The Ultimate Tech Sisters Career Guide

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Photo by Amy Hirschi on Unsplash

Probably the question I see the most from you Tech Sisters is “What do I need to do to get a job as a developer/software engineer/data analyst?” A lot of us are transitioning into tech from other fields or are still so new in our careers that we don’t have a planned path yet. 

I was in this position two years ago. I had my kids right after graduating from university with a degree in history and stayed at home to take care of them. When I was ready to start thinking about working on my career, I had no tech experience at all. I only cared about being able to work from home, having a steady source of money, and finding something I truly liked. (You can read more of my story and also learn how Zuzana got into tech in a very similar way). 

To help clear up some confusion about all of the tech job titles, I wanted to write this tech career guide for you. The data is from the US’ Bureau of Labor Statistics and Data USA, and you can look at Skillcrush’s 41 Job Titles in Tech and The Balance Career’s list of IT jobs for even more job titles. If I left out your job or if you feel I failed to represent it correctly, please let me know in the comments! Also, iA I intend on eventually updating this guide with diversity statistics and would appreciate your help in finding those numbers. 

Computer and Information Research Scientist

2018 Median Annual Pay $118,000
Typical Entry-level Education Master’s Degree
Job Outlook 2018-28 16%
Percentage of Women27.4%
Percentage of People from Non-White Backgrounds30.5%

Computer and information research scientists create and improve computer software and hardware. They study and solve problems in computing that can be applied to fields like business, medicine, and manufacturing by innovating and pushing the boundaries of what existing computing technologies can do and by inventing new technologies. Generally, computer scientists work on a more theoretical level. 

Creating and improving computer software involves working with algorithms. These algorithms are sometimes extremely complex, and a computer scientists’ job is to simplify them so that systems run as efficiently as possible. Improving the algorithms allows for advancements like machine learning and cloud computing. 

Computer science roles are expected to grow much faster than average over the next 10 years. As we demand new and better technology, the demand for computer scientists grows as well. A rapid growth in the collection of consumer data means that there’s a great need for computer scientists to write algorithms to make sense of this data. There is also an increased need for computer scientists to find innovative ways to improve cybersecurity and prevent attacks.

Specialities

  • Data science
    Improve ways to detect and analyse patterns in large datasets
  • Programming
    Design new software programming languages
  • Robotics
    Develop programs that control robots and tell them how to interact with the physical world
  • Artificial Intelligence
    Use machine learning to enable machines to learn, perceive, plan, and solve real problems. There’s a debate if AI is part of computer science or if it’s a branch of its own (you can read more here). 

Typical Duties

  • Research and study fundamental issues and complex problems in computing
  • Develop new theories and models to address these problems
  • Invent new computing tools, languages, and methods to improve how people interact with computers
  • Develop, improve, and test software systems
  • Publish their findings in academic journals and present at conferences 

How to Become A Computer Scientist

Most jobs for computer science require a master’s degree in computer science or a related field. Computer scientists working in a specialised field also need to demonstrate knowledge and experience in that field. 

Important Skills

  • Analytical 
  • Communication 
  • Critical thinking
  • Detail-orientated 
  • Ingenuity
  • Logical thinking
  • Advanced math 

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Computer Network Architects

2018 Median Annual Pay $109,000
Typical Entry-level Education Bachelor’s Degree
Job Outlook 2018-28 5%
Percentage of Women8.8%
Percentage of People from Non-White Backgrounds 27.5%

Computer network architects, or network engineers, design and deploy computer and information networks. They also manage the network and troubleshoot any issues and predict future needs by analysing current data traffic and estimating how growth will affect the network. 

The networks that network engineers build include local area networks (LANs), wide area networks (WANs), and Intranet. These networks range from something as small as the connection between two offices to cloud infrastructures that connect multiple customers. 

Network engineers design networks that help organisations achieve their goals by having extensive knowledge of the organisation’s business plan. They spend most of their time in offices, but occasionally need to access hardware in server rooms. 

Networking roles are expected to grow by 9% in the next 10 years, about as fast as average. As firms continue to build their IT networks, roles will be created to design and build new networks and upgrade existing ones.

Typical Duties

  • Create plans and layouts for data communication networks
  • Present and defend these plans to management
  • Consider information security
  • Upgrade hardware, like routers and adaptors, and software, like network drivers
  • Keep up to date on new networking technologies

How to Become a Computer Network Architect

Network architects usually need at least a bachelor’s degree in computer science, information systems, engineering, or a related field. They also need at least five years of working experience with IT systems. This can be as a lower-level network engineer, network administrator, or other computer-related roles like database administrator or computer systems analyst. 

Certification, typically from Cisco, is required by many employers. 

Important Skills

  • Analytical 
  • Detail-oriented
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Leadership skills
  • Organisational skills

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Computer Programmers

2018 Median Annual Pay $84,000
Typical Entry-level Education Bachelor’s Degree
Job Outlook 2018-28 -7%
Percentage of Women21.4%
Percentage of People from Non-White Backgrounds 28.7%

Computer programmers write and test code for applications and programs. They take program designs created by software developers and engineers and build them into instructions that a computer can follow and test. If their programs don’t work as expected, computer programmers need to check the code for mistakes and fix them. 

Sometimes computer programmers can also be responsible for product design which entails initial planning, creating models and flowcharts, writing and debugging code, and designing an applications or systems interface. 

Programmers usually work alone, but can be part of larger teams working on complex projects. Because writing code can be done anywhere, many programmers work from home. 

Computer programming roles are expected to decline by 7% over the next 10 years. It can be done anywhere in the world and is frequently outsourced to programmers in countries where the average wage is lower. Having a good knowledge of a variety of programming languages and keeping up to date with the newest programming tools will improve job prospects. 

Typical Duties

  • Write programs in a variety of languages like C++ and Java
  • Update and expand existing programs
  • Test programs for bugs and fix the mistakes
  • Create and test code in an integrated development environment (IDE)
  • Use code libraries to simplify writing

How to Become a Computer Programmer

Most computer programmers have a bachelor’s degree in computer science, but employers may also hire workers with degrees in other subjects or who have experience working in specific programming languages. Programmers working in specific fields, like accounting or healthcare, may also take courses in those fields to supplement their knowledge. Employers place heavy emphasis on experience which many students gain through internships. 

Programmers need to feel comfortable with learning new programming languages, writing code, testing programs, and fixing errors. 

Important Skills

  • Analytical 
  • Concentration
  • Detail-orientated
  • Troubleshooting

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Computer Support Specialists

2018 Median Annual Pay $53,000
Typical Entry-level Education Varies
Job Outlook 2018-28 10%
Percentage of Women24.7%
Percentage of People from Non-White Backgrounds 27.3%

Computer support specialists, or technical support specialists or help-desk technicians, provide help and advice to computer users and organisations. They either support computer networks or provide technical assistance directly to users. 

A support specialist needs to quickly analyse, troubleshoot, and evaluate problems and has an important role in routine maintenance. They assist users through phone, email, or in-person visits and often work under network and computer systems administrators who handle more complex tasks. 

Some support specialists can work from home, but a few specialised technicians need to be able to travel to a client’s location to solve a problem. Most support specialists work full time, but because support needs to be available 24/7, support specialists sometimes work night and weekend shifts.

Computer support specialist roles are expected to grow by 10% in the next 10 years, faster than average. More support services will be needed as organisations upgrade their computer equipment and software to increasingly complex systems. 

Typical Duties

  • Test and evaluate existing network systems
  • Perform regular maintenance to ensure networks work correctly
  • Troubleshoot LANs, WANs, and Internet systems
  • Listen to the user’s description of computer problems
  • Properly diagnose computer problems
  • Walk users through problem-solving steps
  • Set up and repair computer equipment and devices
  • Train users to work with new computer hardware and software
  • Inform others in the organisation about what gives users the most trouble

How to Become a Computer Support Specialist

Because a wide range of required skills exists for computer support specialists, education requirements vary. Some computer knowledge is required, but this doesn’t have to be a degree. Companies that provide specialised technical support will likely require a degree in a technical field. 

Important Skills

  • Customer-service 
  • Listening 
  • Problem-solving 
  • Speaking 
  • Writing 

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Computer Systems Analysts

2018 Median Annual Pay $89,000
Typical Entry-level Education Bachelor’s
Job Outlook 2018-28 9%
Percentage of Women39%
Percentage of People from Non-White Backgrounds 33.1%

Computer systems analysts, or systems architects, evaluate current computer systems and design solutions that are more efficient and effective. They specialise in computer systems specific to the organisation they work with, like financial computer systems or engineering computer systems. Systems analysts need to work closely with business leaders to understand the best way a computer system can support their needs.

Computer systems are designed using a variety of techniques, such as data modelling which allows analysts to view processes and data flows. They conduct detailed tests and analyse information and data trends to make sure a system is running and peak performance and efficiency. 

Systems analysists can work directly for organisations or as contractors. They frequently need to collaborate and coordinate with others. 

Computer Systems Analyst roles are expected to grow by 9% over the next ten years, faster than average for all occupations. More analysts will be needed to design and install new computer systems as organisations increase their reliance on IT. 

Specialities

  • IT Project Manager
    Supervises the initial installation or upgrade of IT systems from start to finish 
  • Quality Assurance (QA) Analyst
    Conduct in-depth testing and diagnose problems to make sure critical requirements are met
  • Programmer Analyst
    Design and update their system’s software and build applications that suit their organisation

Typical Duties

  • Consult with managers to determine the role of IT systems in an organisation
  • Research emerging technologies and determine if they will help improve a system’s efficiency and effectiveness
  • Help management decide if IT systems and computing infrastructure upgrades are financially worthwhile by preparing a costs and benefits analysis
  • Find ways to add new functionality to existing systems
  • Design and implement new systems by configuring hardware and software
  • Oversee the installation and configuration of new systems and customise them for the organisation
  • Conduct testing to ensure the system works as it should
  • Train the system’s end-users and write instruction manuals

How to Become a Computer Systems Analyst

Most computer systems analysts have a bachelor’s degree in a computer-related field, but many analysts have liberal arts degrees and gained technical experience elsewhere. Because systems analysts are heavily involved with the business side of an organisation, taking courses in business administration and information systems is helpful, and some employers require master’s degrees in these fields. Systems analysts need to continue to study throughout their career to keep up with technological advances. 

Important Skills

  • Analytical 
  • Communication
  • Creativity

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Database Administrators

2018 Median Annual Pay $90,000
Typical Entry-level Education Bachelor’s
Job Outlook 2018-28 9%
Percentage of Women36.4%
Percentage of People from Non-White Backgrounds 30.5%

Database administrators (DBAs) use specialized software to store and organize data. They make sure that the data is easily accessible to data analysts and other end users while keeping the data secure from unauthorised access. 

Database administrator roles are expected to grow by 9% over the next ten years, faster than average. Increased data needs in all industries will drive this growth as database administrators will be needed to organise and present data in a way that makes it easy to understand. 

Specialities

  • System DBAs
    Responsible for the physical and technical aspects of a database. They are responsible for installing updates and patches to fix bugs.
  • Application DBAs
    Support a database specifically designed for a particular application, like customer-service software. 

Typical Duties

  • Ensure that data is secure
  • Backup and restore data to prevent loss
  • Identify user needs to create and administer databases
  • Ensure databases operate efficiently and error-free
  • Make and test modifications to the database
  • Maintain database and update permissions
  • Merge old databases into new ones

How to Become a Database Administrator

Most database administrators have a Bachelor’s Degree in information- or computer-related subjects. Some employers with large databases prefer applicants with master’s degrees focusing on data or database management. Database administrators also need an understanding of database languages, especially SQL. 

Important Skills

  • Analytical
  • Communication
  • Detail-oriented
  • Problem-solving

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Information Security Analyst

2018 Median Annual Pay $98,000
Typical Entry-level Education Bachelor’s
Job Outlook 2018-28 32%
Percentage of women18.9%
Percentage of People from Non-White Backgrounds 26.1%

Information security analysts plan and carry out security measures to protect an organisation’s computer network and systems. They need to stay current with IT security trends and the latest methods of hackers. 

Information security analysts work full time and often need to be on call outside of normal hours in case of an emergency. 

Employment roles for information security analysts are expected to grow much faster than average because of the increased frequency of cyberattacks. Analysts are needed to develop creative solutions to prevent hackers from stealing critical information or creating problems for the computer network.

Typical Duties

  • Monitor the network for security breaches and investigate any violations
  • Install and use software, like firewalls and data encryption programs, to protect sensitive information
  • Report security breaches and the extent of the damage
  • Conduct penetration testing
  • Research the latest IT security trends
  • Develop security standards and best practices

How to Become an Information Security Analyst

Information security analysts typically need at least a bachelor’s degree in computer science, information assurance, programming, or related fields. They often need previous experience in related fields like network or computer systems administration, database administration, or computer systems analysis. 

Many employers prefer security analysts to have either general certification like CISSP or more specific certifications, like in penetration testing or systems auditing. 

Important Skills

  • Analytical
  • Detail-oriented
  • Ingenuity
  • Problem-solving

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Network and Computer Systems Administrators

2018 Median Annual Pay $82,000
Typical Entry-level Education Bachelor’s
Job Outlook 2018-28 5%
Percentage of Women19.7%
Percentage of People from Non-White Backgrounds 25%

Network and computer systems administrators are responsible for the daily operation of an organisation’s computer network. They organise, install, and support an organisation’s computer systems, including local area networks (LANs), wide area networks (WANs), network segments, intranets, and other data communication systems.

Typical Duties

  • Determine a system’s needs and install the network hardware and software
  • Make needed repairs and upgrades to network and test that everything works properly
  • Maintain network and computer system security
  • Evaluate and optimise network or system performance
  • Add users to the network, and assign and update security permissions
  • Train users
  • Interpret and solve problems

How to Become a Network and Computer Systems Administrator

Most employers require a bachelor’s degree in a field related to computer or information science, although many don’t. Certifications are generally required, and Microsoft and Cisco offer the most common certificates. 

Important Skills

  • Analytical
  • Communications
  • Multitasking
  • Problem-solving

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Software Developers

2018 Median Annual Pay $106,000
Typical Entry-level Education Bachelor’s
Job Outlook 2018-28 21%
Percentage of Women19.3%
Percentage of People from Non-White Backgrounds 42%

Software developers build applications that allow people to do specific tasks on computers or other devices. They also build the underlying systems that run devices or control networks. 

Software developers start by researching how users plan to use the software and identifying the core functionality. They also need to identify user requirements unrelated to the core functionality like security level and performance needs. They design the program and give instructions to programmers who write the code and test it or write the code themselves. 

Software development is a collaborative process, and developers work on teams to help each other design, develop, and program successful software. Some developers can work from home.

Software development roles are expected to grow much faster than average in the next ten years because of the large demand for computer software. 

Specialities

  • Applications Software Developers
    Design computer applications, like games, for consumers
  • Systems Software Developers
    Build the systems that keep computers working properly

Typical Duties

  • Analyse users’ needs and design, develop, and test software that meets those needs
  • Recommend upgrades for existing programs and systems
  • Design each piece of an application or system and plan how everything works together
  • Ensure that a program continues to function normally through maintenance and testing 

How to Become a Software Developer

Developers usually have a bachelor’s degree in computer science, software engineering, or related fields. Many students gain experience by completing an internship while still in university. Developers need a strong background in programming and need to stay current with new tools and computer languages.

Important Skills

  • Analytical
  • Communication
  • Creativity
  • Detail-oriented
  • Interpersonal
  • Problem-solving

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Web Developers

2018 Median Annual Pay $70,000
Typical Entry-level Education Associate’s
Job Outlook 2018-28 13%
Percentage of Women38.1%
Percentage of People from Non-White Backgrounds 23.7%

Web developers design and build websites. They’re responsible for how a site looks as well as it’s performance and capacity. Developers decide which applications and designs best fit the site based on the client’s needs, like payment-processing applications for e-commerce sites. 

Many web developers can work from home.

Roles for web developers are expected to grow much faster than average over the next ten years. This is due to the expansion of e-commerce and mobile devices.

Specialities

  • Back-end Web Developers
    Responsible for the overall technical construction of a website
  • Front-end Web Developers
    Responsible for how a website looks

How to Become a Web Developer

Education requirements vary between no postsecondary education at all to a bachelor’s degree. A developer’s work experience and enthusiasm are seen as more important than education history. 

Have a look at this great career roadmap to get a sense of the languages and frameworks you’ll need to master as a web developer.

Important Skills

  • Concentration
  • Creativity
  • Customer-service
  • Detail-oriented

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