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The Qualifications for an IT Specialist
Corporate employees would have difficulty sending e-mails to coworkers or getting on the Internet without IT, or information technology, professionals. They connect employees' computers to area-wide networks and resolve technical problems when necessary. They also keep apprised of new computer technologies and install software programs on workers' computers. If you are proficient with computers and have good interpersonal skills, a job as an IT specialist might be the perfect career choice. You must, however, fulfill certain requirements first.
Many IT specialists have bachelor's degrees in computer or information science. Others earn degrees in systems analysis or management information systems. An associate's degree may also be enough to qualify you for some IT specialist jobs. The essence of your IT career is learning how to work with different operating systems, such as Windows, UNIX and Mac OS X, and being able to install hardware, such as modems and hard drives. Learning to troubleshoot software and hardware problems is also crucial to your success.
IT specialists usually train for about three months after they are hired, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, year-long training might be required in companies with larger and more complex computer systems. Your training might be conducted in both classrooms and computer labs, so you gain both theoretical and practical experience. In this field, you are also expected to continually attend workshops and seminars to stay current with new software and hardware systems.
Certification and Advancement
While certification as an IT specialist is usually not required, some companies prefer it. Certification can also increase your employment opportunities. It may also help you advance into higher-level positions, such as a computer systems administrator, who oversees all IT functions and company servers, or as a software developer, who creates software programs for various applications, including database management and payroll systems. Apple, Hewlett Packard and the Institute for Configuration Management are just a few of many companies and organizations that certify IT professionals. If you aspire to advance into higher management or executive positions some day, a master's degree in business, or MBA, is beneficial.
Problem-solving skills are essential to IT specialists. You must know how to diagnose technical problems and develop solutions for them. In some cases, for example, you might decide to install a newer software system to alleviate problems caused by company growth. However, you would need to evaluate whether the extra cost is within your company's budget parameters. IT specialists must have listening and speaking skills. They must listen carefully to problems employees are experiencing so they can quickly resolve them. And, you need speaking skills to explain complex problems in layman's terms, and teach people how to correct smaller problems on their own.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: How to Become a Computer Support Specialist
- The Wall Street Journal: A Career in Information Technology
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: What Software Developers Do
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: What Network and Computer Systems Administrators Do