Deciding on a career is always a difficult decision, but it is one of the most important choices you will ever make. You need to find an area where your skills are in demand, where there is opportunity for progress and growth, and where you can feel a true sense of reward and accomplishment.
A career in IT can offer exactly that. If you like creating things, have a logical mind and enjoy the challenge of a puzzle, then IT may be right for you. The field is endlessly fascinating, with the technology evolving and expanding all of the time to address new business needs. For example, the number of network systems and data communications analysts – one type of IT job – is forecast to grow by 156,000 by 2018.
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It used to be that IT was about looking after servers and networks – and this is still an incredibly important part of the job – but now IT has taken on a much broader role in business. Companies depend on IT services to do everything from interact with customers to manage manufacturing processes. These services reduce costs and let companies do things more quickly, making them more competitive and efficient. In other words, having better IT means that companies sell more products and make more profits.
This focus on doing things more cheaply and more quickly is just the start. Businesses have vast amounts of data that they want to analyze so that they can make better business decisions. For instance, that data could contain information about whether customers might be ready for a new type of product, or even give clues about how to sell existing products more effectively. It can also be used to predict long-term market trends – giving executives the ability to make decisions that they wouldn’t be able to make otherwise. In IT, this is known as big data and analytics, and it’s one of the fastest growing parts of IT.
Because of this, IT is changing from being a department which looks after hardware and software – it is now becoming a critical part of business strategy. Chief Information Officers (CIOs) are being asked to develop strategic plans that give businesses radical new capabilities that drive growth, improve employee productivity, and create the flexibility needed to respond quickly to ever-changing market conditions. Although CIOs typically come from an IT background, they have an equal seat with other senior executives in plotting the future direction of businesses.
On the other hand, if you are not interested in pursuing a business career at this point, IT still has a huge amount to offer. Technology over the last 10 years has changed beyond recognition, creating new challenges and new possibilities.
One of the biggest changes is virtualization, which allows IT hardware to be used much more efficiently. In traditional IT networks in the past, each application – for example, payroll or e-mail – would run on a separate server. However, these applications typically didn’t run at peak capacity all of the time – or require the full capacity of the server when they did. This meant that the server hardware was extremely underutilized – money was wasted buying the hardware, and then more money was wasted running the hardware. This approach was also very unfriendly toward the environment – huge amounts of electricity were wasted powering the servers.
Now with virtualization, software runs in what is called a virtual server – this is a piece of software that looks like a real server to other software. Many of these virtual servers can run on a single real – or physical – server, reducing costs dramatically. Virtual servers can also be set up and modified quickly, which means that businesses can get new IT services up and running quickly – rather than having to wait weeks for expensive new hardware to be installed.
There is a huge demand for IT experts who understand this virtualization technology, as many businesses are still converting over to it, and the ones that have converted need to make sure that their virtualized infrastructure is running smoothly and can be expanded easily. This is just one example of the types of opportunity that are available to people who have a strong IT background.
Another fascinating area is IT security. Increasingly, companies are coming under attack from hackers, as well as from other companies – and even countries – that are looking to steal their secrets. IT security is all about fighting off these attacks and making sure that companies’ data remains secure. This involves everything from putting systems in place that detect the attacks through to closing loopholes so that hackers and other criminals can’t break in. The whole field continues to evolve at a dizzying pace, as hackers continually develop new techniques to break in, and IT experts develop new ways to keep them out.
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The other thing that is so attractive about going into IT is that you can learn the right skills while still doing your existing job. You can do an online IT degree, which will give you knowledge of how to install, configure and administer IT systems and networks, as well as maintain and troubleshoot them once they are installed. For example, if you look at IT programs at Bryant & Stratton, you will see that you can do an online IT degree in two years, and you are able to do it in the evenings and weekends – so you can fit the course around your existing schedule and commitments.
As a new IT graduate, you can anticipate making $40,000 to $50,000 dollars per year. Expect this to grow over time to about $75,000, although it is perfectly possible to make nearer to $100,000 working as an IT engineer in certain industries like tech, finance and other areas that see IT as a way to gain competitive advantages. If you want to move on into management, then salaries increase further, and it is entirely possible to make $250,000 a year or more.