Starting a technology career with any degree
All degrees are welcome for graduate IT and technology jobs. Here's how non-technology and non-STEM graduates can make their degrees compatible with IT careers.
Different degree subjects tend to develop different skills sets and ways of thinking.
You don’t need to have studied computer science or an IT-related subject to work in the IT and technology sector. Some employers will hire graduates from all degree disciplines and train them in the technical skills they need to succeed in the field; a range of degree backgrounds can result in increased diversity in skills and strengths in the workplace.
‘We take graduates from any background,’ says Gillian Bray, HR manager at Alfa Financial Software Limited. ‘Most of our graduates are from a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) background, such as physics or engineering. Only a small proportion of our intake has come from a computer science or similar degree. We always have a small number of graduates with a non-STEM background, but it is crucial that these people are able to convince us they have the desire and ability to learn.’
How non-technology graduates can get a tech job
Pay careful attention for the degree requirements on individual job listings and adverts. An employer is unlikely to be impressed if you respond to an advert asking for computer science graduates with a music degree, but some employers do actively seek out graduates from a wider range of, or even all, degree disciplines. Degree classification can also be as important as the subject you studied, pay attention to the wording of the advert. You can find out more about tech employer who will accept a 2.2 here.
Tip #1: Focus on your skills
Many skills that technology employers particularly want to see in their graduates don’t need to be developed through a technical degree; they are ‘transferable’ skills that can be developed through any degree, work experience, part-time work, hobbies and extracurricular activities. ‘The most important skills we look for are problem solving, collaboration, innovation and teamworking,’ says Gillian. ‘Having an inquisitive mind is also crucial.’
Recruiters want non-tech graduates
If you think about it, different degree subjects tend to develop different skills sets and ways of thinking. Technology employers may appreciate the differing strengths of non-tech graduates, compared to those who studied IT and computer science. For example, a music graduate is likely to have strong pattern recognition skills, while an English graduate may have strong analytical skills and be able to spot mistakes. Think about how skills from your degree can apply to technical fields. ‘We work in teams to find solutions to problems. If a team had six computer scientists, we would likely have six similar solutions,’ explains Gillian. ‘If we have a range of past experiences and thought processes, we are more likely to find the best solution.’
Tip #2: Prove your passion for technology
It’s especially important for non-tech and IT students and graduates to have a demonstratable interest in technology, to prove that they are committed to a career in the sector. Being able to point to evidence of ways you have sought out ways to develop a ‘passion’ for technology will help prove to recruiters that you are the right person for the job.
Employers who take on non-IT graduates are willing and prepared to invest time in training you.
One way of proving a ‘passion for tech’ is by taking the opportunity to develop your technical skills and knowledge in your own time. ‘If candidates don’t have an IT degree, they need to give us confidence that they will be able to pick up software development and enjoy that part of the job,’ says Gillian. ‘Therefore we would be looking for that person to have tried to learn the basics through one of the many avenues available.’ Look for classes, online courses, events, volunteering and work experience. You can find out more about developing your programming skills here.
Show off your passion and confirm your choices with work experience
The best way to develop your technology skills and gain evidence of a genuine evidence in the sector is to gain work experience. ‘Once they have learned the basics, research internships or work experience options,’ advises Gillian. Keep a look out for technology-related internships and work experience opportunities that applications from non-technical and non-STEM students. Not only will a tech internship on your CV show recruiters that you’re seriously considering a career in IT, work experience will help you to confirm whether a technology gradate career is the right choice for you.
- Find out more about what employers mean by ‘passion for technology’ and how you can demonstrate it.
- Learn more about technology internships and which employers offer work experience.
Tip #3: Expand your job search
When you’re looking for technology jobs, your job search may benefit from looking across all industries. Technical skills are applicable to most ever sector and industry, so choosing a technical career does not rule out working in non-STEM-related industry. Gillian explains: ‘Technology is the future. It’s such an essential skill to have and will give them excellent career choices in the future.’
Tip #4: Pay attention to training
Employers who take on non-IT graduate are typically willing and prepared to invest time in training them up. How employers choose to train their graduates varies buy usually involves a combination of ‘classroom’ learning, work shadowing and working on projects. Look at the training that is on offer at technology employers and consider how it would suit you and your existing knowledge. Gillian describes how training works at Alfa: ‘All graduates go through the same first ten weeks of induction. This allows new joiners to go at an appropriate speed and have a safe environment to ask questions and have the right level of support before moving onto a project.’ She continues: ‘We teach all our graduates how to code in Java during the ten-week induction. There are four weeks of classroom training, followed by six weeks on a hybrid team where we have one trainer to every two graduates.’
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