Over the years, Information Technology (IT) has grown to become a popular career choice.
However, few people are familiar with what IT is and what it entails.
This article will provide a formal definition, cover its many aspects, and list the skill set necessary for any IT worker.
What exactly is information technology?
The exact definition of IT varies across multiple sources. Most are accurate enough, but within the context of this article, we’ll define IT as:
The use of an organization’s computer systems –which include both its physical hardware and its software–to regulate its information.
Notice that this definition contains indications of what IT is and is not:
- IT does not entail personal computing; when you work in IT, you will likely be working to support the infrastructure of a business.
- IT covers more than computers alone. Hardware and software fall into its domain.
- IT is an essential part of any business. Regulating the information of a company requires anything from keeping its employees’ computers regularly working to protecting its data backup archives.
The many disciplines IT pertains to
In a field as expansive as IT, there are dozens of specializations to be found. If you’re thinking about pursuing IT, here are some of the more common options you could choose.
Help Desk Technician
The common perception of IT is this position; these technicians assist clients with a wide range of troubleshooting and will consistently take calls from employees who are struggling, whether it be with a simple function in Excel or their internet service is down.
Many people starting in IT will begin at this entry-level position. Because you are working on user-level problems most of the time, big-picture tasks such as combing databases are not your responsibility. Excellent communication, patience, and the ability to navigate the operating systems and programs your clients use are qualities necessary for this position.
If you enjoy focusing on the big picture, this may be the sub-field for you. As the name suggests, Systems Analysts’ primary responsibility is researching and planning for upgrades to the company’s information systems to achieve maximum efficiency. This could mean anything from planning a new workflow from scratch or working with programmers to create new software for the business.
Systems Analysts do not usually concern themselves with any specific aspect of the company’s infrastructure. They might communicate with employees to discover pain points with a current process, design a new one, and relay diagrams of it onto the programmers tasked with designing a new application for those employees.
A skilled Analyst will always seek to improve the company’s processes and equipment to allow for more efficiency. It is vital that they communicate well with a variety of departments, and make well-informed decisions about the future actions of their firm.
Security is a field that is already well-established but is also experiencing exponential growth. Within the past couple of decades, computers have shifted from a convenience to a necessity to modern business. Because of this development, people with malicious intent are continually targeting them as a way to steal companies’ information.
Depending on your skill level, working in IT security can entail anything from establishing proper security software to informing end users to look out for threats actively. The bigger a company is, the more effort it takes to maintain its security. This makes the sub-field a demanding, but an exciting one.
Networking is a complex subject because network admins must have an all-encompassing knowledge. Their duties include establishing networks for new businesses to maintaining existing ones and have the tendency to with the company’s systems. Their projects might involve setting up a new VPN for an additional campus or testing the network for weaknesses.
If network access becomes unavailable, it is almost impossible for employees to complete their responsibilities; the role of a network admin is critical. Additionally, networks are highly susceptible to changes, so completing everything within a short amount of time is crucial. This also requires network administrators to learn and adapt to new paradigms rapidly.
Databases store a significant amount of business data; whether it is the healthcare history of a hospital or the customer information at a department store, databases are continually being updated. This is where a database admin comes in, to oversee and regulate all the database occurrences.
This can mean tasks such as installing and setting up new database systems or even shifting from an older provider. Similar to other IT fields, security is a top priority due to the magnitude of the damage that can occur when a database is leaked to the public. The person who holds this position must be extremely familiar with databases, including SQL, storage methods, and regular maintenance.
We have covered the five popular fields in IT, but there are so many more available for you to explore. While we won’t go into a ton of detail about these other fields, we do want to show you a brief list of other available positions.
- Project Manager: Many tech projects require a massive amount of organization and division, so naturally someone needs to oversee them. A project manager is responsible for working with all the teams involved in the creation of projects to stay on track and improve the organization.
- IT Consultant: Just like helpdesk technicians in many industries, an IT consultant supports anyone in need of help as a freelancer. They may also assist external clients with any minor IT needs, as well as work as an outsourced provider.
- AI/Machine Learning: Due to the rising popularity of AI technologies in recent years, new positions are quickly opening up to study and further develop them. Positions will also be developed in the future as AI technology advances.
- Cloud Architect: Similar to AI technology, Cloud technology has also risen in popularity due to more and more companies desiring to organize their data in an easily transportable and accessible location. Rather than in-house software and servers, companies are needing more and more cloud integrators to implement solutions in Cloud platforms such as Office 365 as well as Microsoft Azure
- Quality Assurance: Minor issues in coding and software development can lead to immensely frustrated customers, or even worse, a dangerous product. Therefore, it is crucial for all software to be thoroughly tested before they’re released. Working in quality assurance will ensure that every product is safe and does its job well.
A career in IT offers countless different positions to branch into. If one or more of these specializations stand out to you, keep reading to find out what classes to take!
Important College Classes for an IT Career
As you know, IT has many crucial differences in computer science. While the two both relate to manipulating technology, computer science focuses more on managing theories to create new solutions while IT solely focuses on existing systems and our mastery of them to solve issues for clients. That being said, it is true that many courses may overlap with a computer science major.
Some relevant courses include:
- Database Management: Almost all IT degree programs will consist of at least one class focused on the basics of manipulating a database.
- Math: Business calculus, as well as discrete math, are two recommended courses for an IT degree.
- Cybersecurity: Since almost every part of software development needs more security to prevent hacking, cybersecurity is a highly useful course for an IT career.
- Web Development: Although IT careers tend to not focus on the creation of websites, understanding the fundamentals of how they are built may prove to be highly useful in solving issues dealing with sites in the future.
- Computer Programming: Often, multiple classes within this category are recommended for IT majors. At the very least, Java and C++ should be taught to students pursuing an IT career.
- Business Statistics: This class will cover how to interpret business data.
- Systems Analysis: through both theoretical as well as a real-world study of a system, students are taught the skills for a technical analyst.
After ensuring that you have found the right degree plan to pursue your specialty in IT, all that’s left is to explore your personality to see if you are an excellent fit to be happy in the IT field.
Crucial Skills and Qualities
It’s important to note that not everyone is suited for the pursuit of IT. The following characteristics are ones that should apply to you if you want to succeed in IT.
- You’re good at collaborating with people. This is a significant one. IT is not like other specialist programmers, who can work alone all day without interacting with anyone. No matter what sub-field you end up in, human interaction makes up a large part of every day. For example, help desk technicians are a form of customer service, and even high-level engineers have to comply with others to ensure everything is executed smoothly.
- You have a knack for conveying complicated concepts in simple terms. As a “tech person,” you are the person people will turn to when they want information. If you end up in help desk support, will you have the patience to tolerate end users’ silly misunderstandings? Having a grasp of these concepts yourself is not enough – it is necessary to inform and even convince others of significant updates consistently.
- You are familiar with common systems. When asked by a relative about why they cannot access their files, are you able to come up with several possible causes of the problem? When working in IT, you should have a comprehension of Windows, Linux, MySQL, Word, or whichever software and systems they use in your workplace. You won’t be expected to know everything as soon as you start, but if you aren’t able to solve your network issues, you probably aren’t ready to do it at an enterprise level.
- You are updated and learn quickly. While in some fields, the training you received 30 years ago is sufficient today, IT is not like that. It’s necessary to keep up with the latest trends, including security issues, end of use for major software, and top practices. So much of the field is continually evolving, and you need to be able to keep up with its pace.
- You have an understanding of the business environment. A majority of this will come with experience, but it’s good to be prepared for what’s coming. Working in a business environment is not comparable to fixing your grandma’s computer. For example, most businesses are still using Windows 7, although Windows 10 has been out for a few years. Enterprises enjoy the stability of Windows 7 over the flashy features that can be found in Windows 10.
Is IT Still Your Dream?
The most important thing to understand about IT is that it’s a hugely broad field with many different specializations. If you’re heavily interested in a career within the IT field, it may be worth your time to explore further before college and figure out which areas of IT you are attracted to. No matter which you choose, it will be an exciting, challenging, and rewarding career for you to grow with.
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