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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. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports employment in computer and information technology jobs is expected to grow 11% between 2019 and 2029. That’s much faster than average compared to all occupations.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 373,900 network and computer systems administrators working in 2019.2 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 2019 to 2029 is as follows.

  • Information security analyst: 31%, much faster than average6
  • Computer user support specialist: 6%, much faster than average7
  • Computer network support specialist: 6% faster than 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.

IT Salaries

Careers in IT tend to pay more compared to average salaries overall. According to the BLS, the May 2019 median annual wage for computer and IT jobs was $88,240. That was higher than the median annual wage for all jobs, at $39,810.9

The following were the median annual wages for specific IT jobs in May 2019, according to the BLS. Be advised, salary for entry level positions may be lower than the national average.

  • Network and computer systems administrators salary: $83,51010
  • Computer network support specialist salary: $63,46011
  • Information security analyst salary: $99,730

IT salaries will depend on various factors, including what geographic location you work in, level of education, experience, what company you work for, what leadership position you have and the duties you perform in your role.

Best Places to Work in IT

Some states have more IT demand and higher-than-average IT salaries compared to other states. This may be due to factors like population size, dominant industries and cost of living. 

The following is a look at the top-paying states and highest employment levels for various IT roles around the United States, as of May 2019.

Network and Computer Systems Administrators12

States with the highest employment level as of May 2019, according to the BLS:

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STATE EMPLOYMENT
Texas 35,890
California 33,630
New York 25,910
Virginia 18,510
Florida 17,930


Top-paying states as of May 2019, according to the BLS:

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STATE ANNUAL MEAN WAGE
Maryland $110,890
New Jersey $103,240
District of Columbia $101,000
California $99,480
New York $97,820


Computer Network Support Specialists13

States with the highest employment level as of May 2019, according to the BLS:

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STATE EMPLOYMENT
California 16,680
Texas 15,530
New York 13,710
Illinois 11,130
Florida 8,900


Top-paying states as of May 2019, according to the BLS:

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STATE ANNUAL MEAN WAGE
New Jersey $89,060
Washington $86,900
Massachusetts $84,240
District of Columbia $84,080
New York $77,790


Computer User Support Specialists14

States with the highest employment level as of May 2019, according to the BLS:

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STATE EMPLOYMENT
California 81,230
Texas 60,980
New York 45,250
Florida 42,560
Illinois 23,450


Top-paying states as of May 2019, according to the BLS:

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STATE ANNUAL MEAN WAGE
District of Columbia $71,720
California $70,060
New Jersey $67,210
Massachusetts $65,270
Rhode Island $64,830


Information Security Analysts15

States with the highest employment level as of May 2019, according to the BLS:

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STATE EMPLOYMENT
Virginia 15,010
Texas 10,430
California 9,200
New York 7,120
Florida 6,630


Top-paying states as of May 2019, according to the BLS:

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STATE ANNUAL MEAN WAGE
New York $121,750
New Jersey $121,570
District of Columbia $119,160
Virginia $114,760
California $114,620

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 like the CompTIA® A+ certification, CompTIA® Network+ certification or CompTIA® Security+ certification. 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, like the CompTIA® certifications mentioned above. 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 20 to 30 weeks (5 to 7 months) to complete, while an associate degree program may take as few as 14 months to finish.

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.

Information Technology Certifications

As you advance your IT education, you may be interested in certifications like the following.

  • CompTIA® A+ Certification:21 This certification covers core IT skills and abilities, including baseline security skills, operating systems, cloud-based software, troubleshooting, basic IT infrastructure and networking, device hardware and data backup. The certificate prepares certificate holders to work in endpoint management and technical support roles
  • CompTIA® Network+ Certification:22 This certification prepares certificate holders for careers in IT infrastructure. It covers configuring, managing and troubleshooting networks. Certificate holders have demonstrated knowledge of designing and implementing functional networks, segmenting network traffic and supporting the creation of virtualized networks.
  • CompTIA® Security+ Certification:23 This certification prepares certificate holders for careers in cybersecurity. Certificate holders have demonstrated knowledge of performing core security functions and working to secure hardware, software and systems.

You may be interested in earning multiple certifications to add to your resume and IT skill set. Advanced knowledge through certification may enable IT professionals to succeed in IT management and leadership roles, as well.

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 20-, 25- and 30-week IT certificate courses, as well as a 60-week associate degree. The certificate courses prepare you to earn various CompTIA® certifications. 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 CompTIA® certifications and apply critical thinking to IT solutions.24 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?

IT certificate programs at San Joaquin Valley College take between 20 to 30 weeks (or as few as 5 to 7 months) to complete. The IT associate degree program takes 60 weeks (or as few as 14 months) to complete.

Is a Career in IT Worth It?

That depends on your interests and career goals. Demand for IT jobs is outpacing the average demand for all industries, with the BLS projecting a growth rate of 11% between 2019 and 2029, much faster than average.25 The median annual wage for IT occupations was $88,240 in May 2019, which was much higher than the $39,810 median annual wage for all occupations. You may be able to start your career in IT with a certificate or associate degree, which also saves time spent in school.

Be advised, salary for entry level positions may be lower than the national average.

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://www.comptia.org/certifications/a
  22. https://www.comptia.org/certifications/network
  23. https://www.comptia.org/certifications/security
  24. https://static.sjvc.edu/_downloads/consumerinfo/2021-Catalog.pdf
  25. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/home.htm
  26. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/computer-systems-analysts.htm#tab-2
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