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Jobs Outlook: Computer Support Specialists and Systems Administrators




Employment of computer support specialist is expected to increase faster than the average for all occupations through 2012, as organizations continue to adopt and integrate increasingly sophisticated technology. Job growth will continue to be driven by the continued expansion of the computer system design and related services industry, which is projected to remain one of the fastest growing industries in the U.S. economy, despite recent job losses. Job growth will not be as explosive as growth during the previous decade as these jobs are being increasingly outsourced overseas.

Employment growth among computer support specialists reflects the rapid pace of improved technology. As computers and software become more complex, support specialists will be needed to provide technical assistance to customers and other users. New mobility technologies, such as the wireless Internet, will continue to create a demand for these workers to familiarize and educate computer users. Consulting opportunities for computer support specialists also should continue to grow as businesses increasingly need help managing, upgrading, and customizing more complex computer systems. However, growth in employment of support specialists may be tempered somewhat as firms continue to cut costs by shifting more routine work abroad to countries where workers are highly skilled but labor costs are lower. Physical location is not as important for these workers as it is for others, because computer support specialists can provide assistance remotely and support services can be provided around the clock.

Employment of systems administrators is expected to increase much faster than average as firms will continue to invest heavily in securing computer networks. Companies are looking for workers knowledgeable about the function and administration of networks. Such employees have become increasingly hard to find as systems administration has moved from being a separate function within corporations to one that forms a crucial element of business in an increasingly high-technology economy. Also, demand for computer security specialists will grow as businesses and government continue to invest heavily in “cyber-security,” protecting vital computer networks and electronic infrastructure from attack.

The growth of electronic commerce means that more establishments use the Internet to conduct their business online. This translates into a need for information technology specialists who can help organizations use technology to communicate with employees, clients, and consumers. Explosive growth in these areas also is expected to fuel demand for specialists knowledgeable about network, data, and communications security.

Job prospects should be best for college graduates who are up to date with the latest skills and technologies, particularly if they have supplemented their formal education with some relevant work experience. Employers will continue to seek computer specialists who possess a strong background in fundamental computer skills, combined with good interpersonal and communication skills. Due to the rapid growth in demand for computer support specialists and systems administrators, those who have strong computer skills but do not have a bachelor’s degree should continue to qualify for some entry-level positions. However, certifications and practical experience are essential for persons without degrees.