Information Technology

CompTIA, a major information technology (IT) industry trade association defines IT as the “utilization of computing via hardware, software, services, and infrastructure to create, store, exchange, and leverage information in its various forms to accomplish any number of objectives. Additionally, the term encompasses the workers that develop, implement, maintain, and utilize IT directly or indirectly.” Key elements of Information Technology (also from CompTIA) include:

  • Hardware: computers, servers, storage, tablets, mobile phones, printers, network equipment
  • Software: productivity and business applications, network and security applications, mobile apps, video games
  • Services: deployment, integration, custom development, repair/upgrade, managed services
  • Infrastructure: Internet backbone, telecommunications networks, cloud data centers
  • Information: data, documents, voice, video, images
  • Business Objectives: commerce, production, communication, collaboration

Approximately 5.73 million workers are employed in technical and nontechnical positions at IT firms and at companies, nonprofits, and government agencies that have IT departments. About 85 percent of this total are technical workers.  

Information technology jobs are found throughout the United States and the world. CompTIA reports that the top five states for IT worker employment are California, Texas, New York, Virginia, and Florida. Within certain states there are also employment clusters such as Silicon Valley in California and Seattle, Washington. IT employment opportunities vary by industry segment. Within the hardware and software branches of the computer industry, many positions overlap and not every company will hire people to fill positions in each basic occupational segment: design, programming, administration, sales, and service.

The U.S. Department of Labor projects annual employment growth of 18 percent for computer and mathematical careers through 2022. The fastest-growing jobs include information security analysts (+37 percent), computer systems analysts (+25 percent), software developers (+22 percent), and Web developers (+20 percent).

To succeed in this field, IT professionals need strong analytical and problem-solving skills, flexibility, a minimum of a bachelor’s degree (for most positions), the ability to keep up with the latest technology, and a solid understanding of computers, the Internet, and IT basics. However, the technology of today may be obsolete in months, if not weeks, and only those individuals who work to remain on the cutting edge will have long-term growth potential during their career.

Contrary to the stereotype, the industry isn’t merely for pasty-skinned nerds, but it welcomes workers with a wide range of personality types, from techies and creatives, to those with sales-or customer service–oriented personalities. Historically, salaries have been generous (computer and math professionals earned mean annual salaries of $83,970 in May 2014, according to the U.S. Department of Labor), and the possibility of making a mint in stock options is an especially delicious bonus for those brave enough to sign on with an unproven startup.

Few other career paths can present what technology jobs offer—meritocracy, high salaries, teamwork, and intellectual fulfillment. Information technology careers typically rank high in “best job” lists due to their combination of good pay, relatively low stress levels, challenging work, advancement possibilities, and strong employment demand. In 2015, 7 of the top 35 jobs on U.S. News & World Report best careers list were in IT, including software developer (#3), computer systems analyst (#7), information security analyst (#8), Web developer (#11), IT manager (#21), computer systems administrator (#31), and database administrator (#34).

Next Section: Primary Products

Career Update Newsletter

Tips and tools to help you manage your ideal career.