Information Technology Careers: Salary Info & Job Description

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What are the pros and cons of a career in information technology? Get real job description, career outlook and salary information to see if information technology is the right field for you.
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An Information Technology Career: Pros and Cons

When working in information technology (IT), you may be responsible for managing a network, designing and developing computer software or keeping important data safe and secure. The following pros and cons may help you to decide if a career in information technology is right for you.

Pros of an Information Technology Career
Expected above-average job growth for some computer occupations from 2012-2022*
Good earning potential (anywhere from $52,000 to $124,000 average yearly salary depending on the position)*
Unlimited learning potential (advance your career by keeping up with technology)*
Variety of specialty areas (programming, software, support, networks, systems)*
Work is autonomous and often flexible (can sometimes be completed off site, allowing for telecommuting)*

Cons of an Information Technology Career
Might have to compete with workers overseas for jobs*
Support positions often work long hours (may be on call overnight and weekends to update servers and fix issues)*
Certain skills, jobs may become obsolete as technology changes*
Work is sedentary and can be isolating, requiring long periods in front of a computer screen*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Career Information

Job Titles and Descriptions

You'll have different responsibilities depending on what area of IT you decide to focus on. Computer programmers, software application and systems developers, computer hardware engineers, web developers and computer network architects work to design, create and implement what makes up the IT infrastructure of an organization. Systems and security analysts as well as database administrators test, maintain and secure the IT infrastructure. Computer support specialists support the IT infrastructure by working closely with the employees who depend on it. Finally, computer and information systems managers are responsible for managing IT departments and staff.

Salary Info

In May 2014, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported an average annual salary of $83,000 for computer programmers; $105,000 for software systems developers, $93,000 for security analysts, $70,000 for web developers and $102,000 for network architects. Computer user support specialists were at the low end - making on average about $52,000 per year - and computer and information research scientists were at the high end, averaging around $124,000 per year.

Job Outlook

Software developers had a good job outlook in IT according to the BLS, with employment expected to grow 20% for systems developers and 23% for application developers between 2012 and 2022. Employment for network and systems administrators (12%), security analysts (37%), web developers (20%) and network architects (15%) were also predicted to grow as fast as or faster than average during the same time period. Security analysts may especially be in demand given organizations' increasing need to secure data, like medical records, and safeguard against cyber attacks. Computer support specialists should see about 17% employment growth while and computer and information systems managers should see about 15% employment growth, which is faster than the 11% average the BLS projected across all occupations.

What are the Requirements?

Education and Training Requirements

Entry-level positions in IT typically require a bachelor's degree in an area like information technology, information systems, computer science or software development. In some fields, like computer programming, an associate's degree is sufficient. If you're interested in a career in management, you may want to consider a master's degree in management information systems or a Master of Business Administration (MBA) in Information Systems.

Advancement in many IT professions is tied to advancements in technology, which makes on-the-job training, continuing education and professional development so valuable. Computer support specialists must be aware of changes in technology to be able to solve problems as they arise. Computer programmers must stay up to date on new and upgraded programming languages.

What Do Employers Look For?

Besides a bachelor's degree in an area of IT, employers may look for field-specific training or experience. For example, a database security analyst should have experience as a database administrator, and a computer and information systems manager looking to work in a hospital should have previous IT experience in a healthcare setting. Communication and listening skills are important for IT professionals who work directly with people, whereas programmers and security analysts should be analytical and detail oriented. Read the following actual job postings to learn what employers were looking for in an IT professional during April 2012:

  • A senior-living and healthcare management company is looking for a support specialist at its White Plains, NY, facility. The ideal candidate should have a computer science degree, knowledge of specific applications and experience troubleshooting mobile devices and working with computer hardware, operating systems and diagnostic utilities.
  • An IT company northeast of Richmond, VA, that provides services to the government and defense sectors is seeking a computer programmer/software developer with an active security clearance, programming language certification, 5-8 years of software development and two years of programming experience.
  • Santa Clara County in San Jose, CA, is looking to hire information systems managers in various departments who have current knowledge of network architecture, database systems and structures, programming language source code and security techniques.

How to Get an Edge in the Field

Numerous certifications are available for IT professionals in areas such as software, programming languages and networks. Becoming certified will help you to demonstrate competence in a certain area and may enable you to stand out to potential employers. Popular hardware, software and systems certifications include those from companies like Microsoft, Cisco, HP, IBM and Linux. C++ and Java are the most common programming languages in which to become certified, and more general certifications are available for network, security and support professionals.

Other Fields to Consider

Perhaps you like the idea of working with computers and technology, but you'd rather be in a position that allows your creative side to flourish. If you love video games and have graphic arts or multimedia design skills, you could become a video game designer. You'll work with a team of designers and technical and production staff to design characters, story lines, mechanics and other game features. Bachelor's degree programs in computer and video game design are available, or you could combine degrees in visual arts/design and computer science. PayScale.com reported in April 2012 that the median annual salary for a video game designer in the entertainment or game software industry was around $56,000.

Perhaps you'd like the challenge of developing new technology as well as solutions to problems on both the product and user ends. If that's the case, you may want to consider becoming a computer and information research scientist. A Ph.D. in computer science or a related area is often required for this highly technical and research-driven career. According to the BLS, in May 2011, computer and information research scientists earned a mean annual salary of around $103,000.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MSM in Information Technology
      • Master: Information Technology
      • Master: Information Technology - Project Management
      • Master: IT/Information Security and Assurance
      • MS in Information Technology - Business Intelligence and Analytics
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Science in Information Technology
      • BS in Cybersecurity
      • BS in IT - IT Management
      • BSIT: Network Admin
      • BS in Information Technology/Information Security and Assurance
      • BS in Health Information Management
    Associate's
      • AASIT: Network Admin
  • Campus and Online Programs
    2. Louisiana State University Shreveport

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Business Administration - Data Analytics Concentration
      • Master of Business Administration - Data Analytics Specialization
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Regent University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Arts in Leadership Studies - Information Technology
      • Bachelor of Science in Computer Science
      • Bachelor of Science in Cybersecurity
      • Bachelor of Science in Information Systems Technology
      • Bachelor of Science in Information Systems Technology - General
      • Bachelor of Science in Information Systems Technology - Information Security
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Colorado State University Global

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Graduate Specialization - Information Technology
      • Master - Information Technology Management
    Bachelor's
      • BS - Information Technology
    Certificate
      • Graduate Certificate - Cyber Security
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Penn Foster

    Program Options

    Certificate
      • Career Diploma - PC Maintenance and Repair
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Tulane University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Online Master of Professional Studies in Cybersecurity Management
  • Campus Locations:
    7. American National University

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • Network Administration - Associate
  • Online Programs Available
    8. Georgetown University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Masters of Professional Studies in Technology Management
  • Campus Locations:
    9. Altierus

    Program Options

    Certificate
      • Computer Information Technology
  • Campus and Online Programs
    10. Southern Careers Institute

    Program Options

    Certificate
      • Computer Support Specialist

Featured Schools

Kaplan University

  • MSM in Information Technology
  • Bachelor of Science in Information Technology
  • AASIT: Network Admin

Which subject are you interested in?

Louisiana State University Shreveport

  • Master of Business Administration - Data Analytics Concentration
  • Master of Business Administration - Data Analytics Specialization

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Regent University

  • Bachelor of Arts in Leadership Studies - Information Technology
  • Bachelor of Science in Computer Science
  • Bachelor of Science in Cybersecurity

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Colorado State University Global

  • Graduate Specialization - Information Technology
  • BS - Information Technology
  • Graduate Certificate - Cyber Security

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Penn Foster

  • Career Diploma - PC Maintenance and Repair

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Tulane University

  • Online Master of Professional Studies in Cybersecurity Management

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American National University

  • Network Administration - Associate

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Georgetown University

  • Masters of Professional Studies in Technology Management

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