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Information Technology Careers: Job Descriptions & Education Requirements

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.

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Information Technology Careers

Systems Analyst

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.

Education Requirements

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 management 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 2013, computer systems analysts earned an average annual salary of $85,320 (www.bls.gov). 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 25% from 2012-2022, the BLS states.

Computer Programmer

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.

Education Requirements

Although a bachelor's degree is often preferable to employers, an associate's degree or certain certificates may be acceptable for certain computer programming 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

On average, computer programmers earned $80,930 a year as of May 2013, according to the BLS. During that year, the top-paid 10% of employed programmers earned over $123,490 annually. The BLS predicts an average increase in employment opportunities for programmers between 2012 and 2022 - 8% - 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.

Education Requirements

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 2013, the average salary of a computer network support specialist was $64,160 per year, according to the BLS. The same year, BLS data indicated that computer user support specialists earned an annual average of $50,450. Job opportunities for computer support specialists in general are expected to grow 17% between 2012 and 2022, with holders of bachelor's degrees likely to see the most prospects.

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Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics