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Prepare for a Career in Information Technology

As technology evolves at a rapid pace, so does the need for information technology professionals to service computers and technology systems.1

If you enjoy working with computers and have an interest in technology, there’s a variety of career opportunities in the information technology space. There are IT programs online that teach IT skills and provide an online IT degree or certificate. Learn more about how to get into IT and what to expect from the IT job outlook.

What Does a Systems Administrator Do?

One prominent role in IT is that of network and computer systems administrators. According to the BLS, there were 350,300 network and computer systems administrators working in 2020.2 These professionals work for all types of businesses and organizations, wherever there are computer systems in use. Most employers require network and computer systems administrators to have a bachelor’s degree in a field related to computer or information science. Others may require only a postsecondary certificate or an associate’s degree.

A network and computer systems administrator manages the day-to-day operations of computer networks at various organizations. Network and computer systems administrators typically do the following:3

  • Determine an organization’s system needs and install network hardware and software
  • Make needed upgrades and repairs to networks and ensure that systems are operating correctly
  • Maintain network and computer system security
  • Evaluate and optimize network or system performance
  • Add users to a network, and assign and update security permissions on the network
  • Train users in the proper use of hardware and software
  • Interpret and solve problems when a user or an automated monitoring system alerts them that a problem exists

Administrators manage an organization’s servers and desktop and mobile equipment. They ensure that email and data storage networks work properly. They also make sure that employees’ workstations are working efficiently and stay connected to the central computer network. Some administrators manage telecommunication networks.

Other Jobs in Information Technology

In addition to network and computer systems administrators, there are many other roles available for professionals starting in IT. Information Technology programs prepare students for how to work in IT roles like the following.

Computer Support Specialist

Because of the wide range of skills used in different computer support jobs, there are many paths into the occupation. A bachelor’s degree is required for some applicants applying to computer support specialist positions, but an associate’s degree or postsecondary classes may be enough for others.

Computer support specialists offer help or recommendations to computer users and businesses. They can either support computer networks or provide technical services directly to their users.4 A computer support specialist job description may also include duties like setting up or repairing computer equipment. 

In addition to technology knowledge, computer support specialist skills require great communication and problem-solving skills. Computer user support specialists need to explain technical issues to people who may not be knowledgeable in IT, so support specialists need to be patient and helpful in their explanations.

Computer network support specialists provide support to organizations that need help with their computer networks. They test and evaluate network systems, perform routine maintenance and troubleshoot computer networks and systems to make sure they’re working properly. They also communicate with computer users to explain network issues and provide assistance.

Information Security Analyst

Those who work in information security analyst jobs, sometimes called cyber security analysts, monitor and support computer system and network security.5 An information security analyst job description includes installing and using security software, preparing security reports, conducting penetration testing and fixing security vulnerabilities. 

Most information security analyst positions require a bachelor’s degree in a computer-related field. Employers usually prefer analysts to have experience in a related occupation.

Why Work in IT?

There’s lots of career potential in IT. Wherever there are computer systems and networks, there are professionals who manage their functionality and security.

According to the BLS, the projected job outlook growth for various information technology jobs from 2020 to 2030 is as follows.

  • Information security analyst: 33%, much faster than average6
  • Computer user support specialist: 9%, as fast as average7
  • Computer network support specialist: 9%, as fast as average7

IT careers also provide career growth opportunities. Within each area of IT, there are management and leadership positions, all the way up to titles like Chief Technology Officer and Chief Security Officer. These positions may be attained with additional education and experience. If you’re interested in becoming an IT leader, various management roles are available in IT.

Network and Computer Systems Administrators12

States with the highest employment level as of May 2020, according to the BLS:

STATEEMPLOYMENT
Texas34,410
California31,430
New York24,080
Virginia18,060
Florida17,730


Computer Network Support Specialists13

States with the highest employment level as of May 2020, according to the BLS:

STATEEMPLOYMENT
Texas17,570
California15,390
Illinois12,960
New York12,170
Florida8,910


Computer User Support Specialists14

States with the highest employment level as of May 2020, according to the BLS:

STATEEMPLOYMENT
California75,950
Texas61,590
Florida42,140
New York40,460
Pennsylvania23,200

 


Information Security Analysts15

States with the highest employment level as of May 2020, according to the BLS:

STATEEMPLOYMENT
Virginia16,160
Texas13,410
California10,470
Florida7,600
Maryland7,090

Skills for IT Workers

The skills you need in an IT career will depend on the role you pursue, but there are general skills you’ll need to succeed in one of these roles.16 17 18

  • Analytic skills: IT pros need to study the computer systems, networks or technology they’re working with to identify threats, problems, vulnerabilities and ways to optimize efficiency.
  • Communication skills: IT workers frequently need to collaborate with non-IT professionals, including computer users and business leaders. Effective communication is needed to clearly explain issues and problems to users who may not understand technical IT terms. IT work may also include writing reports, so both verbal and written communication skills are essential.
  • Multitasking skills: IT work is often busy and fast-paced. IT pros must be able to adapt to juggling multiple projects and collaborating with a variety of stakeholders. Organization is also key so that an IT pro performs the work that’s needed on each project and doesn’t neglect key details.
  • Problem-solving skills: IT professionals prevent and fix problems related to computer security, systems and networks. In support specialist roles, they’ll need to help others fix those problems and must make easy-to-understand recommendations.

Of course, technology knowledge and being up-to-date on the latest systems, trends and technologies is a must in an IT career. But IT career success also depends on people skills and time management/task-related skills.

Find Your Path as a IT Specialist

SJVC is committed to hands-on training in the skills you need as a IT Specialist. Learn more about our program and exciting opportunities.

How to Become an IT Specialist

Generally, the BLS recommends that IT specialists obtain the education and relevant certifications that are required of the job. Keep these steps in mind if you’re interested in how to become an information security analyst or achieve another IT role.

  1. Research IT careers you’re interested in. First, it’s helpful to read job descriptions of careers you’re interested in so you get an understanding of what you’ll need to apply. Information security analyst requirements may differ from computer support specialist qualifications, for example. Knowing what you’ll need to accomplish before you apply for a job, you can then start to compare schools.
  2. Get an IT degree or certificate. The BLS reports most employers prefer at least an associate degree in IT to be considered for jobs like network and computer systems administrator and computer support specialist.19 20 A general associate degree in information technology, an information security analyst degree or a computer support specialist degree can prepare you for various IT roles. You’ll be able to learn (and make mistakes) in a supportive environment and gain a credential some employers may require. Look for an IT or information security analyst school that teaches the skills you need for the jobs you’re interested in.
  3. Get certified. Some employers may require IT certifications. You can save time by attending a school that prepares you to earn those certifications. Once you graduate, you can get certified and get to work more quickly.

With education and certification, you can list those credentials on your resume and LinkedIn page and start applying for jobs. You may also want to join an IT careers networking group to expand your professional network.

Do I Need Certification to Work in IT?

Certification requirements depend on the job. Some roles, like computer support user specialist roles, may provide in-house training on the services you help with.

Other roles may require that you have at least the best IT certifications for beginners. Being certified tells employers you’ll require less training and have the up-to-date knowledge needed to complete certain tasks.

Many IT professionals continue to update certifications throughout their career as they become specialized in different areas. Some employers will pay for certification, since that investment pays off in the work you do for them.

What to Look for in an IT Program

Look for IT programs that provide outcomes that relate to the jobs you’re interested in. As you research IT schools, consider the following factors.

  • Cost: Ask about financial aid, scholarships, grants and loan information to help pay for school.
  • Accreditation: Accreditation is a process a school goes through with a board that certifies the school meets certain educational standards set forth by the board. Some employers will regard degrees from accredited schools more highly, because the school has met rigorous standards for education excellence.
  • Instructor quality: You might be interested in learning from instructors who have real-world experience working in roles and/or industries you’re also interested in. Look at instructor bios or ask the school about instructor quality to see if they’re a fit.
  • Class experience: Lectures teach you skills and knowledge, but hands-on experience enables you to put what you’ve learned into practice. Enquire about a school’s class experience and coursework you’ll be expected to complete. Consider whether the projects appeal to you.
  • Certification preparation: Some jobs may require that you’re certified in order to be considered for the position. If you know you’re going to want to earn specific certifications, ask how the school prepares you to achieve those.

It can also help to view graduate testimonials to see how an IT program impacted a graduate’s ability to work in the field.

How Long is an IT Program?

IT programs vary in length. Some are more robust, so you graduate with a broader IT skill set, while others are more specialized. IT certificate programs can take as few as 31 weeks (or as few as 8 months) to complete, while an associate degree program may take as few as 61 weeks (or as few as 15 months) to complete.

Can I Attend Information Technology School Online?

Yes. IT school is a good fit for an online environment, since you’ll be working on technology systems as an IT professional. In an online IT school, you can access courses and turn in work on your own schedule, which provides a flexible learning environment many students enjoy. You can still interact with instructors and students, all in an online environment.

Kickstart Your Career as a IT Specialist

Small class sizes, individual attention, and hands-on training in the skills you need. Learn more about how to become a IT Specialist with SJVC.

What Will I Learn in SJVC’s Information Technology Courses?

San Joaquin Valley College offers a 31-week IT certificate of completion, as well as a 61-week associate degree. The associate degree does, as well, plus teaches students coursework in subjects like general education, Windows server installation and configuration, and Windows server administration. The IT program is conveniently offered online.   

San Joaquin Valley College holds dual institutional accreditations, from the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC) and the Accrediting Commission on Community and Junior Colleges, Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

Information Technology Classes

San Joaquin Valley College’s online IT associate degree program prepares students to earn certifications and apply critical thinking to IT solutions.21 You’ll take classes that cover the following topics.

  • Hardware and software troubleshooting
  • Windows Server Installation and Configuration
  • Windows Server Administration
  • Wireless Local Area Networks (WLAN)
  • Networking
  • Security
  • Network Security

The associate degree program also includes general education courses in topics such as composition and reading, college algebra, natural sciences, ethics, psychology and sociology.

Prepare for a Career in Information Technology with San Joaquin Valley College

San Joaquin Valley College’s convenient online certificate and associate degree programs prepare students to have successful careers in IT. Graduates go on to work in a variety of industries in diverse IT specialties. If you’re interested in working with technology, a San Joaquin Valley College certificate or associate degree program can help you accomplish your goals.

Request information on the online information technology programs.

Information Technology FAQ

Can I Attend Information Technology School Online?

Yes. All of San Joaquin Valley College’s IT certificate and associate degree programs are offered online. The online format is convenient and conducive to preparing students for working with online computer networks and systems.

How Long is an IT Program?

The IT certificate program at San Joaquin Valley College takes 31 weeks (or as few as 8 months) to complete. The IT associate degree program takes 61 weeks (or as few as 15 months) to complete.

Do You Need a Degree to Work in IT?

That depends on the job requirements. According to the BLS, some jobs may require a certificate, while others may require an IT degree like an associate degree or bachelor’s degree.

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Sources and Disclaimers

  1. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/home.htm
  2. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/network-and-computer-systems-administrators.htm#tab-1
  3. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/network-and-computer-systems-administrators.htm#tab-2
  4. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/computer-support-specialists.htm#tab-2
  5. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/information-security-analysts.htm#tab-2
  6. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/information-security-analysts.htm
  7. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/computer-support-specialists.htm
  8. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/network-and-computer-systems-administrators.htm
  9. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/home.htm
  10. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/network-and-computer-systems-administrators.htm#tab-5
  11. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/computer-support-specialists.htm#tab-5
  12. https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes151244.htm#st
  13. https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes151231.htm#st
  14. https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes151232.htm#st
  15. https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes151212.htm#st
  16. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/information-security-analysts.htm#tab-4
  17. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/computer-support-specialists.htm#tab-4
  18. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/network-and-computer-systems-administrators.htm#tab-4
  19. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/network-and-computer-systems-administrators.htm#tab-4
  20. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/computer-support-specialists.htm#tab-4
  21. https://static.sjvc.edu/_downloads/consumerinfo/2021-Catalog.pdf