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Working in IT

By: Lucy Debenham BA (hons) - Updated: 4 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
Career Change It Computing Network

Constant growth within the UK's Information Technology (IT) industry means there is an ever-increasing demand for employees possessing specialised technical skills. Almost all UK businesses, covering a wide range of industries, will be reliant on IT in some form.

It is common for companies, both large and small, to have dedicated IT departments to handle their internal IT infrastructure. Since around the year 2000, however, many companies have found that outsourcing their IT needs can be economically beneficial. Due to the prevalence of outsourcing, IT consultancy companies in the UK have thrived. Job opportunities, as a result of this, are plentiful, with many organisations looking to shore up their staff base with skilled personnel.

As IT has become such an important element in so many aspects of working life, the assortment of career opportunities is vast. These range from specialist jobs involving high degrees of manual labour, such as installing networking cables, through to jobs that will have you sat at a desk for the majority of your day, such as application programming.

What Experience and Skills Will I Need?

Generally, people considering a career change into IT will already have some computing experience. If this is you, and you have an aptitude for problem solving, then a good route into a new IT career may be first-line support. IT Support is normally split into several levels of escalating complexity, where problems are passed from one level of support to the next, until they are solved. Depending on your existing computing experience, and employer requirements, there may be opportunities to enter a support role without any further qualifications. There is a clear route for career progression; as you gain the necessary skills, you may be promoted to the next level of support.

Almost all organisations using multiple computers will have them connected via a network in some way, and naturally this needs to be managed. This job falls to the role of a network administrator. On the most basic level, a network administrator may be required to manage user accounts, such as changing passwords when required, or perhaps taking care of data backups etc. This makes it a good starting point for someone wishing to enter a career in computer networking.

More complex jobs, such as designing new network layouts or configuring new servers, are often carried out by a network engineer. This role requires more in-depth knowledge, and qualifications are often required, such as the Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer certification or a Cisco Systems certification./p>

Owing to the specialist nature of IT, candidates that already possess some form of higher-level qualification in a computing-related subject will naturally be more attractive to potential employers. This will quite often be required to degree level, especially for highly specialised roles such as a programmer or a systems analyst, for example.

Becoming Qualified

When selecting an educational course, it is a good idea to ensure it is certified by an industry-recognised body, such as the British Computing Society. This is particularly important, as the rapid advances in IT mean that qualifications quickly become out of date and obsolete. Courses certified by the BCS are more likely to consist of course material that is inline with current industry expectations, and employers are well aware of this.

For some industry-recognised qualifications, Home Study is a viable option if your career change is to be implemented gradually. This is commonly the case with Cisco Systems Certifications, and Microsoft's MCSE certifications, for example. However, you may need to attend occasional practical sessions in a computer lab, and for required examinations.

Employers within the IT industry are naturally keen to keep their employees' skills abreast of any technological advances. Being sent on training courses is therefore commonplace. As these courses are normally at the employer's expense, they prove a cost effective way for you to advance your skill-set and expedite career progression.

Entering the IT Workplace

In addition to educational qualifications, it is quite common for employers to seek candidates that have practical industry experience in their chosen field. As a result, the most common route of entry into an IT career is through junior level positions, where hands-on experienced can be acquired. Depending on technological exposure while in a junior position, career advancement can often be very rapid, leading to a senior position within relatively short periods of time, compared to other industries.

Salary is generally commensurate with experience, rather than qualifications held. The average salary for a first line support position is £20,000 rising to £34,500 for a third line support position. More highly skilled jobs, such as that of a network engineer, command higher salaries. The average salary of a network engineer is upwards of £40,000, while highly skilled programmers and senior IT managers can earn in excess of £100,000.

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