As so many companies are reliant on technology these days, there are lots of opportunities available to work in a range of IT jobs.
But if you've worked in IT for awhile, you might be looking to take the next step up in your career. If this is the case, it might be time to consider a career in IT management...
So, what will I actually be doing?
If you find a job in-house you'll probably be called an IT manager, but if you work for clients your title will more likely be IT project manager or IT consultant. Either way your role is the same.
You'll be expected to advise businesses on technology and how it can help them perform better, then oversee new systems design and development.
It's a sociable job which involves working with a team to make sure the new system is completed on time and on budget.
You'll get to work on lots of different projects; some might take years to complete (like a new patient database for the NHS) others just a few weeks (like a switch to a new phone system).
No matter what the project is, as IT manager you'll be responsible for a lot of the planning, justification and evaluation. You'll spend most of your time on the following tasks:
- Speaking to your management team/clients to find out what they want
- Advise clients objectively on where IT might make a difference to the business
- Planning the stages of the project and how each affects the business
- Co-ordinating the project team
- Agreeing costs, timescales and standards to be met and monitoring these through the project
- Adjusting the plans where needed
- Making sure there is a smooth change over from the old system to the new one
- Keeping management and clients updated on progress
- Evaluation of each project stage and once completed
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The finer details...
Most jobs will say they're 9am to 5pm, but you should expect to be more flexible than this. The nature of the industry can mean that extra hours are needed at times to meet deadlines.
You'll be based out of an office, but if you work with clients there will be travel involved. You'll go to meetings and will often need to work from their offices, sometimes overseas depending on the client and project.
Due to the nature of the role it's unusual to find part-time jobs. Self-employment is a popular choice, because it means you can take breaks between assignments if you want to.
With IT being such an important part of business success there have never been more opportunities out there.
There are more men than women working as IT managers/consultants but again the market is growing and there is a big push to get more women into the industry.
Most larger companies have established career paths, and your goal will be to gain more management responsibility. Another option to pursue if you work for a larger company is the opportunity to work overseas.
The role is so diverse that you might choose to follow a more technical path instead of a management one. You could specialise in a sector or programme e.g. SAP or Oracle implementations or go on to become an IT specialist or technical architect.
Money, money, money
The typical range of starting salaries goes from £23,000 to £32,000.
Senior IT managers can earn much, much more than this and it's not uncommon to be on a salary of up to £100,000 once you've got 10 to 15 years' experience. Salaries at this level will be heavily performance based.
As with most jobs, your salary will depend on the location (jobs in London and the South East typically pay slightly higher) and your type of employer.
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The good points...
Becoming an IT manager can open many doors for you in the future. Your prospects will be determined by the size and type of organisation you work for, but you should always find there are opportunities to grow into a more strategic role.
We've already mentioned the potential to work freelance. There is a lucrative market out there once you've got the experience to work as an IT consultant or contractor. The job pays well and you can build in breaks when it suits you in between projects to go travelling etc.
...and the bad
If you work with clients you may have to mirror their hours.
Is there study involved?
You'll generally need a degree and several years' relevant experience to get started in IT management. It's better if your degree is in an IT-based subject or is a business degree with some technical element (like maths or engineering).
There may be some opportunities if you don't have a degree but have lots of experience which shows you have gradually taken on more responsibility for development and implementation of projects.
Some IT managers come from another background and have worked in another sector before moving into IT.
If this is the case then you'll need to show evidence of your project management skills, preferably in some way related to IT. And you'll need to have taken some kind of IT course to get your technical knowledge up to scratch.
One qualification that employers are increasingly looking for is PRINCE2 (Projects in Controlled Environments).
It's not essential but it looks good on your CV if you have it. Don't worry if you don't as some employers will send you on this training course as part of your ongoing development.
The IT industry takes ongoing qualifications very seriously and it invests more in training than any other industry.
As an IT manager/consultant, your employer should make sure your training is a mix of business and technical skills.
Your training programme will therefore depend on how you get started in the industry and whether you need to focus on the IT or business skills side of things.
Either way it's a good idea to get a project management qualification.
If, like most people, you have an IT background and have worked up the career ladder there are some IT project management qualifications available through the Association of Project Management (APM) and the Information Systems Examinations Board (ISEB). If your work takes you overseas then the Project Management Institute (PMI) runs great courses.
If you come from a more general business background you could take some more generic project management qualifications such as a degree or postgraduate course or NVQs.
You could ask to go on courses that will help you develop your communications and leadership skills because working with people is such an important part of the job.
OK, I'm interested... But is it really the job for me?
You'll need a few strings to your bow to become an IT manager, not just an interest in technology. A big part of the job is about managing people and reporting back.
You should have:
- Excellent organisational skills
- Excellent analytical and problem solving skills
- Understanding of complex information and requirements
- Good prioritisation skills and be flexible enough to adapt plans
- Good evaluation skills
- Good communications skills - written and verbal
- Great IT skills combined with a good head for business
- Confidence in decision-making
- A good team-playing mentality
- Good leadership skills
- An ability to work to tight deadlines and within constraints