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Understanding the different tech careers.

I've been recently researching the different types of IT/computer degrees, and I'm struggling to understand how they differ. There seems to be a lot of overlap in the various careers. I've been able to improve my comprehension/understanding by comparing the various technology careers to the healthcare careers. For instance, a web designer is a cosmetologist, a cybersecurity analyst is an immunologist, etc. Could someone help me to find healthcare comparisons for the following IT/computer degrees? Thanks in advance!
Software engineer, systems analyst, database administrator, network engineer, IT support executive, computer science, and computer programmer

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Fred’s Answer

A lot of these fields overlap to varying degrees. I wouldn't say there is a hard, clear line that separates them, or that the same job title does the same thing from company to company. Here is MY take, but other might disagree to varying amounts:

1) Software engineer - they look at the big picture of what you are trying to do with your software, break it down into smaller pieces, and write up documents on how to accomplish it. I think of it as they are the chef who has to prepare a meal. they will say "oh, we need a salad, a soup, an entrée, a few side dishes, and a dessert. OK, first, let's think, about the salad..." and so on. Depending on their staff, they may break it down more for some and less for other. If the staff is really good, she may just say "make a soup". If not she may have to say "we need <these> ingredients, combine them like <that>, serve it in <those> bowls..." etc.

2) systems analyst - well...they analyze systems. They may look at an organization to see what process are working well, and what aren't. They may suggest improvements to a current system, or recommend a new one be used entirely. In a way, they are looking at the whole process, trying to find improvements and efficiencies.

3) Database Admins - they manage the database software. They do backups of the current database (and restores when bad things happen). They control who has acccess to what within the database. They tune and set parameters. They may be the ones who actually create the tables that need to be populated. They watch for rogue queries that are running out of control, help tune queries so they are more efficient, and a million other things.

4) Network Engineer - They set up your computers so they can all talk to each other. And they make sure computers that shouldn't talk to each other don't. They make sure that a programmer cannot access the payroll servers, but that someone in HR can. They set up firewalls, switches, hubs, routers, etc. Some may run the physical cables.

Computer science is a broad term for all these areas (and more). Computer programming is a subject/area of computer science, as is computer security, networking, databases, operating systems, etc.
Thank you comment icon Great answer! That really helped me! Thanks Fred! :) Genevieve
Thank you comment icon +1 This is a great answer Jared Chung, Admin BACKER
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Joseph’s Answer

I love the idea of the healthcare analogies. My intuition would be to match up software roles with psychology and hardware with physical things more like surgery, but if a web designer is a cosmetologist and a cybersecurity analyst is an immunologist, both dealing more in the physical side of things, I'd go something like:

Software engineer - varies depending on the exact role and company. Sometimes more of a supervisor and planner, sometimes just hands-on coding. Perhaps Consultant Doctor, Head Nurse, or just a Nurse or Surgeon.

Systems analyst - I don't really know about this one. Finding what works and what doesn't - sounds like a Doctor, but more of a hospital specialist (think House, MD) than your front-line family doctor or GP who I see more as Tech Support. Perhaps even thinking outside of the "troubleshooting" side of things, and just making sure everything runs well together - so perhaps more the sort of sports doctor that elite athletes take round with them making sure their nutrition, exercise routine and training are all working together.

Database administrator - databases are about storing information so this must relate to the brain somehow, and database admin is managing the structures and rules of how the information is stored. Something along the lines of brain surgeon, psychiatrist, or neuropsychologist I guess.

Network engineer - something to do with the nervous system is the analogy here, so a neurologist

IT support executive - IT support is your front-line family doctors and emergency doctors, but an executive would be more the practice manager, handling the management decisions rather than getting stuck in to the hands-on front-line work.

Computer science - a bit more theoretical, less applied to production systems and more to research - a biologist or medical research scientist

Computer programmer - working directly on the code - a surgeon or nurse
Thank you comment icon Just what I was looking for! Thank you so much Joseph! That was really helpful! Genevieve
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Rebecca’s Answer

Thank you for your question. I am glad to hear that you are interested in technology.
You are right that there are may different types of technology work, e.g. Developer, System Administrator, Database Administrator, Application Support, System Support, Computer Engineers, etc. All of these jobs have their own domain knowledge and skills. The careers can also be categorized into different platforms/areas. E.g Developers - There are developers on different platforms including Web, Apps, ERP, Systems, etc.
Below are my suggestions :
1. Find out the entry criteria of computer science course in the college and prepare for it
2. The course will give you an overview and understanding on different aspects
3. Speak to the professors and alumni on different technology careers
4. Shortlist a few careers that you have interest on
5. Explore any intern opportunities working in these careers
Hope this helps! Good Luck!
Thank you comment icon Thanks Rebecca! Genevieve
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Danah’s Answer

I am in Product Management for a software company. This allows me to work closely with customers (both internally and externally) and understand their needs for software growth and development. It is my job to work with my Product Owner and Engineers and chart the roadmap and direction of the product. Since I work for a public safety software company, I get to climb into police cars and fire engines and truly figure out how to make my customers safer and help them use technology to make their jobs easier.
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Anabel’s Answer

Hello Genevieve,

The universities put different names to carriers related to IT, here is my advice, look for the official curriculum in IT that is defined by ACM, Association for Computing Machinery, look for it there and them math to program curriculum,

good luck!
Thank you comment icon Thank you! Genevieve