If you're thinking about pursuing a career in the information technology field, it helps to have a basic goal in terms of the kind of work that you'd like to do. There is a wide array of job titles and roles within the IT industry, and it's easy to get confused when browsing through them. One way to narrow things down is by getting a clear understanding of the differences between the industry's most common careers: network administration, systems administration, IT security and information assurance. With a firm grasp of those basic roles, you should have an easier time choosing the right career path. Learn more about each of these common information technology careers below.
Popular job titles within the network administration field include network analyst, network administrator and network engineer. Salaries generally fall between approximately $34,000 and $70,000. The potential for career advancement is high.
A network administrator is typically charged with the maintenance of a computer network's hardware and software. As a result, many different responsibilities and duties are involved. One thing that isn't involved is direct contact with end users because a network administrator is usually the highest-ranking member of a company's technical staff. In a typical day, a network administrator may purchase new hardware, perform new software installs, manage computer licenses, schedule and implement routine maintenance, run test restores, perform network backups and engage in other related activities. To be successful, a network administrator should have a deep understanding of a broad range of technical subjects and be a quick learner.
Common job titles within the systems administration field include sysadmin, systems administrator and IT systems administrator. In terms of salary, the range is approximately $38,000 to $76,000.
As the name suggests, systems administration refers to the overseeing and management of networks and computer systems. The specific duties that go along with these types of jobs can vary considerably from one company to the next. However, common responsibilities include the installation, support and maintenance of computer systems and servers, which can take up considerable amounts of time. Systems administrators usually need to engage in light programming and scripting, and they are often charged with preparing for and responding to service outages. It's not uncommon for a sysadmin to be responsible for training and overseeing computer operators. Project management is an important part of the daily life of many systems administrators as well. To be successful in this career, you need to be flexible and able to think on your feet. In-depth knowledge about a wide range of technical subjects is also vital.
There are several different titles that fall within the IT security career track. Examples include security analyst, information security engineer and security administrator. Salaries in this field range from about $38,000 to about $91,000.
IT security jobs differ significantly from systems administration and network administration jobs. However, it's not uncommon for sysadmins and even network admins to occasionally take on IT security duties. Typical responsibilities for a person who works in IT security include the installation, support and maintenance of security infrastructure components like email filters, firewalls, web content filters and server and computer antivirus software. IT security personnel generally handle things like intruder detection and prevention, patch management, security backups and security drills. Depending on the amount of experience that an IT security professional has and on his specific job title, he may also be charged with creating and updating security policies and performing risk assessments. These positions require the ability to focus on minute details and a great deal of responsibility.
Information assurance positions are a step up from IT security positions. Common job titles include information assurance engineer and information assurance manager. The salary range for positions in this category is approximately $58,000 to $117,000.
While positions in the IT security field are typically concerned with the fine details and the day-to-day operation of a network or server's security components, positions in the information assurance field are more managerial in nature. With this type of job, you would be responsible for ensuring that information systems adhere to established security rules and protocols. These professionals often conduct security assessments and report the findings to a company's leadership. They have to be able to manage and deal with potential problems with data or information in a quick and logical way. Extensive knowledge about databases, operating systems, applications and programs is critical. In addition to that, this type of professional is usually charged with ensuring that existing security measures mesh with a company's needs.
As you can see, the four most common careers in the information technology industry are quite different from one another. Positions in the systems administration and IT security fields tend to be more "hands on" in nature, while positions in the network administration and information assurance fields are typically more managerial in scope. It is important to assess your own strengths, weaknesses and goals to determine which career track is right for you. In the end, it is tough to go wrong with a career in the information technology field.