What Is Information Technology?
With technology infused into every aspect of your professional and personal routines, Information Technology (IT) is, without question, essential to your daily life and the ongoing functions of organizations worldwide. This is good news if you’re planning for a career in a growth industry, as employers face a labor shortage of tech workers in areas that include security, cloud computing, and data science.
Experts agree, the key to filling the talent gap is education.
“The world of business needs a strong communication system in order to get closer to the customer, and only IT will allow these companies to communicate effectively,” says Dr. Amjad Alkilani, a program chair at the Forbes School of Business and Technology® at Ashford University.
What Is Information Technology?
At its core, Information Technology involves the gathering, sorting, analysis, storage, and transmission of any and all types of information using computers. When you zoom out from the textbook definition and consider all of the ways that technology impacts our lives — from the text messages we send to the software and hardware used to manage processes and projects — it’s clear that our ability to do anything and everything is possible because of Information Technology.
What Do Information Technology Professionals Do?
Pop culture has embedded within us the image of an IT professional as an eyeglasses-wearing “techie” whose sole responsibility is responding to complaints that email is down. Think of Jimmy Fallon’s caricature of an overly frustrated IT professional on Saturday Night Live or Nick, the IT guy whose name no one could remember in the sixth season of The Office.
In reality, IT workers are the backbone of any organization that does business using computers, and their responsibilities go far beyond telling you to reboot your machine when it’s not working properly. Though you may not see members of your IT department every day, their work is impacting your work in one form or another.
Here are just some of the responsibilities that fall on the shoulders of today’s IT professionals:
An IT department is in charge of installing every piece of hardware and software that your company will use to get the job done, from your desk phone to your desktop computer. It’s also their responsibility to set up and test these technologies to ensure they’re working properly and, more importantly, make sure you know how to use them properly.
Though you may have successfully installed the modem and Wi-Fi in your home, network configuration for organizations is a far more complicated task with many parts. IT professionals are responsible for building and maintaining multiple types of networks, from small Local Area Networks (LANs) to massive Storage Area Networks (SANs) that allow companies to manage stored data; as well as the VPN (Virtual Private Network), which allows you to connect to your company’s secure network while you’re out of the office.
All processes that involve technology must include a specific set of rules – like the ones that prohibit you from accessing certain websites during your workday. This and more falls under the umbrella of IT governance, a compliance framework that your organization follows to ensure that all technology is running efficiently and by the book, as there are countless regulations that companies must adhere to when putting technology to work.
In many organizations, you’ll find a very cold room with rows and rows of computer servers. All of the wires, circuits, screens, and other equipment form the foundation of your company’s IT infrastructure, and it falls on the IT department to oversee everything from installation to maintenance.
Operations & Security
Above all, the IT department ensures that your network is running smoothly and safely. It’s their responsibility to maintain the network, provide support when you need it, and ensure that your organization is capable of detecting, preventing, and responding to network threats.
Why Is Information Technology an Important Field of Study?
With modern business, like modern life — wholly dependent on technology — there will always be a demand for educated IT workers, Dr. Alkilani says.
“IT professionals work on complex problems and help businesses find creative answers,” he explains. “That’s why IT careers have excellent growth potential.”
The hiring data backs up that belief. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, hiring of computer and Information Technology occupations is expected to grow 12% – much faster than average – through 2028. The demand will be fueled by “greater emphasis on cloud computing, the collection and storage of big data, and information security.”
As Information Technology covers a broad range of tech-related roles and responsibilities, IT-related careers can fall under many academic categories, including:
- Business Information Systems
- Computer Software Technology
- Cyber Security
- Information Systems Management
- Information Technology
- Technology Management
- Web & Mobile App Technology
A bachelor’s or master’s degree in an IT-related field, Dr. Alkilani adds, will give you a solid foundation of technical skills and knowledge of hardware, software, and programming languages that employers will find valuable.
Having that fundamental understanding will aid you when the technology that you and your organization are working with inevitably evolves. If you want to start building that foundation of knowledge and prepare for an essential career, contact an Ashford University advisor about Information Technology degrees today.
Written by Ashford University staff
*Certain degree programs may not be available in all states.