The IT industry can be organized by type of employer (e.g., IT firms, companies with IT departments, etc.) and within the IT tech company category, by type of product or service provided (e.g., software vs. hardware). The following sections provide an overview of these areas:
Type of Employers
There are 525,500 tech business establishments in the United States, according to CompTIA AITA, an industry association. These companies range from huge market leaders to small start-ups. In addition, there are thousands of small-to medium-sized companies that create specialized products, such as software to be used specifically to run corporate human resource departments. Some IT companies offer products and services in a variety of areas, muddling the distinctions between market segments. For example, Microsoft offers software, hardware, and consulting services. Major market segments and leading companies include:
- computer services (Google, IBM, Facebook)
- computer storage (Western Digital, NetApp)
- hardware (Apple, HP Inc., Dell)
- Internet and catalog retail (Amazon.com, eBay, Netflix)
- niche markets (cloud computing, data analytics, computer and Internet security, virtual reality, blockchain technology)
- semiconductors (Intel, Qualcomm, Texas Instruments)
- software & programming (Microsoft, Oracle, Adobe Systems)
- telecommunications Services/Internet Service Providers [Verizon Communications, AT&T, CenturyLink (Lumen Technologies)]
Software startup firms make up a large share of IT companies. The software industry is unique within the business world in that very little overhead (equipment, office space, or personnel) is needed to start a software business. When an individual or group of individuals comes up with a good idea for new software and can convince financial backers to invest in their idea, a start-up is born. Many start-ups have tried to make a name for themselves with innovative and creative software applications. Often, these companies are so small and have such limited resources that they operate out of garages or basements. Industry leaders, such as Microsoft, Apple, and Google, all came from such humble beginnings. However, many start-ups never make it and go bankrupt. It is a good idea for individuals interested in working in software to be flexible and keep their technical knowledge up to date. In this way, if a company folds, programmers and designers can more easily find other employment.
Some large IT firms have consulting arms that provide IT advice to other companies, government agencies, and nonprofits. Major corporate-sponsored IT entities include IBM Global Business Services, Oracle Consulting, Cisco Consulting Services, SAP Advisory Services, and Microsoft Consulting Services. Other IT consulting firms have been launched by management consulting firms such as Deloitte, McKinsey & Company, Capgemini, Booz Allen Hamilton, and The Boston Consulting Group. There are also IT-focused research and advisory firms such as Gartner, Inc. and International Data Corporation. Other IT firms provide consulting services in niche areas such as data security, cloud computing, and data analytics, or in particular industries such as health care, energy, or retail.
Large corporations in other industries are also major employers of IT professionals, who maintain their information systems (IS) or IT departments and provide a variety of other services. All major companies, such as banks, insurance companies, consumer products firms, insurance firms, and media companies, have IS or IT departments or hire contractors to handle IT-related tasks.
Agencies at the local, state, and national levels employ IT professionals to do the same type of tasks they do at IT firms and major companies—such as installing system upgrades, troubleshooting balky hardware, designing software, and ensuring systems and data are safe from hackers. Major federal government employers of IT professionals include the U.S. Departments of Defense, Health and Human Services, Treasury, and Justice; the National Aeronautics and Space Administration; and the Social Security Administration. A good way to get a handle on 490 federal agencies and sub-agencies is to check out the Partnership for Public Service’s Best Places to Work in the Federal Government rankings at http://bestplacestowork.org.
Some IT professionals work as salaried professionals or contract workers at nonprofit organizations (e.g., charities, private colleges and universities, etc.). Others transition from hands-on work in the field to become college IT professors.