Information technology careers

In theory, college students should select their field of study based on their own passion. But how many 18 years old students know what their passion is and which career they should pursue? How many young students have enough information to make a good career decision? How many of them understand the difference between a job and a career? How many know about global job market trends or technology trends? If you have not make a career decision yet, I would advised that you select a field of study in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) because these are areas that have many potentials in this technology age. I my opinion, the best choice today is Information Technology (Computer Science, Software Engineering, and Information System Management).

Last week, I received an email from a student who wrote: “Your advices may be good for graduates in the U.S. or Europe but not in my country as I do not see the demand. Most programmers in my country get paid lower than others.” I answered: “Information Technology (IT) is a broad field with many positions, not just programming. It is needed in every country, not just the U.S. or Europe. As I have taught in China, Japan, S. Korea, India and Europe for many years, I saw demand for college graduates with technology skills was very high and these jobs were growing faster than expected. It was estimated that there will be over 4.5 million new jobs created in information technology between 2015 and 2025. Graduates in IT can work in a wide range of industries, from software to business, from health care and manufacturing to banking and insurance. No matter what specific industry that they select, the job market opportunity is much better when compared to other areas. More than that, if they are fluent in a foreign language such as English, they can work almost anywhere as there is a shortage of people with these skills all over the world.”

Currently college graduates in Computer Science (CS) and Software Engineering (SE) often work as software developers to write applications focusing on specific industry. Software developers must be skilled in programming languages such as C++, Java, and Python but they must have knowledge of the industry where they work. That means they should know something about banking and financial, manufacturing, or online retailers etc. (Note: There is a difference between programmers who are trained in vocational schools on programming and software developers who are mostly college graduates as their trainings are not the same.)

CS and SE graduates who also have skills in arts and design often work as Web developers where they build Internet sites for online retails, business operations, and social media etc. Using tools such as HTML, XML, JavaScript and Cascading Style Sheets, they create applications for a website, design visual appearance, and focus on usability and performance. The web development is often divided into two parts: The frontend usually consists of web design aspect where developers are using HTML, CSS, and JavaScript to display the websites for users to interact with. This is the most creative part where artistic display, color organization and design are very important. The backend usually consists of the server, web applications, and a database to collect information using languages such as PHP, Ruby, and Python etc.

After few years of working experience, many software developers often move up to Systems Analysis, Requirements Engineers positions where they focus on user requirements, business workflow and IT capabilities. They evaluate technical infrastructure, review system efficiency and identify areas for improvements. These positions require an in-depth understanding of specific business areas to improve the efficiency and performance. These positions also require soft-skills as they must work closely with managers and customers.

Although most positions in software development requires a degree in Computer Science (CS) and Software Engineering (SE) but there is other area that graduates can pursue such as Computer Systems Administrators where they manage information systems and networks to make sure that they are operating smoothly and securely. To get this position, you need a degree in Information System Management (ISM) where you learn more about managing IT equipments ranging from servers, desktop workstations to mobile devices etc. Today many companies are moving their data storage and networks to cloud service providers, as system managers, you need to work with these cloud suppliers to make sure the data transitions are secured and the integration between in-house systems to cloud computing service company is running smoothly.

Some ISM graduates also work as Information Systems Specialists where they support customers in “software as services.” They offer analysis and technical support in a wide range of environments, from government to industries like telecommunications and computer manufacturing. They provide customer services from call centers, or work in a company’s information technology (IT) department helping other employees. Computer support specialists focus on issues with data and communications networks. There is also another excellent position for ISM graduates who prefer to work with data instead of write code such as Database administrators (DBAs) where they define, collect, analyze and manage the vast amounts of data in the company. DBAs are sophisticated position as they can work in many industries, from banking, insurance, manufacturing to retail stores, hospital, and medical insurance etc. To maintain database performance and security, ISM students must have skills in computer security, business intelligence, quality assurance and data warehousing.

Some Information Technology graduates continue their education to pursue advanced degrees such as Master or Ph.D to be experts in specific technical fields. For example, ISM graduates continue to Master degree in Search Engine to work as Market Analysts use sophisticated statistical methods to help companies improve their marketing and business plans. They evaluate data on consumer trends and competitor strategies to devise proposals for introducing and pricing new products and improve company’s search engine for optimization. Other ISM graduates continue to the Master of Data Science degree to work with big data using computational statistics and design algorithms. They propose data-supported plans in company strategy, public policy, business intelligence and medical information management. They help managers to solve problems in finance, banking, marketing, retail, and manufacturing logistics. They work with industry specialists to use quantitative methods, statistical and data modeling to monitor a company business processes and find potential improvements. There is a rapidly growing demand for big data scientists across the industry from business and finance, e-commerce, government, healthcare, telecommunications and social networking.

CS and SE graduates can pursue a Master degree in Computer Science or Software Engineering to be the expert in specific fields such as Computer designers to work in computer and electronics manufacturers and develop new technology. The products in development include operating systems for uses ranging from computers to smartphones to cars and robots. These developers may also invent a system’s interface, such as a graphical user interface that permits a human to control a computer. Some may pursue a Master degree in Computer Security where they play an important role in protecting the companies from intrusions. They examine existing IT systems and propose security measures, including fixes for vulnerabilities. In industries like finance and banking, they serve as in-house specialists to cooperate with network administrators and computer systems analysts to set up security policies. Computer security issues happen in every country and cyberattacks are becoming more and more common. As a result, security specialists are needed just about everywhere.

After several years of working, many information Technology also move up to management and leadership positions range from top-level executives to technical supervisors who oversee day-to-day work in the companies. Software managers may manage software developers while project managers may work with software teams to develop products or applications for companies. Chief Technology Officers (CTOs) manage the computing infrastructure for the whole company. Basically the career advancement is endless with experience. Today information technology skills are in high demand by businesses and companies of every type and size, not just technology companies. My advice: “Study Information Technology areas and knowing at least one foreign language then you will have good career for many years.”


  • Blogs of Prof. John Vu, Carnegie Mellon University

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