A career in information technology tends to necessitate a bachelor's degree as the minimum educational requirement, though this can vary from job to job. There are a variety of different paths in the career field, including becoming a systems analyst, a programmer or a support specialist.
Information technology (IT) is a broad field that encompasses many careers, including computer programming, technical support and systems analysis. While educational requirements vary according to career objectives, most jobs in information technology require at least a bachelor's degree.
|Career||Systems Analyst||Programmer||Support Specialist|
|Education Requirements||Bachelor's||Bachelor's or Associate's||Associate's or equivalent experience|
|Other Requirements||Graduate degree (for advancement)||Certification||Certification|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)||21%*||-8%*||12%*|
|Median Annual Salary (2015)||$85,800*||$79,530*||$48,620-$62,250*|
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Computer systems analysts assist businesses with solving their computer needs. After assessing the requirements of the business and the resources available, they plan computer systems and networks tailored to serve the business' unique interests. This may include modifying existing software or creating new software to manage company functions. Many systems analysts stay competitive by specializing in computer systems that correlate to one particular area of employment, such as accounting and financial systems.
For many entry-level systems analyst positions, a bachelor's degree in an information technology field is acceptable. Those working in more technical or scientific environments may need a more technically-oriented degree such as computer science or engineering. For potential analysts seeking a career in a business environment, a background in business administration or information may be preferable. A graduate degree can be helpful in seeking senior-level analyst positions.
Salary and Career Outlook
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), as of May 2015, computer systems analysts earned a median annual salary of $85,800. Potential job prospects for systems analysts should be excellent, and employment is projected to grow much faster than the average rate for all U.S. occupations at 21% from 2014-2024, the BLS states.
The main responsibility of a computer programmer is to design software in various programming languages, including C++ and Python. In addition to writing software code, programmers are involved in testing and refining the code to insure stability. A programmer may also design a graphical user interface (GUI) so that the program is usable for all possible audiences. Other common job duties of programmers include updating, modifying, and expanding already written computer programs. They often use software tools to automate elements of the coding process.
Although a bachelor's degree is often preferable to employers, an associate's degree or certain certificates may be acceptable for some positions. Experience is also an important factor. Students currently in an undergraduate degree program can improve their resume by seeking out internship positions. Many programmers also create their own software as a hobby or for personal use, which can demonstrate experience. Computer programmers can often earn certification for certain programs and languages through the organization that owns the product, such as Oracle.
Salary and Career Outlook
Computer programmers earned a median annual salary of $79,530 as of May 2015, according to the BLS. The BLS predicts an 8% decrease in employment opportunities for programmers between 2014 and 2024 with some growth potential curtailed due to the outsourcing of jobs to other countries.
Computer Support Specialist
A computer support specialist provides technical assistance to many different types of organizations, including schools, government agencies and private sector businesses. Commonly, a computer support specialist will work in a help-desk service area or a call center work environment. The main duty of a computer support specialist is to respond to technical issues called in by a user or submitted by e-mail. They may guide the user through fixing the problem, run automatic software diagnostics to assess and fix the issue, or send a specialist to fix it on-site.
The education required for a support specialist job can vary by employer and the level of technical support being provided. Some jobs may need only a certificate or associate's degree, while more in-depth support may require a bachelor's degree. In some cases, sufficient computer experience can take the place of formal education.
Salary and Career Outlook
The BLS divides computer support professionals into the categories of network support specialist and user support specialist. In May of 2015, the median annual salary of a computer network support specialist was $62,250 per year, according to the BLS. The same year, BLS data indicated that computer user support specialists earned a median annual salary of $48,620. Job opportunities for computer support specialists in general are expected to grow 12% between 2014 and 2024, with holders of bachelor's degrees likely to see the most prospects.
Regardless of which path one takes into information technology, a bachelor's degree is likely required. System analysts are seeing the highest job growth and median annual salary of the career paths discussed above. Ultimately, increased education and experience will enhance job prospects in all career fields.