It's no surprise that demand for information technology workers is skyrocketing. Our world is increasingly computerized, and technology is changing so fast that many of us struggle to keep up. IT professionals have the keys to the kingdom: an in-depth understanding of computer-related topics like networks, data management, hardware and software.
The federal government reports that computer systems design and related services -- a classification that covers a range of IT occupations -- is among the top five industries for job growth nationwide. Employment in the field is likely to grow 45 percent between 2008 and 2018, about four times the average projected for all industries, according to the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Job seekers with computer skills and training are therefore likely to have plentiful opportunities. In the list below, we highlight the jobs with the brightest prospects:
Network systems and data communication analysts
Projected growth: 53 percent*
Jobs created: 155,800*
These IT experts set up and manage computer networks -- both local area networks, or LANs, which connect computers within a single location, or wide area networks, or WANS, which connect computers across big geographic areas (for example, the Internet). They also set up, manage and protect data -- a major concern for most organizations, especially given recent security breaches at several high-profile companies. The job category also includes Web developers and administrators, who will have an even bigger role to play as organizations offer more products and services over the Web.
Projected growth: 32 percent*
Jobs created: 295,300*
Software engineers create applications for networks, data systems, the Web and, increasingly, for mobile devices like smart phones or tablets (such as Apple's iPad). When Apple brags that "there's an app for that," the company means that customers have access to myriad applications. It also means that the folks who design those applications -- for just about any company -- are in high demand.
Projected growth: 24 percent*
Jobs created: 7,000*
Computer scientists envision new possibilities for computers (like virtual reality or robotics, to name just a few examples) and work to make those possibilities into realities. It's a challenging, highly theoretical job held by an elite group -- there were just 28,900 computer scientists in 2008, according to the BLS. Those numbers are expected to grow by a significant portion, not surprising given all the ever-expanding frontiers of computer technology.
Operations research analysts
Projected growth: 22 percent*
Jobs created: 13,900*
The title "operations research analyst" can sound a little mysterious to the uninitiated, but basically these workers solve problems using math, computer modeling, programming and other types of quantitative analysis. The methods of operational research were developed for the military but are now used by a wide range of public and private organizations. Operational research analysts will see excellent job prospects as organizations look for ways to become more efficient.
Projected growth: 20 percent*
Jobs created: 108,100*
Whether they're designing a computer system from scratch or tweaking an existing one, systems analysts have to be able to see the big picture. The job requires a thorough understanding of how an organization functions, so that the hardware and software they choose can best serve that organization's needs.
*Figures listed are per the U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics for the period 2008-2018.
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