come close to covering all the organized specialties in computing. There
are two other categories—
computing-intensive fields in science and engineering where computing is a tool but
is not the focus of concern, and computing-infrastructure occupations,
where specialists operate and maintain the infrastructures on which everyone depends. Table 1 is an update
of the original table, 1, 2 now showing
Table 1 reflects the interests of the
members of ACM and IEEE-CS. However, this is not the only way to categorize computing professionals. The U.S.
Bureau of Labor statistics maintains
a list of “computer and information
technology occupations” that spells
out the kinds of jobs employers recruit
WE STAR TED THIS column in 2001 when ACM was re-envisioning itself as a society of a comput- ing profession. ACM
leaders and many members already
thought of computing as a profession.
They wanted ACM to strengthen its
support of computing professionals
and its commitment to the practitioners
of a computing profession. How has all
this progressed in the past 17 years?
In my first column on the IT profession, my opening question was whether
a profession is needed in the first place.
I wrote: “To most of the hundreds of
millions of computer users around the
world, the inner workings of a computer are an utter mystery. Opening the box
holds as much attraction as lifting the
hood of a car. Users look to computing
professionals to help them with their
needs for designing, locating, retrieving, using, configuring, programming,
maintaining and understanding computers, networks, applications, and digital objects.” 1 The need has intensified
over the years because there are now
billions of users and the technologies
they rely on are much more complex.
The ACM and IEEE Computer Soci-
ety are the two main professional soci-
eties in computing. They are compara-
ble in size with approximately 100,000
members each. ACM has traditionally
emphasized the science-math side of
computing, and IEEE-CS the engineer-
ing-design side of computing. The two
societies have cooperated on many
joint ventures including curriculum
recommendations and accreditation.
They have diverged on certification
and licensing, which traditionally have
been eschewed by ACM leadership and
embraced by IEEE-CS leadership.
The next question was what specialties have professionals organized to
deal with specific kinds of concerns—
for example, specialists in programming languages, operating systems,
networks, or graphics. The ACM SIGs
and IEEE-CS hosted organizations to
support these groups. ACM had (and
still has) around 40 SIGs in specialized areas. The list of SIGs is a useful
guide to the organized core specialties
However, the list of ACM and IEEE-CS specialty organizations does not
The Profession of IT
Taking stock of progress toward a computing profession
since this column started in 2001.