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Data Processing Careers

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Educational Preparation In High School And Beyond

Most employers prefer that their electronic data processing personnel have some type of specialized training. A high school diploma is a minimum requirement for entry-level jobs, but a college degree and experience are essential for the higher-level positions. Training also is available from manufacturers, private computer schools, and in-house training programs of computer users.

Specialized data processing courses are offered in the high schools, in occupational centers such as BOCES, in junior and community colleges, and in a number of universities and colleges. Data processing vocabulary and a functional knowledge of various data processing concepts, such as flow charting, are included as units of study in related courses. The following is a typical high school curriculum in data processing.

Overton's study of North Carolina businesses and industries having computer installations and of technical institutes and community colleges with data processing programs revealed that:


  • High school is a desirable educational level for computer operators, keypunch operators, data processors, data processing coordinators, and keypunch supervisors.

  • Graduates of technical institutes and community colleges may enter the following data processing jobs: computer programmer, data processor, cooperative computer programmer trainee, and data processing coordinator.

  • Further education beyond the high school level is desirable for a computer programmer manager, systems analyst, systems manager, and data processing manager.

  • Many job opportunities are available for the computer operator, programmer, and keypunch operator.

  • Oral and written communication skills are important.

  • Recommended courses are: general mathematics, introduction to business and bookkeeping/accounting, introductory courses in automated and electronic data processing.
If you have an educational background in electronic data processing and wish to enter the accounting profession, you have the basic prerequisite for this career, as reflected in the research by Vincent J. Skudrna on the emerging needs for electronic data processing auditing. This study revealed that an "understanding of EDP systems and controls is fundamental to a good audit..." Responses from the industry questionnaire used in gathering data indicated that applicants for auditing positions were deficient in their knowledge of EDP systems.

Employment Projections

The forecast looks good for employment of computer and peripheral equipment operators. It should remain fairly stable, with the exception of keypunch operators, the need for which will continue to decline. The reason for this decrease is the growth of direct data entry techniques, such as the use of computer terminals and storage of data on disks and cassettes. As computer usage expands, employment of programmers and systems analysts is expected to grow faster than the average for all occupations through the 2000s. The outlook for employment is favorable through 1990, primarily because:
  • Computers are used as management tools.

  • The number and types of peripheral equipment manufacturers are growing. (Peripheral equipment, such as high-speed printers, card readers, and card punches, are not yet in direct communication with the central processing unit of a computer but soon will be.)

  • The organizational demand for computers or computer services is becoming larger.

  • There will be continued development of new applications.
Although the total number of persons employed in the data processing field is expected to grow to almost two million workers by 1990, the rate of growth will be much slower than it is currently because of the development of new, less complicated equipment, the greater use of time sharing, improved software, and the reduced cost of hardware that is bringing equipment within reach of small business. The decline of keypunch operators is expected to continue through the 1990s because of advances in other data-entry techniques and equipment.

In contrast, advances and expanding utilization of computer hardware and software technology will result in a greater demand for computer and auxiliary equipment operators. Higher levels of applications of computer technology will necessitate the demand for such high-level personnel as systems programmers and systems analysts. From 1978-1990, the percentage change anticipated for key entry operators is minus 27 percent; for computer and peripheral equipment operators, a decrease of .2 percent; for programmers, 29.6 percent increase; and for systems analysts, 37.4 percent increase.

Women In Data Processing Careers

A 77 percent response to a questionnaire on the role of women in data processing that was mailed to 425 women in the United States who hold professional jobs in the computing field or who use computers as a research tool showed that women view their roles with enthusiasm. "The computing field attracts, challenges, and rewards the most able women."

Two-thirds of the women believed they enjoy equal status with men in pay and promotions. Seventy percent believed they could advance to a senior level, but only 56 percent believed opportunities exist for them in management level positions.

To continue to elevate the status of women in electronic data processing, Asprey and Laffan suggest that more well-trained and well-educated women enter the field. Secondly, those who are in the field should make themselves heard so that young women students have role models to emulate.

Despite the multitude of unrealized goals and shortcomings within this occupational category, Betty F. Maskewitz, director of the Radiation Shielding Information Center at Oak Ridge, reflects the attitudes of many of the respondents: "Computing is a wonderful field for women-an exciting field for anyone regardless of sex or any other... qualifier."
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