The magic of Hollywood can make the most mundane job seem glamorous. With movies like The Matrix trilogy, Tron, and television shows featuring sexy special operatives like Covert Affairs, you may approach the IT world dreaming of your sleek, sexy self being incorporated into one giant computer mainframe. With a little imagination and advancement in technology nothing’s impossible, right?
The reality is that IT jobs are more accurately depicted in films like Office Space, which does a good job of finding absurdity in the repetitive nature of the work (although embezzling money from your employer would have less humorous consequences). The following are five examples of respectable, but less-than-glamorous, IT careers:
Database and Network Administrators
Network administrators plan, install, and support computer systems for organizations like corporations, universities, and government. Their responsibilities may include ordering and updating technological equipment. This person must analyze problems to quickly find solutions for network users.
Database administrators have a similar function, but they work with software to organize, store, analyze, and present data. During network updates, they are responsible for integrating existing data into the new system.
Database and network administrators work in comfortable offices or computer labs and work at least 40 hours per week. Many must work overtime during system upgrades or when a problem comes up that needs quick resolution.
Though your life won’t be threatened by malfunctioning, malevolent computer programs, spending long periods of time in front of the computer may cause eyestrain, carpal tunnel, and back pain. A good chiropractor may be in order.
Computer software engineers design software and may potentially design viruses like in Office Space. They use theories of computer science to create, test, and ultimately evaluate software systems and applications.
As with most IT positions, job prospects for software engineers will increase at faster-than-average rates, though opportunities may slack off as more and more computer science graduates enter the field. These jobs are at risk of being off shored since software engineers can work from almost anywhere in the world.
A software engineer must keep up with new technology because of the evolving nature of the field. You may design operating systems, networks, and even computer games, but it’s still a desk job. There’s virtually no chance you’ll be able to wear an ominous black trench coat and shades to the office like Neo in The Matrix, but with an average annual income of $85,430, you could certainly afford to.
Information Systems Managers
Computer and information systems managers oversee and direct other IT professionals in the workplace. Think of Bill Lumbergh from Office Space walking around with his IniTech coffee mug (Um, yeah . . . I’m gonna need you to come in on Saturday).
In reality, these IT managers have a much more hands-on approach. They plan and coordinate all activities to install or upgrade technology, which may include everything from software and hardware to entirely new Internet websites. They are also responsible for budgeting and scheduling.
But Lumbergh was right about one thing: long hours are quite common. Most Information Systems Managers have to work evenings and even weekends to resolve unexpected issues or to meet deadlines. If you want to break into this field, it’s a good idea to have a computer-related bachelor’s degree along with an MBA or other technological graduate degree.
Network Security Consultant
Most hacker movies never seem to have a problem breaking network securities, though every major computer system has them. Security consultants, many of whom are self-taught, protect computers and networks from hackers, viruses, and spyware. It’s not uncommon for the government to hire ex-hackers to do network security jobs, like Penelope Garcia in Criminal Minds.
Many security consultants have the freedom to work independently or from home. According to CNN Money, they hold the number 8 “Best Job in America”. With so much at stake, one system infiltration or breach of security by a hacker or virus can mean the end of a security consultant’s career. A few years of experience and a CISSP certification are usually required.
Computer Support Specialists
Tech support or the help-desk are references to computer support specialists. While you won’t be inventing geekishly delicious technology like Get Smart’s Bruce and Lloyd, you will play a major supporting role in the workplace.
Technical support specialists diagnose problems and look for resolutions. They keep a close watch on the daily performance of company computer systems and work with Local Area Networks and other systems to keep things running.
A help-desk technician is the voice of reason for customers dealing with computer problems. These specialists respond to customer issues via e-mail or telephone and ask specific questions to diagnose the problem. A computer-related degree is usually required, though many technicians also find their way into a career path by being trained on the job.
Okay, so you may never be the computer programmer who deals with the fate of humanity threatened by a robot takeover. You may never even be the lowly employee who dreams of burning down the building because the company takes away your red Swingline stapler. In reality, working your way up the IT career ladder could lead you close to a six-figure income—and that alone sounds pretty glamorous.