IT job roles and responsibilities explained
The IT industry is well known for its wide range of job titles and aggrandisement of roles, which can make it hard to pin down exactly what people do. We've decoded some of the more popular positions below in our quick guide to IT roles:
Also known as: application programmer, software architect, system programmer/engineer.
This job in brief: The work of a software engineer typically includes designing and programming system-level software: operating systems, database systems, embedded systems and so on. They understand how both software and hardware function. The work can involve talking to clients and colleagues to assess and define what solution or system is needed, which means there's a lot of interaction as well as full-on technical work. Software engineers are often found in electronics and telecommunications companies. A computing, software engineering or related higher degree is often needed.
Key skills required: Analysis, logical thinking, teamwork and attention to detail.
Also known as: Product specialist, systems engineer, solutions specialist, technical designer.
This job in brief: Systems analysts investigate and analyse business problems and then design information systems that provide a feasible solution, typically in response to requests from their business or a customer. They gather requirements and identify the costs and the time needed to implement the project. The job needs a mix of business and technical knowledge, and a good understanding of people. It's a role for analyst programmers to move into and typically requires a few years' experience from graduation.
Key skills include: Ability to extract and analyse information, good communication, persuasion and sensitivity.
Also known as: Business architect, enterprise-wide information specialist.
This job in brief: Business analysts are true midfielders, equally happy talking with technology people, business managers and end users. They identify opportunities for improvement to processes and business operations using information technology. The role is project based and begins with analysing a customer's needs, gathering and documenting requirements and creating a project plan to design the resulting technology solution. Business analysts need technology understanding, but don't necessarily need a technical degree.
Key skills required: Communication, presentation, facilitation, project management and problem solving.
Also known as: Helpdesk support, operations analyst, problem manager.
This job in brief: These are the professional troubleshooters of the IT world. Many technical support specialists work for hardware manufacturers and suppliers solving the problems of business customers or consumers, but many work for end-user companies supporting, monitoring and maintaining workplace technology and responding to users' requests for help. Some lines of support require professionals with specific experience and knowledge, but tech support can also be a good way into the industry for graduates.
Key skills required: Wide ranging tech knowledge, problem solving, communication/listening, patience and diplomacy.
Also known as: Hardware engineer, network designer.
This job in brief: Network engineering is one of the more technically demanding IT jobs. Broadly speaking the role involves setting up, administering, maintaining and upgrading communication systems, local area networks and wide area networks for an organisation. Network engineers are also responsible for security, data storage and disaster recovery strategies. It is a highly technical role and you'll gather a hoard of specialist technical certifications as you progress. A telecoms or computer science-related degree is needed.
Key skills include: Specialist network knowledge, communication, planning, analysis and problem solving.
Also known as: IT consultant, application specialist, enterprise-wide information specialist.
This job in brief: The term 'consultant' can be a tagline for many IT jobs, but typically technical consultants provide technical expertise to, and develop and implement IT systems for, external clients. They can be involved at any or all stages of the project lifecycle: pitching for a contract; refining a specification with the client team; designing the system; managing part or all of the project; after sales support... or even developing the code. A technical degree is preferred, but not always necessary.
Key skills include: Communication, presentation, technical and business understanding, project management and teamwork.
Also known as: Sales manager, account manager, sales executive.
This job in brief: Technical sales may be one of the least hands-on technical roles, but it still requires an understanding of how IT is used in business. You may sell hardware, or extol the business benefits of whole systems or services. Day to day, the job could involve phone calls, meetings, conferences and drafting proposals. There will be targets to meet and commission when you reach them. A technology degree isn't necessarily essential, but you will need to have a thorough technical understanding of the product you sell.
Key skills required: Product knowledge, persuasion, interpersonal skills, drive, mobility and business awareness.
Also known as: Product planner, project leader, master scheduler.
This job in brief: Project managers organise people, time and resources to make sure information technology projects meet stated requirements and are completed on time and on budget. They may manage a whole project from start to finish or manage part of a larger 'programme'. It isn't an entry-level role: project managers have to be pretty clued up. This requires experience and a good foundation of technology and soft skills, which are essential for working with tech development teams and higher-level business managers.
Key skills required: Organisation, problem solving, communication, clear thinking, and the ability to stay calm under pressure.
Also known as: Web designer, web producer, multimedia architect, internet engineer.
This job in brief: Web development is a broad term and covers everything to do with building websites and all the infrastructure that sits behind them. The job is still viewed as the trendy side of IT years after it first emerged. These days web development is pretty technical and involves some hardcore programming as well as the more creative side of designing the user interfaces of new websites. The role can be found in organisations large and small.
Key skills required: Basic understanding of web technologies (client side, server side and databases), analytical thinking, problem solving and creativity.
Also known as: Test analyst, software quality assurance tester.
This job in brief: Bugs can have a massive impact on the productivity and reputation of an IT firm. Testers try to anticipate all the ways an application or system might be used and how it could fail. They don't necessarily program but they do need a good understanding of code. Testers prepare test scripts and macros, and analyse results, which are fed back to the project leader so that fixes can be made. Testers can also be involved at the early stages of projects in order to anticipate pitfalls before work begins. You can potentially get to a high level as a tester.
Key skills required: Attention to detail, creativity, organisation, analytical and investigative thinking, and communication.