Computing and Information Technology

Students in computer lab

Is a career in computing or information technology right for you?

Think about what you like to do and what you are good at. 

Computing and Information Technology workers

  • are good at multitasking
  • are versatile  
  • like to analyze things  
  • have math aptitude
  • are detail oriented
  • are committed updating their skills and learning new things
  • have good communication skills
  • have good memorization skills
  • excel at problem solving and troubleshooting
  • have technical writing skills

If these some or all of these characteristics apply to you, you may want to consider a career in the fast-growing fields of computing or information technology. If you do, you need to take all the computer and math courses you can in high school to prepare for the college-level technology classes that await you.
Computer Science and Information Technology impact just about everything in our lives today and there simply are not enough graduating students to accommodate the demand. There is literally a new career field being created every few months. For example, a few years ago, Web page designing was not a career field; now it is. Game Design was not even a college major and now it is a major in demand. Cyber security has grown astronomically as a career field.
Computer Science and Information Technology – Some Differences
Computer Science refers to the processes involved in researching and creating computer programs and applications and the theories that are behind those processes.

  • You probably would be doing independent work applying mathematical algorithms and writing code. In addition to programming, you might be designing and developing computer hardware and software.
  • Some of the job titles that go along with Computer Science degrees are software engineer, software developer, systems engineer and software development engineer, among others.

From ATMs to video games to Internet research, Information Technology has an impact on nearly every aspect of our lives, at home, at work, and at play. Information Technology is the integration of information systems and computing technology.

  • It is an important part of every business plan and requires IT professionals who can apply computer programs to fit the needs of businesses. IT professionals are more likely to interact with others while helping to solve technological problems.
  • Some of the job titles that go along with Information Technology are systems administrator, systems analyst, network engineer, technical support specialist.

Meet Deaf STEM Professionals

Matt Martella

Matt Martella, mobile applications programmer, Highmark

Bill Huber and Qing Quan, software engineers at IBM

Bill Huber and Qing Quan, software engineers, IBM

Types of Jobs

Computer and Information Research Scientists

Job Description

Computer and information research scientists invent and design new approaches to computing technology and find innovative uses for existing technology. They study and solve complex problems in computing for business, medicine, science, and other fields.

Job Requirements

  • Most computer and information research scientists need a Ph.D. in computer science or a related field, such as computer engineering. This usually means 4 to 5 years of study after the bachelor’s degree, typically in a computer-related field, such as computer science or information systems.
  • Computer scientists who work in a specialized field may need knowledge of that field. For example, those working on biomedical applications may have to take some biology classes.
  • For some computer scientist research positions in the federal government, a bachelor’s degree in computer science may be adequate.

Computer and Information Research Scientists typically do the following:

  • Explore fundamental issues in computing and develop theories and models to address those issues
  • Help others, like scientists and engineers, solve complex computing problems
  • Improve the way in which people work with computers by creating new computing languages, softwares, tools, and methods
  • Design experiments to test the operation of software systems 
  • Analyze the results of their experiments
  • Publish their findings in academic journals

Skills or interests you should have:

Analytical skills. You must be an organized thinker and able to analyze the results of your research to formulate conclusions.
Communication skills. You will need to be a good communicator and be able to communicate your research and conclusions clearly both to programmers and managers as well as to people with no technical background. You may write for academic journals and similar publications.
Critical-thinking skills. You need to be able to work on complex problems.
Detail oriented. Small errors can cause an entire project to fail. You must pay careful attention to your work.
Ingenuity. You must continually seek innovative ways to solve problems, particularly when your initial idea does not work as intended.
Logical thinking. You must have a talent for reasoning and thinking logically. Computer algorithms rely on logic.
Math skills. A knowledge of advanced math and other technical topics are critical in computing.

Quick Facts:  Computer and Information Research Scientists

Annual Salary: $102,190                                          
Education: Ph.D. or professional degree
Job Outlook: 15% growth (Faster than average growth for all occupations)

Computer Network Architects

Job Description

  • Computer network architects design and build the data communication networks for local area networks, wide area networks and intranets used by all workers in an organization.
  • A network can be as small as connecting two offices or as large as a multinational series of communication systems.
  • If a company relies on phones and emails, chances are that there’s a computer network architect behind it all making sure the cogs in the machine function properly. Because many companies rely on outsourcing to supply their IT needs, there are thousands of consulting opportunities.

Job Requirements

  • Computer Network Architects usually have bachelor’s degrees
  • Network architects often may be experienced staff and have 5 to ten years of experience working in the field.

Computer Network Architects typically do the following:

  • Create a plan and layout for a data communication network
  • Consider information security when designing a network and be ready to implement security patches for network vulnerabilities.
  • Select the hardware, such as routers or adaptors, and software, such as network drivers, that are needed to support the network
  • Determine how cables will be laid out in the building and where other hardware will go
  • Research new technology and create models to predict future network needs.

Skills or interests you should have:

  • Analytical skills. You should be able to examine data networks and decide how to best connect the networks based on the needs and resources of the organization.
  • Detail oriented. You should be able to create comprehensive plans that contain precise information describing how the network parts will work together.
  • Interpersonal skills. You need to work well with a team to accomplish the organizations’ goals.
  • Leadership skills. You may be required to direct teams of engineers who build the networks they have designed.
  • Organizational skills. You need to coordinate many different types of communication networks and make sure they work well together.

Quick Facts:  Computer Network Architects

Annual Salary: $91,000
Entry Level Education: Bachelor’s degree
Job Outlook: 15% annual growth (faster than average)

Computer Support Specialists

Job Description

Computer support specialists, sometimes called help-desk technicians, provide help and advice to people and organizations using computer software or equipment. Some provide assistance for other IT personnel within their organization, others assist non-IT users who are having computer problems.

Job Requirements

  • Computer support specialist jobs require some computer knowledge, but not necessarily a postsecondary degree. Applicants who have taken some computer-related classes are often qualified. Some employers accept applicants with an associate’s degree, others prefer applicants to have a bachelor’s degree.
  • Large software companies that provide support to business users who buy their products or services often require a bachelor’s degree. More technical positions are likely to require a degree in a field such as computer science, engineering, or information science, but for others, the applicant’s field of study is less important.
  • To keep up with changes in technology, many computer support specialists continue their education throughout their careers.

Computer Support Specialists typically do the following:

  • Analyze, troubleshoot, and evaluate computer network problems.
  • Find solutions to problems as they occur, and solving IT problems in a timely manner.
  • Provide assistance to the organization’s computer users through phone, email or in-person visits.
  • Work under network and computer systems administrators who handle more complex tasks. 

Skills or interests you should have:

Customer-service skills. You may be helping people who are frustrated with software or hardware they are trying to use, so you must be patient and sympathetic.
Listening skills. You need to be able to understand the problem that your customer is describing and know which questions to ask to clarify the situation.
Problem-solving skills. You need to be able to identify, analyze and solve both simple and complex computer problems.
Speaking skills. You should be able to offer the solution to a computer problem in plain language, in a way that a nontechnical person can understand.
Writing skills. Strong writing skills will help you prepare instructions and email responses for employees and customers, as well as participate in real-time web chat interactions.

Quick Facts:  Computer Support Specialists

Annual salary: $48,900
Entry-level Education: Associate degree or Bachelor’s degree                             
Job Outlook: 17% growth (faster than average job growth over the next ten years)

Computer Systems Analysts

Job Description

Computer systems analysts study an organization’s current computer systems and procedures, and design and create information systems solutions to help the organization operate more efficiently and effectively. They bring business and information technology (IT) together by understanding the needs and limitations of both.

Job Requirements

  • A bachelor’s degree in a computer systems analyst field is common, although not always a requirement. Some firms hire analysts with business or liberal arts degrees who have skills in information technology or computer programming.

Computer Systems Analysts typically do the following:

  • Work with managers to determine the role of the IT system in an organization
  • Research emerging technologies with a view toward increasing the organization’s efficiency and effectiveness
  • Design and develop new systems by choosing and configuring hardware and software and oversee installation.
  • Conduct testing to ensure that the systems work as expected
  • Train the system’s end users and write instruction manuals

Skills or interests you should have:

  • Analytical skills. You should be able to interpret complex information from various sources and decide the best way to move forward on a project.
  • Communication skills. You will be a go-between with management and the IT department and you must be able to explain complex issues in a way that both will understand.
  • Creativity. You will be expected to find innovative solutions to computer problems and it’s important that you are able to “think outside the box”.

Quick Facts: Computer Systems Analysts

Median Salary: $79,680
Entry Level Education: Bachelor’s degree
Job Outlook: 25% growth over the next ten years (much faster than normal for all occupations)

Database Administrators

Job Description

  • Database administrators (DBAs) use specialized software to store and organize data, such as financial information and customer shipping records. They make sure that data are available to users and are secure from unauthorized access.
  • The largest number of Database administrators (DBAs) work for computer systems design and related services firms, such as Internet service providers and data-processing firms.
  • Other DBAs are employed by firms with large databases that keep track of vast amounts of personal and financial data for their clients, such as insurance companies and banks. Some DBAs administer databases for retail companies that keep track of their buyers’ credit card and shipping information; others work for healthcare firms and manage patients’ medical records.

Job Requirements

A bachelor’s degree in an information- or computer- related subject is usually required for a database administrator position. Before becoming an administrator, these workers typically get work experience in a related field.

Database Administrators typically do the following:

  • Create and administer databases according to user needs
  • Make sure the database operates efficiently and without error
  • Maintain the database and update permissions
  • Merge old databases into new ones
  • Backup and restore data to prevent data loss and ensure that organizational data is secure 

Skills or interests you should have:

  • Analytical skills. You should be able to monitor a database system’s performance to determine when action is needed, and evaluate complex information that comes from a variety of sources.
  • Communication skills. You must be able to work with a team and communicate effectively with developers, managers, and other workers.
  • Detail oriented. Your work with databases requires an understanding of complex systems, in which a minor error can cause major problems. For example, if you mix up customers’ credit card information, it can cause someone to be charged for a purchase he or she didn’t make.
  • Logical thinking. You should be able to use software to make sense of information and arrange and organize it into meaningful patterns.
  • Problem-solving skills. You should be able to diagnose and correct problems that arise.

Quick Facts:  Database Administrators

Annual Salary: $77,080
Entry-Level Education: Bachelor’s degree
Job Outlook: 15% growth over the next ten years (faster than average)

Information Security Analysts

Job Description

Information security analysts plan and carry out security measures to protect an organization's computer networks and systems. Their responsibilities are continually expanding as the number of cyber attacks increase.

Job Requirements

  • Most information security analysts have a bachelor’s degree in a computer-related field. They also usually need experience in a related occupation.
  • Most information security analysts work for computer companies, consulting firms, and business and financial companies. Very few information security analysts are self-employed.
  • Many information security analysts work with other members of an information technology department, such as network administrators or computer systems analysts.

Information Security Analysts typically do the following:

  • Monitor their organization’s networks for security breaches and investigate a violation when one occurs
  • Install firewalls and data encryption programs, to protect sensitive information
  • Prepare reports that document security breaches and the extent of the damage caused by the breaches
  • Create simulated attacks to look for vulnerabilities in their systems before they can be exploited
  • Research the latest information technology (IT) security trends
  • Develop security standards and best practices for their organization
  • Help computer users when they need to install or learn about new security products and procedures

Skills or interests you should have:

  • Analytical skills. You  must have the skills to carefully study computer systems and networks and investigate any irregularities to determine if the networks have been compromised.
  • Detail oriented. Because cyber attacks can be difficult to detect, you must pay careful attention to your computer systems and watch for minor changes in performance.
  • Ingenuity. You must constantly outthink cybercriminals and invent new ways to protect your organization’s computer systems and networks.
  • Problem-solving skills. You must be able to uncover and fix flaws in computer systems and networks.

Quick Facts:  Information Security Analysts

Annual Salary                         $86,170
Entry-Level Education            Bachelor’s degree
Job Outlook                            37% growth over next ten years (much faster than average for most occupations)

Network and Computer Systems Administrators

Job Description

Computer networks are critical parts of almost every organization. Network and computer systems administrators are responsible for the day-to-day operation of these networks.

Job Requirements

  • Although some employers require a postsecondary certificate, most require a bachelor’s degree in a field related to computer or information science.
  • Network and computer systems administrators work with many types of workers, including computer network architects and computer and information systems managers as well as non information technology (IT) staff.

Network and Computer Systems Administrators typically do the following:

  • Analyze and recommend what the organization needs in a network and computer system before it is set up     
  • Install network hardware and software and facilitate upgrades and repairs 
  • Maintain network and computer system security and ensure that all systems are operating correctly
  • Add users to a network and assign and update security permissions on the network
  • Train users on the proper use of hardware and software

Skills or interests you should have:

  • Analytical skills. Your analytical skills will help you evaluate network and system performance and determine how changes in the environment will affect it.
  • Communication skills. You must be able to clearly describe problems and their solutions to non-IT workers.
  • Computer skills. You will be responsible for overseeing the connections of many different types of computer equipment and ensuring that they all work together properly.
  • Multitasking skills. You may have to work on many problems and tasks at the same time.
  • Problem-solving skills. You must be able to quickly resolve any problems that arise with computer networks.

Quick Facts: Network and Computer Systems Administrators

Annual Salary: $72,560

Entry-Level Education: Bachelor’s degree or postsecondary certificate

Job Outlook: 12% growth (about average for all occupations)

Software Developers

(Includes Game Developers and Mobile App Programmers)

Software Developers

Software developers are in charge of the entire development process for a software program. There generally are two types: some develop the applications that allow people to do specific tasks on a computer or other device. Others develop the underlying systems that run the devices or control networks.

There are a number of specific roles for software developers in the current market.

Game Developers

  • Video Game Designers write and debug computer code to develop games for a variety of platforms.
  • They determine the concept and design of the game, sketch and storyboard what the game will look like, and create a limited version of the audio and video of their game.
  • Each version of the game is redesigned and tested until all the problems and flaws are eliminated.
  • Video Game Designing involves specialists who help create a video game. These include: Programmer, Writer, Audio Programmer, Level Designer, Animator, Modeler, License Support Engineer, and Software Engineer.

Mobile App Developer

  • Mobile App Developers deliver concept and design, build, deploy, test, and release products to app stores and provide support.
  • They work closely with developers and product managers to create and maintain a robust framework to support the apps. They work with front end developers to build the interface with focus on usability features.

Applications Software Developers

  • Applications Software Developers design computer applications, such as word processors and games, for consumers.
  • They create custom software for a specific customer or commercial software to be sold to the general public.
  • They create complex databases for organizations. They also create programs that people use over the Internet and within a company’s intranet.

Systems Software Developers

  • Systems software developers create the operating systems that control most of the consumer electronics in use today, including those in phones or cars.
  • They create the systems that keep computers functioning properly. These could be operating systems that are part of computers the general public buys or systems built specifically for an organization.
  • They often build the system’s interface, which is what allows users to interact with the computer.

Job Requirements for Software Developers in general

In general, software development is a collaborative process and developers work on teams with others, who contribute to designing, developing, and programming successful software. However, some developers telecommute (work away from the office).

Many software developers work for computer systems design and related services firms or software publishers. Some systems developers work in computer and electronic product manufacturing industries. Applications developers work in office environments, such as for insurance carriers or corporate headquarters.

Software Developers typically do the following:

  • Analyze the needs of the user or customer, then design, test, and develop software to meet those needs
  • Design each piece of the application or system and plan how the pieces will work together
  • Create a variety of models and diagrams (such as flowcharts) that instruct programmers how to write the software code
  • Ensure that the software continues to function normally through software maintenance and testing
  • Document every aspect of the application or system as a reference for future maintenance and upgrades

Skills or interests you should have:

  • Analytical skills. You must be able to analyze users’ needs and then design software to meet those needs.
  • Communication skills. You must be able to give clear instructions to others working on a project.
  • Computer skills. You need to understand computer capabilities and languages in order to design effective software.
  • Creativity. You will need to be the creative mind behind new computer software.
  • Detail oriented. You will often need to work on many parts of an application or system at the same time and must be able to concentrate and pay attention to detail.
  • Interpersonal skills. You must be able to work well with others who contribute to designing, developing, and programming successful software.
  • Problem-solving skills. Because you will be in charge of the software from beginning to end, you must be able to solve problems that arise throughout the design process.

Quick Facts: Software Developers

Annual Salary                                   $93,350
Entry-Level Education                      Bachelor’s degree
Job Outlook                                      22% growth (faster than average growth for most occupations)

Web Developers

Job Description

Web developers design and create websites. They are responsible for the look of the site and the technical aspects such as performance and capacity which are measures of a website’s speed and how much traffic the site can handle. They also may create content for the site.

Job Requirements

Educational requirements for web developers vary with the setting they work in and the type of work they do, but the typical education needed to become a web developer is an associate’s degree in web design or related field. Web developers need knowledge of both programming and graphic design.

Web developers need to have a thorough understanding of HTML. Many employers also want developers to understand other programming languages, such as JavaScript or SQL, as well as have some knowledge of multimedia publishing tools, such as Flash. Throughout their career, web developers must keep up to date on new tools and computer languages.

Web Developers typically do the following:

  • Meet with clients or management to determine the needs of the website and the expected needs of the website’s audience and plan how it should look.
  • Write code for the site, using programming languages such as HTML or XML.
  • Work with other team members to determine what information the site will contain.
  • Work with graphics and other designers to determine the website’s layout.
  • Integrate graphics, audio, and video into the website.
  • Monitor website traffic.

Skills or interests you should have:

Concentration. You must be able to sit at a computer and write detailed code for long periods of time.
Creativity. You often may be involved in designing the appearance of a website and must make sure that it looks innovative and up to date.
Customer-service skills. You should be patient and respond politely and correctly to user questions and requests.
Detail oriented. Attention to detail is critical as when you write code in HTML, a minor error could cause an entire webpage to stop working.

Quick Facts: Web Developers

Annual Salary                                   $62,500
Entry-Level Education                      Associate Degree
Job Outlook                                                20% growth (faster than average)