There are more job opportunities in information technology and computer science now than ever, but they might not be the type of jobs you’d expect.
By 2012, there is expected to be 20 percent to 50 percent job growth in almost all computing specialties, according to the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics. It predicts that 70 percent of new jobs in science and engineering fields will be IT-related. Yes, this is even after considering offshore outsourcing.
But most people associate computing with programming and most new jobs in computing aren’t going to be coding positions. Against stereotype, many companies are looking for IT candidates with strong interpersonal and communication skills, as well as the expected good understanding of technology.
For example, one of the fastest growing computing professions is computer-systems analyst. Between 2002 and 2012, the government projects that there will 185,000 new jobs in this area, each with a salary of between $49,500 and $78,350 a year. But what is a computer-systems analyst?
To see how a computer systems analyst adds value, suppose you are the president of some enormously successful manufacturing operation. One day, a sales guy convinces you that one of your key accounting applications is tragically out-of-date. Now, should you buy his offthe-shelf package? Or should you contract with a developer to build a version specific for your business? Or maybe you should just fix the system you have? How can you even make the decision without knowing exactly what your needs are so you can get accurate pricing options?
Enter the computer-systems analyst. This IT professional is part archeologist, part architect and part diplomat. She is fluent in user and techy talk. She will interview all of the users and translate their needs into specific design requirements. She will ensure that all the users’ problems (inflexible reports) and ideas (different commission schedules by region) are addressed in the new system. And she will document everything in a clear and concise notation that a programmer can convert easily into code.
With this ‘‘requirements specification document" in hand, you can assess whether the packaged application really meets your need. You can give this document to a contractor to get an accurate quote on development or upgrade costs.
Even after you have made the build-or-buy decision, your computer systems analyst doesn’t abandon you. She keeps making your life easier. She continues to be an advocate for the user throughout the installation process. She helps the tech writer put together user documentation and she helps the staff development office build a training workshop. She also uses the specification document as a basis for the test and acceptance plan.
By exhaustively researching system requirements and staying in communication with all the stakeholders throughout the system-development life cycle, a good systems analyst will save a business thousands of dollars in adaptive maintenance and downtime to correct errors.
The future looks bright for those considering careers in computer science and information technology today. The new job opportunities in these fields are interesting, socially involving and important.
Bettina Bair is a lecturer in the computer science and engineering department at the Ohio State University.