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Career Handbook - Computer Systems Design and Related Services Introduction
Computer Systems Design and Related Services

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Key Points of Interest:
  • The computer systems design and related services industry is expected to be one of the top 10 fastest growing industries in the economy, adding more than 600,000 jobs between 2002 and 2012.
  • Professional and related workers enjoy the best prospects, reflecting continuing demand for higher level skills needed to keep up with changes in technology.
  • Computer specialists account for 53 percent of all employees in this industry.

All organizations today rely on computer and information technology to conduct business and operate more efficiently. Often, however, these institutions do not have the internal resources to effectively implement new technologies or satisfy their changing needs. When this happens, they turn to the computer systems design and related services industry to meet their specialized needs on a contract or customer basis. Firms may enlist the services of one of nearly 146,000 establishments in the computer systems design and related services industry for help with a particular project or problem, such as setting up a secure Web site or establishing a marketplace online. Alternatively, they may choose to contract out one or more activities, such as the management of their onsite data center or help-desk support, to a computer services firm.

Services provided by this industry include custom computer programming services; computer systems design services; computer facilities management services, including computer systems or data processing facilities support services for clients; and other computer-related services such as disaster recovery services and software installation. Computer training contractors, however, are grouped with educational services, and establishments that manufacture and sell computer equipment are included with electronic equipment manufacturing. Establishments primarily engaged in providing computer data processing services at their own facility for others are classified in the data processing, hosting, and related services industry. Producers of packaged software and Internet-based software are part of the software publishers industry, which is discussed elsewhere in the Career Guide. Telecommunications services, including cable Internet providers, also are covered in a separate Career Guide statement.

Professional services offered within this industry include custom programming, computer systems design, and other specialized consulting. Custom programming establishments write, modify, test, and support software to meet the needs of a particular customer. These service firms may be hired to code large programs or install a software package on a user's system and customize it to the user's specific needs. Programming service firms also may update or re-engineer existing systems. Systems design services firms plan and design computer systems that integrate computer hardware, software, and communications technologies. The hardware and software components of the system may be provided by the design firm as part of integrated services or may be provided by third parties or vendors. These firms often install the system and train and support its users.

Computer facilities management services usually are offered at the customer's site. Establishments offering these services provide onsite management and operation of clients' computer systems and data processing facilities, as well as facilities support services.

Electronic business ("e-business") is any process that a business organization conducts over a computer-mediated network. Electronic commerce ("e-commerce") is that part of e-business that involves the buying and selling of goods and services online. With the growth of the Internet and the expansion of electronic commerce, some service firms specialize in developing and maintaining Web sites for client companies. Others create and maintain corporate intranets or self-contained internal networks linking multiple users within an organization by means of Internet technology. These firms design sophisticated computer networks, assist with upgrades or conversions, custom design special programming features for clients and engage in continual maintenance. They help clients select the right hardware and software products for a particular project, and then develop, install, and implement the system, as well as train the client's users. Service firms also offer consulting services for any stages of development throughout the entire process, from design and content development to administration and maintenance of site security.

The widespread use of the Internet and intranets also has resulted in an increased focus on security. The robust growth of electronic commerce highlights this concern, as firms seek to attract as many potential customers as possible to their websites. Security threats range from damaging computer viruses to online credit card fraud. Services contracted out to security consulting firms include analyzing vulnerability, managing firewalls, and providing intrusion and antivirus protection. Information technology (IT) security has two important aspects: Computer security, making software and networks safe; and homeland security, keeping track of people and information. The need for more secure Internet and Intranet sites to ensure protection for individuals' personal information, and for companies and banks to protect their funds and infrastructure, has created a new demand for cyberspace security professionals.

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Data Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2004-05 Edition