A degree may open the door to a variety of opportunities and diverse career paths. The degree programs offered at AIU will not necessarily lead to the featured careers. This collection of articles is intended to help inform and guide you through the process of determining which level of degree and types of certifications align with your desired career path.
Because so much information nowadays is transmitted and stored digitally, it’s little wonder that services for cloud computing, information security, database administration and computer support have become increasingly important to businesses and other organizations. It’s also little wonder that the growing demand for these services has led to a demand for competent IT professionals who can provide them. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment in computer and IT occupations will increase 13 percent from 2020 to 2030—a rate faster than the average for all occupations.1
Different IT Career Paths—An Overview
Depending upon your interests and educational background, there could be more than one information technology career path to consider—so let’s explore some popular IT career paths.
1. Information Security Analyst
Information security analysts protect an organization’s computer networks and systems by planning and implementing various security measures, including:2
- monitoring networks for security breaches and investigating when one occurs
- conducting digital investigations and documenting security breaches
- installing software (firewalls, antivirus programs, data encryption) to maintain information integrity and security
- staying abreast of information security trends and recommending information systems security enhancements
- developing information security standards and user best practices
- providing computer support services to users
Employment Outlook: The BLS projects that employment of IT analysts will increase 33% from 2020 to 2030—growth that is driven primarily by the increasing frequency of cyberattacks.
Education: Most positions require a bachelor’s degree in computer and IT or a related field such as engineering or math, while experience in a related occupation is often desirable.2
2. Computer and Information Research Scientist
Computer and information research scientists can be found working in all types of industries, solving complex problems in computing, designing new types of technology and/or coming up with innovative new uses for existing technology. Their work helps bring about improvements in information security, computing speeds and computer networking. They may:3
- develop theories and models to address computing issues
- invent new computing languages, software systems and other tools
- develop and improve software systems; design experiments to test them; analyze the results; and publish their findings
Employment Outlook: The BLS projects that employment of computer and information research scientists will increase 22 percent from 2020 to 2030—a much faster-than-average rate of growth due to the emergence of new technology, the need for more data mining, an ever-growing emphasis on cybersecurity and a greater demand for new software programming languages.
3. Information Technology Manager
Information technology management—also known as information systems management or IT project management—involves the planning, organizing and directing of an organization’s computer activities. Information technology managers may:4
- analyze computer needs and recommend possible upgrades/enhancements
- plan and direct the installation and maintenance of computer hardware and software
- ensure network and electronic document security
- determine personnel needs for their department
- oversee the work of computer systems analysts, software developers, information security analysts and computer support specialists
Employment Outlook: Employment of computer and information systems managers is projected to increase 11 percent from 2020 to 2030. This increase for information technology management professionals is being driven mainly by the transition of operations to digital platforms, the increased need for cybersecurity and the expansion of cloud computing.
Education: IT managers generally need to have a bachelor’s degree in computer or information science as well as related work experience, though many employers may require a graduate degree.4
4. Computer Systems Analyst
Computer systems analysts, also referred to as systems architects, work to find more efficient solutions to an organization’s computer systems and design improvements. To accomplish this, a large part of their job is dedicated to considering both the IT and business implications of their decisions. Computer systems analysts also may:5
- consult with managers to understand role of an organization’s IT systems
- research different technologies and perform cost-benefit analyses to determine financial feasibility of upgrades
- enhance existing computer systems with new functionality or design/implement new systems
- provide computer support through training end users and writing instruction manuals
Analysts who supervise the installation or upgrade of IT systems from start to finish may be called IT project managers. They plan and direct an organization’s IT department where their business and leadership skills and knowledge can be utilized.
Employment Outlook: The BLS projects that employment of computer systems analysts will increase 7 percent from 2020 to 2030, driven by a greater reliance on IT in general and an increase in third-party contracting with cloud service providers and other IT professionals.
Education: Most computer systems analysts have a bachelor’s degree in a computer-related discipline; however, certain employers may desire applicants who possess an MBA with a specialization in information systems or computer science, depending upon the complexity of the role. Additionally, they are expected to possess several years of experience in a related information technology career.5
5. Software Developer
Software developers are the masterminds behind the software we use. They may specialize in applications development, where they design video games, word processing programs, databases and other computer applications. Or they may specialize in systems software development, where they create operating systems and the interfaces that allow users to interact with the computer. They may:6
- analyze users’ needs, design and develop software that meets those needs and recommend upgrades for existing programs/systems
- design applications/systems components and plan how they will work together
- visually demonstrate (e.g., through flowcharts) to programmers the software code needed for applications development
- ensure programs retain functionality during maintenance and testing
Employment Outlook: The BLS projects that employment of software developers will increase 19 percent from 2020 to 2030, driven by a demand for new mobile apps, especially in the health and medical insurance and reinsurance industries.
Education: Although software developers typically have a degree in computer and information technology and exhibit strong programming skills, completing an IT program with a concentration in software analysis and development could also provide an opportunity to work toward developing the necessary fundamentals.6
6. Computer Network Architect
Computer network architects create, set up, maintain and troubleshoot data communication networks (i.e., local area networks (LANs), wide area networks (WANs) and Intranets). Depending upon an organization’s objectives, these data networks may be relatively small affairs between offices or larger cloud infrastructures that support many users. Also known as network engineers, computer network architects may work alongside colleagues specializing in network administration or information systems management as well as third-party equipment and software vendors. They also may:7
- devise plans and layouts for data communication networks and present these plans to decisionmakers
- consider the impacts on information security in the network-design process
- upgrade hardware and software
Employment Outlook: The BLS projects that employment of computer network architects will increase 5 percent from 2020 to 2030. Expansion and upgrading of IT networks and healthcare information technology is expected to drive demand for these IT professionals; however, the increasing use of cloud computing will likely lead to organizations employing fewer, if any, in-house network architects as these organizations turn to outside cloud service providers.
Education: Computer network architects generally need to have earned a bachelor’s degree in a computer-related field and have experience in a related occupation. Certain employers may prefer applicants having a graduate degree such as an MBA with a specialization in information systems.7
Interested in Pursuing an Information Technology Career Path?
There are a lot of reasons someone might consider a career path in IT. Perhaps you have a passion for computers and technology or enjoy the challenges of information security. Whatever your reasons, pursuing an IT degree program that gives you the opportunity to develop IT leadership and technical skills could be a great first step toward achieving your academic goals.Learn more about AIU’s undergraduate and graduate programs in information technology.
1 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, “Computer and Information Technology Occupations,” https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/home.htm (last visited 8/22/2022). This data represents national figures and is not based on school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary.
2 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, “Information Security Analysts,” https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/information-security-analysts.htm (last visited 8/22/2022). This data represents national figures and is not based on school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary.
3 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, “Computer and Information Research Scientists,” https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/computer-and-information-research-scientists.htm (last visited 8/22/2022). This data represents national figures and is not based on school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary.
4 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, “Computer and Information Systems Managers,” https://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/computer-and-information-systems-managers.htm (last visited 8/22/2022). This data represents national figures and is not based on school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary.
5 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, “Computer Systems Analysts,” https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/computer-systems-analysts.htm (last visited 8/22/2022). This data represents national figures and is not based on school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary.
6 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, “Software Developers,” https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/software-developers.htm (last visited 8/22/2022). This data represents national figures and is not based on school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary.
7 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, “Computer Network Architects,” https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/computer-network-architects.htm (last visited 8/22/2022). This data represents national figures and is not based on school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary.
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