Information Technology Specialist Careers: Job Description & Salary Info

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What are the pros and cons of a career as an information technology specialist? Get real job descriptions, career prospects and salary info to see if becoming an information technology specialist is right for you.
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The Pros and Cons of an Information Technology Specialist Career

An information technology (IT) specialist, also referred to as a computer support specialist, sets up computer systems and installs hardware. Read on to learn about the pros and cons of an IT specialist career to see if it will suit you.

Pros of an Information Technology Specialist Career
Employment opportunities are available in a wide variety of industries (healthcare, telecommunications, education, finance)*
Above average pay (mean annual wage of $51,000 in 2014)*
Typically provides good job benefits (paid vacation, sick leave, health insurance)**
Job provides variety (reading technical manuals, installing software, training computer users, testing hardware and software)**

Cons of an Information Technology Specialist Career
Must deal with conflict situations often (angry clients having difficulty with their computers)**
May have to be available 24 hours a day to handle problems*
Pressure to meet deadlines**
Continuing education is required since technology is constantly changing*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **iseek.org.

Career Info

Job Description and Duties

IT specialists set up computer systems and install software. They test software and hardware, answer questions and correct problems. They may have to reinstall software or set up new hardware when equipment isn't working properly. IT specialists must frequently ask users questions when troubleshooting computer problems. They also write training materials and teach other employees how to use computer systems. Some work at call centers and handle problems over the phone. Many IT specialists are on call 24 hours a day, so they must work nights, weekends and whenever problems occur.

Salary Info and Job Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), IT specialists earned a mean annual wage of about $51,000 in 2014. Job growth in the field is projected to increase by 20% between 2012 and 2022, which is faster than average.

Requirements

A candidate must have a high school diploma or GED and some postsecondary computer science courses as a minimum for employment as an IT specialist. Jobs that don't require much technical expertise, such as some call center and help-desk positions, may be available without a college degree if the applicant has some computer skills. Many employers, however, prefer to hire IT specialists with a bachelor's degree in computer science or an associated discipline.

An IT specialist must be capable of establishing interpersonal relationships, since interaction with computer users who need training, or who are having problems with their computer systems, is part of the job. Complex problem-solving skills are also critical. Other abilities needed to perform the job well include:

  • Deductive reasoning
  • Good oral, written and reading comprehension
  • Near vision
  • Active listening and learning
  • Setting priorities
  • Updating knowledge

Job Postings by Real Employers

An associate's degree may be sufficient for some employers. However, others require IT specialists to have a bachelor's degree. Job postings typically describe the kind of software expertise that will be needed and the type of work the IT specialist will be performing. Following are actual job listings that appeared in April 2012:

  • An addiction treatment center in Montana seeks an information technology specialist to provide technical support and manage its computer information system for 20 hours a week. An associate's degree and one to two years of experience are required.
  • A company in Washington, D.C. wants to hire a full-time information technology specialist with a bachelor's degree in information technology and at least eight years of experience to develop code, design interface programs and train users.
  • A state agency in Missouri wants to hire an information technology specialist to develop application software, develop new databases and manage existing ones. A bachelor's degree with at least 15 credits in computer science and a minimum of five years of experience are required.

How to Gain an Edge in the Field

Taking high school courses related to computer science will prepare you for college courses in the computer technology field. Available high school courses may include computer programming, keyboarding and computer applications. Joining a professional organization such as the Association for Information Technology Professionals (AITP) will also give you an edge. The different levels of membership available make it possible for both students and employed professionals to join. Membership in a professional organization like the AITP offers benefits that can place you ahead of the competition, whether you are seeking employment or career advancement. These benefits include membership discounts on products and services, networking opportunities and educational resources to improve your skills and help you keep current in the field.

Other Careers to Consider

Computer Programmer

Perhaps you're not eager to work with clients that are having computer troubles. If you enjoy writing the code that tells computers what to do, you may prefer a career in computer programming. Computer programmers write step-by-step instructions in a logical sequence that direct computers to perform specific tasks. They create new software and modify existing code with programming languages such as COBOL, Visual Basic, Java or another of the many languages available. The majority of computer programmers require a bachelor's degree in computer science or a related field.

Computer programmers earned a mean annual wage of $76,000 in 2011, according to the BLS. Although computer programmers earn considerably more than IT specialists, the number of jobs for computer programmers is projected to increase by a slightly lower rate, with a 12% increase projected between 2010 and 2020.

Computer and Information Systems Manager

If you'd like to maximize your earning potential in the IT field, you may want to aim your sights on a position as a computer and information systems manager. Computer and information systems managers oversee all of the activities associated with an organization's computer systems, including installation and upgrades, system security and cost assessment. A bachelor's degree in computer science, along with work experience in the IT sector, is required for employment as a computer and information systems manager, and many have advanced degrees. According to the BLS, computer and information systems managers earned a mean annual wage of $126,000 in 2011. The job outlook is the same as for IT specialists, with 18% growth projected between 2010 and 2020.

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
  • Online Programs Available
    2. 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
  • Campus and Online Programs
    3. 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
    4. Tulane University

    Program Options

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

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • Network Administration - Associate
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Penn Foster

    Program Options

    Certificate
      • Career Diploma - PC Maintenance and Repair
  • Online Programs Available
    7. 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
    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?

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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Louisiana State University Shreveport

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

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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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Penn Foster

  • Career Diploma - PC Maintenance and Repair

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Colorado State University Global

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

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Georgetown University

  • Masters of Professional Studies in Technology Management

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