Unsurprisingly, there are lots of roles that involve using technical skills and knowledge, such as programming, computer networking or fixing your colleagues’ PCs. However, there are also plenty of jobs that have more of a business focus, in which you’ll use skills such as building good relationships with clients, managing projects so they stay on time and in budget, or assessing how new technology could make a company more efficient.
For all roles it’s important that you like technology and are prepared to learn some basics about the area you’re working in, but there’s no need to become a technical expert unless you want to.
Different types of jobs in IT
If you want a job with a lot of technical work, options include:
- Developing software
- Developing hardware
- Developing games
- Developing websites
- Networking (connecting computers so they can exchange data)
- Testing (making sure that software or hardware works properly before it is released to the public)
- IT support (providing help and support to individuals or businesses with their IT problems)
- Cyber security (protecting computer systems and data from attack or falling into the wrong hands – seen as increasingly important by businesses as cyber crime is increasing)
If you’re more interested in the business side of things, consider the following:
- Technology consulting (advising businesses on how they can use technology to help them work more efficiently and make more money)
- Project management (making sure that IT projects are completed on time and in budget)
- Technical sales (selling hardware or software to businesses or individuals)
Of course, the precise balance of business and technical skills in each job will vary from employer to employer.
Jobs that are very business-focused typically involve more travel than those that are very technically focused. This is particularly the case with technology consulting, where in some roles you might spend most of your working week at a client’s offices in a different city or even a different country. Careers in technical sales also involve a lot of travel to see clients. However, some technical jobs require lots of travel too – for example if you join an IT services company (see below) you might be sent to work at a client’s office rather than your employer’s office. Don’t worry though – employers foot the bill for travel and overnight stays.
Types of employers who offer IT jobs
Almost all businesses need to use technology and many employ specialist IT staff, so you can find vacancies in a huge variety of industries. The following offer large numbers of technology jobs:
- Software companies
- Hardware companies
- Games companies
- Technology consultancies (who offer technology consulting services – see above)
- IT services providers (who look after companies’ IT needs for them if they don’t want to do it themselves)
- Telecoms companies
- Banks and other finance organisations
- Engineering companies
- The public sector (eg hospitals, central and local government, the secret intelligence service)
To give an example of entry-level public sector roles in IT, the civil service offers an apprenticeship in ‘digital and technology’ (programming and web operations) and a graduate programme in ‘digital and technology’. GCHQ offers apprenticeships in ‘IT, software, internet and telecoms’. So if you want a public service role, it is possible within an IT career.
How IT helps businesses to make money
In most IT jobs, your work will ultimately help your employer to increase its profits. You don’t need to understand the financial details, but it’s good to know how your role will contribute to your organisation’s goals.
Companies whose main business is IT make money by providing IT products or services. This could involve selling hardware, selling licences to use software, or selling the services of technology experts. So you might help develop a product that gets sold, or help promote it to clients – or you yourself might be the ‘product’.
Companies whose main business is something else (eg finance or retail) use IT indirectly to help them make money, for example by making processes quicker, more efficient or less labour intensive.
In the public sector, many IT jobs also help indirectly by making processes quicker, more efficient or less labour intensive. In this case the aim is not to make money but rather to save taxpayers’ money, which pays for public services. However, other roles serve a different purpose, such as keeping the country safe from attack.