How to find the best career in IT?

Information technology is not just about working with computers. You have to interact a lot with people too to find out what their needs are. IT covers a huge range of different sectors, from computer games development, record production and internet business to IT services and Telecommunications. Workingmums tells you more about a career in IT.

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Information technology is not just about working with computers. You have to interact a lot with people too to find out what their needs are.

IT covers a huge range of different sectors, from computer games development, record production and internet business to IT services and Telecommunications.

Salaries range according to experience and for most technical services you will require the requisite degree or training. However, there are some IT-based jobs which require more business than technical skills.

Plus there are a huge range of support jobs within the IT industry which are applicable to most industries, including areas such as marketing and graphic design.

Qualifications and skills

You need to have an aptitude for computing, analysis and good business skills to work in Information Technology. General skills include the ability to communicate, an interest in problem solving, an ability to work to deadlines, a logical mind and the ability to work in a team.

The educational background you will need depends on the area you want to work in. For instance, business analysts and sales support staff tend to have degrees in the arts and business studies.

Often it can be useful to have a combined degree in computing skills and business studies or a language. For more technical positions, such as software engineering or systems programming, you will need a degree in computing and IT.

Different courses specialise in different areas. Some may, for example, emphasise engineering and hardware while others focus more on software.

Entry requirements will vary according to the course, with more theoretical courses requiring A Level maths and more business-focused ones not requiring any science A Levels.

An A Level in Computing is not usually a requirement. If you do not have a computing or IT degree, you may be able to do a conversion masters course. Indeed candidates with a background in both another subject and IT are particularly attractive to employers as most companies do not specialise in IT.

Other ways of getting into IT include: NVQs – these exist in areas ranging from Operating Information Technology to Information Systems Development and tend to be completed in the workplace.

BTECs, including BTEC First Diploma Information Technology Practitioners [an introduction to computers]; the National Diploma Information Technology Practitioners, a two-year full-time course requiring four GCSES grade C, including English and Maths [the National Certificate is the part-time equivalent] and the BTEC Higher National Diploma in a range of computer-related subjects – this will usually require an A Level or equivalent qualification, but you can often move onto the second yaer of a degree programme on completion.

You may also find that your employer offers on the job training.

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Systems analysts and designers

These analyse a business problem and design, set up and test a system for dealing with it. Good communications skills are necessary as they have to find out, often from non-technical people, what the problems are and persuade them that their solution is the right one.

You will probably need 2-3 years experience of programming, but a business background may also be useful.

Software engineering and design

You will need a good background in computer technology and will need to undertand how both complex hardware and software work.

You will likely work on the complex, advanced softeware used to control highly technological equipment and on applications of programmes for business use.

A degree in software engineering or computer science or a BTEC Higher National Diploma in software engineering are starting points.

Computer programmers

Programmers use different programming languages to write different computing tasks. They work wtih systems analysts to set up the programmes they have specified and keep detailed records so that they can be adapted at a later date. They need to be good team workers and attuned to detail.

They may specialise in a particular area, such as home programmes or commercial data work. Much computer programming work is done on contracts or freelance.

Originally there were two main types of programmers: applications programmers who write programmes to handle external information such as payroll and systems programmers who work on the internal operations of the computer, seeking faults and solutions, for instance.

However, nowadays, the role of analyst and programmer is often combined, particularly in small firms. Some computers can even programme themselves following the analyst’s instructions.

Systems programmers tend to be graduates whereas applications programmers can be both graduates and holders of BTEC Higher National Diplomas.

Technical support and hardware maintenance engineers

Technical support workers support an organisation’s employees on a day to day basis and need to have a wide range of knowledge since they can face a wide range of problems.

They usually have experience of the computer system being used and the business. You do not necessarily need a technical qualification in IT for this job. Hardware maintenance engineers, however, need at least a BTEC Higher National qualifcations in electrical, electronic or mechanical engineering. This job may require travel.

Computer sales

You will need some technical knowledge plus sales ability so several years’ experience in computing and usually a degree are required.

Computer sales people need to be able to communicate with customers about what they need for their business, to understand the products they sell and to know what is the best product. Managers need to be able to motivate the sales team.

Database controller/manager

Organisations store vast amounts of information which used to be kept in single files and is now often combined into a single database.

The controller/manager needs to ensure the system is up-to-date, efficient and easy to use so they need a background in systems programming or systems design.

Information technology manager

The IT manager needs to ensure that the organisation has the right equipment for its purposes and that it runs well. They have to stay in budget and keep up with latest developments, negotiate with suppliers and adapt to changing business needs.

They need to have several years of computing experience, particularly in systems analysis.

Network or communications manager

The manager coordinates the work of technical support staff who may be based at different sites. They need to adapt and keep up to date with any changes which will improve maintenance and running of computer systems. They will need years of experience in computer support and usually a degree in telecommunications or computer science.

Computer operators

Some organisations still run large mainframe systems that need shiftworking operators to load tapes and disks, etc. This is becoming increasingly unusual as computers need less supervision.

This means operators often combine supervision with technical support or other tasks. In the past, computer operators have tended to come straight out of school, but requirements today will depend on the other skills they might need for the job.

Web developer

Web developers essentially build websites and focus on issues such as usability. Web development is becoming much more technical, involving complex programming as well as website design.

Pay scales

Software engineers, applications programmers, system developers and all those dealign with the software side of computer engineering can earn between £31k and £38K.

Systems analysts/engineers and technical designers or specialists can expect to earn between £37K and £42K and business analyists can earn between £46K and £54K.

Technical sales people can earn between £39K and £48K. Web developers attract a salary of between £28K and £53K and project managers earn between £47K and £55K.

Support staff bring in a salary of between £27K and £33K, consultants earn between £46K and £54K and programmers earn between £28K and £42K.


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