Careers in Computing and IT

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Information technology (IT) is still evolving at a rapid rate. There are many different IT careers – it has been said that there are as many as 300 options, and many ways into the industry.

IT continues to provide a fairly stable source of income for both permanent position holders and contractors, which includes PC support, developers and programmers, IT managers, business systems analysts, project managers and programme managers.

Areas of Work

The following areas of work can be loosely grouped into technical (e.g. software development), business-related (project management) and creative (website development and design).

Development

Example job titles are Software System Architect or Designer, Software Application Developer, Software Engineer, Software Tester, Installer.

Software development or programming is the starting point for many IT careers. As well as programming, development work covers networks, databases, systems, hardware and websites. Most organisations buy programs and then have them adapted to meet the organisations’ needs.

Website developers and designers continue to be very much in demand, due to the increasing use of e-commence and websites as a primary means of communication with the customers or business-to-business.

Different stages in the software life cycle involve developers: programs are tested for functionality and security, while installation of programmes, databases, systems, networks and migration can be a massive undertaking.

Provision and Support

Example job titles are Database or Network Administrator, Systems Support Manager, User or Technical Support Manager. Many jobs overlap and roles can be very individual, particularly in smaller organisations.

Once installation is complete, the support team works within the organisation to support the infrastructure, its operations and users. A company’s database will have a team dedicated to its operation and maintenance, as well as the network, whether it links remote locations or is a one-site intranet.

Project Management

Example job titles are Project Manager, Development Manager.

Project management roles in information technology are more concerned with the interface of IT in an organisation’s strategic planning, as well as its communication and financial systems. In many instances, projects will be organisation-wide, such as the development of new hardware or software systems, and their subsequent installation and migration. The project manager must not only oversee the technical development, but must ensure delivery on time and on budget, with minimum disruption to the organisation.

Strategy and Planning

Example job titles are IT Director, Continuity Manager.

Senior managers in the IT department work at executive level, taking on a strategic planning role within the organisation. Having worked up through the ranks, they are likely to have had considerable technical experience, coupled with a strong understanding of business and commercial goals.

Procurement

Example job titles are Procurement Manager.

This is another area where the IT manager combines their technical knowledge and skills with general management ability in other areas. A procurement manager will use their technical knowledge to purchase the best product to fulfil a need, but will use financial acumen to negotiate on price and establish supplier relationships.

Will a Job in IT Suit You?

  • If you are very technically minded, then roles such as network engineer, software developer and programmer might suit you best. Degrees in computer science, information systems and software engineering are appropriate for these careers, although you can enter at a lower level if you don’t have a degree. You’ll need specialist knowledge in programming languages, operations systems, network and infrastructure, as well as development skills.
  • While you need to have great technical aptitude in many IT roles, you’ll often need to combine this with other skills and qualities. Different roles in the IT industry require varied balances of technical and non-technical skills, so it’s important to evaluate yourself and understand what combination of strengths you offer.
  • If you are strong in IT but have good skills in business analysis, holding a degree in business or economics, then it’s possible that you could be suited to consultancy, where you ascertain the IT needs in commercial environments to further business goals.
  • Communication is important, particularly in roles within non-IT businesses. Functions from user support and technical help desk through to installation all need the ability to use both written and verbal communication effectively.
  • Organisation and planning abilities are important in many roles. Few IT operations can take place without extensive planning.
  • Analytical and problem solving abilities are invaluable. More important still is the ability to troubleshoot IT issues under time pressure.
  • A commercial awareness and understanding of customer needs is valuable if you wish to be involved in the design of systems for businesses.
  • As with many roles, enthusiasm and motivation are important, as you may need to work long and unsociable hours as projects near their conclusion, or as problems need to be addressed.
  • Adaptability and flexibility are valuable skills, together with a readiness to learn new skills. You will need to keep updating to stay aligned with rapid developments in the industry.

Getting Started on your IT Career

Usually, for higher level jobs a degree in computer science, maths or a related subject is needed. For more senior roles, many IT employers prefer evidence of involvement in other areas of life besides the computer screen, as further evidence that technical abilities can be applied in various environments.

It’s also possible to enter the industry with a non-IT subject degree, although you would need to demonstrate accomplished skills in an area that was also relevant to the job – e.g. business and commerce. Another way is to demonstrate proficiency in an IT skill which is much in demand, while candidates are in short supply.

Practical experience in an employment situation can also make up for a non-IT degree, in the shape of a year spent in industry before studying. It’s also possible to transfer to IT positions within a company, having started out in another department. It’s nearly always advisable to aim for certificated courses in relevant skills areas.

The rewards in a permanent position can be considerable. As well as a good salary, you can expect annual holiday leave, a pension scheme, private health insurance and overtime from the first month. You’ll usually receive solid support for continuing professional development, as it’s in the employers’ interest to keep you updated with new technologies.

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