Some of the more complex tasks now being handled by the computer include billing customers, completing payrolls, scheduling the operations of a business, making airline and hotel reservations, taking and maintaining inventory, recording bank deposits and withdrawals, and monitoring factory production processes. However, these machines are just equipment having "artificial intelligence." What is needed are competent, thinking workers at all skill levels to design systems, write instructions, translate data into machine-readable language, operate the computers and auxiliary equipment, retrieve the results, and maintain the systems. The information generated is only as meaningful as the humans that handle the input (the instructions for the computer) and output (results).
Where Electronic Data Processing Jobs Are Found
A striking trend of recent years is the use of the small business computer in many areas of everyday life. In the supermarket, the scanner helps the clerk check and bag a product simultaneously; in the hospital the computer researches and diagnoses a case; in education, computer-assisted instruction individualizes learning; in the government, the Internal Revenue Department evaluates tax returns; and in some courts that are experimenting with computer systems, the computer retrieves data on the criminal status of the defendant, thus assisting the judge in setting bail bonds.
Business is the largest employer of data processing personnel, with the federal government a close second. Typical users are banks; insurance companies; manufacturers such as International Business Machines, Honeywell, National Cash Register, Burroughs, Redaction, and Sperry Rand/Univac; retail merchandising firms; and data processing service organizations.
Specialized Data Processing Jobs
A glance at the duties of various electronic data processing workers will give you an idea of the specialties available in the field. Job descriptions given in this section are those used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and are prefaced by characteristics of the work situation. Generally, workers in data processing must be accurate and precise. Other characteristics essential to a successful career in this rapidly changing field are a willingness to learn continuously, to face challenges, and to be flexible and ready to make changes.
- Key Entry Operator I performs routine and repetitive tasks under close supervision. Work generally is from standardized and coded source documents. The work of Key Entry Operator II requires experience and judgment.
- Console Operators must be capable of exercising independent judgment. This personal quality gives them the promotional opportunity to move up to a supervisory position or a job that combines supervision and console operation.
- Console operators examine the programmer's instructions for processing the input, make sure the computer has been loaded with the correct cards or magnetic tapes, and then start the computer.
- Computer Operator I. Work assignments consist of on-the-job training (sometimes augmented by classroom training). The work assignments of Computer Operator II are established production runs executed by serial processing. A Computer Operator III pre-pares new programs, applications, and procedures executed by serial processing.
- Data Typists use special machines that convert the information they type into holes in cards or magnetic impulses on tapes or disks. They also may type input material directly into a computer.
- Tape Librarians classify and catalog this material and maintain files of program development records and computer operating instructions.
- Systems Analysts work with all aspects of computer processing. They plan and organize the information flow from the source to the computer. The more sophisticated positions of programmer and systems analyst are management level jobs which are filled by individuals who enjoy solving problems, have decision-making ability, and can think logically and are able to work with abstract mathematical concepts. Programmers tell the computer what to do. They write the procedures for the computer to follow.
The introduction of electronic data processing systems into banks and the specialized nature of their operations led to the creation of several new clerical occupations that are unique to the banking industry:
- Electronic Reader-Sorter Operator-Runs electronic check sorting equipment.
- Check Inscriber or Encoder-Operates machines that print information in magnetic ink on checks and other documents to prepare them for machine reading.
- Control Clerk-Keeps close check of large volume of documents entering and leaving the computer division.
- Other bank data processing jobs are card-tape converter, coding clerk, printer operator, verifier operator, and teletype operator.