It seems that everything today is controlled by computers. From the supermarket to the doctor's office to the IRS, everyone keeps data on customers, patients, clients or business contacts. In fact, the evolution of the Internet has literally connected the world. Information technology specialists help to maintain and develop these computer systems.
While the term "information technology" was first coined in the 1970s, the inception of the original concept was actually during World War II, when the military was actively developing electronic technology, which included computers. In fact, until the 1950s, the military was the primary source of information technology progress. Since then, four major computer evolutions have occurred, each growing progressively physically smaller, yet more capable. The first micro-computer was marketed in 1975. And in 1981, IBM introduced the first personal computer, forever changing the face of IT. In fact, personal computers of today are capable of far more than even the most advanced systems of the 1960s, at literally a thousandth of the cost.
According to the Information Technology Association of America, information technology (commonly called simply IT) can be defined as "the study, design, development, implementation, support or management of computer-based information systems, particularly software applications and computer hardware." IT specialists handle everything related to computers, including data storage, database administration, and all other aspects related to information storage, retrieval, transmittal, protection, and processing information securely. IT specialists may also design software, manage computer hardware, design computer networks, and offer helpdesk assistance.
Since many offices literally cannot function without their computer systems, IT specialists are an extremely important part of any team. In addition to maintaining systems and system data, IT specialists and managers are often responsible for assisting with business plans, especially in relation to IT. They may help choose a company's software and computer hardware systems, coordinate installation of these components, and provide direct assistance to other employees in regard to these systems. They may set up email accounts, passwords, and employee specific access to company systems, among other things. Most IT specialists work a minimum of 40 hours per week in an office setting.
Those working in the IT field come from a variety of backgrounds. Most employers require a bachelor's degree for IT management positions, and some prefer a master's degree with a focus in technology. For other positions, similar degrees can be required, but some companies will hire those with vocational degrees or equivalent experience. IT experts also need to have a working understanding of business practices and laws specific to their company's industry. For example, those working in the health care industry must be familiar with the HIPAA laws.
If you're considering a career in information technology, it's a wise choice. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the IT field is growing more rapidly than others. The field is expected to grow 16 percent by 2016. In fact, 264,000 computer and information systems managers were employed in 2006. Of these, about one quarter worked in computer service related jobs like computer system designing and the related services. IT specialists can find work in a variety of settings today, especially considering that most companies use some form of computer system.