Article: Computers

Summary

This article covers the following careers:

  • Computer/Software Sales Assistant
  • Database Administrator
  • Data Entry Clerk
  • Developer/Programmer
  • Hardware Engineer
  • IT Manager
  • Network Manager
  • Operator
  • Software Engineer
  • Software Tester
  • Support Manager
  • Support Services Engineer
  • Systems Analyst
  • Systems Programmer
  • Technical Sales Manager
  • Trainer.

The career descriptions are only a brief summary. It is recommended that you do further research on careers that interest you.

Video: - Various: Computers

Computer production

These are jobs that are concerned with designing, developing and manufacturing computers, the software that is loaded on to them, and computer-related hardware, such as printers.

Computer Hardware Engineer

Computer hardware engineers work on the design, development and manufacture of computer hardware. They may specialise in areas such as communications, control systems, robotics or microprocessors.

Computer hardware engineers make most computers by buying microprocessing chips, putting together parts and equipment, and linking them together to form a system.

They test a model of the new product to make sure that it works properly and meets set requirements; they may need to alter the equipment's design, based on the results of these trials.

The usual requirement for this career is a relevant degree or HND, such as computer engineering or electronic/electrical engineering.

Computer Systems Programmer

Systems programmers write and adapt programs that control the internal operations of computers and networks. They use low-level languages that the computer's operating system can understand. They aim to write programs that are fast, efficient and versatile.

Programmers spend a lot of time testing and improving systems. They produce diagrams and program notes to help a technical writer to produce user manuals. They might also install, customise and support operating systems.

Almost all entrants have a degree in a relevant subject (for example, computer science).

Computer Software Engineer

Computer software engineers analyse, design and create computer systems and software.

They are involved in all stages in the development of a software product. They apply software technology to meet a defined need or solve a particular problem.

This could involve analysing an existing system, setting out how the new system will work and the features it will have (its specification), designing the system and then giving it a code that the computer can understand.

Computer software engineers must test this code to make sure the computer can run it smoothly.

The usual requirement for this career is a relevant degree or HND, such as software engineering.

Sales

Once the computer hardware or software has been produced, the manufacturers sell it to distribution or retail companies, or straight to the users.

Computer/Software Sales Assistant

Computer/software sales assistants work in stores and contact centres, selling computers and computer-related goods. They help customers to choose products that best meet their needs.

Many customers will not have a detailed knowledge of computers. In this case, the assistant will need to spend a while talking to them to find out their requirements.

Customers could be planning to spend hundreds or even thousands of pounds so they will expect in-depth information and informed advice. In many cases, the customer will also want the assistant to demonstrate or explain the hardware or software concerned.

Other business customers will have specific requirements for non-standard technical hardware or software that the sales assistant has to order from the manufacturer.

Requirements vary for entry to this work, depending on the company you apply to work for. It might be possible to enter with no formal qualifications, but some employers prefer applicants to have some GCSEs at grade C or above, including Maths and English.

Technical Sales Manager

Technical sales managers try to persuade business customers of the benefits of investing in new computer systems, or making improvements to their existing systems.

They have to understand the customer's organisation and needs, and identify computer systems to meet those needs. Then they need to demonstrate that their products represent the best solution for the customer.

They advise on how the installation and operation of new systems will improve the way an organisation and its employees work.

After a sale, technical sales managers keep in touch with customers to make sure that the system is working properly and to build a good relationship with each customer. They need a thorough knowledge of the technical capabilities and applications of the computer hardware and software they are selling.

They often recruit, train, manage and motivate a team of sales staff.

Direct entrants to technical sales are likely to need a degree or HND in a subject such as business information technology, or another technical subject.

Software and systems development

Once a company has bought some computer hardware or software, they might decide to modify it to suit their needs better.

For example, they might buy a financial software package and change it to suit their own accounting systems. Large organisations sometimes employ people to write entirely new programs.

Alternatively, they might buy an application that has been specially written for a particular purpose.

Software Developer/Programmer

Software developers and programmers write programs that instruct a computer to perform specific tasks on information entered by users, for example, for keeping accounts or producing sales reports. They might write new programs or adapt existing ones.

When they write a new program, programmers might follow a specification provided by a business systems analyst. They translate this into the appropriate computer language.

It is increasingly common for an analyst programmer/software developer to be responsible for the whole process of analysing needs, designing an appropriate system, writing and developing programs.

Programmers might spend a lot of time testing and improving the product. They need to follow very logical steps to construct the program, keeping careful records so that they, or other programmers, can adapt it later.

To enter this job, you are likely to need a degree in a relevant subject.

Systems Analyst

Systems analysts (also known as business analysts) use information technology (IT) to help organisations work more quickly and efficiently. They investigate a business problem and then design or adapt a suitable computer system or application to improve the way the business works.

They work closely with people as well as with computers. They talk to people throughout a department or organisation to identify problems and find out what people need the new or improved system to achieve. Then they design a detailed specification for developers/programmers to work from.

To enter this career, you are likely to need a degree. Many entrants have programming skills.

IT Trainer

Trainers research, plan, write and present training courses in IT skills and the use and operation of computer systems. They might train staff in their own company or those of client companies; they might train members of the public in a further education college or a training centre, or online.

Subjects covered include basic IT skills, word processing, desktop publishing (DTP) and spreadsheets, as well as complex programming languages and software development.

Many entrants have a degree or HND, and skills in other computing areas, such as systems analysis or software development.

Software Tester

Software testers plan and carry out tests on computer software to see if it does what it is supposed to do. They identify the risk of errors and devise tests that can be repeated and measured.

They carry out testing to make sure that the software matches its original specification. They also test things like security. They find and record errors and report them to programmers and project managers. They assess the overall performance of the software and suggest ways to improve testing.

To enter this career, you are likely to need a relevant degree or HND.

Users

This section covers careers where people are concerned with the management, security and use of computer systems and data in their work.

Database Administrator

Database administrators are in charge of an organisation's computer databases. They make sure that they are complete and secure; they also make sure people use them effectively.

They work with users of the database system to keep the database regularly updated and maintained. Solving problems is a major feature of this job. Database administrators might also be closely involved in making decisions about database design and planning.

Database administrators usually have skills in software development or programming. Most employers ask for a degree or HND in a subject related to information technology.

Data Entry Clerk

Data entry clerks transfer large amounts of written information into a computer, so that others can find and use it for different purposes.

Most data entry clerks use a keyboard to input words, numbers or a mixture of both. The work doesn't always just involve copying the information, but inputting it in a certain way, according to different codes or data entry fields.

A simple example is an address list, where the clerk might enter the first name into one field, the surname into another, and the postcode into another. They might enter the information in code form.

Entry to this job depends on the type of work involved. It might be possible to enter the job directly, but some employers prefer those who have taken a relevant college course or training scheme in, for example, text processing.

Network Manager

A network is a group of computers linked together, usually through powerful central computers called servers. Computer network managers are responsible for the network. They often manage a team of support staff.

They make sure that the network is running efficiently and try to sort out any problems. They look after the security of the network and plan for the future.

Network managers might select and buy new hardware and software. They work with other managers, computer users and suppliers.

Most computer network managers have a relevant degree plus skills in, for example, IT support or network administration. Many then study part-time for professional qualifications.

Information Technology Manager

Information technology (IT) managers have overall responsibility for making sure that computer departments and systems run securely and efficiently.

They give advice on IT policy and strategy. They plan workloads and schedules, and make sure that people can complete their work within deadlines and budgets. They are also responsible for introducing new computer systems.

IT managers might have staff training and recruitment responsibilities.

Most people who do this job are graduates with skills gained in other IT careers.

Support

It's very important that organisations have support in case something goes wrong with their computer system.

Some organisations have help desk staff who answer queries over the telephone, by email or online. They often use their own computer to follow the steps taken by the caller and trace the cause of the problem.

Organisations might also have, or call in, computer support services engineers to investigate problems with hardware.

Computer Operator

Computer operators control and monitor the processing of work through a mainframe computer. This is a large computer that is responsible for the central processing of an organisation's data.

Unless the computer runs constantly, operators start it up and load data and programs to begin the process operation. Operators control and check operations from a console. They use a keyboard to type instructions to the computer and its related equipment, for example, printers.

Operators have to check the system to make sure it is running smoothly. If there is a fault, the operator has to find the problem and might carry out simple repairs or call out an engineer.

The work includes routine maintenance tasks, such as checking temperature and humidity (mainframe computers need a carefully controlled environment).

Many computer operators work shifts that could include nights, weekends and bank holidays.

Some employers might prefer applicants to have some GCSEs at grade C or above, including English and Maths. Other employers might ask for A levels or equivalent work-related qualifications.

Computer Support Services Engineer

Computer support services engineers help customers or colleagues with their computer needs.

They install, demonstrate, maintain and update computer equipment, as well as make sure that products they have installed work properly. They also need to make sure customers or colleagues know how to use the equipment after they have installed it.

If a computer breaks down, a computer support services engineer may be able to diagnose and repair any faults there and then. Or, they may have to refer more complex faults back to the manufacturer.

There is no formal academic requirement for entry into this career, although entrants often have a relevant degree or HND.

IT Support Manager

IT support managers are typically responsible for a team of staff that could include help desk operators and analysts, computer service technicians and network technicians and administrators.

Some support managers also provide day-to-day support themselves, particularly for more complicated support issues or in smaller departments.

Other responsibilities can include negotiating service level agreements with external suppliers of IT-related services, and recovering data if the system crashes (breaks down).

Most IT support managers have a relevant degree.

Many IT support managers study part-time for professional qualifications. They might also study for qualifications relevant to the specific networks and systems used in their organisation.

Further Information

BCS: The Chartered Institute for IT

Address: First Floor, Block D, North Star House, North Star Avenue, Swindon SN2 1FA

Tel: 0845 3004417

Email: custsupport@bcs.uk

Website: www.bcs.org

The Tech Partnership

Skills for business and information technology

Address: 1 Castle Lane, London SW1E 6DR

Tel: 020 7963 8920

Email: info@e-skills.com

Website: www.e-skills.com

Inside Careers

Specialists in graduate careers

Address: Unit 6, The Quad, 49 Atalanta Street, Fulham, London SW6 6TU

Tel: 020 7565 7900

Website: www.insidecareers.co.uk

Big Ambition

Email: bigambition@e-skills.com

Website: www.bigambition.co.uk

Bring IT On

Irish enquiries

Website: www.bringitonni.info

Software Testing: An ISTQB-ISEB Foundation Guide - Second Edition

Editor: Brian Hambling Publisher: Chartered Institute for IT (BCS)

Guardian Technology

Address: Kings Place, 90 York Way, London N1 9GU

Tel: 020 3353 2000

Email: tech@guardian.co.uk

Website: www.guardian.co.uk/technology

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