that would interfere too much with long-standing plans to retire in my late thirties to leech off of my rental properties and be that bastard landlord hassling people for the rent.
A shame that the tech boom was so short, but the last thing we need are more protected industries that live or die by how many politicians they can pay off to give them subsidies and/or tariff protection. That's the surest way to inefficiency and is just asking for trouble. So kiss the software side of the IT sector goodbye. It's slowly fading away.
To get more on topic, my sister works in health care (was an RN for several years and recently was certified as a specialist of some sort to work with babies). Rock-solid stability and always in demand. If you're tired of the instability in IT, you couldn't have picked a better career path. If you're really interested in making a lot of cash, you can work in Saudi Arabia. They pay very well, fly you home at their expense for vacations and such. But its apparently kind of boring as all the foreigners typically stay in their compounds (at their will, not based on any restrictions from what I hear, there's just not much to do there with their religious bans on all the things we usually equat with fun [casual sex, getting smashed, etc]) and they more or less sit around and get drunk whenever they're not working. Just make sure you don't blurt out some of the things you have on this forum about Arabs during the screening process and you should be ok .