This is a career that many students and career-changers are curious about. Working in IT is well-compensated. It provides career satisfaction through the feeling of accomplishment when one helps things run smoothly in the service of a larger organizational purpose. And the challenges along the way are varied, even unique, and can be intriguing to tackle.
If you’re familiar with something called “IT,” it’s probably what you call the department at your workplace that you contact when there is an issue with your computer. However, information technology consists of much more than just troubleshooting. IT departments do investigate and fix computer hardware and software issues, and they do maintain networks and networked devices. But the field of information technology is complex. A professional who works in IT has three main areas that their responsibilities cover. In studying information technology, one must master the skills to support an organization in any of these areas.
A critical area that many laypeople are not aware of is IT governance: the policies and processes that organizations put in place to make sure their IT systems function at an optimal level when serving that organization’s technical needs. In this respect, IT workers must be mindful of the organization’s mission and how the technology they work with can support those goals.
The aspect of IT that you’re likely more familiar with is IT operations. This term refers to tech support and network maintenance. It also covers communication protocols, security testing, and device management.
Undergirding the first two areas of responsibility for IT professionals is the third one: hardware and software infrastructure. Working on hardware infrastructure means setting up and maintaining equipment such as routers, servers, and phone systems in addition to individual workers’ computers. Software infrastructure work involves installing and tending to vital programs that are needed to support the organization’s computing and technological needs. Which particular softwares is essential can vary widely depending on the organization, so an IT professional needs to master the underlying skills that can help them work with software that performs a wide range of tasks, from data storage to graphic design to coding support and beyond.
Best IT Classes & Schools in Philadelphia
#1: University of Pennsylvania—Cybersecurity Bootcamp
The Cybersecurity Bootcamp offered by the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) is an intensive introduction to the topic. Students will become proficient in IT, networking, and information security. The program covers common tools for protecting technology and data, including Nessus, WireShark, Kali Linux, Burp Suite, and Metasploit, among others. Mastering these skills can contribute to making one qualified for many well-respected professional certifications in the IT field. These include CompTIA Security+, Network+, Cloud+, Server+, and Linux+. It can also form part of the qualifications for the Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) program. The program also introduces the many careers available to those who complete the course, and it provides guidance on how to attain one of these positions.
Among the cybersecurity skills covered in this course are secure network design and architecture, cryptography, risk management, vulnerability assessment, cloud security, and identity and access management. Students also learn what they can do with these skills in various subfields of cybersecurity, such as digital forensics, penetration testing, vulnerability assessment, and security operations and analytics. System engineering skills introduced include administration techniques and hardening in both Windows and Linux. With regard to networks, students learn about packet analysis. The course also covers scripting, including Bash and Powershell.
This 24-week program is part-time, held on three weekday evenings for three hours each. There are no prerequisites, and you do not need to be enrolled in the university to take the course. Tuition costs $13,995. Discounts and payment plans are available for low-income students.
UPenn provides comprehensive career services to its bootcamp students. These include review of professional materials such as resumes, interview preparation, and career coaching.
Students say that they would “definitely advise anyone” to take this course because they “learned so much” in it. The “top notch” instructors helped them “feel ready to join the workforce,” even if they started off with “literally no knowledge of the subject.”
#2: Noble Desktop—Software Engineering Certificate
Python, another critical language for software engineers, is the topic of the course’s third portion. Students begin by exploring the lexical syntax of this language, which is fundamental to developing in Python. They then explore the language’s central features, including custom functions, dictionaries, and sorting algorithms. Delving into its data manipulation capacities, students use SQL to query databases and work with APIs to mine data from the public internet. The next step is discovering how to use the Django web framework to automate tasks and create models for querying.
To close the course, Noble provides students with career preparation help. The crucial product here is a portfolio of development projects students have produced in the course. However, the school also provides feedback on resumes and LinkedIn materials, preparation for interviews, and general guidance for the job search.
This 20-week course is full-time. There are no prerequisites necessary. The cost is $10,995. Students may take on a payment plan if desired.
Upon registration, each student in a Noble course is provided with a proprietary workbook. The school is known for its small class sizes, which allow for individualized attention from its expert instructors. Within one year of completing a course, students may retake it for free.
Graduates of the program say that it was “a very worthwhile investment” because they “learned tons” by taking the course. The “excellent” teachers “keep you engaged” in the classroom.
#3: Careerist—Manual QA
Thelive online Manual QA course from Careerist provides students with an introduction to quality assurance testing and the skills needed to perform it successfully. The course begins with software QA’s fundamental concepts. Next, students learn about and practice web and mobile testing. The course covers software testing environments, test cases, and bug reports. It also touches on the larger context of how devices communicate with servers. The final skill set included in the course is more advanced testing practices. It wraps up with a unit on job market preparation.
This part-time course is six-eight hours per week for 15 weeks. There are no prerequisites. For tuition, students can either pay $6100 upfront or secure a payment plan that will ultimately cost $6950.
A 100% money-back guarantee is one of Careerist’s attractions: if students don’t find a tech job within a year of completing the course, they get a refund. The school also provides career support, which includes resume feedback, mock interviewing, and personalized career coaching.
Students say this course provides “a fast track into the tech field,” even for those with “zero technical background.” The instruction is “valuable” and “accessible.” They even call this course “a life-changing experience.”
#4: Certstaffix—Administering Microsoft SQL Server Databases
In Certstaffix’s course on Administering Microsoft SQL Server Databases, students gain an introduction to the primary responsibilities of a Database Administrator and the skills needed to fulfill them. They learn how to install SQL Server instances, configure databases and settings on an SQL Server, and monitor an SQL Server’s performance. They also discover how to maintain a database, as well as how to control whether and to what extent users can access the data inside it. Once they have completed this course, students will be qualified to plan, deploy, administer, and maintain SQL Server databases.
This five-day course is full-time. It has no prerequisites. The cost is $2925.
Students call Certstaffix’s classes “amazing” and say that its instructors do “a wonderful job” of making the course “easy to follow.” They “definitely recommend” studying at Certstaffix.
Philadelphia Industries That Use IT
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the most important industries in the Philadelphia area include education, healthcare, hospitality, professional services, transportation and logistics, construction, manufacturing, and financial services.
Educational institutions on every level use networked technology to track operations information such as student data, grades, and course schedules. In recent years, as live online and asynchronous instruction have increased in importance, technology has also become a crucial means of delivering instruction. Because of their need for large-scale data storage, operations tracking, and educational technology, universities tend to have substantial IT departments to maintain the infrastructure of their software and hardware.
In the healthcare industry, doctors, hospitals, and pharmacies need to store large amounts of information about their patients. They also need to gain access to that information quickly and easily, and they must also be able to update it in a user-friendly system that operates efficiently. This makes information technology workers extremely important in the healthcare world. This information must be preserved in a form of data storage that does not corrupt it, given that its accuracy is vital for effective treatment. IT specialists who maintain these systems can gain a sense of fulfillment from their careers because they provide life-saving services. Cybersecurity measures must also be strong when it comes to healthcare data, as medical professionals and institutions have legal obligations to keep patient data private.
Information technology has become increasingly central to the hospitality industry because of the growth of online booking systems and online ordering. A hotel reservation system that breaks down may lose customer data, potentially resulting in guests having no room available to them when they were expecting one. Similarly, if a restaurant’s online booking system experiences errors, customers may be in for a disappointment when they show up for their meal. Online ordering systems can hit a business’s bottom line if customers get frustrated with an error-prone program or a non-intuitive user interface. Hospitality businesses need IT professionals, whether contracted or in-house, to keep these essential systems running smoothly.
The professional services industry is currently undergoing a digital transformation. Companies are increasingly using technology for customer interactions, workforce management, service delivery, and cloud data storage. All of these functions require competent IT professionals to maintain the software and hardware required to perform them.
For successful business operations in transportation and logistics, effective IT is vital. Businesses in this industry use technology for a range of critical functions, including automation to reduce labor costs, tracking product movement through the supply chain, and improving the overall efficiency of their work processes. Another important role that IT plays in this industry is improving the customer experience by making it easier to obtain information about orders and shipping.
Construction professionals use software for computer-assisted design, project management, and storage of critical data like inventory manifests. Software that can perform computer-assisted design, or CAD, is vital to the early stages of construction projects. Architects and engineers typically use this type of software in the construction industry. Project management softwares are versatile, so companies can use them for many vital functions. These include establishing and monitoring construction timelines, tracking materials in transit, logging payments from customers and to employees, and facilitating communication between workers on a project. If this software breaks down, the company’s operations come to a halt. Similarly, if important data like inventory or payment logging is lost, productivity will suffer. Information technology professionals must maintain this software and safeguard the data.
In the manufacturing industry, computers and networked devices help workers to design new products, as well as systems for building them efficiently. Software can also serve to notify them of errors in the process, helping to prevent a slowdown in productivity, inventory damage, or even a potential workplace injury. Manufacturers need IT professionals who can maintain this vital monitoring equipment.
IT security is crucial for the operations of a financial services company. If customers’ financial data is vulnerable to hacking or scams, their trust in the business may be lost forever. Thus, a bank or brokerage needs a high-quality security system to protect customer data against potential cyberattacks, which makes cybersecurity specialists indispensable to them.
IT Jobs & Salaries in Philadelphia
Philadelphia-based IT professionals can choose from among a wide range of career specialties. Entry-level roles available in the area include IT Technician, Support Specialist, and quality assurance (QA) tester. For those whose studies cover more specialized knowledge, further roles are available, such as IT Security Specialist, Systems Analyst, Network Engineer, or Cloud Systems Engineer. Some may be interested in roles that involve administrative responsibilities. If so, they might seek out work as a Database Administrator or Web Administrator.
The person you’re likely to speak to when your work computer breaks is an IT Technician. Their role is to analyze and diagnose computer issues, as well as maintain hardware and install software. The average salary for an IT Technician in Philadelphia is $65,000 a year. Support specialists typically operate behind the scenes compared to an IT Technician. Their work is to assess and solve larger software and hardware problems in a business’s infrastructure, whether they are employed by that business directly or by an IT contracting firm. In Philadelphia, Support Specialists make $50,000 a year on average. Another role that typically welcomes entry-level IT workers is quality assurance tester. These professionals are responsible for assessing software to make sure it is fit to be industry-standard before an organization adopts it. Philadelphia's QA Testers make an average of $80,000 a year.
If you choose an intensive bootcamp or full certificate in a particular topic, it may qualify you for a more specialized role. One such role is IT Security Specialist. Those professionals hold responsibility for protecting the customer data, intellectual property, and other digital assets of the business they work for. An IT Security Specialist in Philadelphia can expect to make $105,000 in an average year. Another specialty you might pursue is systems analysis: the field of identifying infrastructure problems and solving them to streamline a business’s technical operations. Philadelphia-based Systems Analysts make about $110,000 a year on average. You might also consider becoming a Network Engineer, the person responsible for the maintenance and improvement of a company’s computer network. These workers optimize such networks for service to the particular technical needs of a given business. The average annual salary of a Network Engineer in Philadelphia is $105,000. Students who are especially interested in cloud computing may choose to specialize in it by becoming a Cloud Systems Engineer. If so, they’ll become responsible for maximizing the efficiency of an organization’s use of the cloud to store and process data. A Philadelphia-based Cloud Systems Engineer will make about $115,000 annually.
You could also consider taking on the responsibility of an administrative role. One such career option is database administration. These experts solve complex IT issues that affect an organization’s data, including its storage and security. A Database Administrator working in Philadelphia makes about $90,000 a year. Another rewarding administrative role focuses on web administration. A Web Administrator deals with networked systems, maintaining the infrastructure that supports them. In Philadelphia, this career provides an average annual salary of $75,000.