Information technology (IT) is the study and use of computers, telecommunications, and computing systems and networks for the storage, retrieval, processing, and distribution of data.
IT is commonly used as a blanket term for any computers, networks, software, hardware, and tech support in an organization used to solve business problems.
All organizations, big and small, need some form of IT department, whether it is one person or thousands, to help facilitate the smooth operation of their business through the use of technology.
The term “information technology” was first used in a 1958 article by the Harvard Business Review that predicted the use of computing to solve business problems in the 1980s. This prescient article speculated that in the near future, there would be a field of technology that would use high-speed computing, statistical and mathematical methodologies to make decisions, and high-order thinking through the use of computer programs. This article from over fifty years ago accurately describes how organizations leverage computing and technology in the 2020s.
In this article, we will look at how information technology is defined and used today, along with the different ways you can work in this vast field.
Table of Contents
- What Does the Scope of Information Technology Encompass?
- Why is Information Technology Important?
- Information Technology vs Computer Science
- Hardware vs Software in IT
- Hardware Examples in IT
- Software Applications in IT
- Career Options in Information Technology
- Characteristics Employers Look for in IT Professionals
- Job Outlook For Information Technology
- IT Skills and Certifications
- Start Your IT Career Training Today
The scope of information technology covers the systems, hardware, processes, and oversight of technology in an organization that is used to solve problems for that organization.
This broad umbrella of IT encompasses the physical components and software that uses technology, and the governance of systems and policies and people who carry the work out each day. A highly functioning IT department is nearly invisible, as issues are anticipated before they arise, and solutions are proactively created.
The physical components an IT department is responsible for includes any human-computer interface (computers, laptops, devices), voice and data hardware, and also software such as operating systems (Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux, Ubuntu, etc.), application software. Infrastructure like networks and routers are also part of the IT department’s responsibility.
Ongoing operations like security measures, maintenance, software updates, device and computer management are another component of an IT department.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly are the people that fulfill the duties and routines that make the organization run smoothly. These can contain specialized in larger organizations.
Together, all these subcategories and components make up a robust IT operation.
Every company and organization, large or small, relies on information technology to remain competitive. IT, cloud computing, and turning data into information is what gives an organization the ability to make good business decisions.
With the ubiquity of computers and connected devices, the IT department manages data, network connections, security, and information processing.
Information technology may be used in an organization for:
- Remote working
- Wireless hotspots
- Cloud computing and storage
- Sales and invoicing
- Internal accounting and payroll
- Market research and data analysis
- Human resources
- Product development
- Regulatory compliance
For the everyday person, information technology and computer science may sound like interchangeable terms. However, these are two distinct areas of focus, and the overlap is not as much as you might imagine.
IT deals with hardware, networks, and hardware and software used for practical everyday applications in an organization. Computer science deals with programming, algorithms, and most of the work is done on a computer.
What is the distinction between hardware and software?
Hardware is the physical components of a computer system. This can include computers and their internal parts, like a hard drive, on-site servers, routers, tablets and smartphones, videoconferencing equipment, keyboards, mouses, monitors, and anything else that can be physically touched.
Software is all the programs and applications that run on hardware. Generally, software is stored electronically in the memory of a hard drive or device memory. This can include operating systems, web and native applications, video or image editing tools, marketing automation, cloud storage, and any other programs that perform essential tasks.
The IT department is responsible for setting up and configuring the hardware that runs on software, and also for installing and updating the software that runs programs that run on systems and devices within the organization.
Let’s look at some common hardware and software examples.
- Devices, including computers, tablets, and smartphones
- Peripherals plugged into a computer directly or via wi-fi, like printers or scanners
- Equipment used to record video or audio on a computer, like cameras, webcams, or microphones
- Servers for internet connections or email located on-site
- Routers, network connections, and other network components
- Telephone or radio equipment for voice communications within the organization
Some components that may have been stored on-site in years past, like hosting or email servers, can often be replaced by virtualized services (Software as a Service, or SaaS).
- Operating Systems (OS)
- Basic Input/Output Systems (BIOS)
- Drivers for a Computer or Device
- Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
- Word Processing or Spreadsheet Programs
- Web Applications / Desktop Applications
- Time Tracking Software
- Email or other telecommunication applications
- Cloud storage
- Web Applications that run videoconferencing
- Video editing programs
- Image editing tools like Photoshop or Sketch
- Data processing and analysis
- Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)
Website editing software may fall under the IT department in some cases.
Here is a sampling of the many types of jobs you can find in the field of information technology.
Computer Support Specialists. Help desk and computer support specialists install software, set up computer workspaces, and solve technical issues that arise on a day-to-day basis. These specialists help troubleshoot computer, network, and software issues. They may also assist on large technical issues internally.
Cybersecurity Specialists. Security professionals proactively reduce vulnerabilities, detect and eliminate malicious threats, and organize best practices for data security within an organization. A security operations team may have several layers of team members that monitor, contain, and remediate threats to IT security.
Network Administrators. Network admins ensure the computer network for an organization is secure, maintaining the computer network hardware and software so it runs smoothly. Candidates usually must have a degree or certification, and know how to use database management software, network monitoring tools, and some web platform development tools.
Cloud Solutions Architect. Cloud architects manage the ever-increasing complexity of cloud computing architecture. Cloud architecture deals with all cloud computing in an organization including front-end platforms, servers, storage, delivery, and cloud storage networks.
System Administrator (Sys Admin). The Sys Admin is responsible for configuration, management, debugging, and technical support on a multi-user computing environment. In larger organizations, this may have several positions dedicated to specific environments or technologies.
Database Administrator. This position usually requires a Bachelor’s degree. Database administrators may work in larger organizations, keeping client data secure. Some of the tools you must be proficient with include database management software, operating system tools, MySQL and other database development tools, enterprise resource planning (ERP).
There skills that help IT candidates be successful in their careers. Information technology workers with strong communication skills can work well with colleagues or clients. Many IT experts work in various tech support roles, where communication is a big plus.
Analytical skills are also advantageous to the IT professional, as they may be troubleshooting a network issues, planning out a network, analyzing data, doing security tests, or devising other technological solutions. The ability to break down a project into easy-to-understand steps make the IT expert a good teammate.
Another positive characteristic is a desire to always learn new things. Technology changes at a rapid pace, and being an IT professional requires adaptability, whether that is learning new hardware configurations or new software.
Information technologists should also possess a calm demeanor, when dealing with customer support, tight deadlines, or when troubleshooting a system failure. Keeping a cool head under pressure is a critical asset.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, computer and information technology jobs are projected to grow 11% from 2019 to 2029 as a category. This is much faster job growth than the median of all jobs in the United States. The average salary in IT jobs tends to be higher than the median salary for all jobs in the United States in 2020.
Almost all software and hardware manufacturers offer certifications that demonstrate mastery of a specific piece of technology. There are also industry-wide certification that show an IT professional is proficient in a certain area of technology. Employers often look for candidates to have specific certifications that correlate to the job where they will be working.
Some of the professional certifications that are commonly held by IT professionals beginning their career include:
- CompTIA A+
- CompTIA Network+
- CompTIA Security+
- Amazon AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner
- Amazon AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate
- Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA)
- Cisco® Certified Network Associate (CCNA)
- Oracle Cloud Infrastructure Foundations Certified Associate
More advanced IT positions are often preceded by subsequent certifications.
If a career in information technology sounds like a path you want to pursue, MTI College can help you get trained with our certification and degree programs. If you have questions, we have answers. Our helpful admissions staff is available to help you through the process. Contact us today!
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We look forward to helping you prepare for a career in information technology.