Careers in IT - A CV Centre Guide

IT is an incredibly diverse discipline and, because nearly all organisations, from local high street retailers to the largest financial institutions, rely heavily on computers, a career in IT is one that can provide a wealth of opportunities.  You can choose to specialise in fields ranging from research, systems analysis, software development and testing through to database design, technical support, web development and project management.  Because of the competitive nature of the industry, it may be wise to have an idea of which area you wish to specialise in, although it is important not to narrow your options too far.  The industry is one that changes and develops rapidly so the ability to be flexible is essential.

Choosing the IT environment you wish to work in can effectively be categorised as a choice between development or user-based.  Working within a development organisation will mean becoming involved in the complete lifecycle from design and programming to testing and implementation.  A user-based environment will involve determining user requirements, providing support and training, maintaining and configuring products and systems, and ensuring the security and integrity of company information.  Essentially, this is a customer-facing environment where problem solving and communication skills will prove invaluable.

Entry requirements

There are as many routes into the industry as there are career paths to follow.  Graduate entry is very common with the option to choose a non-IT subject, which will reflect the diversity of your skills set, or one of the many specialist IT degrees including Computer Science, Computer Communications, e-Commerce, Business Information Technology and Web Computing.  Many non-IT degrees now also offer computer-related modules because of the overwhelming desire of many employers to recruit graduates who have a good understanding of the use of computers.  Another benefit would be to study a foreign language as part of your degree due to the increasing number of overseas opportunities.  No matter what degree option you do choose, employers are looking for well-grounded graduates who not only understand how to use computers but can also demonstrate skills in communication, team working and problem solving.

Commercial qualifications, such as those accredited by Novell, Cisco, Microsoft and Oracle, are also useful routes into the industry.  These will enable you to specialise in specific IT disciplines but are less valuable if you are hoping to become more broadly involved in sales or marketing, for example.  You can study for chartered membership of the British Computer Society or the Institute of Electrical Engineers and take advantage of the numerous benefits available to you as a result.

Qualifications are obviously extremely important for entry into the IT industry but many employers also look for people who have actually demonstrated their competence within a professional environment.  If possible, undertake an industry placement as part of your degree and actively seek voluntary or paid employment during vacations.  Being able to actually apply the skills and technologies that you have studied could set you apart from other candidates for the same job.

Progression opportunities

Although the IT industry has experienced recruitment slumps resulting from the dot.com crashes and the anti-climax following Y2K, it is still an extremely popular and relatively well-paid industry sector.

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