There Is More to the IT Industry Than Fixing A Computer
You’re a geek, but you couldn’t install a hard drive at gunpoint. You love technology, but not the literal nuts and bolts of it.
Is there a career for you in the IT industry? Absolutely.
Computer programmers and software developers are always going to be in demand. So are support specialists—people who train users and respond to system emergencies. There’s a wide variety of other jobs, too, that experts also see as growth fields for at least the rest of the decade. Here are five to consider.
1. Computer systems analysts
This is a career for the problem-solvers. Computer systems analysts examine an organization’s systems, look for inefficiencies, and find solutions. Ever worked at a place where one computer system is layered on top of another and the two aren’t integrated at all? A systems analyst can spot and fix that.
The field has seen significant growth in the past few years, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics expects that to continue at a faster-than-average pace over the next decade.
Most systems analysts hold bachelor’s degrees in computer or information science, though business or even liberal arts graduates with IT skills can also land these jobs.
2. Information security specialist
This is a white-hot field with great income potential—a median pay of $98,000 and expected job growth of 32 percent in coming years, according to the BLS. A bachelor’s degree in a computer-related field usually is required, and many businesses often prefer analysts with some knowledge of their industry.
This, too, is a problem-solver’s field, except the security analyst is looking for holes in the system. Those can be out-of-data practices, business workflows that haven’t kept up with the times, inadequate firewalls, or weak encryption.
There’s often a training component to the information security specialist’s job, too. Many organizations find that they need to train employees on everything from password creation to avoiding phishing scams.
Information security positions typically require at least a bachelor’s degree. Many colleges and universities now offer certifications for those interested in expanding their skills.
3. Information privacy professional
These two are closely related and sometimes overlap. The difference is, information privacy professionals are experts at what personal information must be protected. It’s a list that changes frequently and involves a mix of state, federal, and even international law.
You don’t have to be an attorney to get into this field, though many lawyers are expanding their practices to include it.
Being a privacy professional involves more than just being aware of the law, though. Privacy professionals also help companies implement best practices and respond to data breaches, from notifying those whose data was revealed to fielding media inquiries.
Though some technical skills are required, privacy professionals emerge from many disciplines: information auditing, risk management, and more. The International Association of Privacy Professionals offers certification for those interested in breaking into the field or who want credentials that vouch for their expertise.
4. Computer forensic science
Computer forensics specialists solve whodunits in cyber world. Many work for law enforcement, investigating both cybercrimes and other cases where electronics hold part of the evidence. They poke and prod computer hard drives, cell phones, USB sticks, and more in search of files users thought they’d deleted. They can break encryption codes or resurrect files from damaged media.
It’s a multifaceted discipline, and technical skills alone are not enough. Forensics specialists who work for law enforcement must be aware of issues such as the chain of custody required in any criminal investigation. They must carefully document findings and be prepared to testify in court.
Private firms, from big corporations to insurance companies, also sometimes need the services of computer forensics experts. The positions typically require at least an associate degree.
5. Health information technology
This is another growth field—the BLS rates it as growing “much faster than average” for the rest of the decade. It’s also one that doesn’t require a bachelor’s degree, though a certificate or an associate’s is helpful.
The pay for medical records clerks is higher on average than for information clerks in other settings, according to BLS data, in part because of the additional levels of privacy.
Another potential perk of the position: Though most medical records technicians work in clinics or hospitals, employers are becoming more open to telecommuting options.
An entry-level healthcare job can also be a great way to get to know the business as you pursue the credentials to move into a healthcare technology position with more responsibility and greater pay.
Today’s generation of geeks might not all be able to install a hard drive, but that doesn’t mean they can’t make software sing an aria or lock down a system tighter than Alcatraz. There are plenty of lucrative and satisfying IT careers today even if you can’t build a computer.