Information technology (IT) is one of the world's fastest-growing industries and offers various opportunities for advancement and high-paying jobs. Skilled IT workers find work in nearly every industry, giving you the option to pursue a position in an industry you’re most interested in. Understanding the different roles and qualifications within ITcan help you plan your next steps to find a position that suits you.
An IT job can range from an IT support specialist, project manager, or to a software designer. Positions in this field cover a broad variety of roles that can vary depending on the company. An IT position generally involves managing and storing data using computers, software, databases, networks, and servers. As an IT professional, you may write programs, maintain networks, analyze systems, and provide technical support.
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that IT jobs are expected to grow 15 percent in this decade, with over 680,000 new jobs by 2031, a growth rate faster than other industries . The average median salary for IT workers in 2021 was $97,430. If you're considering a career in IT, now may be an ideal time to start working toward one.
When you think about IT jobs, you may envision role-based technician positions, like software developer, coder, and website administrator. However, positions in the industry include much more. The list below shows that IT job titles are as varied as the types of jobs available in the industry.
1. Applications engineer
Average annual salary (US): $77,351 
An applications engineer builds software architecture, optimizes existing systems, and supports clients using their programs.
2. Computer programmer
Average annual salary (US): $68,024 
A computer programmer writes, tests, and modifies code used by computers to operate software and complete specific tasks.
3. Computer scientist
Average annual salary (US): $102,395 
A computer scientist may take on various roles; they apply theory to develop computer systems, build databases, work with programming languages, and more.
4. Data quality manager
Average annual salary (US): $87,213 
Data quality managers work with every department in a company to efficiently recognize gaps in data quality and maintain the correct and accurate use of data.
5. Data scientist
Average annual salary (US): $99,480 
A data scientist develops predictive models to identify trends in data and forecast different business outcomes.
6. IT coordinator
Average annual salary (US): $54,340 
An IT coordinator maintains the technology used by a company. They may need to troubleshoot errors, manage servers, build databases, and purchase equipment.
7. IT director
Average annual salary (US): $124,074 
An IT director manages a company’s IT professionals, technical operations, and may also track how they work to increase efficiency and minimize risk.
8. IT security specialist
Average annual salary (US): $80,708
IT security specialists protect confidential information by monitoring anti-virus protection systems, encrypting data, and creating firewalls.
9. Network engineer
Average annual salary (US): $83,478 
Network engineers design infrastructure systems and improve existing network systems within a company.
10. Quality assurance tester
Average annual salary (US): $46,649 
A quality assurance tester attempts to identify gaps or errors in software by conducting manual and automated tests to simulate different scenarios on the software.
11. Software engineer
Average annual salary (US): $97,271 
Software engineers create computer systems and design applications to meet specific needs or solve real-world problems.
12. Support specialist
Average annual salary (US): $43,632 
A support specialist works alongside administrative and technical support to resolve customer concerns directly or refer them to the appropriate department.
13. User experience designer
Average annual salary (US): $77,103 
A user experience designer helps developers create programs and websites that are accessible for people and easy to use.
14. Web administrator
Average annual salary (US): $54,577 
A web administrator manages the company website to optimize its performance and increase its online visibility.
The key job duties of IT professionals typically include creating new computer systems, networks, and applications or finding software errors through troubleshooting. Many of them can be involved in various tasks depending on their roles and the company's needs.
As an IT worker, you can expect to work with computer-based information systems, software, and hardware, typically by designing, developing, and managing them. Everyday responsibilities can include:
Identifying technical problems
Deploying the appropriate IT solutions to solve problems
Designing computer-based systems or programs
Identifying user needs with technology
Beyond having technical skills, such as programming, IT professionals and employers look for workplace skills like communication since technical skills are learnable through hands-on work. Having a balanced set of both types of skills can make you an attractive applicant for IT roles. Here are some technical and workplace skills to consider building as you prepare for a career in IT.
Computer literacy: As an IT professional, you’ll spend a lot of time using computers, so understanding how to operate it and its basic functions is necessary.
Coding: Many IT roles require coding knowledge in various programming languages, depending on your specific role. You may help code or develop new software and applications for your company.
Application development: Having experience with application development can help you to understand the back-end of the software you’re using. You may find this helpful in creating new software or applications and monitoring computer systems.
Analytical: Analytical skills like critical thinking can help you identify and solve technology-related issues. For example, you may need to assess the status and identify computer system and application errors.
Communication: You’ll communicate with various teams within your organization as an IT professional. This includes explaining technical concepts in a way that others can understand.
Organization: In an IT role, you’ll be tasked with multiple duties or projects at once, making organization a critical skill for success. With proper organization, your efficiency and productivity at work will drastically increase.
Problem-solving: Troubleshooting problems with the technology systems in your company can be difficult and confusing, so having advanced problem-solving techniques can lead you to be an effective team member.
Time management: IT professionals often have time-sensitive tasks with hard deadlines. It’s crucial to prioritize your time, designate tasks when needed, and complete projects correctly by their deadlines.
Read more: What Are Job Skills and Why Do They Matter?
Most IT jobs require that you have a bachelor's degree at a minimum. You can attain a degree in various fields to qualify for IT roles, such as information technology, computer science, or computer engineering. Some common courses you’ll take to help prepare you for an IT career include statistics, calculus, data networking, and information security.
To better position yourself to reach senior-level positions, you can choose to pursue a master’s degree in any relevant field of study. While hands-on experience in the IT field will help you to become an attractive candidate for higher-level IT roles, an advanced degree can be an essential asset to prove your expertise and dedication to your work.
Entry-level roles usually don’t require certifications, but you may pursue specific ones that are related to your specialization field to further your education and prove your expertise. Some senior-level positions may also require certain certifications.
Depending on the certification you want to earn, you typically need to have on-the-job experience. Here are some common IT certifications:
This certification demonstrates your level of expertise in core concepts about data management and information systems.
To earn this certification: Pass two exams, and then you can opt to take an additional exam to specialize in data management. Options include data administration, data integration or modeling, and business analytics.
The CISA certification is a top choice for IT professionals whose primary role involves auditing or system security.
To earn the certification: Pass an exam that covers various topics, such as IT management, operations of information systems, and auditing information systems and provide proof of in-field work experience.
If you've been working in a systems security role with experience in areas like security management and operations, software development security, and asset security. In that case, you may consider pursuing the CISSP certification.
To earn the certification: You must pass an exam of the eight domains outlined in the CISSP Common Body of Knowledge and provide documentation of at least five years of paid work experience to qualify.
Cisco is one of the world's leading technology companies, and this certification can help you prepare to manage and utilize its networks. Certificate holders work in various IT roles, from help desk technicians to network administrators.
To earn the certification: You must pass an exam that covers network and security fundamentals, automation, IP services, and programmability.
The CompTIA Security+ exam will test you on the core principles necessary for various cybersecurity-related roles.
To earn this certification: Pass the exam that focuses on core security functions, including how to evaluate, monitor, and improve IT security protocols, stay in compliance with regulations, and handle security incidents when they arise.
If you’re interested in pursuing management roles in IT, this certification may help boost your odds of qualifying for these positions. Earning this certification helps demonstrate your knowledge of project management principles and helps authenticate your leadership skills in project management approaches like Agile and Waterfall. You have to pass one exam to earn this certification. Start preparing and learning in-demand project management skills with the Google Project Management Professional Certificate.
If you’re a beginner that has recently become interested in pursuing a career in IT, it could be beneficial to complete an introductory course to learn the basics, such as the Google IT Support Professional Certificate. More experienced professionals could utilize intermediate or advanced courses to further their learning, such as Cloud Computing Applications or Introduction to Quantum Information. You can find these courses and more on Coursera.
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US Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Computer and Information Technology Occupations https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/home.htm." Accessed July 15, 2022.
Glassdoor. “How much does an Application-Engineer make?, https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/us-applications-engineer-salary-SRCH_IL.0,2_IN1_KO3,24.htm?clickSource=searchBtn." Accessed July 14, 2022.
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Glassdoor. “How much does an IT Security Specialist make?, https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/us-it-security-specialist-salary-SRCH_IL.0,2_IN1_KO3,25.htm?clickSource=searchBtn." Accessed July 14, 2022.
Glassdoor. “How much does a Network Engineer make?, https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/us-network-engineer-salary-SRCH_IL.0,2_IN1_KO3,19.htm?clickSource=searchBtn." Accessed July 14, 2022.
Glassdoor. “How much does a Quality Assurance Tester make?, https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/us-quality-assurance-tester-salary-SRCH_IL.0,2_IN1_KO3,27.htm?clickSource=searchBtn." Accessed July 14, 2022.
Glassdoor. “How much does a Software Engineer make?, https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/us-software-engineer-salary-SRCH_IL.0,2_IN1_KO3,20.htm?clickSource=searchBtn. Accessed July 14, 2022.
Glassdoor. “How much does a Support Specialist make?, https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/us-support-specialist-salary-SRCH_IL.0,2_IN1_KO3,21.htm?clickSource=searchBtn. Accessed July 14, 2022.
Glassdoor. “How much does a UX Designer make?, https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/us-ux-designer-salary-SRCH_IL.0,2_IN1_KO3,14.htm?clickSource=searchBtn." Accessed July 14, 2022.
Glassdoor. “How much does a Web Administrator make?, https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/us-web-administrator-salary-SRCH_IL.0,2_IN1_KO3,20.htm?clickSource=searchBtn." Accessed July 14, 2022.
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