Pharmacy tech careers offer many possibilities, a chance to help

PIT PT AChanceToHelpBy Magaly Olivero

Earning an associate’s degree to become a pharmacy technician can lead to a broad range of career opportunities, whether you’re entering the workforce for the first time or considering a career change.

“One of the best things about being a pharmacy technician is that you have so many career paths to chose from,” said Uyen Thorstensen, a pharmacy technician at the University of Washington Medical Center and a member of the American Association of Pharmacy Technicians.

Pharmacy technicians assist licensed pharmacists by preparing and dispensing medications to patients or health care professionals. The profession calls for a combination of technical, interpersonal, creative problem solving and critical thinking skills.

“Most of all, I like that I can help people,” said Thorstensen, who has worked in retail, hospital and long-term health care settings for nearly two decades.

A career as a pharmacy technician offers many different benefits.

 

Career flexibility

Graduates with an associate’s degree focusing on the pharmacy technician profession have the flexibility to immediately enter the job market. Some pharmacy technicians decide to pursue a bachelor’s degree in pharmacy or other health care profession at a four-year college. They can earn a bachelor’s degree as a full-time student, or while working as a pharmacy technician.

Experts expect the need for pharmacy technicians will grow given the increased demand for prescription medications from the nation’s burgeoning aging population. Employment opportunities for pharmacy technicians are expected to grow 20 percent from 2012 to 2022, faster than the national average for other occupations, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

 

Professional stepping-stone

Pursuing a profession as a pharmacy technician is ideal for students who are unsure if they want to commit to a health care career that requires more advanced or rigorous training. “They can work as a pharmacy technician while they decide what they want to do,” she said. “Some remain in the field while others go on to become pharmacists, nurses or other health care professionals.”

Working as a pharmacy technician also appeals to working professionals who are considering a career change, she said. They may no longer welcome the physical demands of being a nurse, or their current profession faces an uncertain future given changes in the labor market.

 

Diverse workplace settings

Pharmacy technicians work in a variety of settings, so people can choose the environment that best suits their personality, desired work schedule and career goals. They work in community pharmacies, national retail pharmacies, long-term care facilities, hospitals, pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors, compounding pharmacies (where medicines are assembled on a large-scale) and mail order pharmacies.

“Pharmacy technicians who work in retail have a lot of personal interaction with patients,” said Thorstensen. “Those who work in clinical settings interact with prescribing doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other pharmacy technicians.”

 

Intellectually challenging

“As a pharmacy technician, you’re constantly learning,” said Thorstensen. Pharmacy technicians must stay up-to-date with new medications that enter the market and changing government regulations about the use of certain drugs.

The profession calls for critical thinking skills to spot potential hazards when preparing and dispensing medications. “Being able to think on your feet and intervene if there’s a problem with a prescription is important,” she said. “It’s a very rewarding profession.”

 

Helping profession

Like many who enter the health care industry, pharmacy technicians often chose the profession because they enjoy helping and interacting with people. Those who work at retail and community pharmacies, for example, come into contact with a variety of patients who may be feeling stressed because they are ill or in pain. Pharmacy technicians can relieve some of this stress by educating patients about the proper use of their medications, answering questions about potential side effects, or demonstrating compassion. Something as simple as a smile or a willingness to listen can make a difference for a sick patient.

A range of options for the pharmacy tech graduate

PIT PT OptionsForGraduatesBy Jason Gray

An aging population and increasing demand for healthcare services has meant many opportunities for pharmacy technicians.

Pharmacy technicians now work in hospitals, research universities, assisted living facilities, pharmaceutical companies, pharmacy chains, and of course, at the neighborhood drug store. They play a vital role in ensuring customers receive the best service.

Over the last four years, about one out of every eight jobs created in the United States was in health care, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Pharmacy technicians help licensed pharmacists dispense prescriptions – and much more.

A technician’s day can include packaging and labeling prescriptions, measuring and stocking medicines, processing insurance claims and working with customers and doctors. The main difference between technicians and pharmacists is that the pharmacist may mix multiple medications together, directly counsel patients and ensure the prescription is ready for delivery.

 

The neighborhood setting and much more

The corner drugstore and pharmacy chain is where most people interact with pharmacy technicians. According to the BLS, about half the techs in the country work in pharmacies and drug stores. They execute a wide variety of daily tasks, including stocking and labeling supplies, and completing paperwork. Pharmacy technicians who enjoy retail settings and working with many people will fit well in a retail environment.

Hospitals have in-house pharmacies where they prepare life-saving drugs, IVs and other medicines. Hospital technician jobs don’t usually include the retail customer service aspects of the drugstore; however, they are often faster-paced and vitally important in patient care – often involving life-or-death situations.

Most states allow hospital pharmacy technicians to mix IV bags and oral fluid medicines in addition to counting and labeling pills like their drugstore cohorts. Working directly with life-saving medicines for everyone from chemotherapy patients to neonatal ICU newborns is one of the main draws for people who want to know their work directly impacts others.

Hospital technicians also usually deliver prepared medicines to different departments within the hospital. Technology skills are a must. The national mandatory rollout of electronic health record systems and secure automated medication carts means plenty of computer work for hospital pharmacy technicians.

Long-term care facilities, assisted living centers and nursing homes need pharmacy technicians to help track and distribute the many medicines aging residents need. These positions appeal to people who are detail-oriented and organized while not as interested in working with large numbers of customers. These techs must still work quickly and be able to multi-task. Many medicines for older patients must be taken at precise intervals that can’t be missed.

 

Keeping track for aging patients

Aging and memory-care facilities often have patients who are not able to remember whether they’ve taken their medicine, which makes the pharmacy technician duties of helping maintain strict records even more important. Billing paperwork can also be more complicated with government reimbursement programs and long-term care insurance companies.

Pharmacy technicians are also needed within the pharmaceutical companies themselves, especially for clinical testing phases of drug trials. They help researchers prepare test medicines for study participants. Certification graduates who are interested in research science and making a difference worldwide will find these positions rewarding. Other unusual jobs for pharmacy techs include helping answer questions at regional poison control centers, nuclear imaging and even preparing medicines for prison inmates.

As the healthcare industry continues to grow, pharmacy technicians will continue to be in demand. No matter what skills, interests or personality a certified technician graduate has, there is a niche for them to grow personally and professionally while helping patients and communities.

The right mix of opportunities for pharmacy tech students

By Jennifer NelsonPIT PT Opportunities

If helping mix dosages, measuring prescriptions, communicating with physicians to ensure safety standards and educating patients about treatments seems intriguing, a pharmacy technician degree may be right for you.

A school with comprehensive resources can make the process of becoming a pharmacy technician easier and prepare you for a rewarding career.

The Pennsylvania Institute of Technology has a great record of helping graduates find work as pharmacy technicians and proceed to four-year schools. PIT’s certificate program includes courses in communications, biology, chemistry, mathematics and humanities. But PIT also considers the whole student, not just the technical aspects of a job. The school helps students acquire softer skills and a solid understanding of the work environment.

Pharmacy technicians are in high demand and that is likely to continue as the population ages. Major pharmacy chains are adding stores and community drug stores, hospitals and even pharmaceutical manufacturers themselves are looking for skilled technicians. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that pharmacy technician jobs are expected to grow by more than 20 percent through 2022.

The middle 50 percent of professionals in the field earn between $24,320 and $35,810 per year, but with the right opportunities, there is room for career growth

PIT can help you map out a study plan that will give you the right skills for a job while also meeting individual scheduling needs. Many pharmacy tech students are embarking on second careers and returning to school. They must balance work, and sometimes family, responsibilities.

 

Do you have the right skills?

PIT can help you decide if you should go into the workforce immediately, or if you have the right qualities and skills to pursue a BA. The credits you earn at PIT are transferable, enabling you to earn your higher degree.

 

What will you learn at PIT?

PIT provides you with the knowledge to assign dosages, calculate and mix medications, fill and label prescriptions, compound drugs and prepare IV solutions. The PIT program also teaches how to track and manage patient healthcare prescription histories, drug inventory, and ordering from pharmaceutical manufacturers. You’ll work side by side with a pharmacist educating patients and providing health services.

A desire to inform patients about medication safety and usage, enjoyment in working with the public and a strong attention to detail are important qualities for success in the field.

What’s more, PIT prepares students for internships and externships – short assignments in the field via the school’s unique parallel learning method. In parallel learning, students can fast track their degree by acquiring skills and degree classes at the same time, as well providing flexible schedules and experienced instructors who have working knowledge.

The school also provides academic advisors, job services and a range of other resources. All of the above has placed PIT at the forefront of pharmacy technician programs.

Weighing pharmacy technician job prospects in Pennsylvania and beyond

PIT PT JobProspectsInPABy Jennifer Nelson

There are idealistic reasons for entering the healthcare profession, particularly in Pennsylvania: A desire to help people’s lives, a purposeful and fulfilling wish to educate patients on medication safety, and to make a difference for those in your community.

But there are also practical reasons. Pennsylvania and neighboring states in the Middle Atlantic part of the U.S. need healthcare professionals, including pharmacy technicians and other support healthcare workers. Pennsylvania’s aging population has spurred increasing demand for healthcare services.

According to data compiled by the online publication TheStreet, Pennsylvania has the sixth oldest population in the country. More than 16 percent of the state’s residents are 65 or older, and the median age is above 40.  TheStreet based its totals largely on information collected by the U.S. Census Bureau. By contrast, only 12.5 percent of residents in California, which has the sixth youngest population, are older than 65.

The number is growing, too. “The 65 and over age group is expected to increase by 29.2 percent,” said Mark Ryan, Deputy Director of the Independent Fiscal Office (IFO), which provides revenue projections for use in the state budget process. “The large increase implies significant growth for general healthcare programs and long term care services covered under Medical Assistance.”

This older population is also spending a larger percentage of their income on healthcare and prescriptions.

A recent job search on the employment website Indeed.com generated more than 1,000 job openings for pharmacy technicians in Pennsylvania. They included postings from Temple University’s Health System in Philadelphia, a long-term care facility in Northampton, Hershey and Pittsburgh.

The number of opportunities is likely to increase over the next decade. Openings for pharmacy tech positions will grow by more than 20 percent (faster than average) through 2022, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. (There are currently more than 335,000 pharmacy tech job openings nationwide).

 

The need for healthcare support professionals

The need for healthcare support occupations like pharmacy technicians has risen as more families and healthcare organizations look for efficient, less costly ways to treat aging relatives, according to the Pennsylvania’s Economic & Budget Report for Fiscal Years 2013-14 through 2018-19. The Affordable Care Act is likely to place an even greater focus on managing healthcare costs.

Technicians can perform many of the same tasks as pharmacists at a lower salary.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the pharmacy technician earns a median income of $29,320 annually or $14.10 per hour. A full-fledged pharmacist can earn more than $100,000 in the Pittsburgh area, according to Salary.com, a respected source on compensation. Salary.com analyzes larges volumes of data to calculate compensation ranges for different jobs.

Most technicians are working in retail.

The U.S. Department of Labor reports that 73 percent of pharmacy technicians work in chain pharmacies, community drug and grocery stores, 18 percent work in hospitals and 9 percent work in other facilities like outpatient clinics and for mail order pharmacy companies.

 

Becoming a pharmacy technician

Pharmacy technicians work with pharmacists to help count, dose and package medication. They may also inventory and order drugs from manufacturers, as well as maintain patient medication histories. Job duties may vary slightly within particular pharmacies. Compounding medications may also be part of the pharmacy technician duties.

The two-year degree certification program at PIT covers these skills and others. PIT graduates move on to jobs with leading pharmacy retailers, healthcare providers, long-term care facilities and pharmaceutical companies. They also frequently find jobs at mom-and-pop drug stores, which can play a central role in communities.

Pennsylvania pharmacy techs may become nationally certified and must maintain that certification with 20 units of continuing education (CE) every two years according to the Pennsylvania Board of Pharmacy. However, no licensure is required for pharmacy technicians.

Changes at pharmacies will spur demand for skilled technicians

PIT PT DemandForSkillBy Jason Gray

Walk-in clinics, on-demand vaccinations and screening services are appearing at an increasing number of drug stores and pharmacies nationwide. The expansion into basic health care services gives consumers a new community hub for routine care.

This new business model has meant an expanding role for pharmacy technicians, and while the supply of technicians has been able to keep pace with demand, many pharmacies are seeking individuals with experience and great skills. That underscores the importance of a sound education for pharmacist technicians – one that is steeped in the fundamentals of the trade. Great skills can be a springboard to career advancement.

Pharmacy technicians have traditionally been the licensed pharmacist’s assistants. They speak with patients, help dispense prescriptions and perform a range of daily, administrative tasks. As health care reform and co-located health clinics have changed the pharmacy business model, the pharmacy technician role has changed, as well.

There are about 1,600 clinics serving 20 million patient visits across the United States, according to the Harvard Business Review. By co-locating with existing neighborhood pharmacies and drug stores, they provide a convenient, fast and low-cost alternative to primary care physician offices.

Pharmacy chains see a potential benefit for their business. They use the clinics to encourage patients to fill prescriptions with them, and ideally continue to use that pharmacy for other needs.

 

A bigger role in patient treatment

Most walk-in pharmacies use nurse practitioners and physicians assistants to see patients for routine care and minor illnesses. Pharmacy technicians who work at the host pharmacy will often play a supporting role, particularly in recording and archiving data. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about half all pharmacy technicians work at retail drug stores and pharmacies.

Adding clinic services means pharmacy employees are adding clinic-specific duties to their normal workload, which was already changing in recent years. Health care reform acts require electronic health records system usage across nearly all health care providers and facilities. Pharmacy technicians often enter information into these systems and inform the pharmacist on duty if there are changes or alerts in the patient’s records.

The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, a national organization of pharmacists and pharmacy technicians, says pharmacy technicians will play an increasingly vital role in ensuring pharmacies are well-integrated in the overall health information technology system. “Such roles require pharmacy technicians to gain expertise in information technology systems, including knowledge of interfaces, computer management techniques, problem resolution, and database maintenance,” according to the ASHP.

Aging demographics in the United States will also drive more job growth and opportunities for pharmacy technicians. “A larger amount of middle-aged and elderly people – who typically take more prescription drugs than those who are younger – will drive the need for technicians in all practice surroundings,” according to the ASHP.

 

A need for more experience

A 2013 ASHP study showed that there was a 4.2 percent vacancy rate for pharmacy technicians, and a 2.1 percent gap for pharmacists. “The survey indicates that even though the number of pharmacist positions continues to increase in hospitals and health systems, the supply of pharmacists is able to keep up with the demand,” said Douglas J. Scheckelhoff, M.S., ASHP vice president of practice advancement.

But many pharmacist and pharmacy technician candidates are short of experience. “A majority of pharmacy directors continues to perceive moderate to severe shortages of pharmacy managers (60.6 percent) and experienced pharmacy technicians (56.1 percent),” according to the ASHP study authors.

“With technicians assuming a greater role, ASHP advocates that they be required to complete more accredited training and certification programs,” Scheckelhoff said. “This way employers can be assured that their technicians have the foundational knowledge and training and have shown that they are competent. Currently, state regulations are inconsistent with regards to training and certification requirements.”

As innovations like pharmacy walk-in clinics continue to expand, demand for skilled pharmacy technicians will grow. But people who choose a pharmacy technician career will need to ensure that they have comprehensive training and the flexibility to keep up with changes in the healthcare system. 

Right prescriptions: Five key qualities of a pharma technician

PIT PT Career SkillsBy Magaly Olivero

A successful career as a pharmacy technician requires a combination of technical and interpersonal skills to deliver safe and effective patient care.

As assistants to licensed pharmacists, pharmacy technicians help dispense medication to customers or health care professionals. They work in many settings, including national retail pharmacies, hospitals, long-term care facilities, community pharmacies and pharmaceutical manufactures and distributors.

Job opportunities for pharmacy technicians are expected to grow 20 percent from 2012 to 2022, faster than the average for other occupations nationwide, according to national labor statistics. Graduates with an associate degree focusing on the pharmacy technician profession have the flexibility to immediately enter the job market. They may also pursue a bachelor’s degree at a four-year college.

Successful pharmacy technicians posses the following qualities:

 

Attention to detail

Pharmacy technicians must fill prescriptions, mix medications, assign dosages, prepare intravenous solutions and more. All these tasks require an unprecedented attention to detail to ensure the highest quality and safety standards. Critical thinking skills, along with a strict adherence to protocol, are key. Making careless mistakes when dispensing medication can pose serious and potentially life-threatening consequences to the physical and mental health of a patient.

 

Communication skills

Strong interpersonal skills are critical to the success of a pharmacy technician. Pharmacy technicians must effectively communicate with many, different people, including patients and family members, pharmacists, prescribing doctors, and other health care professionals. Those who work in a retail setting must be adept at communicating with and educating customers to ensure they properly understand their medication regimen. Pharmacy technicians who work in a health care setting must be comfortable collaborating with a wide range of colleagues.

 

Empathy

Demonstrating compassion is an essential component of being a pharmacy technician, especially for those who work with customers in a retail environment. It’s important to recognize when patients may be under duress. Perhaps someone is dealing with a serious diagnosis, worrying about how they will pay for their medications, or struggling to manage debilitating side effects. Each of these encounters may require a different and sensitive response. The right response may have a great benefit to patient care.

 

Mathematical skills

Preparing prescriptions correctly – such as determining the correct strength of a solution or the usual dosage of a medication – may require making many different mathematical calculations. Pharmacy technicians must be accurate and precise when it comes to calculating, weighing and measuring chemicals as they prepare medications and solutions. Adding an extra zero to a prescription can turn a helpful treatment into a dangerous one. Pharmacy technicians must ensure that medications are filled correctly every time.

 

Ethical behavior

A commitment to ethical behavior is important because pharmacy technicians have access to confidential information about patients’ medical history. They also must uphold standards of practice and legal restrictions associated with dispensing medication.

Computer science flourishes in Philadelphia

PIT-PennJobs_IMAGE-0421Written By Magaly Olivero

Graduates with degrees in the fast-growing field of computer science who are entering the job market need look no further than the Philadelphia area, according to industry recruiters.

“Computer science is probably one of the most in-demand technical skills and degrees that companies are looking for right now,” said Beth Dang, recruiting director for information technology at Experis, a unit of staffing and consulting giant ManpowerGroup. Information technology in general hasn’t slowed down at all even during the past five years when we were going through a recession,”

Dang covers the Philadelphia and Baltimore areas.

Information technology professionals (which includes computer science majors) have been a staple on global staffing giant ManpowerGroup’s annual top-ten list of the professionals that companies need most but can’t find.

Forty percent of businesses in the United States have difficulty filling these jobs. More than thirty-five percent of the business leaders surveyed said they couldn’t find talent with the necessary technical skills.

Given this scenario, students with degrees in computer science from a college that offers hands-on job experience through internships and other workplace opportunities have a clear advantage. Even an associate’s degree in computer science can pave the way for a rewarding career. Many computer scientists find positions where they can develop their skills and grow professionally.

The major role of computer scientists

Computer scientists design and create new approaches to technology and find innovative uses for existing technology. They solve complex computing problems that help companies to operate more efficiently and economically, while at the same time meeting the needs and expectations of their customers.

“Computer science is the most popular degree under the information technology umbrella,” said Kevin Maas, division manager for Jobspring Partners’ Philadelphia office, which exclusively works in information technology markets. His team also runs an event series, Tech in Motion, which aims to educate, connect and inspire technical professionals in Philadelphia.

“Anyone who graduates with an information technology or computer science degree is not going to have much trouble finding a job,” said Maas. “The cool thing about information technology is that it’s part of every single industry and every single company.”

Industry giants in business, medicine, science, technology, finance and other fields offer many career opportunities for computer scientists, recruiters said. But with technology at the core of so many endeavors, computer scientists can also find meaningful positions at start-ups and small and medium businesses, they said.

Philadelphia is fast becoming a hub for computer science and information technology professionals, according to recruiters. For example, Comcast Corporation is building a state-of-the-art innovation and technology center in Center City. The proposed $1.2 billion, 59-story tower will be located next to the company’s global headquarters.

Dang estimates that 75 percent of the 10,000 jobs housed in the new Comcast center will be in the information technology field. “There are more jobs than there are viable candidates for those roles,” said Dang. “There just aren’t enough people trained to do that type of work.”

“Philadelphia has done an amazing job at increasing technology funding and incubating a lot of start-ups so they can grow their business organically without having to move to New York, Boston or Washington, D.C.,” said Maas. “They’re doing a lot to keep information technology talent right here in the city.”

More companies want computer scientists “who are technically savvy and have good communication skills,” said Dang. In the past, company employees in information technology, business and marketing were more likely to work in silos with little interaction between departments.

“Now it’s very different,” she said. “Companies what people in their information technology and business departments to communicate and collaborate so each has a better understanding of the company’s goals, products and services.”

With future projections of a robust job market, Dang said she encourages high school and college students to consider a career in information technology and computer science.

“You’ll be able to find a job when you get out of college,” she said.

Careers in Tech – Firms need soft skills, software degrees

PIT-HotCareers_IMAGE-0421Article Written By Jason Gray

Tech skills are a hot commodity in any workplace in today’s economy. But even in Philadelphia’s extensive tech economy, companies hiring computer programmers, mobile application developers and software engineers want well-rounded applicants.

They are seeking strong communication skills, an ability to collaborate and innovate. They are looking for an overall sense of professionalism. In most instances, they also place a high value on industry-specific knowledge.

“We want people to have real skill sets,” said Karissa Justice of Azavea, the Philadelphia-based geospatial tech company. “People may have a degree in the tech field but no skills.”

Such skills can be essential for recent graduates to find a job and enjoy long-term professional success. In some instances, it may even allow someone to secure a position for which their technical background isn’t exactly right. Some companies may be willing to hire someone who has excellent soft skills and can be developed on the technical side.

Technology is constantly changing. Preferred programming languages and best practices change often.

Critical thinking, willingness to learn and teamwork skills can be critical. “We hire one out of every 30 to 35 people we interview, because it ultimately comes down to fit,” Rappaport said. “The people we hire like to teach – they’re the go-to people at their last position — but are still hungry to learn from the people around them.”

Mike Rappaport, CEO of Chariot Solutions, urges people hoping to enter the industry to develop their soft skills in addition to their software skills. “For soft skills, our consultants have to be well-rounded,” he said. “You can be deeply technical but not have the people skills or understand business as we need to.”

Potential benefits for a well-rounded candidate
Demand in the Pennsylvania area for technology professionals is strong, as it is in most other parts of the country. These jobs generally pay well.

Consider computer programmers and software engineers who write the code behind software programs. Most programmers specialize in a couple programming languages. They earn a median wage of $74,280, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Software developers and mobile app developers are the creative minds behind programs. Developers usually need more experience or education to be successful. The median wage is $90,000 with the top 10 percent of developers making more than $138,000, according to the BLS.

Software and app programmers are in particularly high demand in Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Workforce Development agency lists the careers as one of the Statewide High Priority Occupations. “There’s a sense of urgency in this state,” Rappaport said. “Everyone has plans and are moving forward in ways completely reliant on software and infrastructure development. It’s about the hospital systems, insurance companies — people we don’t think of as tech companies. We want more companies to make their home in Pennsylvania, and we need to bring more tech into the area to support them.”

Many of the job openings at tech companies around Philadelphia ask for at least an associate degree. “I’d say having a degree is a big plus and makes life a lot easier to get the first job,” he said.

Internships to develop industry-specific skills
Rappaport added that companies need “skills related to the industry in which they work.”

This may include knowledge of finance for individuals who are looking for banking technology jobs, manufacturing processes, retail and a range of other industries.

Indeed, internships and volunteer work are often accepted as experience if the work fits the company’s market, even if the work does not directly involve software development. For example, Azavea hosts a three-month fellowship for students interested in geographic information systems.

And Chariot has an apprenticeship program that grew from a training program they offered to other companies. “I can’t put someone out to my customers if they haven’t proved they’re the real deal,” Rappaport said. “We believe they have the ability – we’re trying to give them the experience in addition to the classroom training.”

“I understand job seekers frustration that you need experience to get experience, but in the field of software development, experience doesn’t just mean holding a job with a title,” Justice said. “There are many open source projects or small personal projects people can work on to get hands-on experience actually making something.”

Top Careers in computer science

APIT-GreatComputerCareers_IMAGE-0421rticle Written By Magaly Olivero

Demand is rising for professionals holding computer science degrees as an increasing number of organizations rely on technology to operate effectively in today’s competitive business world.

Computer scientists design and develop all types of software, including operating systems and phone apps to interactive games. Graduates with computer science degrees have the flexibility to pursue numerous career paths with job growth projections faster than for other occupations nationwide.

Some people start by earning an associate’s degree that allows them to enter the workforce immediately after graduation or transfer to a four-year college to earn a bachelor’s degree. An associate’s degree in computer science is among the top 10 associate’s degree majors ranked by salary potential, according to PayScale.

Here’s a look at computer science career opportunities.

Systems design and analysis
Computer systems designers and analysts assess an organization’s needs and design information systems solutions that are tailored to the company’s requirements. These specialists learn how to choose, create and troubleshoot customized hardware and software systems. They also keep computer systems secure and up-to-date.

Mobile application development
From searching for a restaurant to tracking down the latest weather news, there’s likely a computer app that will bring the information directly to a smartphone or tablet. People with expertise in mobile application development create the software for wireless devices, including smartphones, tablets and wearable technology. Among the most prominent examples are the new iWatch from Apple. More consumers are using small devices to communicate, view entertainment programming and stay abreast of current events.

Website development
Website developers are responsible for the technical aspects of a website, such as programming, coding, page interactions, performance, speed and capacity to handle traffic from visitors. These professionals focus on how a site works – whether it’s the Internet or intranet (private network) – and how customers will use these websites. Web development can range from creating a single page to building complex Internet and intranet sites. Job prospects for web developers are projected to grow 20 percent from 2012 to 2022, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which expects demand will be driven by the growing popularity of mobile devices and ecommerce.

Software engineering
Software engineers apply engineering principles to create computer systems that meet the unique specifications of a company. They often design, test and build software. Software engineers craft the designs that computer programmers implement when creating the codes for operating a program or system.

Technical support
Computer support specialists assist people and organizations that use computer software and equipment. Some specialists support information technology employees, while others assist non-information technology users who are experiencing computer problems. Employment opportunities for computer support specialists are projected to grow 17 percent from 2012 to 2020. More support services will be needed as organizations upgrade their computer equipment and software, industry experts predict.

Balancing act: how to manage work, family and school

PIT-BalancingAct_IMAGE-0421Article Written By Magaly Olivero

An educational institution that understands the needs of students who must balance work, family and school can make a big difference when you’re trying to earn a degree. Such schools offer practical and emotional support.

This comes as an increasing number of people go back to school full or part-time as a way to advance their careers. By 2020, adults older than 25 will be make up 45% of the national student body, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. That’s an increase of seven percentage points from current levels.

But many of these older students and even those closer to the traditional age must support themselves and family. They face difficult juggling acts on a daily basis.

The thought of adding schoolwork to an already long list of responsibilities at the office and at home may seem daunting. A school that allocates resources to help students manage their lives can ensure someone completes their studies.

The end effect: Broadening your educational credentials – whether you’re pursuing a degree for the first time or going back to school for more training – can increase your odds of getting a raise or promotion. Earning a degree can also provide the advanced skills and confidence to find a more professionally rewarding and better paying position at another company.

Here are a few factors to keep in mind if you’re trying to manage work, family and school.

You are not alone
The National Center for Education Statistics’ data underscores a truth: Lots of working adults go back to school or become college students for the first time. Some will be looking to learn new skills to help with their present careers. Others will be looking to start a new profession.

Look for flexibility
Many colleges are tailoring their degree programs to accommodate the needs of busy adults with family and professional duties. Look for a college with programs that have online classes and flexible scheduling with evening and weekend classes. You may want to start off with an associate’s degree program, many of which are geared to students with hectic lives. Associate’s degree program can be completed in two years and typically cost less than a four-year degree. This can be an important consideration for a working student.

Tap all available resources
Find a college with qualified counselors who can offer personalized support, advice and perspective to help you balance all the demands in your life. Speak with a representative from the financial aid department to determine if you’re eligible for assistance. Find ways to manage your time more effectively – a skill that’s important for academic and professional success.

Ask your family to pitch in
By honest with yourself and your family by setting realistic goals and re-evaluating your commitments. Family members may need to temporarily pitch in a bit more at home. Remind them that the sacrifices made now will pay off in the long run when you land a better paying position – a move that benefits the entire family.