July 23, 2018
Information technology (IT) refers to everything that businesses use computers for. Information technology is building communications networks for a company, safeguarding data and information, creating and administering databases, helping employees troubleshoot problems with their computers or mobile devices, or doing a range of other work to ensure the efficiency and security of business information systems. Demand for professionals in this field is high and growing, and people entering the field have a range of career paths to choose from.
From checking email on our phones to crunching numbers on our laptops to organizing a teleconference over cloud-based software, it's hard to overstate the importance of information technology in the workplace. But what, exactly, are we talking about when we talk about IT?
The phrase "information technology" goes back to a 1958 article published in the Harvard Business Review. Authors Harold J. Leavitt and Thomas L. Whisler defined several types of information technology:
"While many aspects of this technology are uncertain, it seems clear that it will move into the managerial scene rapidly, with definite and far-reaching impact on managerial organization," they wrote.
Six decades later, it's clear that Leavitt and Whisler were onto something big. Today, information technology refers to everything that businesses use computers for. Information technology is building communications networks for a company, safeguarding data and information, creating and administering databases, helping employees troubleshoot problems with their computers or mobile devices, or doing a range of other work to ensure the efficiency and security of business information systems.
When it comes to career paths in information technology, examples run from tiny consulting firms to huge multinational corporations, and from highly technical specialties to management ladders that demand strong people skills. Here are some examples of routes you might choose:
It's clear from this list that positions in IT represent high-paying, fast-growing career paths. It's also clear that the first step toward many of them is earning a bachelor's degree. Within the higher education context, computer science is largely focused on programming and software development, while information technology is the study of computer systems and networks as they relate to the operation of a business. Either can be the foundation for a great career in the field. Some students may also choose to specialize in particular computer-related areas like cyber security or continue their education with a master's degree in a related field.
Regardless of your specific path, the world of opportunities in IT that Leavitt and Whisler saw emerging back in 1958 is still growing today, with no end in sight.
Dale Stokdyk is a marketer passionate about STEM higher education. Follow him on Twitter @dalestokdyk or connect on LinkedIn.
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