The field of information technology (IT) continues to grow, which is good news for employees who are trained in specific computer-related fields. The median salary for an IT professional in 2015 was more than $81,000, compared to the average job salary of $36,200. What’s even better is that many jobs in this field can be performed 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.
Considering that this job market didn’t even exist 20 years ago, the IT field is showing unstoppable growth. Although many companies are beginning to outsource their IT needs, there are still plenty of jobs to be found by U.S. workers who have a strong education foundation along with the people skills needed to communicate technical changes to a nontechnical audience.
An Industry on the Move
The changing face of IT is part of the reason for the increase in jobs. 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 isn’t what it was five years ago, the demand for qualified employees in computer-based fields is still expected to grow at least twice as fast as more traditional careers.
A few years ago, the big career information technology demand was for Web-based employees. As more nontechnical 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 Web needs has decreased. At the same time, companies are more in need of employees 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 who is depended on when making corporate decisions and whose opinion counts just as much as any other 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 at least a 5 percent annual raise. Unemployment for well-qualified IT staffers is also well below average. In 2013, the industry’s unemployment rate was only about 5 percent, which is 2.5 percentage points lower than the average in the United States.
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.
A sampling of current job descriptions and salaries in the IT field include:
Computer Support Specialist ($51,000) In this position, you’ll help members of your company or organization with their various computing problems. Employees in this position are often called on to help install new software, troubleshoot problems and repair equipment or computing systems that are outdated or damaged.
Web Developers ($65,000) Previously known as Web masters, a developer creates and maintains websites for your corporation. You’ll 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 ($79,500) 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 ($81,700) The job of a database engineer varies greatly based on the company’s needs but, in most cases, you’ll 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 nontechnical staff members is key.
Computer Systems Analyst ($86,000) 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 ($90,000) Creating secure systems that can withstand hackers and cyberattacks is the main responsibility of an information security analyst. You’ll need to analyze the corporation’s computing weaknesses and find ways to prevent cybercriminals from finding those weaknesses. This can be a high-stress job with unexpected long hours, especially if faced with an attempt to steal your company’s information.
Computer Network Architects ($100,000) 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 ($101,000) Software developers create programs that allow IT systems to work seamlessly with other programs, like mobile devices. In this position, you’ll 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 3-D printing engineers and UI developers, also show great promise for fast job growth in the coming years. However, because the reach of these technological areas are still unknown, it’s 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 be guaranteed 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 3-D 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
The role of women in the growing field of information technology is changing the face of the industry. Although women traditionally represent a smaller percentage of IT employees compared with their male counterparts, a recent push both in higher education and from the White House shows there is a substantial interest from women who are entering the field of computer science.
If recent scientific research is correct, there is a substantial growth coming for women who are interested in entering STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) fields as their preferred career path. Although many people consider these technology-based career paths to be nontraditional options for women, females who do enter these fields earn more than 33 percent compared to women in more traditional roles, such as education, health and administration.
Although the field of technology has been a traditional male-based 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 are being offered 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.
The ability to manage Internet-based communications within house are gone. Today, most companies need highly trained individuals who can combat cyberattacks while creating aesthetically pleasing websites for customers.
While women have been traditionally overlooked in the field of information technology, the increasing need for educated employees has leveled the playing field. Tech-based cities like Washington, D.C., and New Orleans have the highest ratings when it comes to hiring to women for IT positions. Companies in D.C., for example, have more than a 37 percent female-based IT staff, which is the highest among large American cities. Although the West Coast is known for having the most technology-based companies, the same numbers don’t hold true for women. In San Francisco, for example, women only make up 21 percent of the IT workforce. Companies in New York City currently employ close to 22,000 women in the IT field, which is significantly higher than many tech-based cities in California and Washington state. Other high-ranking cities include Philadelphia, Baltimore, Tucson, Arizona and Houston.
Mirroring most American job trends, women in IT earn less than their male counterparts for the same work. However, women who work in tech-based fields in Kansas City, Missouri, and Arlington, Texas, can expect to earn just as much as men in similar fields. As the gender gap closes in other cities, women can expect to earn better wages.
Although there are certain obstacles for women who want to work in IT, such as unexpected long hours, many companies are encouraging women to enter the field through growing entry-level opportunities and by promoting women to high positions. Although women only represent 30 percent of IT employees, new opportunities are opening up for all qualified staff members who have the training and education needed to handle this high-stress job.
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 that women are finding from colleges, the government, loan offices and other organizations has increased the number of female IT professionals. This, in turn, helps equal the playing field and enables more women to reach top-tier positions in IT. Networking groups that are specifically geared for women in technology fields are also being created across the country, such as Women in Technology, which provides opportunities for professional development, leadership awards and volunteer opportunities.
If you are considering entering the field of information technology and you’d like to explore your options, contact Vista College at 866-442-4197 or visit us online. There has never been a better time to enter the field of information technology and our online programs will help you become a highly qualified professional in the area of your choice.