So you want to work with computers?
There are very few jobs these days that do not rely on computer skills in one form or another – from manufacturing and the computerised checkouts in supermarkets, to computer-aided design and the science of robotics. In fact, around 21 million people in the UK use IT at work every day.
It should be no surprise, then, that the people who create the computer hardware and software we use for work and leisure, and the people who help keep these systems running, are in high demand.
We'll introduce you to a wide range of people who work closely with computers and IT. Some use their expertise to advise companies on the most effective ways to use IT. Others combine design skills with computer know-how in jobs like multimedia and web design, while those with an aptitude for explaining their knowledge may work in IT training or technical support.
What skills will I need?
A skill that all these people share is the ability to analyse a problem and work out a solution. People skills are just as important. Even in the case of technical roles, most jobs in the IT industry involve a lot of interaction with other people – from fellow team members to customers and suppliers. Employers are particularly interested in people with strong communication and team-working skills.
Specific computer and IT skills vary depending on the role. Programmers, for example, need a thorough understanding of the different programming languages. Web designers and developers need expertise in the functions and features of the internet as well as graphic design skills. IT consultants and project managers need an excellent grasp of how businesses use IT and how they could use it more effectively.
What sorts of people work in IT?
You will see from the profiles that people come into IT from a broad range of backgrounds with many different qualifications. Common to all the roles, however, is a need for a logical mind and a creative approach to problem-solving.
Can I get a job straight from school?
As IT encompasses so many different skills and job roles, there is no standard route to your first job. Some people enter from school and train on the job or take part-time courses, while others study for IT or related qualifications at college or university.
Some may start off in a different role in an industry that interests them and then specialise in the use of computers in that sector. Someone in retail sales, for example, might become an expert in explaining and selling computer systems to customers.
Look at each profile for an insight into how these people got into their careers.
What about relevant qualifications?
For people who start off with a qualification in general computing, the possibilities are very varied. Many people change career paths as they discover which specialist areas really interest them. Some people enter the IT industry with a degree or HNC/HND in subjects such as IT, computing or computer science, or BTEC national diplomas and NVQs/SVQs in computer-related subjects. There are also opportunities for school leavers with A levels and GCSEs.
Increasingly, many of the major software providers are offering their own productspecific qualifications. These are widely available through IT agencies and training providers, and are open to people looking to begin a career in IT as well as those already employed within the industry.
What about future prospects?
The IT industry is extremely varied and has links to almost every other industry. As a result, IT qualifications can lead almost anywhere, and IT experience and qualifications can offer you great flexibility in your future career.
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