Skills for an Education & Career in Computers & IT
The importance of technology in building better products and services, improving communication and processes, and making smart business decisions cannot be underestimated. It is no surprise, then, that Computerworld's 2013 Forecast survey reports 33 percent of IT executives will increase hiring. Companies often seek specific employee skill sets to match the technology demands that drive business.
Though learning is a continuous process in the computer/IT field and professionals must keep up with new advances in technology to stay relevant in the market, it can be helpful to find out what goes into being a computer/IT professional and assess beforehand if you have what it takes to build a career in this fast paced industry.
Core skills required for a computer/IT career
Here's a look at the various technical skills that may be in demand among the various disciplines that fall under the broad category of computer and information technology (IT) jobs:
- Programming and application development - Sound knowledge of languages like C#, ASP.Net and PHP is a much needed skill for computer graduates. For roles that deal with big data, expertise in Java, SQL, Linux, Oracle, noSQL, MySQL, Unix, Python, Hadoop and SQL Server is usually required.
- Project management - Project management as a skill is in demand due to evolution of new technologies and the need for efficient processes. For a computer/IT professional, this translates to planning, budgeting, reducing costs and managing time.
- Networking - Programmers, network engineers and consultants plan, design and implement computer networks and troubleshoot when necessary.
- Cloud computing - 'Cloud' is a new buzzword in the IT and computers domain. Distribution of software and computing resources through a Web interface for ease of synching data across devices has become a much in-demand tech skill over the last two years, especially for cloud developers, integration specialists and administrators.
- Information security - This is an upcoming field for people who can provide secure mobile apps and cloud computing environments at an organizational level.
Soft skills are equally important
- Learner's attitude - The ability to grasp new information quickly is a highly valued trait in this field as it can show a person's readiness in adapting to current and future technologies.
- Communication - Roles such as project manager, business analyst and systems analyst involve working on a team, in which effective communication is paramount. Good communication and active listening skills are also critical to understanding a customer's needs before providing a viable solution.
- Planning and organization - Computer/IT graduates should have strong organizational skills, attention to detail, and the ability to schedule and follow through with tasks, as well as document work.
- Analytical and problem-solving skills - Being tech savvy is great, but must also be accompanied with the ability to apply logic and reasoning to problems, evaluate options and implement solutions. For example, a systems analyst will focus not only on how a particular process will function, but also on how changes in operations and environment will impact outcomes.
Weigh the pros and cons
Companies are on a constant lookout for newer, more efficient technologies to drive their businesses. If you are passionate about technology and are always on the lookout to learn lot of new information and can do so quickly, this field could be for you. Computer/IT professionals' salaries can be quite competitive, as companies may be willing to pay well for innovative, cost-saving systems and processes. Further, the world of computer/IT has several branches ranging from engineering, designing, programming to data management, networking and administration of systems. Students can identify their specific area of interest at the college level itself.
On the flip side, new technologies emerge at a rate faster than what many students and professionals can keep up with. Many jobs require a highly specific knowledge base of operating systems, programming languages and databases, and it can get difficult to switch between jobs. Most work is project-based, and there could be pressure to work under stringent deadlines.
It best advised to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of a computer/IT career, research the skills sets currently in demand for the industry vis-à-vis your own inherent study/career interests to make an informed choice.
"10 hot IT skills for 2013," Computerworld, Mary K. Pratt, 24 September, 2012, http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9231486/10_hot_IT_skills_for_2013?taxonomyId=14&pageNumber=1
"Skills Needed for: 'Computer Programmer,' " CareerPlanner.com, http://job-descriptions.careerplanner.com/Computer-Programmers-3.cfm
"Want a Tech Career? 7 Core Skills You'll Need," Brazen Life, Liz King, 6 January, 2013, http://blog.brazencareerist.com/2013/01/06/want-a-tech-career-7-core-skills-youll-need/
"What programming languages and other technical skills do I need to get a graduate IT job?," Target jobs, http://targetjobs.co.uk/career-sectors/it-and-technology/300184-what-programming-languages-and-other-technical-skills-do-i-need-to-get-a-graduate-it