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All degrees welcome for graduate IT jobs

Breaking into IT and technology with any degree is becoming increasingly normal for graduates. We spoke to an IT recruiter who knows all about hiring non-tech graduates to find out more.
Different degree subjects tend to develop different skills sets and ways of thinking.

Even if you’re not studying computer science or an IT-related subject at university, you can still start your graduate career in IT and technology.

‘We take graduates from all degree backgrounds,’ says Charlotte Knowles, managing director at TPP. ‘The most popular degree subject among our programmers is maths, followed by physics, then computer science and many other science subjects after that. We also have programmers with degrees in English, languages and music.’

Why should you go into IT with no tech degree?

There are actually advantages to going into IT without a technology background. ‘Maths graduates usually get satisfaction from problem solving and if that’s the case for you then you will probably like programming,’ says Charlotte. ‘Many of our graduates say they didn’t realise they could be a programmer when they started their degrees.’ Read on to find out why graduate employers are keen to consider you without an IT-related degree and what – if not a specific degree – they are looking for.

What’s in it for IT employers?

‘If we didn’t hire non-IT graduates we’d be limiting ourselves and missing out on some really bright people,’ Charlotte explains. ‘It’s good to have variety.’

If you think about it, different degree subjects tend to develop different skills sets and ways of thinking. For example, a physics graduate is likely to have strong logic skills, while a music graduate may be good at recognising patterns. Businesses can generate more ideas and outsource less work if they have a diverse workforce, as opposed to everyone being skilled in the same way.

How are non-IT graduates trained up?

Having the right technical skills as a graduate is still essential, but employers who take on non-IT graduates are willing and prepared to invest time in training you. ‘We’re confident in our on-the-job training, and after three to four months you can’t tell the difference between the abilities of a computer science graduate and those of a maths graduate, for example,’ says Charlotte.

How employers choose to train their graduates varies but usually involves a combination of ‘classroom’ style learning and working with colleagues on actual projects.

Charlotte describes how graduate developers are trained at TPP: ‘Our graduates work on a real project from the first or second day, but it’s not as scary as that may sound. You’re in a team of six to ten programmers (consisting of people who started within the last year and people who have been here for many years) who support you all the way through, and we tell new programmers that we expect them to get help continuously to start with. The nice thing is that we release new software every four weeks, so you are likely to see your work go live within a short space of time.’

Employers who take on non-IT graduates are willing and prepared to invest time in training you.

What do IT employers look for in prospective graduates?

Entry requirements vary from employer to employer so you must look at individual job descriptions to find out the requirements. TPP looks for outstanding A level results, for example.

Crucially, pay attention to the skills the employer wants evidence of. ‘Communication skills are vital for any role here because our culture is all about teamwork and working collaboratively,’ says Charlotte. ‘More than anything else, though, we’re looking for problem-solving abilities.’

A common sense approach as you lead up to your job-hunt would be to do a range of things to develop your skills so that you are not just focusing on one area.

Developer roles often require you to work at multiple points in the project timeline, so you may be involved in developing the software or technology and have contact with clients. This would mean you’d need the interpersonal skills to discuss requirements with a client and the ability to think of innovative solutions and write code.

What’s wrong with computer science degrees?

There’s nothing wrong with computer science or IT-related degrees. These are still worthwhile and desirable to employers if you go out of your way to develop the technical and soft skills that graduate recruiters want – the same goes whatever your subject.

Some graduate employers do only take on graduates in computer science or related degrees, while others specify STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, maths). But there is a growing trend for graduate employers, especially the larger ones, to broaden their application criteria to attract graduates in any discipline and offer them from-scratch technical training on the job.

Technology now has an impact on every area of life and so there are many ways to “make a difference” by being part of an IT company.

Are IT jobs boring? Recruiter’s view:

‘People who we interview often say that what they want from their job is to use their brain, to never be bored, to work with nice people and to do something good,’ says Charlotte. ‘A lot of people don’t realise you can do that in IT. They also worry they will be sitting in front of a screen all day, not talking to anyone – but that simply isn’t the case. Technology now has an impact on every area of life and so there are many ways to “make a difference” by being part of an IT company. For example, a company like ours has a positive impact on society by working so closely with the NHS.’

In short: the answer is no! Take a look at our specialisms explained to see which industries you could work in as an IT professional.

Follow us on Twitter @TjobsEng_Tech.

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