Career Field of Information Systems
Computers change the ways things are done and it is undeniable that it paved a new direction on how human life will be in the future. The technology became an agent of change: businesses changed their operations, new jobs created for laborers, high-tech schoolwork, long-distance social networking, and more. These gave rise to the information and communication technology industry which is still considered as an infant industry. However, this infant industry has already grown up itself so much that it managed to branch out so many fields of studies such as networking and information systems. This paper aim to research the current trend, importance, function and future of information system to give light to those people who are in and interested in the said field of study.
Information and Communication Technology Industry
Communication technology is considered as the nervous system of modern society: it is responsible for the transmission, distribution, control and interconnection of information in the realm of interdependent, short and long distance units. It can be traced as early as the industrial revolution when there were introduction of new communicating tools such as telephone. These technologies evolved and became vital to business and commerce, personal use, interpersonal relationships which is why it can be said that information and communications technology has penetrated the lives of human and even has profound impacts on every aspect of the society.
Communication technology is composed of hardware or the tangible technologies such as computers, telephones and faxes and messages or information that is known to be the ‘software’. However, communication technology is beyond the study of hardware and software because it must include some broader contextual factors. Rogers (1986) defined communication technology as ‘the hardware equipment, organizational structures, and social values by which the individuals collect, process and exchange information with other individuals’. From the definition, we can infer that the ICT industry is vast as it involves technology of the hardware and software as well as some societal considerations (Grant & Meadows, 2006, p. 1 – 3). With this, ICT raised the interest of many people as it offers many new and challenging academic field of study. Some subfields emerged from the huge field of ICT and these include information systems.
Definition of Information Systems
The medium of information exchange around the globe become faster and easier when internet was developed however it also became threatening so to address the impending threats of infiltrating the benefits of internet, information system has been studied and developed. Information system is a combination of hardware and software systems that support data-intensive applications. In short, information system is addressing the data management issues such as data mining, natural language processing, information retrieval, security and others.
Careers in Information Systems
Information Systems has no clear defined job structure, instead, there are a large number of differing opportunities for career development. The range of possibilities is unimaginable as it is applied from simply using a word processor up to designing components for space travel. In between these extremes are a broad variety of careers and jobs demanding knowledge on the vast field of computer industry and using skills such as systems analysis. There are two distinct areas of computer employment; they are the ‘computer users’ and the ‘information systems or information technology practitioners/professionals’ (IMIS, c. 2006, p. 1).
This group is composed of people whose main job is not computing but rather using computers to assist themselves in their everyday lives. This sector of information systems employment is incredibly wide because computers are already been used in majority aspects of our lives.
Computer Aided Design Operators
Computer Aided Design (CAD) is the modern replacement of the job of a draughtsman. Though this require more training as an engineer, this job can fall on the information systems specialists as most CAD software courses are only offered as a part of engineering curriculum. An engineer with knowledge of information systems could be the best candidate in using CAD for architectural and engineering designs (IMIS, c. 2006, p. 1).
Graphic designing skills are used in CAD and in Desktop Publishing which is used well in designing advertisements. As with the case of CAD, the main skill needed here is talent in arts and design but of course it does not limit information systems specialists to suit this type of job because there are some who both have artistic talents and information systems knowledge (IMIS, c. 2006, p. 1).
Most office personnel use computers nowadays as the main tool for their work. In general, their use of information system is limited on word processing, spreadsheets, desktop publishing, databases and others. (IMIS, c. 2006, p. 2).
Information systems or information technology practitioners/professionals
A computer system works by doing the instructions written within a program or programs and it is the programmer who has the job of designing each program, writing it in a programming language and testing it. This job requires very logical reasoning, good problem solving skills and thorough attention to details (IMIS, c. 2006, p. 2).
Computer systems exist to address the needs of the business and a program is actually one small component of the system. The system we are referring to are not just the computers and the software programs they have but the overall design wherein the system is considered to be appropriate for the operations of a business. Ideally, the analysts list down the details of the applications programs the business needs and then pass them on to the programmers for them to write (IMIS, c. 2006, p. 2).
If the application programs designed by the systems analyst is not working inefficiently, then it is the job of systems programmer to investigate the ‘environment’ in which the program is working to tune it up (IMIS, c. 2006, p. 3).
Local or Wide Area Networks are used by companies to allow their computers in different departments or units communicate with one another and share access to some information. Network Administrators control this access by putting passwords to users, ensuring that the data does not lose its security, confidentiality and credibility.
Software and Hardware Engineer
Software engineers design compilers which are used to translate programs, operating systems, and other software while hardware engineers are involved with the design and manufacture of computer hardware such as processors which control the software, disk memories, monitor screens, etc (IMIS, c. 2006, p. 3 – 4).
Lay-offs of Information Systems Graduates
United States companies continue in adding IT jobs even though the country experienced huge lay-offs overall. According to the Jones (2009) in his article in InformationWeek:
While the overall industry lost nearly 50,000 jobs in January, certain segments added jobs. More than 11,000 jobs were added in management and technical consulting services, while 200 more were added in data processing. Although jobs listed under the computer and electronics products category dropped by 8,800, an additional 700 jobs in computers and peripheral equipment, hosting, and related services were added.
Although it is undeniable that US lost 3.6 million jobs since the start of recession in December 2007, there is still a wide variety of opportunities in the field of information technology. It can be said that engaging in information technology is a wise move because aside from the job openings is the rising salary for those with ‘skills on project management, architecture, networking, database, IT security and others’ (Jones, 2009). Despite the threats, these are the reasons why there still a rising number of college students choosing information systems/technology as their career path.
It is not rely on the opinions and surveys of private companies and observers and it is much reliable to look on the national statistics of Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) when making conclusions about the lay-offs that happened.
Information technology-producing industries: Extended mass layoff events and separations, private nonfarm sector, 2002-2009 (BLS, 2009)
Lay-off Events Separation
1st Q 1,110 225,600
2nd Q 1,421 278,719
3rd Q 1,018 160,024
4th Q 1,814 301,592
Lay-off Events Separation
1st Q 1,340 230,098
2nd Q 1,756 354,713
3rd Q 1,582 290,892
4th Q 3,585 642,154
It can be concluded from the information given by the table above that there is a rise in the total lay-offs from 2007 to 2008. The increase can be considered at its peak during the 4th quarter of 2008 when lay-off events rose from 1,582 of 2008 3rd quarter to 3,585 lay-off events. The lay-off events of all information technology-producing industries (computer hardware, communication and software services, communications equipment) also rose dramatically during the 2008 (BLS, 2009).
Demand for Information Systems Graduates
The counter-story of the lay-offs is the demand that is assumed to be present and going strong for the information systems graduates. There are some optimistic observers who suggest that the future of IT jobs in 2009 will be as not bad as how the pessimistic ones observe. The energizing of the IT industry will be possible because there will be a federal stimulus package to be released under the president-elect Barack Obama that may even add IT positions. Though it will not be directed to go to IT industry, it is suggested that IT professionals should focus on showing the employers how their skills can be used to the projects of greater attention (infrastructure building, road expansion, bridge constructions, rural development, etc.). This means that IT professionals is not limited on what is known to be their jobs today but rather they must be creative enough to think other applications of their expertise and flaunt it to the employers of other industries. According to David Foote, the hottest jobs over the next two years will be human resources applications, application development, business analysts, and program management (Thibodeau, 2009).
My Career Path
Given the hindrances the lay-offs give to information systems graduates, it is not enough to say that there is no future in this industry anymore. It is just that the competition among the skilled and graduates become tighter as there may be fewer jobs available. As for an electronics technician in Astute Electronics with knowledge in network security branch learned from military experiences, it is best suited to get the job of a network administrator. A network administrator for military computer system can be the best and wildest job a person with this knowledge and background could possibly get because he or she has sprung the information systems interest from military operations.
Bureau of Labor Statistics (2009, May 12). Table 6. Information technology-producing industries: Extended mass layoff events and separations, private nonfarm sector, 2002-2009. Retrieved May 24, 2009, from http://www.bls.gov/news.release/mslo.t06.htm
Grant, A.E. & Meadows, J.H. (2006). Communication technology update Tenth Edition. USA: Focal Press.
Institute for the Management of Information Systems (c. 2006). Careers in Information Systems. Retrieved May 24, 2009, from http://www.imis.org.uk/further/careersinformation/careers.pdf
Jones, K.C. (2009, February 9). Some IT Jobs Defy Employment Downturn. InformationWeek.
Thibodeau, P. (2009, January 4). Tech Jobs May Increase Despite Economic Trends. Computerworld.