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Home  > Article

Technology Careers Have Many Different Paths

By Matt O'Brien

Check out the major career paths for Technology.

Computer Programmer

Computer software is a fundamental part of the technology industry, and those who work to create and maintain it carry the title of computer programmer. This group is as large as it is varied, with many different types of jobs available. In general, a programmer acts as an intermediary between people like software engineers or systems analysts and the computer software. A programmer uses a number of programming languages such as COBOL of C++ in order to give a computer a set of instructions. As a result, an individual looking for a career in programming should become familiar with multiple programming languages, and should continuously update his or her knowledge. Firms of all varieties employ computer programmers, though the largest chunk of programmers work for computer-systems design companies. While job growth in this area is expected to be slower than average over the next ten years, an individual with high levels of training and programming expertise will find plenty of employment opportunities, as duties of programmers become more and more complex. While the median annual salary of computer programmers was $62,890 in 2004, pay varies according to an individual's level of training and area of employment. Last year, those with a 4-year degree in computer science receive starting salaries of over $50,000 a year, while a bachelor's degree in programming received about $38,000. Also, those working for software publishers made far more on average than those working for firms in industries like insurance or data processing.


Technical Writer

Sometimes referred to as the "soft" side of the IT industry, a career in technical writing is a great opportunity for anyone with a good balance of communication skills and technical know-how. A tech writer's job is to bridge the gap between the world of computers and written word. To do so effectively, one must posses both a solid foundation in computer science and the ability to write clearly and concisely. While these requirements may seem daunting, it is important to realize that neither type of skills must be especially well honed. A lower degree of technical aptitude is required than in other IT jobs, and no one expects a tech writer to write best sellers. Most tech writers focus on constructing written pieces such as product manuals. One positive side of a career in technical writing is that it can be approached from many educational backgrounds. While a technical background is preferable and makes a resume more marketable, an individual with a degree in English or journalism is still eligible for a job. A four-year degree is always the more desirable option, though courses in technical writing or web design from a 2-year community college will also work. Once employed as a tech writer, employees often find it possible to make a jump to other, more technically oriented jobs such as programmer. Pay is also decent, as the average salary for tech writers hovers at about $61,000 US.


IT Manager

The IT manager is the man or woman who holds it all together in the technical world of a company. IT managers spend their days making sure people and technologies are doing what they need to be doing when they need to do it. Prized for their combination of technical prowess and leadership skills, they attempt to keep networks and people running smoothly and productively. The IT manager position is not for the industry newbie, as the hiring process favors those with experience most heavily. An individual must not only understand the technology of a firm, but also must also have the vision and discipline necessary to lead groups of people. In addition to the required experience the added responsibility associated with a managerial position typically demands a particularly strong background in formal education. A relatively high number of IT managers have educational backgrounds in business, and many hold masters degrees. The high levels of education and intangible prerequisites allow IT managers to command salaries that are higher on average than those of other jobs in the technology industry. Most managers with average levels of experience have incomes in the mid to upper $60,000s, while highly qualified mangers can make up to $75,000.


IT Sales

A career in IT sales can be very different from sales in other industries. As well as the traditional sales characteristics such as weaselesque mannerisms and sleazy speech, an IT salesman must be able to understand his product on a very technical level. Essentially, an IT salesmen has three duties when it comes to making a sale of hardware or software: pre-selling the product by explaining technical details or making demonstrations, engaging in sales negotiations in order to work out an acceptable agreement, and post-sales support in which the salesmen must assist the customer with whatever product is at hand. A wise man once said that the difference between sales and other departments can be explained by describing two different types of basketball players. On the one hand, marketing and product development are like players who fear being involved in a play during the final seconds of a close game. Those in sales, however, are like the players who want to be the one to take the last shot. What this means is that despite all the programming and developing and managing that goes on in support of a product, the ultimate success of a product and the firm as a whole depends on the work of each salesman. Salesmen must be highly qualified in the people-skills department, and must be willing to travel to meet with customers. Of course, each salesman must also possess the necessary background in technical training. A salesman should have 2-year or four-year training in computer or other product-related subjects, but should also do whatever he or she can to acquire sales skills and experience. Salesmen are prized usually for nothing more than their ability to move product and build strong relationships with customers, and performance is rewarded accordingly in their commissions.



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