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Guide to Information Technology (IT) Specializations

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A 2016 report by the McKinsey Global Institute indicates that the gross volume of data present in modern information systems is doubling every three years. Professionals with business competency and a background in information systems continue to prove essential in easing the transition to big data.

A major component of the modern information technology landscape is the area of predictive analytics, where a grasp of business metrics combined with industry and management know-how are critical to profitable operations. Information technology and computer science serve many of the same industries, and usually from fairly similar operations perspectives. Students can be confident that IT and computer science will continue to exert an influence on the development of the tech industry in years to come.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists a number of information technology jobs ranging from web developers to computer and information research scientists with annual median salaries of $69,430 to $118,370, respectively. In 2018, the median annual wage for information technology professionals was $86,320. Between 2018 and 2028, the BLS projects that the field will add an astonishing 546,200 new positions, amounting to a growth of 12 percent, more than double the five percent growth rate of jobs across all careers over the same period.

The IT field includes varied positions, such as database programmer, web developer, software programmer, network and computer systems administrator, network engineer, computer systems analyst, computer support specialist, network architect, computer scientist, information scientist, and more.

In recent years, two significant U.S. government initiatives provide further indication that information technology is here to stay: the Department of Defense’s Joint Information Environment and the IC Information Technology Environment (IC ITE, pronounced “eyesight”).

The purpose of these initiatives is to move away from an agency-focused approach to intelligence gathering and instead focus on a new, community-based angle. “IC” stands for the intelligence community, which comprises the body of intelligence-gathering agencies in the U.S. The ultimate goal is to build a secure platform through which sensitive data can be promptly shared with relevant parties to aid in investigations or research.

With data at the center of many of the tech industry’s most significant leaps forward, there’s no doubt that capabilities in information systems and data analytics will become essential for most industries to better serve their clientele.

A career in information technology spans a large variety of specializations and niches, especially where analytics are concerned. There is also a significant connection and overlap between the computer sciences and information technologies. Skills that are required for a student of information technology include capabilities in tactical, strategic, and operational decision-making. It is crucial that IT professionals have their finger on the pulse of emerging technologies in order to increase the utility and actionability of data. Skills in data mining, visualization, and charting are important, as is expertise in web metrics and analytics, text structuring, pattern-finding, intelligence-sharing platforms, and advanced analytics models to serve customers and product markets.

Keep reading to gain insight into a variety of information technology specializations, including examples of programs featuring them and descriptions of various educational paths.

Cybersecurity, Digital Forensics & Systems Security

The cybersecurity specialization centers around the security of applications, data, and networks, as well as the proper management of information technology. There is much overlap with digital investigations, as one of the main functions of this specialization is a type of quality assurance.

Students explore topics such as information security, ethical hacking, information assurance, steganography, disaster recovery, vulnerability analysis and control, business continuity response, coding security, securing databases, mobile device forensics, operating system security, legal and ethical issues, auditing, and intrusion detection.

Utica College hosts a fully online BS in cybersecurity with a focus in cybercrime and fraud investigation that’s designed for prospective IT professionals.

Data Analytics

Data analytics students design, develop, and manage data resources to make traditional systems more fluid and responsive to client specifications. With internet-based data management considerably on the rise, IT professionals who specialize in data analytics management are adept in predictive modeling, utilizing big data sample data sets to solve real-world problems.

Colorado Tech offers a fully online BSIT in data management that can give candidates the edge they need to succeed in this sector of information technology.

Digital Investigations

The digital investigations specialization centers around skilled, educated information technology professionals who can counteract the growing threat of crime on the internet. There is much overlap with cybersecurity and network and systems security.

Students complete courses in vulnerability analysis and control, information security, information assurance, ethical hacking, mobile device forensics, disaster recovery, steganography, business continuity response, securing databases, coding security, operating system security, legal and ethical issues, auditing, intrusion detection, and digital law.

The American Intercontinental University offers a fully online BSIT with a specialization in digital investigations.

Digital Systems Technology & Embedded Systems

IT professionals produce digital applications as operational answers to sophisticated challenges in systems technology. Experts in the design and production of these applications, embedded systems, smart technologies, and intelligent devices are particularly well-prepared for a career in digital systems technology.

The Illinois Institute of Technology offers a graduate program in digital systems technology and embedded systems. The curriculum immerses students in intelligent devices, mesh networking, the internet of things (IoT), distributed sensor networks, and embedded systems.

Information Technology Entrepreneurship

For this specialization, managerial and entrepreneurial skills are needed, as well as an instinct for thinking ahead of the curve. Information technology business students learn how to launch and maintain a new enterprise in the tech industry.

The Illinois Institute of Technology hosts both a BSIT and an MSIT in management, entrepreneurship, and innovation, both of which feature courses in data analytics, systems technologies, information technology theory, and much more.

Information Systems Management & Information Technology Management

This specialization is concerned with the design, testing, and building of information systems that management can use to make organizations more effective in their day-to-day activities.

An entirely online BS in information systems from Grantham University educates students on what they need to know to be an IT or information systems manager.

Network Administration & Management

This specialization focuses primarily on network applications and their management. It overlaps considerably with information systems management or information technology management.

Walden University hosts an online BSIT program with a specialization in networking and operations.

Software Development, Engineering & Analysis

This specialization focuses on programming and the development of sophisticated applications for use in public and private entities. This area dovetails with the computer science field of coding. Specialists use programming languages to build applications and programs that address the specific needs of the client.

Durham Tech offers an associate degree in IT with a specialization in software development.

Systems Administration & Analytics

This specialization is concerned with the administration and management of servers used for the deployment of customer or client solutions deliverables.

Bellevue University hosts the systems and network administration program (SNAP).

Web & Application Development

This specialization focuses on programming and the development of sophisticated websites and applications. This area overlaps with the computer science field of coding or programming. Web and application development specialists use programming languages to build software program solutions for certain identified IT problems.

The New Jersey Institute of Technology hosts both a BSIT and MS in IT web development.

Job Titles in Information Technology (IT)

Below are some examples of actual IT job titles, and note that there may be significant overlap between many of these roles:

  • Application Developer / Support Analyst / Engineer
  • Chief Technology Officer / Chief Information Officer
  • Computer and Information Systems Manager / Computer Systems Manager
  • Customer Support Specialist / Data Center Support Specialist
  • Data Quality Manager / Database Administrator / Management Information Systems Director
  • Desktop Support Manager / Specialist
  • Help Desk Specialist / Technician
  • Information Technology Coordinator / Director / Manager
  • IT Project Manager
  • IT Support Specialist / Technician
  • IT Support Manager / IT Systems Administrator
  • Java Developer
  • .NET Developer
  • Network Architect / Engineer
  • Network Systems Administrator
  • Programmer / Programmer/Analyst
  • Senior Applications Engineer
  • Senior Database Administrator / Senior Network Engineer / Senior Network Administrator
  • Software Architect / Engineer
  • Software Quality Assurance Analyst
  • Systems Administrator
  • Systems Analyst
  • System Architect / Designer / Systems Software Engineer
  • Technical Operations Officer
  • Technical Support Engineer / Specialist
  • Telecommunications Specialist
  • Web Administrator / Webmaster
  • Web Developer

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