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CUTTING-EDGE CAREERS

Tech's Top 10

February 26, 1996|KAREN KAPLAN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The buzzwords are everywhere: "interactive multimedia," "online computer networks," "the World Wide Web." Hitching one's wagon to these booming fields seems to be a wise career move. But how, exactly, should that be done?

To help answer that question, The Times surveyed career experts, headhunters and people who have already embarked on careers in the uncharted and fast-changing parts of the technology sector. They identified 10 of the hottest tech jobs and offered hints about how to land them.

Some of these jobs are merely cyberspace versions of careers that have been around for years: writers, librarians, artists and security guards. Others exist only in the world of high-powered computers and the global computer network known as the Internet.

These new technology careers have some things in common. All require at least a basic understanding of how computers work and how they work together. Many are so new that the only way to get trained for them is in seminars or on the job. Some are still too cutting-edge for corporate America, which means many of the people who are pioneering these careers must work on a freelance basis.

Here are sketches of 10 technology careers that experts predict will flourish in the next five to 10 years:

Internet security

"It's estimated that within six seconds of connecting to the Internet, some hacker is doing traffic analysis on your computer to see whether it's worthwhile to breach your security," said Humphrey P. Polanen, general manager of the Internet Commerce Group at Sun Microsystems in Mountain View, Calif.

Internet security means more than protecting credit card account numbers as they travel across the global computer network. Hackers can steal corporate secrets or sabotage a company's software or customer list. Some crooks can even freeload on expensive services such as data storage.

If the Internet were secure, companies could collaborate on engineering and product design via the Net. Investors could buy and sell stocks in cyberspace, bypassing the New York Stock Exchange. Federal Express customers can already track their packages on the World Wide Web, and more sophisticated services could flourish if the Internet were safe for commerce.

To make that possible, electrical engineers and computer scientists are working on encryption techniques to enable customers to safely send their credit card numbers over the network. They are also perfecting authentication systems so merchants and customers can be sure they are doing business with the right parties.

Consultants work as security auditors to help clients assess the safety of their computer networks, then help them develop a security policy. Others are charged with administering the network after a policy is adopted to make sure the network is not broken into.

Education and experience: college degree in electrical engineering or computer science, or strong technical training from an employer, such as the Army

Salary range: $50,000 to $130,000

Estimated current employment: more than 200,000; roughly 10% are working on encryption and authentication techniques

Web page designers

The rise of the World Wide Web has already spawned a popular career for people who design and maintain its "home pages," the sites that can be accessed by thousands of Internet surfers with a click of the mouse.

Home pages feature text and graphics that visitors can navigate at their own pace. A few sites are starting to incorporate sound, and in coming months they will start to blend in video clips as well. There are already hundreds of thousands of home pages on the Web, and that number will multiply as more corporations add sites to attract customers and promote products.

Most Web designers come from the world of multimedia. However, writers, editors and designers from the print world are also well-positioned to enter the burgeoning field, if they have a bit of Internet savvy and are willing to read through a book with a title like "Teach Yourself Web Publishing With HTML in a Week."

Internships are a good way to get practical experience.

More complex Web pages will soon incorporate animation and virtual reality elements. A person with experience programming in C++ could easily learn Java or VRML--the computer languages for the fancier programming--fairly quickly, and they "are going to be in huge demand," said Gabriella Marks, president of a Bay Area-based group called Women in Multimedia.

Education and experience: knowledge of HTML (hypertext markup language) and other useful programming languages (can be learned from books or in short seminars and community college classes)

Average salary: $40,000

Estimated current employment: 20,000

Cybrarians

Cybrarians are the librarians of cyberspace, professional information gatherers who make it their business to know what kind of information is available on the Internet and where to find it so they can retrieve it for their clients.

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