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Remote IT Work: What Remote Jobs are Available?
The internet revolutionized the way the economy performs across the world — from drastically decreasing the speed of information flow within an organization to making global partnerships a common occurrence. The allure of working remotely is easy to understand from an individual perspective: control your business hours, accomplish work from virtually anywhere, and adapt your job to your lifestyle rather than the other way around.
What many forget is the benefits from an employer's perspective can be equally appealing. After payroll, the single largest cost for most businesses is infrastructure. Rent, utilities, and taxes all eat up financial resources that could be reinvested elsewhere. It's also appealing from an efficiency perspective: no more inter-office disputes about the best way to allocate building space, eliminating long commutes, and avoiding disruptions due to large-scale events like the Coronavirus.
With the advent of cloud computing, no industry should be embracing remote work more than information technology. Although the trend toward telecommuting is increasing in the IT world, some portions of our industry have — ironically — lagged behind the overall economy in making this transition. One of the most common questions we hear when discussing working remotely is a simple one: "What IT jobs are available?" In this article, we'll show you some of the most common jobs and discuss which ones might be right for you.
Differentiating Roles: Developers vs. IT
Glassdoor published an article discussing the 14 most common remote jobs, and while not a single IT job appeared on the list, the fourth most common job was a developer. The primary reason why programmers have surpassed IT personnel in embracing remote work is the nature of the job: the less you're required to work with hardware or physical infrastructure, the more likely you are to be able to do it remotely.
In IT, however, much of our work revolves around either physically touching hardware or personally interacting with coworkers we support. Any role within the computer support specialist family (e.g., customer support administrator/specialist, help desk technician), for example, will likely always be an on-site position. The good news is that your career isn't static: if you want to work from home and are in a hardware-centric IT role, take a hard look at your professional future, then decide how you want to shape it to achieve your personal goals.
What Types of Remote IT Jobs are Available?
Regardless, as technology has advanced and less physical interaction is required, the nature of IT's day-to-day responsibilities continues to evolve. Several types of positions have advanced to the point where working remotely is becoming a relatively commonplace occurrence.
Cloud computing architects/engineers
Defining, designing, building, and maintaining the cloud is a significant job, and the majority of this work can be performed remotely. I say "can" because, like the majority of the subsequent roles I'll discuss, the nature of IT often requires a team environment.
According to a recent survey by OWL Labs, full-time remote workers are twice as likely to be individual contributors. Embracing roles that allow you to be a specialist is much more likely to land you the kind of job you're looking for.
Getting certified in one or more of the major cloud services providers is an excellent start. Amazon Web Services offers nearly a dozen certifications within three primary family groups and a handful of breakout specialties, while Microsoft recently revamped its Azure certifications into a half dozen pathways.
Obtaining these kinds of certifications can demonstrate to an employer that you're capable of self-motivation, self-discipline, and pursuing additional opportunities — all traits that make remote employment more likely.
Remote Database Administrators
Database administrators (DBAs) deal primarily with data — not the physical hardware that houses it. If you're considering getting into information technology or making a career field switch within IT, consider becoming a database admin. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates that this career field will grow by 9 percent over the next decade, making it one of the more rapidly growing parts of the economy.
Most employers used to require that database administrators had at least a bachelor's degree in computer science or a related field. As the industry has expanded, however, that requirement has become less strictly enforced, with the focus transitioning to certifications and abilities. Two of the most popular certification series for DBAs include the Oracle database administrator and MS SQL Server; if you don't have one of those, strongly consider pursuing one. As far as abilities go, arguably the single most relevant hard skill set a DBA should have is familiarity with SQL.
Remote Data Analyst
Data analyst is nearly as broad a term as IT. Generally speaking, data analysts work within databases to mine information, detect trends, and solve business problems by analyzing various statistics. Because of its broad nature, virtually all businesses need data analysts at numerous points, making this a popular career field for remote work.
Familiarity with SQL is highly recommended if you want to perform well. SQL is the language of database queries, and being able to pull deep information rapidly requires a working knowledge of how to use language-based requests. Other programming languages, such as R and SAS, can be useful for data gathering, cleaning, visualization, and statistical analysis.
Being a data analyst doesn't require certifications, in general, but depending on how you specialize within your career, certs such as the Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE): Data Management and Analytics or the Microsoft Certified Azure Data Scientist Associate can be very beneficial.
Information security is a broad field and an increasingly important one. It's rare for someone to start in security fields, so if you've got a background in IT already and are looking for an opportunity for lucrative growth, cybersecurity is projected to go nowhere but up. The BLS predicts that the number of available positions in this area will grow by 32 percent in the next 10 years, making it one of the fastest-growing sectors of the economy.
Certifications are critical, with three of the most common being CompTIA Security+, Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), and Certified Information Security Manager (CISM). Prerequisites in this area are extensive, with five years of experience in various security-related roles required even to take some of the higher-level certification tests.
The good news is that the unemployment rate for information security workers is zero—it essentially doesn't exist. The global shortage for qualified cybersecurity professionals now tops four million with no real relief in sight. If you're looking for a career field that will provide the leverage to negotiate working remotely, cybersecurity could very well be it.
Positioning Yourself for (Remote) Success
The fact that you're reading this article is an excellent first step in positioning yourself to take advantage of remote work opportunities, but don't stop there. If working remotely is something you want to do, choosing the right job will be foundational to opening that door.
Begin with the career families we've outlined here and identify specialties that interest you. Pursue opportunities within your current job: for example, if you want to end up in cybersecurity, ask to be your team's security representative. (An added bonus is asking your employer to pay for certification tests or training to prepare you for your next role.)
Find ways to specialize within your department. Remember that individual contributors are much more likely to be able to work remotely. Seek out certifications that make you stand out from your peers: research them now, identify the prerequisites you need, and begin working toward that goal.
We firmly believe that if you want to work remotely, you can. As Seneca said, "luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity." The nature of our business is helping you position yourself to achieve the career goals you want to have.