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April 15, 2019

Information Technology

All the IT questions you're too afraid to ask.

IT professional doing server diagnostics check.

Even if you've been using computers all your life, you might not be familiar with the intricacies of IT. Have you ever had your computer fixed at the local computer repair shop? Just having a five-minute chat with the repair person could leave your head spinning for a week.

If you're considering pursuing a degree or career in IT, understanding the ins and outs of the field can help you on your journey. Here are some answers to the IT questions many of us have but are too afraid to ask.

What is IT, exactly?

While some people mistakenly think that IT stands for "internet technology," it actually stands for "information technology," and according to TechTerms, it relates to “anything related to computing technology, such as networking, hardware, software, the Internet, or the people that work with these technologies . . . IT jobs include computer programming, network administration, computer engineering, Web development, technical support, and many other related occupations.” 

In fact, the term has been around longer than the internet. It was first coined in the Harvard Business Review in 1958 by authors Thomas Whisler and Harold Leavitt. At the time, the term referred to the process of thinking through computer programming, mathematical methods for decision-making, and specific techniques for processing. Today, IT is broader than computers: It includes television, radio, and telephones, and any industry that uses any of those services or that uses a network to process and distribute data.

What does an IT person do?

Over the years, the purview of IT has expanded to encompass myriad tasks. The field involves network administration, software development and installation, and hardware maintenance and upgrades, among other things. Basically, if it involves making sure that computer-based information systems are running efficiently, someone in IT handles it.

No two IT jobs are exactly the same, though, and duties vary widely. An IT professional working at, say, a large company, hospital, or school district, for example, might spend much of their day maintaining the equipment (e.g., computers, servers, and peripherals like monitors and keyboards), uploading and downloading the latest software, and troubleshooting the tech problems plaguing the rest of the staff. 

Someone at a smaller organization might be more involved in day-to-day operations management and administrative work. No matter the size of the organization they work in, IT professionals must have strong communication skills to discuss problems and solutions with other employees.

What career opportunities are available in IT?

If you would like a virtually guaranteed job after you graduate from college, you could do much worse than studying IT. Because so many industries are dependent on technology and computers, IT technicians are consistently in high demand in all major businesses, companies, hospitals, and school systems. But you don't have to limit yourself there. Here are a few unique IT careers you could pursue.

IT Consultant

An IT consultant meets with companies to assess their computer systems. They make recommendations on how a company can set up, maintain, or improve its technological infrastructure. You won't need more than a bachelor's degree in computer science for the job, but it's probably a good idea to take a couple of extra courses to specialize in the field. The salary for this job climbs quickly; according to Consulting, you can earn an average annual salary of around $74,000 as an IT consultant.

Cloud Manager

No, the cloud has nothing to do with those pillow-looking things that hang in the sky. Cloud computing, PCMag notes, is the process of saving and accessing data and programs on services that run on the internet instead of your computer's hard drive. This has many advantages, as it allows users to access information from anywhere in the world and on any device.

But even the cloud needs a good manager. A cloud manager ensures that the cloud is working optimally for the company's needs and is corresponding well with all devices used by the organization. It's a key role, and a growing one, as many industries are increasingly relying on cloud storage.

This role only requires a bachelor's degree, and its salary is, well, in the clouds. According to Business Insider, you could bring down more than $113,000 a year as a cloud manager.

IT Manager

If you have a knack for leadership, an IT manager position could be perfect for you. And it'll be a lucrative career; if you stick with it, you could quickly be making well over $100,000 a year, according to Salary.com.

An IT manager is responsible for planning and monitoring computer systems for a company or organization. They coordinate all aspects of the IT department, from hardware to software, and they often have the final say on infrastructure changes. IT managers also coach, counsel, and discipline the employees working underneath them. While the IT consultant job would likely come with less stress, the IT manager is much more empowered to make strategic IT decisions.

Cybersecurity Analyst or Engineer 

Careers in cybersecurity are booming with sources estimating there will be as many as 3.5 million job openings by 2021. It’s not hard to see why: More and more core functions in life are carried out digitally, from banking and shopping, to education and work. But with this digitization comes more threats from hackers who are looking for any vulnerability to exploit in order to gain access to valuable personal and corporate data. Cybersecurity analysts and engineers keep this data safe by monitoring IT infrastructure for weaknesses and staying up to date on the latest viruses and threats. If you are looking for a job that keeps you on your toes, pays well, and offers major growth potential, you should look into cybersecurity.  

What else?

New IT positions are being created every day to meet the growing technological needs of the business world. If you enjoy learning about computers and technology, there's a good chance you'll also enjoy making a career out of it. Sure, your family and friends will bug you every time their computers go haywire, but it will all be worth it. After just a few years of college, you will have gained a strong career in a respectable field that pays well and is constantly evolving.

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