Information Technology is an area that is important in almost every business sector and there are as many different routes into the IT job market as there are IT roles available. Think about finance, social services, retail, energy production, manufacturing or the creative industries; every one of these areas will have roles for IT specialists. Essentially, if you can imagine that a computer might be useful in any industry, then there will be an IT role available.
Getting the right training
A range of IT courses is available from most universities, but even these are not the only way into working in IT. It might be more helpful to take a degree that is relevant to the wider industry you’re hoping to work in – this could be art, accountancy or physics. If you’re purely focused on IT work, then a maths degree will certainly stand you in good stead. You can then take a post-graduate IT course or join one of the training programmes offered by major IT providers such as Microsoft. This wide range of IT training options means that it’s also possible to retrain as an IT specialist later in life, either as a complete career change or a sideways step within your existing profession.
Contracting or in-house?
Once you’re qualified, you need to decide whether to go it alone as a freelance IT contractor or to work in-house for an established company. Both choices have their advantages and disadvantages. A contractor can earn a significantly higher hourly rate than their in-house equivalent, and they have the added bonus of being their own boss and choosing when and where to work. On the other hand, working in-house brings greater job security and benefits such as paid holidays and sick leave.
Working in-house, your tax and pension situation is also more or less taken care of. As an IT contractor, this is an additional headache you may have to deal with. The rules on self-employment are increasingly complex and are constantly changing, particularly with regard to IR35 legislation. It’s best to consult a specialist for advice on tax and help with your IR35 position if you decide on going down this route. For many, starting out working in-house to gain skills, experience and contacts and then branching out on their own is the preferred way to go.
When starting out in IT it’s vital to keep skill sets up to date and to always be on the lookout for new opportunities. IT is a fast-moving field, where the requirements are changing all the time. Breaking into the market may require a certain amount of unpaid work, perhaps as an intern, but this should pay off in knowledge, experience and connections. One should never stop learning, and qualifications should be kept up to date. This is a growing market with a wealth of varied job roles, but it’s also a highly competitive one. Specialist skill sets are at a premium, but a reputation as a good, reliable worker will always open doors.