How to Become an IT Professional
Information technology (IT) professionals possess specialized skills and expertise that play a vital role in helping organizations efficiently and safely operate in today’s digital world. Moreover, they perform essential tasks in a profession that’s in high demand today—and expected to grow at a faster-than-average rate for years to come.
Students investigating how to become an IT professional will find a rapidly-growing field that promises great career and financial opportunities as companies increasingly rely on digital platforms. Additionally, the IT field is experiencing a skills gap in cybersecurity, an area that technology conglomerate Cisco Systems defines as the “practice of protecting systems, networks, and programs from digital attacks.” Students who acquire training focused on cybersecurity will likely have a competitive advantage when pursuing this in-demand career.
What Do IT Professionals Do?
Technology website Lifewire says IT professionals “manage the computer technologies” related to a business. The Occupational Outlook Handbook from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) lists “IT professional” as a common title for computer and information systems managers. These professionals help organizations set technology objectives and develop and oversee computer systems to meet those goals.
Responsibilities of an IT Professional
An IT professional’s responsibilities—either as a staff employee or contractor—can affect a variety of business areas. According to the BLS, the duties of a computer and information systems manager include the following.
- Assessing an organization’s computer needs and recommending upgrades.
- Planning and directing computer hardware and software installation and maintenance.
- Monitoring the security of computer networks and electronic documents.
- Evaluating the costs and benefits of new technology projects, and presenting findings to corporate executives.
- Staying abreast of new technology that could benefit an organization.
- Determining IT personnel needs.
- Supervising the work of other IT professionals.
- Working with vendors to secure the best price and support for technology services.
Working in cloud computing with files saved on remote servers, also is a key IT responsibility, according to Investopedia. Career website JobHero notes that IT professionals often help network users with devices and applications. The role, according to the site, “is part tech job and part customer service.”
IT Professionals’ Impact on Business Operations
IT professionals’ work can involve business operations such as accounting, sales, and supply chain planning. Tech community portal Techno FAQ cites the following organizational functions in which IT plays a role:
- Decision-making—Streamlined data storage helps inform an organization’s planning.
- Marketing—Digital tools assist with business promotion.
- Customer support—Easy access to electronic data speeds response to customer questions and concerns.
- Data management—Secure electronic files keep confidential information private.
- Cost and time management—Technology tools can help businesses operate more efficiently, saving time and money.
Steps to Becoming an IT Professional
A college education, often accompanied by work experience that reflects an advanced knowledge, is common among IT professionals. An emphasis on cybersecurity is especially helpful. Pursuing these educational goals and honing key workplace skills are important steps to becoming an IT professional.
Education Requirements for IT Professionals
In its description of computer and information systems managers, the BLS notes most people in the role have a bachelor’s degree in computer or information science. Many also hold an advanced degree. Besides, they possess strong knowledge of computer programming, software development, and math.
An advanced degree in cybersecurity, such as that offered through Norwich University’s online Master of Science in Cybersecurity program, can position an IT professional or an individual entering the field for career growth. This is especially true during this “era of high-profile data breaches and devastating cyberattacks,” as described in a 2019 report from (ISC)2, the International Information System Security Certification Consortium.
That report’s study of North America, Europe, Latin America, and the Asia-Pacific region found 65% of organizations reported a shortage of IT staff focused on cybersecurity. In addition, 51% of cybersecurity professionals in the study believe that shortage is putting their organizations at moderate or extreme risk.
Lifewire notes that many IT professionals possess industry certifications in addition to college degrees.
Experience Required for IT Professionals
For IT professionals, requirements for on-the-job experience vary according to position and organization. According to the BLS, which provides information about computer and information systems managers, lower-level roles may require only a few years of experience. By comparison, a chief technology officer (CTO) who leads technology planning for an entire organization may need at least 15 years of experience.
Generally, IT professionals at smaller or younger companies require less experience than those at larger and more established organizations.
Skills Required for IT Professionals
A combination of technical and business skills can help an IT professional excel, according to Lifewire. The BLS lists the following types of skills as beneficial for this type of role.
- Analytical—The ability to analyze and solve problems.
- Business—The know-how to create and implement plans for meeting organizational goals.
- Communication—The skill to explain their work to a business’s leadership and provide clear instructions to employees.
- Decision-making—The ability to make key decisions about where to devote resources to achieve goals.
- Leadership—The talent to motivate other employees and lead teams and departments.
- Organizational—The expertise to help coordinate work between departments.
The Salary of an IT Professional
Salaries for IT professionals can vary based on education, years of experience, and job location. When investigating how to become an IT professional, students should note that the profession is growing and will likely continue.
Pay Ranges for IT Professionals
According to the compensation website PayScale, the average IT professional earns a median annual salary of around $62,600, with the lowest 10% earning $44,000 and the highest 10% earning $110,000. The median annual salary for IT professionals in senior roles is around $92,400, with the highest earnings at $136,000.
The BLS lists the 2019 median annual pay for computer and information systems managers at $146,360. Those in the bottom 10% earned less than $87,480, while the highest 10% earned more than $208,000.
In its description of computer and information systems managers, the BLS notes that those in the information industry were the highest earners, with 2019 average salaries of $161,930. Also ranking among the top earners were those in computer systems design, finance and insurance, company and enterprise management, and manufacturing.
BLS data for May 2019 lists New York, California, New Jersey, Virginia, and Colorado as top-paying states for computer and information systems managers.
Demand for Cybersecurity Professionals
The BLS predicts a 10% growth in computer and information systems management roles from 2019 to 2029, a rate that is much faster than the average for all occupations. For IT professionals with cybersecurity expertise, demand may be even greater.
In fact, cybersecurity employment website Cyber Seek notes that “cybersecurity talent gaps exist across the country,” rating the supply of cybersecurity experts in the United States as “very low.”
Another factor impacting cybersecurity employment is the current pandemic situation. The COVID-19 is forcing many organizations to increase their reliance on digital processes to support remote operations, according to a 2020 article in Forbes. Pandemic-related demand could exacerbate the shortage described in the aforementioned 2019 (ISC)2 study: “The size of the current workforce still leaves a significant gap between the number of cybersecurity professionals working in the field and the number needed to keep organizations safe.”
Take the Next Step in Becoming an In-Demand IT Professional
Norwich University’s online Master of Science in Cybersecurity program prepares individuals to become sought-after IT professionals in helping organizations protect operations against digital breaches and attacks. Students learn from faculty members who are experts in topics such as organizational governance, cybersecurity threats, risk management, cyber crisis management, and beyond.
The National Security Agency (NSA) and Department of Homeland Security designated Norwich University a Center for Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education. The university’s online Master of Science in Cybersecurity program offers the following concentrations.
- Computer Forensic Investigation and Incident Response Team Management
- Critical Infrastructure Protection and Cyber Crime
- Cyber Law and International Perspectives on Cyberspace
- Project Management
- Vulnerability Management
- Procurement and Government Contract Management
Discover how the Norwich University online Master of Science in Cybersecurity program can help achieve your goals as an IT professional specialized in cybersecurity.
5 Types of Cyber Crime: How Cybersecurity Professionals Prevent Attacks
How to Become a CISO: Path Toward a Career in Cybersecurity
Achieving Your Educational Goals: The Ultimate Guide to Getting the Most from a Master’s Degree
What Is Cybersecurity?, Cisco Systems
Introduction to Information Technology (IT), Lifewire
Computer and Information Systems Managers, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Cloud Computing, Investopedia
IT Support Technician Job Description, JobHero
Importance of Information Technology in Business, Techno FAQ
Average IT Professional Salary, PayScale
Average Senior IT Professional Salary, PayScale
Computer and Information Systems Managers, Occupational Employment Statistics, BLS
Cybersecurity Supply/Demand Heat Map, Cyber Seek
How The COVID-19 Pandemic Is Fast-Tracking Digital Transformation In Companies, Forbes