There is a wide array of career paths in information technology (IT), including maintenance and support, research/development/design and cybersecurity, among others. IT is also a fast-paced industry that is constantly changing, which provides you the opportunity to continually learn new technologies.
Of course, this also means you must have a strong desire to learn so that you can keep up with the demands of the field. There are a variety of positions within the information technology arena, all with varying levels of education requirements and skills. Many entry-level help desk positions only require a high school education, but some of the specialty positions will likely require certifications and/or a college degree.
Other things to consider as you look at the different areas of IT are how you work best. Do you like to work individually or on a team? Do you enjoy interacting with end users or working behind the scenes, thriving on solving in-depth problems and embracing a challenge? IT offers something for everyone.
Here is a small sampling of IT positions. In many cases, there are subsets of these positions that include very specific roles and responsibilities.
- Help desk/support: These positions typically assist non-IT users that are experiencing issues with their computers or programs. In this role, you are normally the first point of contact for the end user in resolving IT problems. This may require you to work with senior IT personnel for help with a problem. Because you are generally exposed to wide spectrum of technologies, the help desk position is a good stepping stone toward a focus in a specialty area.
- Database administrator: A person in this position is responsible for several different functions, ranging from design, implementation and continuous management of the databases to ensure stability, performance and accuracy of data.
- Website developer/designer: A website developer normally focuses on the development of a website and how it works as opposed to how it looks. A website designer focuses on the look and feel of a website to make sure it’s easy to use and understand. Therefore, these are two unique roles that are equally important.
- Network administrator: This position is responsible for maintaining connections between servers, computers and the Internet. These connections include phones, wireless devices and physical connections to the computers. This can even mean keeping off-site employees connected to the office environment.
- Management: If you are striving to become an IT manager, keep in mind that someone who is a very strong technically does not always transition to a successful manager. Many individuals assume this is a normal career path, but leading a team and providing vison requires strategic thinking and the ability to move quickly. This position does not require you to have in-depth knowledge of all of the technologies, but does mean you need to build and maintain a highly motivated and productive team.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics website provides some good reference information on positions and their corresponding education requirements and growth rate.