Getting a graduate job in IT and technology: the basics
How do graduates break into the IT industry? Get the essentials on the types of graduate technology job, making successful applications when you reach your final year and more.
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In an IT or technology role you could find yourself working for almost any industry or sector.
Use this article to get the essentials on graduate careers in IT and technology. Follow links to take you to further information across the topics covered.
You don’t need to have a degree in computer science or an IT-related subject to get a graduate job in IT or technology. The overall picture is mixed: plenty of employers – including ones with graduate schemes – will take you on whatever your degree subject; some will have a preference for those who studied a STEM subject (that is, science, technology, engineering or maths); others will advertise for graduates who have studied a subject that centres on IT.
Whether you have studied an IT-related subject or not, you will need to be able to demonstrate how you have gone out of your way to pursue your enthusiasm for technology.
- Find out more about getting into IT with an alternative degree subject.
- Read more about telling employers about your passion for IT.
The type of role you choose will really depend on what your skills and interests are, as jobs in IT and technology are many and disparate. For example, a technology consultant, a web designer, an IT support analyst and a programmer will all perform very different roles, requiring different combinations of skills and qualities.
You could find yourself working for almost any industry or sector (for example retail, defence, manufacturing, public sector, to name a few) as nearly all businesses and organisations rely on technology to maximise their performance.
IT and technology graduate schemes are offered by big employers in industries such as telecoms, banking and retail, as well as businesses that focus purely on a technology service or product. The advantage of an IT or technology graduate scheme is that you are likely to take part in a structured training programme alongside your job and be part of a wider graduate community.
There are also advantages to starting your IT career at a small company or an SME, where you may be given more responsibility compared to a graduate scheme.
However, there are also advantages to starting your IT career at a small company or an SME (small and medium-sized enterprise), where you may be allocated greater responsibility earlier than on a graduate scheme. In fact, most graduates who go into IT and technology roles start out at smaller companies.
Skills are currency, whether they’re key programming languages 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.
According to the 2020 Institute of Student Employers (ISE) Annual Student Recruitment Survey, the median graduate salary for digital and IT careers is £31,500 (this figure is a median based on the salaries of the self-selecting sample of the ISE’s members). For more information, follow the link below, where you’ll find that you could earn anywhere between £23,500 and £50,000 in IT:
The reality is that there are still more men than women in the IT and tech sector, but employers are acutely aware of this and are keen to hire more females.
If you’re female and interested in technology career, take advantage of events organised across the country, such as IT’s not just for the boys!, that provide opportunities for female students to network and meet employers – as well as any other activities that let you pursue your interest in technology, of course.
The technical skills you need depend on the role you are applying for. Some graduate roles require knowledge of specific programming languages, for example. As a graduate you won’t be expected to have a high level of expertise but you will need to show that you have been keen to develop your knowledge through activities in your own time, such as hackathons.
Whatever role you apply to, ‘soft skills’ is what many IT graduate recruiters in recent years have wanted to see more evidence of. It’s all very well knowing how to develop an application or about the latest developments in the gaming industry, but without being able to communicate with your colleagues or build relationships with clients to find out their requirements, you won’t help the business flourish.
- Learn how to develop your soft skills.
- Find out what programming languages employers are asking for.
- Extracurricular activities that will develop your IT skills.
Most graduate technology programmes start advertising their vacancies in the autumn. Some have deadlines before the end of the year, while others tend to close in January. Don’t be caught out by the later deadlines, though. Some employers will close applications early if they receive enough quality applications before the original deadline.
Some IT employers will close applications early if they receive enough quality applications before the original deadline.
The selection process usually consists of an online application form and a couple of rounds of interviews. An assessment centre is usually part of this, which includes various activities, from group tasks to presentations. Some employers may have a shorter process (eg asking you to submit a CV and covering letter, then inviting you to an interview).
Whatever is involved, make sure your initial application clearly displays how you have gained the skills the employer is looking for and that you want to work for them, having done your research.
- Read our tips on researching IT and technology employers.
- Go to our advice homepage for loads more advice on applications, interviews and assessment days.
Getting IT work experience is one of the best ways to improve your employability and break into the tech sector. To get a decent chunk of work experience you are best off applying to employers’ formal schemes. These range from summer internships or shorter internships at other times of the year, to year-long placements.
A placement year, if your degree allows it, is great for building up your skills set in a specific IT or technology role and will develop your workplace skills. If you impress, it could lead to a position at the company when you graduate.