Choosing your IT Career Path
If you’re coming up to graduation, your mind is probably wandering from projects and exams to interviews and careers.
And the good news is, there’s work to be found – especially in web development, tech support, programming and software.
But first you have to choose the best career path...
Find the IT job that’s right for you
Today, as a new or pending graduate, your career could head off in almost any direction. But so much opportunity might not be a good thing! It’s easy for an IT graduate to drift from job to job, and end up with a disjointed CV 5 years down the line.
“What’s the common thread?”
As you move up the IT ladder, recruiters will be looking for a consistent work history that’s focused on one career path.
So now’s the time to choose your niche and find a graduate post that will meet your job needs today and build your prospects for the future.
The 4 IT Career Paths
ACM – The Association for Computing and Machinery – has identified 4 pathways for IT and Computer Science graduates. We’ve explored their findings here... and added our thoughts into the mix:
Career Path 1: Doing Smart Things With Software
Most graduates are drawn to this path, simply because the work calls for degree level skills and offers huge scope and opportunity.
As well as purely technical fields like IT Security, there are creative disciplines like web development and digital apps – so you may need to show a few non-technical skills, especially a knowledge of user-centric design.
To gain entry, a BSc is usually all it takes (although a Masters could put you a long way ahead of the pack).
Employers range from SMEs to large private and public bodies, including banks, the NHS, government and charities.
Verdict: a broad career path that gives you plenty of options.
Career Path 2: IT Solutions For Non-IT Problems
If you’re an inventor at heart, this will be your dream career. You’ll be using your IT skills to solve all manner of real world problems, in fields like medical research, manufacturing and service industries.
Some of the pathway’s ‘elders’ came in through the entrepreneurial route, devising novel solutions in the early dot-com boom. So they’ll want to see signs of innovation – not just a degree certificate.
A stint in the R&D Lab or your university’s research department could give you the added credentials they’ll be looking for.
Verdict: challenging but rewarding for the right kind of graduate.
Career Path 3: Solving Computer Problems
An aspirational career for the graduate with a mathematical brain and a ruthless streak for problem-solving!
Work can involve endless hours locked into a task, applying theories and algorithms to resolve complex computing issues. High level solutions will often create precedent, so as a by-product of your work, you could be developing the next generation of Computer Science Theory!
However, graduates will struggle to gain entry straight away. The best jobs go to PhDs with a strong research background, so it’s a long-term career choice.
Verdict: start out in R&D, and be ready to play the long game.
Career Path 4: Managing IT Infrastructure
Every large or growing organisation has an IT person or department, tasked with planning, sourcing and managing IT systems and equipment.
For Computer Science and IT graduates, it’s a straight forward career choice, and there’s no shortage of work in both the public and private sector.
Verdict: safe and secure, but maybe less stretching than other career paths.
So, which path works for you?
Chances are, one niche appeals to you more than any other. Maybe it matches your IT skills or even personal interests? If so, that has to be a head start – but it’s not the only concern.
You’ll also have personal needs, like salary and working hours. If you’re juggling work with family commitments, paths 1 and 4 might give you more flexibility. But if you’re pushing for a heady lifestyle, there could be more money to be made in paths 2 and 3.
And of course there’s location. If the job market is vibrant in another part of the country (or world!), are you ready to up sticks and move to land your ideal job? Some can, some can’t. What about you?
It’s all part of the job-hunting jigsaw!
A final word of advice
Whichever path you end up taking, it pays to acquire new skills throughout your career.
For example, if you want to end up managing a department, you’ll need to show a flair for leadership and management. Or if you want to move into a competitive field (like video game design) your creative talents could make the difference when it comes to interview.
Software Alliance Wales offers a wide range of CPD courses, to enhance your technical and employment skills. So why not check our course brochure and bookmark the page? As a busy IT professional, you never know when you’ll need it!
Some Useful Links
The British Computer Society is the UK’s Chartered Institute for IT. Their website provides career advice for students, graduates and established IT professionals.
Click for IT Careers & Skills
The Association for Computing and Machinery is the world’s largest educational and scientific computing society. As well as career guidance, they offer the latest job opportunities.
Click for IT Job Centre
As the Sector Skills Council for Business and IT, e-Skills UK is making sure Britain has the right technology skills for the future. Their website includes an apprenticeship scheme.
Click for IT apprenticeships
Click for e-Skills work in Wales