Information technology job titles and descriptions change as rapidly as the technology itself. While most IT professionals wear multiple hats and job overlap is inevitable, there are some general job categories that make understanding this field easier. Specialized degrees and industry certifications help to determine IT professionals' placement within these categories.
Software Engineers and Programmers
Software engineers use the software design presented to them to perform the actual coding of the software solution. While entry-level programmers may only work on basic, back-end parts of the product, a senior software engineer will not only produce the bulk of the product, but will work with other team members to test and improve the finished product. While this is a technical position, communication skills are necessary to work with other team members.
A systems analyst designs IT solutions for a customer based on stated needs acquired from interviews. These professionals work with a project manager in scheduling specialists to combine parts of a software piece into the final product. Analysts need a mix of strong technical, business and soft skills since they sometimes must explain challenging topics to less technically acclimated users.
A business analyst is similar to a systems analyst in his interaction with the end-user. He typically helps to flesh out the "needs" from the "wants" in a software piece, then translates these components into a pricing structure. Strong communication skills are essential in this position, as the analyst must be able to use technical terms to explain what's required, yet must often speak in a non-technical vocabulary to understand what is needed in a project.
Network Administrators and Engineers
Network administrators design, install and oversee the maintenance of a network infrastructure to provide Internet access and data access to users. The network admin typically oversees the procurement of hardware and software and often leads a group of network engineers. These network engineers provide much of the "hands-on" work on an organization's local and wide area networks. A network engineer installs switches, runs Ethernet or fiber cable and integrates hardware and software into the network.
Web developers plan, design and create websites within an organization or for an external website. These technical employees work with database administrators to make data available as needed, and with network security professionals to protect confidential data. There is an artistic component to this position, as well.
A database administrator designs, implements, maintains and troubleshoots an organization's database. This highly technical position must work with end-users and stakeholders to know what information must be accumulated and which data should be available to which employees.
Information security professionals maintain a level of hardware and software security for an organization. These technical employees must verify software patches and antivirus software, implement and maintain firewalls and secure a network from internal and external cyber attack. This department works closely with a facility's physical security team to limit access to sensitive areas that are harder to protect.
IT project managers oversee all aspects of a project. While technology acumen is important, soft skills in planning, organizing, scheduling and evaluating are essential, too. A project manager is the point of contact for all IT departments while working on a project. He communicates with all stakeholders, ensures deadlines are met and watches the project's cost and scope carefully.
Computer support, or help desk, professionals work with all aspects of IT to be sure that end-users' individual systems operate efficiently. These technical employees work with information security professionals to verify security patches, work with network administrators to help with authentication, and work with systems and business admins to test products. Hardware and software troubleshooting and repair are common responibilities in this often entry-level position.