IT covers the design, development and management of computer software, hardware and networks.
There are a lot of management and supervisory positions that require business rather than technical skills, and most jobs need people who can communicate effectively with customers, suppliers and colleagues.
Want to know more? Read on...
What qualifications do I need?
For jobs in programming, network support, technical support, database administration, computer and network security, and website development you will need certified technical skills.
For more management-based roles (including IT, applications development, project, customer relationship, e-commerce, operations, web and portal development manager, and chief executive of an IT company), as well as business analysis, and consultancy you will need to back this up with communication and business skills. These can be gained from a university or college course, or receive training from your employer.
For jobs in the "IT and electronic services" field (installation, user support, repair, operations, helpdesk, systems administration and network support), you need either a GCSE in IT, a foundation and/or advanced modern apprenticeship, GNVQ advanced, A-level (or equivalent) computer studies, an HNC/HND in IT or related subjects, or a degree, depending on the actual job.
For higher-level jobs (such as consultant, business analyst, project manager, and Webmaster), you need either a higher degree or a professional qualification from the British Computer Society or the Institute for the Management of Information Systems.
What other IT skills do you need?
“The qualification you need vary,” says Andy Waite, a senior Windows/Application support engineer who now runs his own company Apiphany Ltd. “These days there is a split in the larger enterprises between IT service delivery and more technically focused streams. Therefore while industry-recognised qualifications like ITIL and Prince2 are sought in the service delivery and project management space, technical qualifications like MCTS/MCITP (Microsoft) and CCIE (Cisco) are desirable in technical roles. Most importantly there is no substitute for experience though, and knowledge of the industry you want work in is an essential part as well.”
Andy adds that soft skills matter too: “A customer face, business understanding and an ability to communicate technical concepts are all as important as understanding and applying technology,” he says. “You also need to remember to keep your skill set broad and current, so investing in your own ongoing development is essential.”
For anyone wanting to switch into IT, Andy adds: “From my own experience, an academic course – in my case a BTEC higher nation certificate – was an essential way to show my then employer I was serious about changing the course of my career. Additionally, industry-recognised accreditations are useful to help you enter the industry.”
What are the best and worst things about what you do?
“Working as I do for a large regulated organisation, the diversity and complexity of the environment makes for a great deal of variety in the role with no two days being the same to coin a phrase,” says Andy.
“Equally, the complexity of the environment and in particular the regulatory framework that it needs to operate under causes a significant (though necessary) overhead in terms of restrictions and process that need to be adhered to.”