Read about careers in IT technology, including how much education you'll need to enter the field. Find information about areas of specialization and potential earnings here, which can help you decide if a career as an IT technologist is right for you.
Professionals employed in the information technology (IT) industry assist with the processing, transmission, storage and distribution of data and information. As an IT specialist, you'll design, build and manage hardware and software technologies and teach people and organizations how they can be put to the most effective use. IT technologies are associated with a number of occupations, including computer design and programming or network administration. In addition to business, they are also used in the communications, entertainment and engineering industries.
Due to our reliance on computer systems and digital communication, as well as the common use of computers and networks for business and personal use, professionals who are proficient in the use of IT technologies are in constant demand. As a qualified candidate, you might find work as a systems or network administrator, installing and supporting a local area network. As a database administrator, you'll build and maintain data systems that can manage and store to information.
If you're more interested in computer hardware, you could become an engineer, designing computer chips, drives and circuits for desktop computers, servers and network devices. As a software engineer, you'll design computer programs, device drivers, games and other related applications. Depending on your level of education and interests, you may also be employed as a network security specialist.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment opportunities for computer systems analysts and software developers were expected to increase by a much-faster-than average rate nationwide from 2012-2022. A faster-than-average growth in employment was projected for computer and information systems managers; network and computer systems administrators can expect an average increase in job openings through 2022.
As reported by the BLS in May 2013, the median annual salary for computer and information systems managers was $123,950, making them some of the highest-paid professionals in the IT industry. As of the same month, computer hardware engineers and systems software developers earned median annual salaries of $104,250 and $101,410, respectively. In May 2013, the median annual salary for software application developers was $92,660, while database administrators took home $78,520. At the lower-end of the salary spectrum were network and computer administrators, who earned a median salary of $74,000 in May 2013 (www.bls.gov).
While an associate's degree in computer technology or Internet technologies might help you get your foot in the door as a computer support specialist, most IT positions require a minimum of a bachelor's degree, according to the BLS. Relevant majors can include computer science, systems or software engineering, networking or information systems management. Once enrolled, you might study networking protocols, programming languages, security algorithms and communication devices. While individual majors might allow for a specialization, they are most often found in master's degree programs, which might help you advance to a management program.
As an IT professional, you'll need to be proficient in the use of computer and have good problem-solving skills. An attention to detail can also be beneficial in this line of work.
While optional, professional certifications are commonly encouraged for IT positions. Whereas formal education programs can hep you acquire an understanding of the broad theories behind certain technologies, certifications from vendors and industry organizations demonstrate your expertise in specific IT areas. For example, you could obtain networking certification from Cisco, specialist credentials through Microsoft or a general IT designation from CompTIA. While a degree is not usually required to sit for a certification test, proficiency in specific IT technologies and some experience in the field can help you respond to the questions correctly.