How Information Technology Works

Information Technology Careers

Information technology professionals help fix computer problems and train employees
Information technology professionals help fix computer problems and train employees
© Photographer: Suprijono Suharjoto | Agency: Dreamstime

There are hundreds, if not thousands of IT job titles out there. Since we can't talk about all of them, we'll take a look at the six most popular IT career paths:

  • Manager
  • Analyst
  • Administrator
  • Engineer
  • Support
  • Web specialist

With businesses growing ever more dependent on information systems and Web technology, IT managers are in high demand. At the top, IT managers can be chief technical officers (CTO) or chief information officers (CIO). These are the high-level executives overseeing company-wide technological needs and the strategies to achieve them. Below them are information systems managers and Internet/intranet technology managers.

Analysts, also known as developers and architects, are the ones who come up with the specific IT plan for an organization [source: Bureau of Labor Statistics]. They either design information systems from the ground up or figure out what hardware and software upgrades will make the existing systems run better. Different analyst job titles are systems analyst, network analyst and database analyst. Analysts have to have strong communication skills to act as the middleman between management and the IT staff. They need to have both business savvy and hands-on technical know-how to implement the right technological solution for each specific business need.

Administrators handle the day-to-day IT functions of an organization [source: Bureau of Labor Statistics]. Their job is to make sure that the information systems -- networks, databases, e-mail, Internet/intranet -- are running smoothly and securely. Network and systems administrators constantly monitor and adjust the system to limit downtime and allocate bandwidth. Administrators spend a lot of time troubleshooting network and systems errors. They're also often responsible for the security of information systems. In larger organizations, this role is performed by computer security specialists [source: Bureau of Labor Statistics].

The specific responsibility of an engineer varies widely with the job title. Network engineers, for example, are a lot like network administrators. Their responsibility is the "plumbing" of the information systems, making sure that networks are wired correctly, efficiently and securely [source: Princeton Review]. Software engineers, on the other hand, are programmers who develop, test and implement system software and user applications. The educational requirements are very different, too. Network engineers learn much of what they do on the job, while software engineers would need solid backgrounds in programming, electronics and math [source: CareerVoyages].

According to United States Department of Labor statistics, the job of computer support specialist is the third fastest-growing IT career [source: CareerVoyages]. Support specialists work with computer users to resolve problems with hardware and software. They can work inside an organization as IT support specialists or over the phone as help desk technicians for hardware and software companies. Support specialists don't need to have as much education as their IT counterparts; only 41 percent of current IT support workers have a college degree. But more than anything, this job requires strong interpersonal skills and the patience to work with a less-than-tech-savvy general public [source: Princeton Review]. Support specialist is considered an entry-level IT position with the possibility of moving up to engineer or administrator work.

Within the field of Web specialists are Internet/intranet managers, Web developers, information architects and Web designers. These specialists are responsible for designing corporate intranets and public Internet sites for organizations. Internet and intranet sites require Web servers and complicated back-end integration with other internal databases and application servers. There's a lot of crossover between the skills and duties of network/information systems jobs and Web development jobs. Much of the day-to-day work involves programming and designing the complicated networks that make today's dynamic Web sites run.

Information architects and Web designers develop, test and implement the graphical user interfaces (GUI) that end up on the actual Web site. All Web specialist jobs require workers to be on top of the latest developments in Web technology. If an executive sees a cool functionality on a competitor's Web site, he's going to want it on his site, too -- and fast [source: Princeton Review].

Now let's quickly talk about the salary breakdowns and job outlook for various IT careers.