Internet Career Field Structure
As an industry, the Internet is one of the most dynamic and evolving sectors of the U.S., and the world, economy. Growth in the use of the Internet has been phenomenal. While it is difficult to come up with exact figures, Internet World Stats estimates that in the United States alone the number of Internet users went from approximately 18 million in 1995 to some 205 million in 2006. As the general public’s access to the Internet has grown, the ways in which the Internet can be used have also increased. E-commerce (business-to-business sales and business-to-consumer sales), advertising, distance education programs, banking, e-filing tax forms, Web conferencing, bill payment, these are just a few of the Internet applications now available to us.
Job possibilities in cyberspace are practically endless. Naturally, crossover exists between the computer field and the Internet field, since the Internet developed from computer applications. Some traditional computer professionals (for example, computer engineers, software designers, computer programmers, and database specialists) continue to focus their work on supporting and enhancing the functioning of the Internet. Internet professionals as a group, however, include more than these computer workers. For example, there is the consultant who builds Web sites for clients, the advertiser who creates ads to show on Web sites, and the writer whose columns appear in online magazines. So when we refer to workers in the Internet industry, exactly whom do we mean? One way to think of this field is by dividing Internet workers into two general categories: those who make (or build) the Internet, and those who make use of the Internet.
Professionals who make the Internet include, but are not limited to, the following:
Internet developers, also known as Web site developers, Internet content developers, and Web designers, create Web sites that are usually intended for public use. They may also, however, build sites for a private network that uses Internet technology. These professionals must be able to consider and translate their employers’ wants and needs into a usable site by using programming languages, graphics files, and other Web production tools.
Internet consultants are often involved with the Web hosting activities of the industry. That is, they provide such services as designing, developing, and/ or maintaining Web sites for businesses, organizations, and institutions. Consultants may work independently, hiring out their services on a contract basis, or they may work for companies that offer consulting services.
Internet quality assurance specialists are responsible for testing and maintaining the quality of a business’s, school’s, or other organization’s Web site. Some of their activities include finding and fixing bugs in the programming running the site; ensuring that applications, such as links, are working correctly; and determining if the site is doing what the owners want it to. Closely related to quality assurance are the issues of transaction and security. Internet transaction specialists work on the programming that allows users to transfer their money to a business or organization to make a purchase, donation, etc., via a Web site. Internet security specialists are responsible for maintaining the integrity of a Web site so that, for example, a company’s payroll information, a school’s grading records, or a charity’s donor list aren’t accessed by unauthorized users (known as hackers).
Other professionals involved in the making of the Internet include Internet store managers, who set up and run businesses on the Web; Internet executives, who are top-level management personnel responsible for conducting business over the Web; and webmasters, who maintain and update Web sites. Internet Service Providers (ISPs), registrars that assign domain names, and Internet content providers are a few of the other businesses directly involved in building the Internet.
The second category of professionals, those whose work focuses on making use of the Internet, includes, but is not limited to, the following:
Online journalists are professional writers or journalists whose writing appears in online magazines, on news sites, on entertainment sites, in online newspapers, and other cyber publications. These writers may be employed on a freelance basis or they may work for one particular publication. Online researchers or information brokers are professionals who provide clients with survey results, government statistics, business reports, and other such information on topics they have researched online. These workers may have their own businesses or they may work for an employer, such as a law office or government agency.
Other professionals now making use of the Internet for their work include graphic designers, advertising workers, game developers, distance education teachers and professors, stockbrokers, tax service providers, real estate agents, and college and university public affairs workers to name a few.
As the Internet continues to grow in popularity, in speed and strength, and in uses, the differences between these two general categories of workers will undoubtedly become less distinct. While no one can say with certainty where the Internet will take us, it is clear that more and more professionals will become involved in both the making of and the making use of the Internet.