Computer & Information Technology

Computer and Information Technology (IT) services are expected to be among the fastest growing industries in the economy, because of the massive growth in our reliability on computers in every aspect of our lives.

Virtually every organization relies on computer and information technology to conduct business and operate efficiently.

Job opportunities are excellent for most workers, with the best opportunities occurring for computer specialists.

An IT technician programming on a computer

Nature of the Industry

Establishments in this industry design computer and information systems, develop custom software programs, and provide computer facilities management services.

They also perform various other functions, such as software installation and disaster recovery services, management of data center, or setting up of online marketplace, as well as information technology security.

Job Outlook

The computer systems design and related services industry grew dramatically throughout the 1990s, as employment more than doubled; and the industry is projected to be one of the 10 fastest growing in the Nation.

Job opportunities should be excellent for most workers in the industry.

Wage-and-salary employment is expected to grow 45 percent between 2010 and 2018, about 4 times as fast as the 11 percent growth projected for all industries combined. In addition, this industry will add over 600,000 jobs over this decade, placing it among the 5 industries with the largest job growth.

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An increasing reliance on information technology will continue to drive demand for computer systems design and related services. Organizations will continue to turn to firms in this industry to help them satisfy their growing computing needs.

Growth should also result from the increasing need to maintain network and computer system security.

Employment of systems analysts, software engineers, and consultants in areas such as disaster recovery services, custom security programming, and computer systems security will continue to rise rapidly.

The demand for networking and the need to integrate new hardware, software, and communications technologies will drive demand for consulting and integration, as will the massive expansion of the internet and proliferation of wireless technologies.

The healthcare industry, in addition, is expected to increase its use of information technology. The adoption of e-prescribing, electronic health records and other IT platforms tools will spur demand for computer systems design services. The demand for custom programming services should also increase as the popularity of open-source software and service-oriented architecture grow.

Given the overall rate of growth expected for the entire industry, most occupations should continue to grow rapidly, although some will grow faster than others.

Earnings in the Industry

Workers in the computer systems design and related services industry generally command higher earnings than the national average. All production or nonsupervisory workers in the industry averaged $1,401 a week in 2008, significantly higher than the average of $608 for all industries. This reflects the concentration of professionals and specialists, who often are highly compensated for their specialized skills or expertise.

In May 2008, hourly wages of computer software applications engineers ranged from $25.83 for the lowest paid 10 percent to more than $61.95 for the highest paid 10 percent; while the hourly wages of computer and information systems managers ranged from $33.05 for the lowest paid 10 percent to more than $80.00 for the highest paid 10 percent.

Occupations in the Industry & Training

Providing a wide array of information services to clients requires a diverse and highly skilled workforce. The majority of workers in the computer systems design and related services industry are in professional and related occupations—overwhelmingly computer specialists such as computer systems analysts, computer software engineers, and computer programmers.

Computer programmers write, test, and maintain the detailed instructions, called programs or software, that computers must follow to perform their functions.

Computer software engineers design, develop, test, and evaluate computer applications and system software. Although programmers write and support programs in new languages, much of the design and development is the responsibility of software engineers or software developers.

Computer systems analysts integrate hardware and software to make computer systems more efficient.

Network systems and data communications analysts design and evaluate network systems, such as local area networks (LANs), wide area networks (WANs), and Internet systems. They perform network modeling, analysis, and planning, and may deal with the interfacing of computer and communications equipment. With the explosive growth of the Internet, this worker group has come to include a variety of occupations related to design, development, and maintenance of Web sites and their servers.

Web developers and webmasters are responsible for day-to-day site design and creation.

Computer support specialists provide technical assistance, support, and advice to customers and users. This group of occupations includes workers with a variety of titles, such as technical support specialists and help-desk technicians. They answer telephone calls, analyze problems using automated diagnostic programs, and resolve recurrent difficulties encountered by users.

Computer and information systems managers direct the work of systems analysts, computer programmers, and other computer-related workers. They analyze the computer and information needs of their organization and determine personnel and equipment requirements. These managers plan and coordinate activities such as the installation and upgrading of hardware and software; programming and systems design; the development of computer networks; and the construction of Internet and intranet sites.

Occupations in the computer systems design and related services industry require varying levels of education, but because of the high proportion of workers in professional occupations, the education level of workers in this industry is higher than average.

Although there are no universal educational requirements for computer programmers, workers in this occupation commonly hold a bachelor’s degree.

Some hold a degree in computer science, mathematics, information systems or software engineering.

Others have taken special courses in computer programming to supplement their study in fields such as the physical sciences.

Because employers’ needs are varied, a 2-year associate degree or certificate may be sufficient for some positions like network systems and data communication analysts or webmaster, as long as applicants possess the right technical skills.

Many employees may also benefit from getting a technical or professional certification. Certification can be obtained independently, although many organizations now assist employees in becoming certified.

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Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. For more information see the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Career Guide to Industries, 2010-11 Edition, Computer Systems Design and Related Services

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