How do I get into a career in IT?
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There are IT jobs available at all different levels, depending on your qualifications and experience. The two main routes for school leavers to start their careers in IT are either attending university in order to earn a degree before finding a graduate job or starting work through an apprenticeship after your GCSEs or A levels (or equivalent) with an employer who will train you up.
There are plenty of IT-related degrees available. However, you don’t need an IT-related degree in order to find a career in an IT and technology after graduation.
Studying an IT and technology-related degree
Studying for a degree in an IT-related subject will mean that there are more technology jobs you can apply for once you graduate than if you choose a different subject. You will also have the opportunity to specialise in a particular area of IT and technology that interests you.
Common degree titles for IT-related degrees include:
- computer science
- computer networks
- cyber security
- data science
- game design (or computer game design)
- information technology
- software engineering.
More ‘technical’ job roles may require applicants to have studied a specific degree course (such as ‘software engineering’), but most technology jobs will not require you to have studied a specialised course. If you’d prefer to have more of a commercial focus there are courses such as ‘computing in business’ available.
To get onto a degree in computer science or similar at a leading university you typically need A level maths (or equivalent), often at A or A* grade. Less prestigious universities don’t always ask for A level maths. However, as mathematical ability is a key skill for technical roles, it will still be a necessity in most IT jobs.
Getting a tech job with a non-IT degree
It’s possible to get into an IT career as a graduate with any degree. A few employers will accept applications from graduates with degrees in any subject and will offer training in the required technical skills as part of the job.
Non-technical graduates can also take a one-year long, postgraduate IT conversion course, which essentially compresses the information from a three-year bachelors degree into a single year. Taking a conversion course will increase the number of graduate jobs you will be eligible to apply for. You can find out more about IT conversion courses on our graduate-focused site TARGETjobs.
Routes into IT for non-tech graduates
- Some technology employers will require a particular, IT-related degree, eg computer science or software engineering. This is particularly the case with smaller employers, who are less able to take graduates who need lots of training. Some of these employers will accept an IT conversion course; some won’t.
- Some technology employers accept subjects such as engineering, science or maths (often called ‘STEM’ degrees) for IT jobs, but they won’t accept graduates with arts or humanities backgrounds.
- Some technology employers accept graduates with any degree and train you up. In many cases this will be for slightly less technical roles, but some large companies (eg IBM) are prepared to train you to do very technical jobs such as developing software.
How competitive will getting a job with a non-technology degree be?
Broadly speaking, the less technical your degree the more competition you will face and the more impressive you will need to be as a candidate. This includes having a strong academic record. If you want to go into IT via this route, make sure you do as well as you can in your A levels/Scottish Highers (or equivalent), get into a good university and study a degree subject that you think you will do well in and that is academically well respected.
Recruiters will also want to see that graduates who haven’t studied an IT- or technology-related subject at university still have a genuine interest in technology. Think about what you can do in your spare time to develop and display your interest. Examples could be learning a coding language and/or keeping up with technology news in your spare time.
Apprenticeships are well worth a look if you want to start work in IT after your A levels or Scottish Highers (or equivalent) and study towards recognised qualifications at the same time.
The different type of apprenticeships correspond to the ‘level’ of qualification that apprentices will study towards over the course of their work. Intermediate apprenticeships lead to level 2 qualifications (equivalent to five GCSE passes at grades A*–C/4–9); advanced apprenticeships are at level 3 (equivalent to two A levels); higher apprenticeships lead to level 4 qualifications (equivalent to foundation degrees and higher education diplomas); and degree apprenticeships result in bachelors or masters degrees (level 6 and above).
Earning and learning: IT degree apprenticeships
Apprenticeships which allow you to gain IT degree while working for an employer are becoming more and more common. These are usually called a degree apprenticeship (sometimes referred to as a ‘sponsored degree’). You’ll earn a wage and have your studies paid for, meaning that you can graduate debt-free and with several years of valuable professional experience on your CV.
To get onto a programme that includes a degree you will typically need three A levels (or equivalent). Often your A levels (or equivalent) need to include at least one or two science/maths/technology subjects, but this is not always the case.
Earning and learning: IT higher apprenticeships
Higher apprenticeships will allow you to gain level 4 and 5 qualifications (such as a foundation degree or higher education diploma) while working for an employer. A foundation degree is equivalent to two-thirds of a bachelors degree, but is still a recognised qualification. After completing a higher apprenticeship, you may be able to progress on to completing a degree apprenticeship with your employer.
Entry requirements for higher apprenticeships that don’t include university study vary widely. Some employers ask for three A levels; others are happy with two. Some expect science/maths/technology subjects; others will accept any subject. And some specify minimum grades they will accept (typically Cs), while others don’t.