The field of information technology (IT) continues to grow, which is good news for employees who are trained in specific computer-related fields. You could land a position in this field with an associate’s degree or after the successful completion of a certificate program, so if you have a knack for computers and want to start making good money, this is the field to be in.
In relation to other professions, the IT field is a new face on the scene. Widespread use of computers did not come about until the introduction of the internet around 1990. From then, businesses and consumers began to use computers in a way that would ultimately transform the way we do business, communication and even education.
Considering its relatively new place on the job market, the IT field is showing unstoppable growth. Although many companies are beginning to outsource their IT needs, there are still plenty of jobs for U.S. workers who have a strong education foundation along with the people skills needed to communicate technical changes to a non-technical audience.
IT is a male-dominated field, meaning more men than women earn degrees and get jobs in IT. In a 2020 study by McKinsey, they found that diverse companies outperform their less-diverse counterparts — but despite the benefits of diversity, entering IT as a woman is still challenging. As companies seek to curate more diverse workforces to incorporate new perspectives, colleges and universities are encouraging those from underrepresented groups to pursue degrees and certificates in IT.
An Industry on the Move
The changing face of IT is part of the reason for the increase in jobs. Due to technology growth and new inventions, even seasoned IT professionals have to continually educate themselves on new trends. As more companies migrate to cloud-based systems as opposed to network servers, the need for professionals who are well-versed in cloud technology is growing. Although job growth in IT is not what it was five years ago, the demand for qualified employees in computer-based fields is still expected to grow at a faster rate than the average field.
A few years ago, the big career information technology demand was for internet-based employees. As more non-technical staff members have become comfortable with handling the daily task of maintaining and updating webpages, the need for an employee who is solely dedicated to such needs has decreased. At the same time, companies need staff who can manage network systems, cybersecurity, and programming language. People who are interested in devoting their education and experience to these more specified areas are still in high demand.
While technical skills are a must for these positions, employers also want to hire staff members who have strong people skills, including problem-solving abilities and good communication skills. Today’s IT workers must be able to work in a team environment and be willing to understand the overall goals of the company. Gone are the days where the IT person just fixed a computer problem and moved on.
The IT staff is now an integral part of the company and businesses depend on them when making corporate decisions and count on their opinions just as much as any other employee. Many marketing and sales initiatives are impossible to complete without a trusted IT staff. As an IT employee, being knowledgeable about the business world and being comfortable in business situations will help increase your marketability.
The challenge for any IT professional is staying ahead of the curve. Unlike other business positions like sales or public relations, education for computer professionals does not stop after graduation from a degree program. IT staff must be prepared to learn new coding systems and software packages while staying on top of security risks. Increasing your knowledge and staying on top of emerging trends is a must for people in these areas.
The good news is that once you secure a position in the IT field, you can expect regular pay raises and job security. Most IT professionals enjoy annual raises and have good to very good job security. Unemployment for well-qualified IT staffers is also well below average. Currently, the unemployment rate for IT professionals and the tech sector, in general, sits at around 2 percent, significantly lower than the national average.
While there are many career options for people with degrees in information technology, getting a general degree in computer sciences and finding a specialty is the best bet for most employees. Choosing a narrow degree program might make you too specialized to find a career that encompasses different areas of computing.
Types of Jobs in the IT Field
The IT industry has enormous diversity in the types of jobs and the kind of work you might do. These are some common job titles you might see, with a general description for each position:
- Computer Support Specialists: In this position, you will help members of your company or organization with their various computing problems. Businesses call on employees in this position to help install new software, troubleshoot problems, and repair equipment or computing systems that are outdated or damaged.
- Web Developers: Previously known as Webmasters, a developer creates and maintains websites for a corporation. You will also check the site for glitches, make changes as needed, and train other employees about how to post content, if necessary. Web developers have to be current in their knowledge of emerging Web trends and virus protection and should also have general knowledge of graphic design.
- Computer Programmers: If writing code for new applications or finding workarounds for existing problems is an exciting challenge for you, a job as a computer programmer might be a good fit. People in this position work closely with designers and computer engineers to create new products.
- Database Administrators: The job of a database engineer varies greatly based on the company’s needs but, in most cases, you will be expected to create new ways to store, organize and retrieve large amounts of data, such as mailing addresses, vendor lists, and financial information. Having a knack for numbers and being able to categorize large amounts of data in a manner that is easy to use by non-technical staff members is key.
- Computer Systems Analysts: With one foot in the business end of a company and one foot in the IT field, systems analysts create a way to organize the computing systems of a large organization. Working knowledge of cloud systems, networking, and cybersecurity is a must, especially for large companies that store sensitive information.
- Information Security Analysts: Creating secure systems that can withstand hackers and cyberattacks is the main responsibility of an information security analyst. You will need to analyze the corporation’s computing weaknesses and find ways to prevent cybercriminals from finding those weaknesses. This job can be high-stress with unexpected long hours, especially if faced with an attempt to steal your company’s information.
- Computer Network Architects: Employees in this highly specialized field build and maintain communication networks, like intranets and wide-area networks. These positions are usually found in companies that have several offices or ones that work with clients and customers in large geographic areas.
- Software Developers: Software developers create programs that allow IT systems to work seamlessly with other programs, like mobile devices. In this position, you will find new ways to allow your company or client to connect with customers and other employees through the use of cutting-edge technology.
Emerging fields, such as 3D printing engineers and user interface developers, also show great promise for fast job growth in the coming years. However, because the reach of these technological areas is still unknown, it is best to get a more general degree while increasing your expertise in these new subjects.
The Future of IT Job Growth
There are very few job fields that can guarantee an increasing job market in the coming years. Fortunately, IT is one of them. No matter what happens to the economy or how the art of business evolves, computer and software programs are guaranteed to be a major part of any change the job market experiences.
Some experts even believe that we are in the midst of a new industrial revolution and the increasing needs of artificial intelligence, robotics, and 3D printing will set humanity on a course of new education and enlightenment that has never been seen before.
How companies and organizations react to this change is still to be seen. An increased need for highly qualified, tech-based employees is a must, but these employees also need to be able to adjust to a changing marketplace. The workplace cannot anticipate a time when IT professionals will not be in high demand, so students who are currently considering what field to study should be encouraged to look at the IT sciences.
There is no evidence to suggest that these professionals will not be in high demand for at least the next decade. As workplaces become more engaged in online marketplaces and cloud-based servers, trustworthy employees who are skilled in these areas will always be able to find a competitive market that is vying for people with their particular skillset.
Women in IT Fields
Women are changing the face of the information technology industry. Though women usually occupy a smaller percentage of IT staff positions compared with their male counterparts, a recent push both in higher education and from the White House shows there is substantial interest from women who are entering the field of computer science.
Many people wonder why STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) is such a male-dominated area of study, and the reasons actually start in kindergarten. Studies indicate that both teachers and parents underestimate young girls’ math abilities in elementary school, which results in a loss of confidence in the subject. Despite research stating there is no correlation between gender and math abilities, many still assume boys and men have brains “wired for math,'” while girls and women prefer more communication-based subjects.
With such an early foundation, it is no wonder many more girls have math anxiety and begin to dislike math-based subjects, including physics and engineering. To combat this disparity, many high schools have begun integrating STEM-based education into their curriculum and offering support and incentives to students from underrepresented groups to pursue STEM clubs and subjects.
Today, companies are focusing on making their work environments welcoming for women. In the past, male-dominated fields have struggled to make women feel welcome and supported, but with the initiative to add more diverse staff, the culture in the IT industry is changing rapidly. With more women in positions of power in tech, the industry can become a more welcoming environment and young girls can aspire to a career in IT.
Looking to the Future
While women have been traditionally overlooked in the field of information technology, the increasing need for educated employees has leveled the playing field. These days, more women are entering various STEM fields at a slow but steady rate. Although many people consider these technology-based career paths to be nontraditional options for women, those who do enter these fields have enormous opportunities for growth and development.
While the field of technology has traditionally been a male environment, women are slowly finding their own niche in the industry. As the industry grows and the demand for qualified employees expands beyond current boundaries, women can earn more advanced positions within the IT field.
A decade ago, there were few positions that required an educated employee — anyone who could maintain a website was considered well-qualified for the job. Today, however, we see the need for staff who are educated in cyberattacks and database maintenance as the entry-level staff members for most companies. Most companies need highly trained individuals who can combat cyberattacks while creating aesthetically pleasing websites for customers.
Tech-based cities like Washington, D.C., and San Francisco have the highest ratings when it comes to hiring women for IT positions. Other high-ranking cities include Philadelphia, Baltimore, Tucson, Arizona, and Houston. Mirroring most American job trends, women in IT across the country earn less than their male counterparts for the same work. As the gender gap closes in other cities, however, women can expect to earn — and demand — better wages.
Despite the fact there are certain obstacles for women who want to work in IT, such as unexpected long hours and bias about their technical capabilities, many companies are encouraging women to enter the field through growing entry-level opportunities and promoting women to high positions. Although women only represent one-third of the leadership positions in tech, new opportunities are opening up for all qualified staff members who have the training and education needed to handle these high-stress jobs.
Benefits of Women in IT
Despite the numbers that show men are more likely to go into the IT field, industry experts suggest that women offer a new perspective on design problems and find different ways to approach problems. Building diverse IT teams that include men and women from different backgrounds is one of the best ways to create a promising problem-solving infrastructure that can tackle the biggest computing issues.
The increased encouragement women are finding from colleges, the government, loan offices, and other organizations has increased the number of female IT professionals. This, in turn, helps level the playing field and enables more women to reach top-tier positions in IT.
Additionally, women rely on support from colleagues and mentors to gain promotions more so than men do. Therefore, companies that establish mentorships and support structures for women in tech will be more successful in diversifying their management and retaining their employees from underrepresented groups. Networking groups that are specifically geared for women in technology fields exist across the country, such as Women in Technology, which provides opportunities for professional development, leadership awards, and volunteer opportunities.
In addition to benefitting women interested in tech, diversifying the workforce is good for business. Based on data collected from tech companies, teams that have 30 percent female leadership see a 15 percent increase in profit. Furthermore, just adding one woman to the executive board of a tech company generates 8 to 13 basis points in return on assets. These are real tangible results companies can gain from incorporating more women in the information technology industry.
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