Career Path Information

Information is key when choosing a career path in life.  Knowing the requirements of a job is important to understanding the responsibilities required to fulfill it. The following information from the United States Department of Labor Statistics can aid you in obtaining a job as a Computer and Information Systems Manager.

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Nature of the Work

In the modern workplace, it is imperative that Information Technology (IT) works both effectively and reliably. Computer and information systems managers play a vital role in the implementation and administration of technology within their organizations. They plan, coordinate, and direct research on the computer-related activities of firms. In consultation with other managers, they help determine the goals of an organization and then implement technology to meet those goals. They oversee all technical aspect of an organization, such as software development, network security, and Internet operations.

Computer and information systems managers direct the work of other IT professionals, such as computer software engineers and computer programmers, computer systems analysts, and computer support specialists (information on these occupations can be found elsewhere in the Handbook). They plan and coordinate activities such as installing and upgrading hardware and software, programming and systems design, the implementation of computer networks, and the development of Internet and intranet sites. They are increasingly involved with the upkeep, maintenance, and security of networks. They analyze the computer and information needs of their organizations from an operational and strategic perspective and determine immediate and long-range personnel and equipment requirements. They assign and review the work of their subordinates and stay abreast of the latest technology to ensure that the organization remains competitive.

Computer and information systems managers can have additional duties, depending on their role within an organization. Chief technology officers (CTOs),for example, evaluate the newest and most innovative technologies and determine how these can help their organizations. They develop technical standards, deploy technology, and supervise workers who deal with the daily information technology issues of the firm. When a useful new tool has been identified, the CTO determines one or more possible implementation strategies, including cost-benefit and return on investment analyses, and presents those strategies to top management, such as the chief information officer (CIO). (Chief information officers are covered in a separate Handbook section on top executives.)

Management information systems (MIS) directors or information technology (IT) directors manage computing resources for their organizations. They often work under the chief information officer and plan and direct the work of subordinate information technology employees. These managers ensure the availability, continuity, and security of data and information technology services in their organizations. In this capacity, they oversee a variety of technical departments, develop and monitor performance standards, and implement new projects.

IT project managers develop requirements, budgets, and schedules for their firm's information technology projects. They coordinate such projects from development through implementation, working with their organization’s IT workers, as well as clients, vendors, and consultants. These managers are increasingly involved in projects that upgrade the information security of an organization.

Work environment. Computer and information systems managers generally work in clean, comfortable offices. Long hours are common, and some may have to work evenings and weekends to meet deadlines or solve unexpected problems; in 2008, about 25 percent worked more than 50 hours per week. Some computer and information systems managers may experience considerable pressure in meeting technical goals with short deadlines or tight budgets. As networks continue to expand and more work is done remotely, computer and information systems managers have to communicate with and oversee offsite employees using laptops, e-mail, and the Internet.

Injuries in this occupation are uncommon, but like other workers who spend considerable time using computers, computer and information systems managers are susceptible to eyestrain, back discomfort, and hand and wrist problems such as carpal tunnel syndrome.

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Training, Other Qualifications, and Advancement

Computer and information systems managers generally have technical expertise from working in a computer occupation, as well as an understanding of business and management principles. A strong educational background and experience in a variety of technical fields is needed. 

 A bachelor's degree in a computer-related field usually is required for management positions, although employers often prefer a graduate degree, especially an MBA with technology as a core component. Common majors for undergraduate degrees are computer science, information science, or management information systems (MIS). 

A bachelor’s degree in a computer-related field generally takes 4 years to complete, and includes courses in computer science, computer programming, computer engineering, mathematics, and statistics. Most also include general education courses such as English and communications. MIS programs usually are part of the business school or college, and contain courses such as finance, marketing, accounting, and management, as well as systems design, networking, database management, and systems security. 

MBA programs usually require 2 years of study beyond the undergraduate degree, and, like undergraduate business programs, include courses on finance, marketing, accounting, and management, as well as database management, electronic business, and systems management and design. 

A few computer and information systems managers attain their positions with only an associate or trade school degree, but they must have sufficient experience and must have acquired additional skills on the job. To aid their professional advancement, many managers with an associate degree eventually earn a bachelor's or master's degree while working. 

Computer and information systems managers need a broad range of skills. Employers look for individuals who can demonstrate an understanding of the specific software or technology used on the job. Generally, this knowledge is gained through years of experience working with that particular product. Another way to demonstrate this trait is with professional certification. Although not required for most computer and information system management positions, certification demonstrates an area of expertise, and can increase an applicant’s chances of employment. These high-level certifications are often product-specific, and are generally administered by software or hardware companies rather than independent organizations. 

Computer and information systems managers also need a thorough understanding of business practices. Because information technology is a central component of many organizations, these workers often must make important business decisions. Consequently, many firms seek managers with a background in business management, consulting, or sales. These workers also must possess good leadership and communication skills, as one of their main duties is to assign work and monitor employee performance. They also must be able to explain technical subjects to people without technical expertise, such as clients or managers of other departments. 

Computer and information systems managers may advance to progressively higher leadership positions in an information technology department. A project manager, for instance, might be promoted to the chief technology officer position and then to chief information officer. On occasion, some may become managers in non-technical areas such as marketing, human resources, or sales because in high technology firms an understanding of technical issues is helpful in those areas.

Source: The Bureau of Labor Statistics:

Copyright Information: "The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) is a Federal government agency and everything that we publish, both in hard copy and electronically, is in the public domain, except for previously copyrighted photographs and illustrations. You are free to use our public domain material without specific permission, although we do ask that you cite the Bureau of Labor Statistics as the source."

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