IT jobs fall within the full spectrum of computer technology and business. Because the field of information technology covers such a broad range of job roles, it's a good idea to first explore the differences in the career paths you can take in IT, such as:
- A computer support specialist (which requires only a certificate or an associate degree, and sometimes a bachelor’s degree), or
- Computer programmer, software developer, or various other IT careers which usually require a bachelor’s degree (sometimes an associate degree in an exception basis)
Then you’ll need to take a closer look at the qualities that are essential to those considering a career in IT – and valued by those who make IT hiring decisions. As we spotlight the essential qualities for a successful career in IT, you learn how to assess where you career goals and interests fit, and determine what level of education you need for the IT roles that interest you most.
Computer Support Specialist
Computer support specialists work within the broad spectrum of information technology, assisting all types of information technology needs, including working with developers, analysts, administrators, and end-users. Alternatively, help desk technicians assist those not in the IT fields who need assistance with their computer or computer systems.
Typical Duties - Technical Support Specialist or Computer Network Support Specialist
- Watch over existing network systems
- Conduct required maintenance on networks
- Troubleshoot (LAN, WAN, and Internet) systems3
Typical Duties - Help Desk Technician or Computer User Technician
- Actively listen to users as they describe their computer issues
- Ask the right questions to help diagnose computer issues
- Explain step-by-step solutions to the user
- Install software and maintain computer equipment and related devices
- Assist users with new computer hardware or software
- Evaluate and record issues customers have4
Education credentials vary for entry into computer support positions. A bachelor’s degree is sometimes required, but an associate degree or postsecondary certification is often sufficient.
For more technical job roles, a degree in engineering, computer science, or information science is preferred, but for less technical roles such as those at a help desk, some post secondary education (with no specific major) is important combined with a knowledge of computers as well as customer support skills.
Typically, there is quite a bit of on-the-job training. Newly hired computer support specialists are often enrolled in an organization’s support training program to learn the support process as well as any hardware and software requirements unique to that organization.
Information Technology - Specialists
Programmers write code for computers and turn software designs into reality.
Computer programmers usually earn a Bachelor’s in Computer Science; some, however, are hired with an associate degree. In college, most programmers learn only a few computer languages, but develop the skills necessary to learn new computer languages. As a result, computer programming requires a commitment to lifelong learning in order to stay current with changing technology.
Computer Systems Analysts
Systems Analysts evaluate a company’s current computer systems and business processes at a detailed level. They will make recommendations for more efficient and effective business and IT usage and interaction. Typically they act as a bridge between business and IT.
Education: Computer Systems Analysts must have a bachelor’s degree, usually a Bachelor’s in Computer or Information Science. Other bachelor’s degrees, such as those in business or liberal arts are considered if the individual is familiar with computers and programming.
Computer and Information Systems Managers (IT managers)
IT Managers direct teams and run projects for computer related needs in an organization. In addition, they help identify IT goals and implement required computer systems in order to meet those goals.
Education: Typically have a Bachelor’s in Information Science or a Bachelor’s in Computer Science. Many IT managers also have a graduate degree such as a Master’s in Information Science or even a PH.D. in Computer Science.8
Database Administrators are software specialists who focus on the applications and services responsible for organizing and storing data (like financial records or shipping addresses or health records) for an organization. They also ensure the security of data and its availability to intended users.
Education: Usually, Database Administrators must possess a Bachelor’s in Information or Computer Science.
Information Security Analysts, Web Developers, Computer Network Architects
All three types of these IT professionals use information technology (IT) to move an organization closer to its business goals. Security analysts are in charge of keeping information safe from cyber attacks. Web developers help provide the look and feel of an organization to others. Network architects are in charge of creating the internal networks that all employees of an organization use.
Education: Typically, a Bachelor’s in Computer Science or Information Science is required. Knowing a variety of programming languages is also important.
Network and Computer Systems Administrators
SysAdmins are in charge of the day-to-day functioning of a company’s computer network including organizing, installing, and supporting computer systems, networks, intranets, and other data communication systems.
Education: Typically a Bachelor’s in Computer Science or Information Systems is required. Sometimes, however, you can be hired with an associate degree or professional certification if you possess related work experience.
Software Developers create the applications (software) that run on computers or other IT devices like smart phones. Some software developers focus more on the underlying computer systems that run devices or networks.
Education: In general, a Bachelor’s in Computer Science is required, as well as strong programming skills.
Here are some of the important skills and qualities that you will need to develop in order to be successful in information technology. Get real experience, and earn credit, by taking college courses online that focus on these skills - and are usually required for a degree in IT.
- Good communication skills
- Follow and implement a plan
- Problem solving
- Strong analytical skills
- Ability to focus for a long period of time
If you answer yes to most of these questions, there’s a good chance that a career in information technology is the right match for your skills – and that you do have what it takes to earn your degree in IT.
Looking to get CompTIA Certified?
If you are looking to get CompTIA certified, you should check out our CompTIA Certification training courses.
Our CompTIA A+ training course is designed to help you prepare for and pass the CompTIA A+ 220-901 and 220-902 exams in order to become CompTIA A+ certified. Assignments in these courses, including readings, quizzes, practice lab exercises, and exams, align to CompTIA certification competencies.
Our CompTIA Network+ training course is designed to help you prepare for and pass the CompTIA Network+ N10-006 Certification Exam to become CompTIA Network+ certified.
What Other IT Courses Could You Start Today?
Here are just a few StraighterLine math courses you’ll need to pursue your IT degree:
Also, be sure to check out the following introductory IT course that can get you started right away:
IT Fundamentals is a great choice for students who are just getting started in their IT education or coursework as it offers a comprehensive overview of IT concepts and career options.
If you are looking to explore programming, check out these online programming courses that we offer as well:
- Introduction to Programming in Python
- Introduction to Programming in C++
- Introduction to Programming in Java
Typically, one of our IT courses take 4-6 weeks to complete, but many students are able to finish in under a month.
Wondering if it’s too late for you to go back to school and pursue a career in IT? We can answer that--it isn’t! Check out our tips for going back to school at any age.