Not every industry can boast the kind of numbers in expected job growth that IT has: in 2020, information technology is a 5.2 trillion dollar industry. Computer and information systems are one of the most rapidly growing industries in the world, expected to increase by 3.7% in 2021. With new information technologies cropping up left and right, it is no surprise that new job opportunities are following suit and more and more people are interested in pursuing a career in this market.
Reasons for wanting to set foot into IT can be varied. You might not be happy with your current career choice or prospects. You may not feel fulfilled by what you do. You could be interested in finding out what goes on in the mysterious and versatile IT industry, and are keen on acquiring new skills in computer science. Or you may realize that the industry offers plenty of remote jobs.
Whatever your reason for seeking an IT career is, there is a lot of work ahead of you. Changing careers and continuing education are not easy feats, regardless of how old you are, what your career has been up until this point, and what background you come from.
In this ultimate guide to IT careers, we hope to cover all the relevant topics that will help you reach your IT goals in 2021. We will discuss the pros and cons of an IT career, what IT branches may be the best fit for you, and what you need to accomplish to land your first IT job.
Let’s begin with describing the good sides and bad sides of IT.
IT Career Advantages
- High income
Entry-level jobs may be the exception, but once you get ahead in IT, you are looking at an enviable annual salary. There’s no doubt that IT professionals are well-paid and live a financially stable life, which is enough for many to consider getting into the industry.
Statista declares that IT professionals working in aerospace and defense, communications, public relations, and advertising, as well as the pharmaceutical, medical, and biotech industry, are enjoying the highest income. However, we guarantee that you will be satisfied with the money you’re earning, no matter what type of IT you settle in.
- Varied job opportunities
We will go into detail about the major IT sectors later in this article, but it is important to point out that IT is an amazingly versatile industry. You can choose from a wide range of job opportunities, such as becoming a software engineer, video game designer, web designer, 3D animator, data analyst, systems analyst, cybersecurity expert, and so much more.
Whatever your inclinations are – wherever your strengths lie – IT will have a spot for you. You don’t necessarily have to be good at math, logical operations, and algorithms if you want a job in computing technology – almost all kinds of skill sets are welcome here.
- Non-strenuous work
Sitting at a desk for at least eight hours a day has its disadvantages, such as developing poor posture or gaining weight. However, sitting in a comfy office is hardly strenuous work. If you are dissatisfied with your current working conditions, such as our student Brice Clements who used to be a cable and internet installer often working outdoors in poor weather conditions, you won’t find that problem in IT.
Moreover, you might get the perk of working from home. You get to spend your lunch break with your children or spouse, and you don’t have to worry about questionable lunch break food choices, seeing as you can eat out of your own kitchen! Who wouldn’t enjoy that?
- Dynamic work assignments
In IT, no two projects are the same. Even if you work in one specific branch – say, virtual reality, for example – you will meet different clients who will want different results from you. You can be making a mobile app one day and a web platform the next, depending on the type of job you do. IT will always keep you on your toes.
Dynamic work of this type requires a dynamic personality. If you appreciate a good challenge and like to take on new problems to solve, then there’s no reason to think that IT won’t be a good fit for you.
IT Career Disadvantages
- Stressful environment
IT is all about deadlines. Projects need to be planned out, developed, tested, and sent back to the client or released all within the confines of a strict schedule. The development team usually has little say over this schedule, since managers handle that side of the business. It goes without saying that there is little room for error, let alone a leisurely pace.
If you decide to work freelance and manage your own time, then you will face clients who have no IT knowledge and are mostly clueless when they need to specify what they want from you or the software you’re making for them. Either way, be prepared to deal with a lot of miscommunication and constant chase to meet deadlines in this line of work.
- Little free time
Most jobs – especially ones where you have to prove yourself to advance – require some form of free time sacrifice. IT is not an exception. Even if you’re doing everything right, it may happen that you need to cancel a family outing, a romantic dinner with your significant other, or work weekends to handle an emergency.
Many people assume that work in IT is a nine to five job. This is true to an extent, but when faced with a problem or a project that is running late, you will need to put aside your free time and get it done, no matter what it takes.
- Continual training and education
This last con might be considered a pro for some. It is a fact that IT is constantly evolving. New software, technologies, and programming languages are constantly being released, and it’s not easy to keep up with all of that.
However, information technology professionals have to. To stay on top of your game and ahead of your competitors, you will need to constantly educate yourself and undergo training for what’s new and potentially better than what you’ve been using up until that point. This isn’t always an easy thing to do, especially if you are working long hours and have a family to take care of at home.
Major Sectors of IT
If the list of cons hasn’t put you off yet, and you are still interested in learning more about careers in information technology, you are in the right place. In this section, we will discuss the major branches of IT you might be interested in, and what skill sets each of them requires.
- Software development
IT wouldn’t work without software development, or the science of planning out, coding, and implementing software applications for various electronic devices. For this IT branch, you will need to be good at problem-solving, logical thinking and operations, algorithms, and math to an extent. You should be able to find your way around programming languages and pick up several of them to have in your arsenal.
Job positions that wait for you in software development are those of software engineers or computer programmers, web developers, video game developers, mobile app developers, etc.
- IT security
Cybersecurity experts also need to have intimate knowledge of code and programming languages, but they are more focused on the system security side of things. Their job is to protect software from external threats, encrypt data, make sure all the information of a particular system is secure against theft or corruption, and so on. An information security analyst and other security specialists need to know all there is about protecting networks from cyber attacks.
- Data analytics
Even though data science is not unique to IT, data scientists have a crucial role in this industry. Collecting information, sorting through it, arranging it by relevant categories, spotting patterns in the data – all of that is the job of a data analyst, data engineer, information research scientist, and other similar jobs.
Strong organizational skills are valued in this branch. Coding isn’t a top priority, but you will need to have basic programming skills to work as a data scientist in IT.
- Design and animation
If you’re a creative person who enjoys drawing, painting, photography, typography, calligraphy, creating digital art or graphics of any kind, you can also find your place in IT. Plenty of creative positions are available in video game design, graphic design, UI (user interface) design, etc.
Having a drawing tablet is a requirement because you won’t be able to reach your full creative potential with a mouse (though a UI designer may manage without a tablet). 2D and 3D animators are also widely sought-after in app development, so work on building your portfolio and looking for companies you’d like to work for one day.
Finally, not one bit of software created can be (or should be) released to the public or handed over to a client without proper testing. Sometimes, developers themselves test their code, but more often than not, testing specialists are hired for the job.
Testers and quality assurance engineers are in charge of manually testing the apps and looking for bugs, but they also develop snippets of code to test the app code itself and see if it works. They need to possess excellent attention to detail and nurture a methodical approach to testing processes. Whether or not a user is satisfied with their experience hangs on how well the software does what it’s meant to do.
One IT professional doesn’t have to settle only for one IT branch. You can dabble in several, depending on your preferences and what you enjoy doing. And we haven’t even mentioned the computer hardware side of things, such as computer hardware engineers who build and maintain all the physical components that software developers work on.
The sky’s the limit in this industry! Just take a moment to consider what your strengths and weaknesses are, as well as what road you should take to make the most of your IT potential.
FAQ About Computer Careers
Through this section of frequently asked questions about information technology careers, we would like to help you find out more about what degrees or certifications you may need, as well as what should be your first steps in your IT job search.
Is a college degree required?
At the start of your IT career path, you may be tempted to acquire a bachelor’s degree in computer science, enroll in online colleges, or maybe even go for a master’s degree in a related field.
You absolutely do not have to do this.
It is true that some IT companies won’t consider applicants without a college degree. However, these companies are few and far between. Most hiring managers are interested in your past experience, how much knowledge you have, and how you will benefit the company. A degree in computer science, or a college degree in general, is not a primary concern.
That being said, if you have a degree in a field unrelated to IT, don’t hide it! Even if you don’t think your degree is relevant, it could prove to be a huge advantage over other applicants. Paint your degree in a positive light, highlight the skills it helped you develop that others may not have, and you’ll have a higher chance of landing your first IT job.
Do I need any IT certificates?
Despite the fact that most IT career paths don’t require a college degree, IT certificates can be an immense advantage. These are relatively short, intense courses based on a particular subject that will provide you with the knowledge and practical experience you need to jumpstart your IT career. Here are some of the most common certifications you can go for:
These courses offer a solid foundation you can build on once you get hired for an IT position. They will shine on your CV and convince your future employers that you’re the right candidate for the job.
Is it possible to get a job with zero experience?
It absolutely is possible to get an IT job with zero experience! It’s not easy, but it is possible. We have a few tips to help you there.
- Apply for an internship
Working without getting paid is no one’s idea of a good time. However, interning at an IT firm, especially one that you want to be employed in some day, is a great starting point. You will have the chance to learn from your fellow developers, analysts, or designers, and your superiors will have a first-hand opportunity to see you in action. If they like what they see, they will likely hire you.
Even though other industries, such as law firms, make the whole interning-and-then-getting-hired business seem like a pipe dream, this is pretty common in tech jobs. You just need to impress your coworkers and managers, and the job is yours.
- Look for an entry-level job
You might have had experience in a different career, but when you switch to IT, you are essentially starting from the bottom again. An entry-level information technology job is not what you’re after as the ultimate goal, but it may be the only thing you can get at the moment. Typically, juniors in software development or any other department aren’t required to have much or any experience going in.
Settling for a beginner’s position does not mean you will stay there forever. Work hard, absorb all the knowledge and practice like a sponge, teach yourself additional skills in your free time – promotion is right around the corner!
- Emphasize your soft skills
Lastly, learn how to spice up your CV. Having no IT experience doesn’t mean that you can’t emphasize skills you’ve obtained from your former job positions. Soft skills, such as communication skills, teamwork, leadership, critical thinking, attention to detail, your work ethic, and others, are just as important as practical programming knowledge.
Remember to craft each version of your CV according to the job position you’re applying for. Don’t simply create a universal one you will send out everywhere. Take your time to read the job description and curate your list of skills and prior experience to match the description as best you can.
Before you decide which online course or class you will take, there are several things to consider first. Find IT professionals in your surroundings or online and listen to what they have to say about their careers. Are they happy doing what they do? Is it worth it? Is it something you think will make you happy as well?
If you like what you learn, the next step would be to find an IT branch you’d fit into. If you are a creative person, look for training in art and design. If you’re intrigued by coding, pick up a programming language. Consider what type of software you’d like to build. Or perhaps you’d be more interested in becoming a computer systems analyst, a network administrator, or something else entirely?
In the end, don’t concern yourself too much about your lack of experience. As long as you show initiative and the will to improve yourself, any IT company would be glad to have you.
My Computer Career is at your service in helping you on your IT journey. We offer certifications that will set you on the right path, as well as a free 10-minute evaluation. After the evaluation, you will receive a recommendation on what course would fit you the best, as well as what you can expect going forward. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions at all! We will be more than excited to give you a hand in finding you an IT job of your dreams!