Careers in computer-related fields are broader and more diverse than you might think.
Computer and IT skills are becoming increasingly essential to industries of every variety. While this has been common knowledge for decades now, the kind of skills expected of workers has shifted. A few decades ago, computer classes at a community college might have focused on typing, or using an operating system. Nowadays, it’s assumed that every high school graduate knows how to navigate a digital interface, and is generally comfortable in that environment.
However, greater assurance using technology has only raised the bar for technical qualifications. The consequence of technology becoming more user friendly—and subsequently more universal—is that the range of careers in technical and digital fields has expanded. IT and digital jobs are more diverse than many students realize, and highlighting this diversity can make them more appealing.
It’s especially important that community colleges focus on the range of their programs, because a student who has vaguely heard that computer-related jobs offer good career prospects might choose a program that doesn’t fit their needs or interests. Similarly, students who only think of these programs in a very narrow or limited way may be overlooking a promising career because it doesn’t fit what they had in mind.
The best thing community colleges can do to attract more students and help them find the right path is to showcase the diversity of these fields. By way of example, here are twenty programs commonly offered by community colleges that will help prepare students for careers in a digital world.
The jobs classically described as “IT” cover a wide range, from the technician showing up at an office to set up a computer network, to a programmer writing code in a specific programming language. Many of these programs are transferrable to a four-year college, while others offer faster certificates.
1. Information Systems. This degree prepares students to create and manage information systems, and is foundational to many advanced certificate programs.
2. Computer System and Networking. This certification prepares students to become computer technicians who help to set up hardware and install operating systems.
3. Computer Software Applications. This program trains students in common office software systems in preparation for administrative roles.
4. Computer Programing Languages. Certification in specific programming languages prepares students to become programmers or network administrators.
5. Computer Networking Operating Systems. Programs in networking operating systems prepare students to set up local and wide area networking while learning about the latest technologies for desktops, servers, and networks.
IT for Manufacturing
Old stereotypes about manufacturing jobs have given them a reputation for being low paid and uncertain—assumptions that no longer hold true in today’s digital world. Instead, manufacturing jobs have grown sophisticated, including careers in robotics, engineering, and cybersecurity. Many of these programs include advanced certification for students who already have a form of qualification, but want to add to their credentials.
6. Mechatronics. For robotics enthusiasts, this program prepares learners to assemble, program, and maintain automated robots.
7. Machine Tool Programming. Many automated processes are based on programmed machine processes. This certification trains students to code CNC machining tools for manufacturing applications.
8. Automotive Cybersecurity. As vehicles become increasingly computerized, automotive manufacturers are looking for specialists trained to understand the specific cybersecurity concerns for vehicle safety.
9. Engineering Technologist–Manufacturing. Like machine tool programming, this program prepares students for the manufacturing world by training the in a range of machine tooling programs, with a more specific focus on engineering.
10. Engineering and Design Technology. This certification prepare students for the many engineering jobs today which rely on advanced computer programs to design and develop products.
11. Industrial Electronics Technology. This certificate is where the IT specialist and the electrician meet, which a special emphasis on programmable controls and electronic sensors.
Careers in web-based skills are a growing field, with specialized needs that provide students with career flexibility. From designing the websites themselves to improving functionality and user experience, these degrees offer a wide range of career paths. They can also be stacked together, allowing students to customize their educational path.
12. Interface Design. Part graphic designer part web designer, interface design specifically focuses on how users interact with a software or a new piece of technology.
13. Cybersecurity. With cyberattacks only growing more brazen and more costly, workers who understand how to defend against them are in high demand.
14. Web Design and Development. Web design specializes in the appearance and functionality of a website, while web development involves the coding behind the design.
15. User Experience Designer. UX designers specialize in testing the design of a website and looking for areas where it may be frustrating or excluding users.
16. Web Database Programming. Web database programming focuses on the server-side architecture, and is usually built on top of previous certification in web development.
Digital careers in the arts are also a growing industry, but they require a background in specialized software programs. Like web skills, these programs often go hand-in-hand, with many students choosing to learn several digital skills in order to broaden their specializations.
17. 3D Animation. 3D animation courses teach students both the artistic skills that give animated objects certain desired effects, and experience with the programming tools necessary to achieve them.
18. Animation for Game Art. With the rise of mobile games and apps, animators with specific specialization in game art are in high demand. This certification is often grouped with other animation programs.
19. Digital Video Production. Video is becoming a key feature of many professions, ranging from advertising to instruction to design. Digital video production teaches students how to use editing software to create videos for digital use.
20. Graphic Design. Courses in this field prepare students to design for print, and can be combined with web design courses for broader applications in digital fields.
Jobs in fields requiring expertise working with computers and digital systems are more resilient in times of economic uncertainty.
The more modern workforces incorporate technology into their business practices, the more valuable experience with various technologies will be for workers. This makes it all the more important for community colleges to highlight the benefits of credentials in these fields. Skilled workers continue to be in high demand, and jobs in these fields offer significant long-term stability. The more students know about the range of career paths these qualifications make available to them, the better prepared they will be to make the right choice for their future.