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Be a Computer Specialist: Salary and Career Specialization Information

Computer specialists require significant formal education. Learn about the education, job duties and certification to see if this is the right career for you.

Computers are actually a combination of complex systems and require computer specialists to see to their efficient operation. Formal education and specialized training is required to enter the many professions in this field. Various professional certifications are available as well.

Essential Information

Computer specialists work in a wide range of IT professions. Graduates can specialize in software quality, systems, network design or web development. Most of these careers require specialized training, professional certification and a large amount of hands-on experience in the field.

Career Software Quality Specialist Systems Specialist Network Design Specialist Web Development Specialist
Required Education Computer science degree Bachelor's Bachelor's None
Other Requirements Certification Certification Certification Experience
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 17% (software developer) 21% (computer systems analyst) 9% (computer network architect) 27% (web developer)
Median Annual Salary (2015)* $105,570 (systems software developer) $85,800 (computer systems analyst) $100,240 (computer network architect) $64,970 (web developer)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Software Quality Specialists

Software quality assurance specialists test, identify and correct software malfunctions. They can work as part of a software development team, as a member of an IT department that maintains network systems or as an independent contractor brought in to repair a network program. Specialists in this field can work on a variety of software, including email, security, database and network systems.

Education Requirements

Software quality specialists usually have a degree in computer science, software engineering or software management. Classes can include software quality control, project management and database systems. Additional coursework may be required throughout a specialist's career due to changing technologies and procedures. Occupations in this field tend to have high hands-on experience requirements due to the problem-solving nature of the work.

Certification

Many IT professionals seek professional certification to assure employers that they possess the knowledge and skills in their field of expertise. The American Society for Quality (ASQ) offers a certification program in software quality engineering for graduate students with relevant work experience.

Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that software developers working in systems software made a median annual salary of $105,570 in 2015. The BLS states that employment in this field is expected to grow by 17% between 2014 and 2024 as the demand for software creation continues to increase.

Computer Systems Specialists

A computer systems specialist designs and develops computer and network systems to maximize efficiency in businesses. They implement new systems, maintain existing systems and evaluate the network's need for specific systems. Specialists may work on specific computer systems, such as databases or security, or be in charge of all the systems used on a network. They may also train employees in the use of systems, troubleshoot system malfunctions and enact system security measures.

Education Requirements

Most jobs in computer systems require a bachelor's degree in systems administration, information science or computer science. Many professionals begin as support specialists to gain needed experience before moving into systems administration or systems implementation. Some employers require computer system specialists to have a master's degree in business administration (MBA), as well as training in computer systems. Specialists with an MBA can be found working in banking, finance and in large corporations.

Certification

Many computer system manufacturers, IT training centers and schools offer certification in manufacturer-specific computer systems. There is also certification available for systems specialties, such as security systems, systems auditing and system analysis.

Salary Information

According to the BLS, computer systems analysts made a median annual salary of $85,800 in 2015. Employment in this field is expected to increase by 21% between 2014 and 2024, although this may vary by specialization.

Network Design Specialists

Networks are the lifeblood of many businesses, government agencies, large institutions and corporations. The design and creation of these networks is the role of network design specialists. They create a variety of communications networks, such as intranets, Internets and long-range networks. Specialists usually evaluate a customer's network needs before constructing and implementing a network system.

Education Requirements

Students interested in becoming network design specialists should focus on earning a bachelor's degree in a computer-science area, such as information science or information management systems. Coursework typically includes systems design, systems security and database management.

Certification

As with most computer specializations, there is certification available for those in network design. Network systems manufacturers and IT professional organizations offer certification and certification training courses. Coursework for certification may include network implementation, system performance and design fundamentals.

Salary Information

Computer network architects made a median annual salary of $100,240 in 2015, according to the BLS. Jobs in this field are expected to increase by 9% between 2014-2024.

Web Development Specialists

Web development specialists create user-end applications that can be used on websites or system-end applications that can be used on servers or in conjunction with software or database programs. They often work with a web development team, specializing in a specific area of development, such as HTML markup or coding.

Education Requirements

While there are no specific educational requirements for developers, most employers require a combination of training and experience. Technical schools, colleges and universities offer certificate and degree programs in web development. Coursework includes computer programming licenses, application development, database design and server-end scripting.

Certification

Certification in web development is available from a few professional organizations and schools. Unlike other specializations, certification in this field may not be an employment requirement due to the varied nature of this profession. Typically, professionals can earn certification in various aspects of development, such as HTML, JavaScript, XML or product-specific applications.

Salary Information

According to the BLS, web developers had a median annual wage of $64,970 in 2015. The BLS predicts that employment for web developers will grow at a faster-than-average pace of 27% from 2014-2024 as the popularity of electronic commerce continues to expand.

With the exception of web development specialist, which generally calls for a combination of postsecondary training and experience, most other specialist positions require a bachelor's degree in an appropriate area of computer science. Various professional certifications are available and can act in testament to your professionalism and abilities. Employment opportunities for all computer specialists are projected to increase at rates faster than the national average for all occupations.

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