Getting a graduate job in IT and technology: the basics
CAREER SECTOR JARGON: convergence, business analysis, C++, outsourcing, VoIP, compliance, IT services, consulting…
IT includes all forms of technology that are used to create, store, communicate, exchange and use information. Graduate IT employers range from enormous international corporations such as Microsoft and IBM to small specialist software development houses and consultancies with just a few employees. But you don't have to work for a technology organisation – over half of IT professionals find jobs outside the IT industry.
Other large recruiters of IT and technology graduates include financial services, manufacturing and public sector employers. However, almost every organisation uses IT and therefore needs support staff, so you could potentially find an entry-level IT job anywhere.
Information technology is powering businesses and society. This business sector is highly innovative and constantly changing to suit new demands and produce new tools. In just five years' time, it is highly likely that the IT industry and the information technology we use will look quite different from how it looks today.
How can I get a graduate job in information technology?
IT employers look for talented graduates from a range of degree backgrounds. Larger recruiters run graduate programmes and training schemes to which you can apply directly. Recruiters like applicants to have work experience – it can be the distinguishing factor between applicants who all have an impressive academic record. It doesn’t have to be computing-related, however. Almost any work experience can demonstrate that you have good transferable skills.
Many IT graduate schemes require applicants to have (or be predicted) at least a 2.1. However, there are some IT graduate schemes that accept 2.2 degrees.
What qualifications and skills do I need to work in IT?
Depending on the job and employer, any graduate with an interest in information technology can work in IT: there are career opportunities for graduates from all degrees. Many graduates without computer science or technology degrees choose to focus on consultancy and business analysis roles, applying broad technical knowledge to a commercial environment and business processes. Information technology organisations may also have graduate roles in business support functions such as marketing and finance.
Specific technical jobs, such as network engineer, software developer, programmer/analyst, systems analyst really do require graduates with a technology degree, eg computer science, information systems, software engineering, telecoms engineering, physics, maths (with a computing component). You will need to have core skills such as programming languages, operating system knowledge, network and infrastructure understanding and development skills.
Hardware development, research and development, and device-level design roles can require degrees such as physics or electronics engineering.
Whether your IT job is technology or business focused, graduate employers want you to demonstrate the following core competences:
- Good communications skills – written, verbal and listening – particularly the ability to communicate without excessive technical detail or jargon.
- Teamworking and interpersonal skills
- Organisation and planning skills
- Problem-solving ability
- Commercial awareness and customer focus
- Enthusiasm and motivation
- Adaptability and flexibility
- Willingness and ability to learn new skills quickly.
What are the different areas of work in IT?
All businesses use information technology and many employ graduates in IT and technology-related roles. Here are some of the main technology business sectors in which you could start your graduate career:
- Financial services IT
- Financial software development
- Games development
- Hardware development
- Industry and manufacturing IT
- Investment banking technology
- IT outsourcing
- IT services
- Niche software houses and consultancies
- Professional services IT
- Public sector IT
- Retail IT
- Technology consulting
- Telecommunications IT
- Web development and e-commerce
What are the graduate salaries in IT?
Entry-level salaries for IT jobs and graduate programmes offered by employers advertising with TARGETjobs IT & Technology graduate careers publication average at around £27,000. However, you could earn under £20,000 or over £30,000 depending on the type of job, company and location.
Skills are currency, whether they're key programming languages, network qualifications or project management skills. Develop the right ones and keep pace with what’s going on in the industry and your salary will escalate to higher levels as your career progresses.
What training and development opportunities are there?
Graduate programmes and training schemes in IT will provide you with a range of experience, necessary technical understanding, sector knowledge and basic professional skills (communication, presentation, negotiation, etc) on which you can build your information technology career. In all IT jobs you’ll find that you do a lot of learning on the job and you’ll learn from experienced colleagues around you.
If you join an organisation where you are recruited into a specific role, junior programmer, for example, you’ll probably hit the ground running and get stuck straight into coding after a basic induction programme.
Whether you work for a large IT company or a small software specialist, professional development is not always formally structured in IT. You’ll steer your own career in IT and take responsibility for your own development. That said, IT employers are recognised for spending significantly more on training people than other sectors. And, if you need a specific skills or qualifications to do your job (eg vendor certifications such as, Microsoft, Oracle or Cisco) your employer will support you in achieving these.
You could also work towards becoming a chartered IT professional (CITP) through the BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT. The also offers opportunities for accredited training and professional qualifications for technologists.
What is working life in IT like?
There are so many different jobs in IT that it's impossible to describe a typical working day.You'll spend time with your computer, like professionals in most business sectors do these days. Many jobs in IT involve working as part of a team and liaising with clients or external organisations such as suppliers and vendors.
IT companies generally promote an attractive work environment. Many have good onsite facilities, such as cafes, gyms, and even Xbox pods. If you're involved in IT consulting, you're likely to spend a good proportion of your time at client sites.
IT companies tend to use the latest technology in daily activities. However, while your employer might have state of the art blade server rooms, many end-user organisations and clients may still use enormous legacy systems!
You may work longer hours when deadlines loom, but IT employers try to make up for this in other ways, sometimes ordering takeaways to keep you going. The IT sector is a pioneer of technology that promotes home and mobile working, so you may find that employers have good flexible working policies.
What are the highs and lows?
The IT industry is full of change and innovation because it's still very young compared to traditional professions such as law and medicine. It's exciting to be at the cutting edge of technology or using the latest techniques and ideas to impact the way a business runs, but you will need to constantly keep pace with the changes and learn new skills. Some roles are quite stable, without becoming repetitive, while consulting roles entail great variety because the client sites change with each new project.
Mobility is becoming more of a requirement for IT employees, particularly in IT services and consulting roles. The expenses lifestyle can seem glamorous at first. However, the novelty wears off if you can’t keep up regular week night activities or settle down in a particular region because you’re regularly commuting to different client sites in the UK or further a field.
What does the application process for graduate jobs in IT involve?
Practically all IT employers that recruit graduates have embraced online application systems, but there are still recruiters that request a CV and cover letter – typically smaller, technology organisations.The recruitment process is likely to start with an interview, which may be over the phone or face-to-face. If you impress the employer, you'll move on to further forms of assessment, which may include: an assessment centre; group exercises; presentations; a technical interview; programming tests; psychometric tests (verbal reasoning, numerical, personality, diagrammatic); case studies; and in-tray exercises.
When should I apply for IT graduate jobs?
Graduate IT jobs can be found in a range of organisations and business sectors. As a result there are a range of recruitment cycles within the IT business. Check each organisation’s recruitment schedule so that you don’t miss a deadline.
If you are considering technology internships and graduate programmes within financial organisations, primarily the investment banks, you need to apply early. Some banks have application deadlines as early as the beginning of November.
Most other large IT organisations that recruit graduates have ‘open’ or 'ongoing' recruitment cycles with no fixed application deadline. However, they start making offers as soon as they find suitable candidates. If you leave applying too late they may have filled all their vacancies.
What’s the competition for graduate programmes in IT like?
Information technology is a competitive area, but the industry is still fearful of skills shortages in the future, particulary if fewer students chose to study computer science and relevant technology subjects at degree level. Despite the current economic downturn, graduate vacancies in IT are holding up and are there for people with the right technology skills, which include C++, C#, MySQL, Java, Linux/Unix, .NET, Perl, PHP, Ajax...
It is a recruiters' market at the moment and graduate employers will be looking for high-quality applications. For many organisations, technology excellence needs to be accompanied by soft skills such as communication, teamwork, commercial awareness, customer focus and good interpersonal skills.
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