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Computer Systems Design and Related Services

Industry Overview
Virtually all organizations rely on computer and information technology to conduct business and operate efficiently. Many institutions, however, do not have the internal resources to effectively design, implement, or manage the products and systems that they need. When faced with such limitations, organizations often turn to the computer systems design and related services industry.

Establishments in this industry design computer and information systems, develop custom software programs, and provide computer facilities management services. They also may perform various other functions, such as software installation and disaster recovery services. They generally work on a contract basis, assisting an organization with a particular project or problem, such as setting up a secure web site or establishing a marketplace online, or for ongoing activities, such as the management of an onsite data center or help-desk.

Industry Organization
There are 180,100 e
stablishments in the computer systems design and related services industry. 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 to 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 reengineer existing systems, or design customized Web sites.

Systems design services firms plan and design computer systems that integrate computer hardware, software, and communications technologies. They help clients select the right hardware and software products for a particular project, and then develop, install, and implement the system. In addition, they often train and support the systemís users. Some firms in this industry also consult on security issues. The systemís hardware and software components may be provided by the design firm as part of integrated services, or may be provided by a third party or vendor.

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

Establishments that provide disaster recovery services help organizations prepare for a major malfunction of their computer systems. They back up data and create strategies for business operation during and after a shut-down. They also help organizations recover lost data after a disaster has occurred.

Recent Developments
The widespread use of the Internet and intranets has resulted in an increased focus on information security. Security threats range from damaging computer viruses to online credit card fraud and identity theft. The expansive use of e-commerce highlights this concern, as firms use the Internet to exchange sensitive information with clients. In order to mitigate this threat, many organizations are employing the services of security consulting firms, which specialize in all aspects of information technology (IT) security. These firms assess computer systems for areas of vulnerability, manage firewalls, and provide protection against intrusion and software "viruses."

Working Environment 
Workers in the computer systems design and related services industry averaged 38.8 hours per week, compared with 33.6 for all industries combined. About 19 percent work 50 or more hours a week. Only about 6 percent of the workers in the computer systems design and related services industry work part time.

Most workers in the computer systems design and related services industry work in clean, quiet offices. Those in facilities management and maintenance may work in computer operations centers. Given the technology available today, however, more work can be done from remote locations using e-mail and the Internet.

For example, systems analysts may work from home with their computers linked directly to computers at the location of their employer or client. Computer support specialists, likewise, can tap into a customer's computer remotely in order to identify and fix problems. Even programmers and consultants, who often relocate to a customer's place of business while working on a project, may perform work from offsite locations.

There are about 1.5 million wage and salary jobs in the computer systems design and related services industry. While the industry has both large and small firms, the average establishment is relatively small; about 78 percent of establishments employed fewer than 5 workers in 2008. The majority of jobs, however, are found in establishments that employ 50 or more workers.

Compared with the rest of the economy, there are significantly fewer workers 45 years of age and older in the computer systems design and related services industry. This industry's workforce remains younger than most, with a large proportion of workers in the 25-to-44 age range. This reflects the industry's explosive growth in employment in the 1980s and 1990s that provided opportunities to thousands of young workers who possessed the latest technological skills.

STEM Degree Paths into this Industry
There are many career paths into every industry...within the Career Cornerstone Center we focus on describing the STEM and Medicine (STEM) career paths that may be prevalent in a given industry.

Providing a wide array of information services to clients requires a diverse and well-educated workforce. The majority of workers in the computer systems design and related services industry are professional and related workers -- overwhelmingly computer specialists such as computer systems analysts, computer software engineers, and computer programmers.

Computer specialists make up the vast majority of professional and related occupations, and account for about 55 percent of the industry as a whole. Their duties vary by occupation, and include such tasks as developing computer software, designing information systems, and maintaining network security.

Computer programmers write, test, and maintain the detailed instructions, called programs or software, that computers must follow to perform their functions. They often work under the supervision of computer software engineers, whose main job is to design software, or network and computer systems analysts, who specialize in information systems. Following the specifications that are developed by software engineers or systems analysts, programmers break down each operation into a logical sequence of steps, and convert the instructions for those steps into a language that the computer understands. Most programmers today use sophisticated, object-oriented programming languages, such as C++, Java, or Python. As some of the programming process has become automated, many programmers have begun to assume more responsibilities, such as customizing programs to meet clients' specific needs.

Computer software engineers design, develop, test, and evaluate computer applications and system software. Although programmers write and support programs in new languages, much of the design and development is the responsibility of software engineers or software developers. Software engineers in the systems design and related services industry must possess strong programming skills, but are more concerned with developing algorithms, and analyzing and solving programming problems for specific network systems. They also develop custom programs to meet the needs of a particular customer. They develop software systems for control and automation in manufacturing, business, and other areas.

Computer systems analysts integrate hardware and software to make computer systems more efficient. By implementing new software applications, or even designing entirely new systems, they help organizations maximize their investments in machines, personnel, and business processes. To perform their jobs, they use data modeling, structured analysis, information engineering, and other methods. They prepare charts for programmers to follow for proper coding and perform cost-benefit analyses to help management evaluate systems. They also ensure that systems perform to their specifications by testing them thoroughly.

Network systems and data communications analysts design and evaluate network systems, such as local area networks (LANs), wide area networks (WANs), and Internet systems. They perform network modeling, analysis, and planning, and may deal with the interfacing of computer and communications equipment. With the explosive growth of the Internet, this worker group has come to include a variety of occupations related to design, development, and maintenance of Web sites and their servers. Web developers are responsible for day-to-day site design and creation. Webmasters are responsible for the technical aspects of the Web site, including performance issues, and for approving site content.

Computer support specialists provide technical assistance, support, and advice to customers and users. This group of occupations includes workers with a variety of titles, such as technical support specialists and help-desk technicians. These troubleshooters interpret problems and provide technical support for hardware, software, and systems. They answer telephone calls, analyze problems using automated diagnostic programs, and resolve recurrent difficulties encountered by users.

Computer and information systems managers direct the work of systems analysts, computer programmers, and other computer-related workers. They analyze the computer and information needs of their organization and determine personnel and equipment requirements. These managers plan and coordinate activities such as the installation and upgrading of hardware and software; programming and systems design; the development of computer networks; and the construction of Internet and intranet sites.

Due in part to the expansive use of e-commerce, a substantial number of workers in this industry are employed in sales and related occupations. In order to compete successfully in the online world, firms employ marketing and sales workers to improve the presentation and features of Web sites and other Web-related content. These workers are vital for the successful promotion and sales of the products and services offered by the industry.

Employment of wage and salary workers in computer systems design and related services by occupation, 2008 and projected change, 2008-2018.
(Employment in thousands)
Occupation Employment, 2008 Percent Change,


Number Percent


All Occupations 1,450.3 100.0 45.3




Management, business, and financial occupations 248.4 17.1 43.7


Marketing and sales managers 16.6 1.1 47.4


Computer and information systems managers 47.9 3.3 44.9


Accountants and auditors 18.5 1.3 65.5




Professional and related occupations 898.2 61.9 48.1


Computer software engineers, applications 175.2 12.1 57.3


Computer software engineers, systems software 113.7 7.8 57.4


Computer support specialists 99.8 6.9 57.4


Computer systems analysts 126.3 8.7 40.2


Database administrators 18.8 1.3 57.3


Network and computer systems administrators 50.5 3.5 71.7


Network systems and data communications analysts 41.3 2.9 95.6


Engineers 36.5 2.5 43.3




Sales and related occupations 94.1 6.5 39.5


Sales representatives, services 32.2 2.2 40.3


Sales representatives, wholesale and manufacturing 37.2 2.6 39.5


NOTE: Columns do not add to totals due to omission of occupations without direct relation to STEM degree.
SOURCE: BLS National Employment Matrix, 2008-18.


Industry Forecast
The computer systems design and related services industry grew dramatically throughout the 1990s, as employment more than doubled. While growth has been decidedly slower since the turn of the century, this industry is still projected to be one of the 10 fastest growing in the Nation. Job opportunities should be excellent for most workers, with the best opportunities occurring for computer specialists.

Wage-and-salary employment is expected to grow 45 percent from 2008 to 2018, about 4 times as fast as the 11 percent growth projected for all industries combined. In addition, this industry will add about 656,400 jobs over the decade, placing it among the 5 industries with the largest job growth. An increasing reliance on information technology will spur demand for computer systems design and related services. Organizations will continue to turn to firms in this industry to maximize their return on investments in equipment, and to help them satisfy their growing computing needs.

Growth should also result from the increasing need to maintain network and computer system security. Security specialists will be employed more often to asses a system's vulnerability and implement security measures. In addition, analysts and developers will be needed to develop new antivirus software, programs, and procedures. Therefore, employment of systems analysts, software engineers, and consultants in areas such as disaster recovery services, custom security programming, and computer systems security should rise rapidly.

The demand for networking and the need to integrate new hardware, software, and communications technologies will drive demand for consulting and integration. The expansion of the Internet and the proliferation of wireless technologies have created demand for a wide variety of new products and services. For example, the expansion of the wireless Internet has brought a new aspect of mobility to information technology by allowing people to stay connected to the Internet anywhere, anytime. As businesses and individuals become more dependent on this new technology, there will be an increased need for professionals that can design and integrate computer systems, so that they will be compatible with mobile technologies. The healthcare industry, in addition, is expected to increase its use of information technology. The adoption of e-prescribing, electronic health records, and other IT platforms tools will spur demand for computer systems design services. The demand for custom programming services should also increase as the popularity of open-source software and service-oriented architecture grow.

Given the overall rate of growth expected for the entire industry, most occupations should continue to grow rapidly, although some will grow faster than others. The most rapid growth will occur among network systems and data communications analysts. The growing use of sophisticated computer networks and Internet and intranet sites, and the need for faster, more efficient networking products will increase the demand for their services. Other rapidly growing occupations include computer software engineers, database administrators, and network and computer system administrators. Business and financial operations occupations will also see rapid growth, information technology has become a vital aspect of business

Given the rate at which the computer systems design and related services industry is expected to grow, job opportunities should be excellent for most workers. The best opportunities will be in computer specialist occupations, reflecting their growth and the continuing demand for the high-level skills that are needed to keep up with changes in technology. In addition, as individuals and organizations continue to conduct business electronically, the importance of maintaining system and network security will increase. Employment opportunities should be especially good for individuals involved in cyberspace security services, such as disaster recovery services, custom security programming, and security software installation services.

Related Degree Fields

Professional Associations/Resources

Note: Some resources in this section are provided by the US Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics.



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