Education and Training: Varies—see profile
Salary: Varies—see profile
Employment Outlook: Varies—see profile
Definition and Nature of the Work
The Internet—a worldwide network of computer networks—offers businesses and individuals a relatively inexpensive way to communicate with a global audience. The development of the Internet over the past forty years has opened an entirely new medium for communication and commerce. Creative individuals with something to say or something to sell and technical interests and abilities can use the Internet to reach vast numbers of people.
Internet entrepreneurs are individuals who are familiar with the culture and technology of the Internet and are able to apply their knowledge to sell products or services via the Internet. In general, these entrepreneurs exploit the World Wide Web (the Web)—the portion of the Internet where users post "pages" of text, images, audio, and video using the HTML programming language. On a basic level the Web provides individual entrepreneurs and business organizations with an inexpensive means to offer documents and software to a worldwide audience.
Commercial Web sites fall into two basic types: pay sites and free sites. Pay sites offer subscribers proprietary information for a fee. The information can range from financial analysis to software applications to sports statistics. Free sites attract users with interesting content, then make money through advertising or sales generated through the site. For example, "search engines" such as Yahoo and Google help users find Web pages for free while exposing the users to advertisements. Other free sites are essentially online catalogs selling products and offering feature articles and reviews. Home electronics, computer equipment, books, music, video games, and travel arrangements are among the most popular items sold over the Internet.
Many Web sites are owned and maintained by huge corporations. Nearly all Fortune 500 companies have Web sites. On the other hand, there are also thousands of smaller businesses represented online—many owned and operated by individuals. Regardless of whether they work for a large corporation or a tiny business, Internet entrepreneurs must combine marketing skills with an aptitude for using new and evolving technology.
Education and Training Requirements
The Internet has fostered a culture where highly educated and well-trained business people compete side-by-side with self-taught amateurs. In general, individuals hoping to find employment as Internet experts for large corporations need a college degree and training in business management, marketing, and/or economics. They also need to understand basic HTML and Java programming capabilities as well as the fundamental architecture of the Internet.
On the other hand, individuals interested in starting a business on the Internet need only the training and education necessary to realize their own ambitions. Knowledge of the HTML programming language and an understanding of Web architecture are basic prerequisites. Internet entrepreneurs must also come up with good ideas. Often the best way to do this is to look for valuable services that the Internet could provide but does not. Internet entrepreneurs should strive to understand the core business that they hope to break into, whether it is electronics retailing, floral arrangements, or movie memorabilia. They should conduct market research and put together a solid financial plan before launching their business.
Getting the Job
Internet entrepreneurs need access to the Internet. Most Internet service providers (ISPs) offer use of their computer servers linked to the Internet for a fee. Those entrepreneurs more experienced in computers can set up their own server on the Internet.
Like any other form of entrepreneurship, Internet entrepreneurship requires personal initiative and drive. Individuals interested in an Internet career should discover as much as possible about the growth and evolution of the Internet. They should consider setting up a personal Web page to gain hands-on experience of the Web.
Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook
The Internet has shown spectacular growth over the past few years and will almost certainly continue to grow. On the other hand, the failure rate of Internet businesses is high, because the medium evolves in ways that are impossible to predict.
Employment in Web-related business is volatile. Many large companies have invested heavily in developing Internet sites. Then, as those sites fail to produce revenue, companies alter their plans and "downsize" or abandon the sites, often laying off employees in the process.
Like other new industries, the Internet offers high-risk opportunities. Individuals with the right idea and the skills necessary to capitalize on it can earn a fortune. At the same time, far more Internet-based businesses will fail rather than succeed.
Internet entrepreneurs working for large companies generally work in clean, well-lighted, modern offices. Small-time entrepreneurs often work out of their homes. Entrepreneurs of all types are dedicated individuals willing to work extremely long hours to make their dreams a reality. Stress and anxiety are part of the entrepreneur's daily experience.
Earnings and Benefits
Earnings on the Internet vary wildly. In established businesses looking to create or grow an Internet presence, executives responsible for managing Internet operations will earn salaries comparable to their non-Internet counterparts. According to salary.com, top division information technology executives earned a median annual salary of $150,647. Workers responsible for day-to-day work on Internet sites earned substantially less—a typical Web designer, for instance, earned a median annual salary of $60,188, according to the same survey.
The earnings of self-employed entrepreneurs depend upon the relative success of their businesses. Some lose money year after year, while others go on to become billionaires. Personal earnings, of course, come out of sales after product and marketing costs have been subtracted. Successful online businesses generate much larger sales. Unfortunately, most Internet businesses are not huge successes.
Where to Go for More Information
US Internet Industry Association
1800 Diagonal Rd.
Alexandria, VA 22314
US Internet Service Provider Association
1330 Connecticut Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20036
Individuals working for large companies usually receive benefits packages consisting of health and unemployment insurance and paid holidays. Self-employed entrepreneurs usually pay for their own insurance.