When computers were first invented in the 1940s only a highly trained physicist or mathematician worked with them -- and they did everything that needed to be done. They were the only people who understood how the machines worked. As the field of computer science progressed, new professions emerged that broke up the business of making computers work. These jobs emerged because computers became so complex that no one person could understand the entire system.
Computer operators monitor the operation of large mainframe computers. They start the computer up and close it down. They keep a record of when specific jobs are run and run scheduled jobs when the computer is not so busy. If a job fails to run for some reason they take the appropriate action. At some installations they change out large disk packs or tape reels. Although it is a job of great responsibility, it requires less training than most computer jobs -- usually just a few months at a technical school.
Programmers encode the instructions that tell the computer what to do. They are given job instructions in plain English and flowcharts and they turn these instructions and descriptions into code that the computer can understand. The position requires a degree in computer science.
Many organizations with computers -- for example, the Department of Motor Vehicles -- have large amounts of data that are essential to the conducting of their business. These collections of data are called databases when they are controlled by computers. Setting up these databases and maintaining them in the presence of changing tax and business climates is a specialized job that takes years to learn. The profession requires a college degree and years of experience with databases.
The system administrator installs new software and maintains the operating system. In most businesses the system administrator is the one you call if you cannot get your desktop computer to work. If the system administrator cannot get a system to work, it is his or her responsibility to replace the system or to call the hardware technician. Being a system administrator is only possible after years of experience with computers. A college degree -- or the degree type -- is of less import than the years of experience.
The systems analyst is an interface between the executives of a company and the programmers. He or she does the overall design of the program jobs that need to be done to utilize the computer system for company business -- in response to verbal descriptions from company management. The systems analyst prepares the directions that the programmer uses to write computer programs. The profession requires an advanced degree and years of experience as a computer programmer.
Webmasters design and maintain Web pages. This profession is more like an art profession than a business or science profession. A college degree is nice but not absolutely necessary -- webmasters are hired on the strength of their portfolios.