The reality of I.T. and telecommunications

You may have heard that you have to be an absolute computer geek to work in the I.T. and telecommunications sector. You’ve probably heard that your entire day will be spent typing out endless codes of technical gobbledygook or taking computers apart and blowing out the dust. You might have even heard that your working life will basically just include playing video games.

Well, that’s not entirely true. So before you make the decision to get into I.T. and telecommunications, you should firstly discover what it’s really all about.

It’s all about computers, the internet, laptops, telephones and mobile phones. They call this the digital age and that’s for one good reason: computers rule the world (well, not literally, but I.T. and telecommunications products are absolutely everywhere). They’re in our homes, in our offices and in our pockets. Advances in computer and telecoms systems have improved opportunities for national and international communication, allowing businesses to start, grow and expand. The right I.T. solutions can revive a company, solve their problems and allow them to push on: bigger, better and stronger.

What are the benefits of a career in I.T. and telecommunications?

Careers in I.T. and telecommunications can be incredibly challenging and rewarding. One of the most exciting things about these careers is that they offer employees continuous opportunities for learning. As technologies advance, there are always more things to learn and new skills to acquire.

I.T. and telecommunications careers are flexible in how they can develop, but they are also flexible in terms of location. Many I.T. consultants get the opportunity to work remotely from home or in different locations across the world.

What skills are required for a role in I.T. and telecommunications?

I.T. jobs aren’t all about inputting the right data, using the right codes or putting the right bits of hardware in the right places. In fact, some I.T. employees have a certain amount of creativity in their jobs, especially software developers, web designers and information security consultants.

To work in this sector, it is essential to acquire very specific technical skills and knowledge. However, generally, it is important for people to be able to think logically, have solid mathematical skills and have a genuine interest in how computers and telecommunications work. If you’ve got these kind of skills, you might be the right kind of candidate for an IT apprenticeship.

There are so many different routes to take within the I.T. and telecommunications sector. Some people who work in the industry like to develop a strong mix of skills, as it opens them up to different career options. However, some people specialise in one specific area and attempt to become a subject-matter-expert (SME) in their chosen field.

Hardware vs. Software route

Whatever career path you choose, you will initially tend to choose one of two general technical routes: 1) hardware, or 2) software.

People who choose to take the hardware career path work with the physical parts of computers, networks and telecommunications apparatus. They deal with network cables, motherboards, desktop units and computer peripherals etc. There are a wide range of different jobs in this area, including technical support engineers, network engineers and infrastructure architects.

People who choose to take the software career path work with the intangible computer programmes, which make computers or telecoms systems function effectively. They deal with operating systems, programmes, applications, websites, databases, computer games and so much more. There’s absolutely shed loads of different jobs in this area of I.T. and telecommunications, including web designers, software developers and software testers.

Alternatively, some people who work in I.T. and telecommunications choose to work in a less hands-on technical role and become involved in I.T. consultancy careers. These guys simultaneously analyse and assess other companies’ I.T. systems and their business requirements. They then offer expert advice and planning services to help companies use I.T. and telecommunications solutions to improve their productivity and achieve their business goals.

What opportunities are available in the I.T. and telecommunications sector?

I.T. and telecommunications specialists are needed in all kinds of companies. Some work for technological companies such as Microsoft, Apple, BT or Oracle; some work for I.T. consultancy firms like Capgemini and Logica; some work for smaller specialist I.T. solutions companies; and many people work for non-technological companies, such as public sector departments, investment banks and energy companies.

Careers in tech: Top 10 tech industry careers

From developing next-gen video games and apps to defending networks from cyber-attack, there has never been a better time to get a job in tech

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg

A career in the technology sector is varied and rewarding, with great job prospects, personal development opportunities and high-end salaries available for the best candidates. Here we look at the best of what the tech world has to offer.

Software engineer

Requiring good analytical skills and an attention to detail, software engineers combine their knowledge of maths, engineering and computer science to design, develop, test and evaluate software. There is a greater demand for good software engineers than ever before, thanks to a growing number of start-ups and increasing tech complexity. There are also many jobs within large government, manufacturing and educational institutions.

Computer systems engineer

Technology does not always operate in isolation. A systems engineer will combine a knowledge of maths, science and electronics with creative thinking to devise a workable, fluid computer system that is fast, efficient and productive in areas as diverse as robotics, home automation, biomedical devices and office workplaces. The number of jobs in this field is rising.

Web developer

With companies and organisations large and small continuing to want cutting edge, visually-arresting websites, skilled web designers are highly prized. Strong knowledge of HTML, CSS, PHP, MySQL, JavaScript, jQuery and WordPress is essential but so too is an eye for design and an appetite to learn the very latest web techniques. Many university courses teach advanced web development skills.

Information Security Analyst

As the number of hacking and data breach cases rises, having an effective defence against cyber-attacks is vital. Information Security Analysts are responsible for ensuring networks are watertight. They educate staff to avoid unintended disclosures and keep up to speed with potential external threats. By conducting risk and vulnerability assessments and engaging in defence planning, they utilise analytical and problem-solving skills.

You could find yourself defending GCHQ from cyber-attack (AFP/Getty)

Database Administrator

Since companies need to handle a lot of data, an effective database system is important. The information has to be safe, regularly backed up, organised for ease-of-use and subject to certain permissions and privileges. Analytical minds familiar with the principles of database design and the main data manipulation languages are required, with successful candidates tending to have a background in computer science, IT, maths, electronics or operational research.

Artificial Intelligence

It used to be that AI was a niche career opportunity but as technology has advanced the number of jobs has grown in this very exciting sector. Roles exist within programming, systems design and software development and it can be used to solve practical problems for businesses as well as consumer products, such as the forthcoming voice-activated assistant device Amazon Echo.

Boston Dynamics
Boston Dynamics describes itself as ‘building dynamic robots and software for human simulation’. It has created robots for DARPA, the US’ military research company

Network engineer

Computers need to talk to each other; workers need to talk to each other. A network engineer works on the network infrastructure of an organisation, building and configuring strong firewalls, troubleshooting outages and scheduling upgrades. There is plenty of work out there thanks to the wide number of banks, retailers and offices that need strong networks.

Games developer

Perhaps one of the trendiest and most fun jobs in the sector, a games developer gets to work on titles for consoles, computers, smartphones, tablets and online. Creativity and imagination are important but the ability to work in a highly pressurised environment is also crucial. Opportunities are available in design, art, animation, programming and audio.

Next-gen titles like ‘Assassin’s Creed Unity’ require a huge amount of technological input (AP)

Software programmer

This is an ideal job for those who enjoy getting their hands dirty with code. Programmers can be called upon to produce tightly written apps, improve on existing code, come up with new features or provide the basis for operating external machinery. Understanding languages such as C++ and Python and being able to solve problems will open up a world of work.

IT manager

Being able to oversee a project from beginning to end is richly rewarding and entails a great deal of planning and evaluation, not to mention the confidence to change direction if necessary and communicate that to staff. IT managers need to keep an eye on budgets, timescales and standards and understand the needs of their clients.

Information Technology Jobs

The explosive job growth of the information technology industry began just about two decades ago, and it has barely slowed down since. While the “dot bomb era” of the late 1990s through the early 2000s did its fair share of damage, the more recent recession that started in December of 2007 and ended in June of 2009 barely even slowed it down.

As interesting as it is to look at the past, however, learning about the future health of this industry is much more important to people considering an information technology job.

There’s very good news on that front if you are among them, or if you already work in this field. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts continued above-average job growth for the technology sector over the next several years.

Responsible for this growth are changing technologies and organizations’ adaptation of them. For example, the increased adaptation of cloud computing and cybersecurity will lead to increases in employment, and a rise in other technologies including health care IT, mobile networking, and data management will also contribute to a strong outlook for the information technology field.

Basic Facts About the IT Industry

  • As of 2014, there were 3.9 million people working in IT occupations. This included those employed in the computer systems design and related services industry — what we commonly refer to as the IT industry — as well as individuals doing technology-related jobs in other fields.
  • Employment of people working in IT occupations is expected to grow 12 percent from 2014 through 2024. 488,500 jobs will be added during this period.
  • Traditionally, there has been a lack of diversity in this field. Women and minorities are severely underrepresented. An abundance of whites, Asians, and men work in this industry, while relatively few African Americans, Latinos, and women do, when compared with other private industries (“Diversity in High Tech,” U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.)
  • Companies comprising the IT industry are entities that offer custom computer programming, computer systems design, computer facilities management, and other computer-related services. IT jobs can be found outside this industry as well. Industries that hire tech workers include information, educational services, administrative and support services, wired telecommunications, government, finance and insurance, software publishing, and management of companies and enterprises.
  • Although there are information technology jobs around the country, the majority of opportunities are centered around certain areas. The top U.S. city for tech employment is Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina. Other places to which you can consider relocating to improve your chances of finding a tech job are Nashville, Tennessee; Austin, Texas; and Fort Collins, Colorado.

Tech Careers

If you want to join the IT industry, you have many options.

Let’s first take a look at computer and information technology occupations. While many people in these professions work in the IT industry, many also work in other sectors. What makes these occupations appealing, in addition to their excellent job outlook, are the potential earnings. IT professionals earned a median annual salary of $82,860 in May 2016. Compare this to the median annual wage of $37,040 for all occupations.

Computer and IT occupations are technical jobs that involve doing things like implementing technology, designing computer networks, coding, and developing software and websites.

The nine occupations below have excellent outlooks.

  • Computer and Information Research Scientist
  • Computer Network Architect
  • Computer Support Specialist
  • Computer Systems Analyst
  • Database Administrator
  • Information Security Analyst
  • Network and Computer Systems Administrator
  • Software Developer
  • Web Developer

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts employment growth that is either faster than, or much faster than, the average for all occupations for the period that began in 2014 and will end in 2024. There is no reason we shouldn’t expect this trend to continue well into the future as technology continues to evolve and experts who know how to create and implement it are needed. Notably missing from this list are computer programmers, an occupation that will experience an 8 percent decline by 2024.

IT professionals are employed in every industry you can think of, but they are, not surprisingly, most well represented in the information technology industry. They make up 56 percent of all workers in that industry, though.

What about the other 44 percent? They are the managers, accountants, administrative workers, wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives, advertising sales representatives, customer service representatives, and other workers that businesses need to function.

If you aren’t in a computer-oriented career, why should you consider working in the IT industry? Making this choice will allow you to enjoy the benefits that come with its success. Non-tech workers, like those whose work involves computers, also get to enjoy high rates of employment and pay.

Top Tech Employers

If you want a career in the information technology industry, why not set your sights high? You may have a better chance of getting a job with a smaller company, but your ultimate goal can be a job with one of the big industry players. Here are some of them.

Consider first the companies with the highest revenues. These are the top tech companies in the Fortune 500:

  1. Apple
  2. Hewlett-Packard Company
  3. IBM
  4. Amazon
  5. Microsoft
  6. Google

(“The Top Technology Companies of the Fortune 500.” Fortune.

2015)

Next, here is a list of the fastest growing tech companies — because if you’re going to have a career in a fast-growing industry like IT, why not aim for a job with a company that has an extremely promising future? The fastest growing tech companies, according to Forbes, are:

  1. LinkedIn
  2. Apple
  3. Qlik Technologies
  4. athenahealth
  5. Equinix
  6. Ebix

(“Fast Tech 25.” Forbes. 2017)

Tech employees’ days are typically long. Having an employer that treats its workers well can make this time pleasant. According to employees’ reviews, these are the best tech companies to work for:

  1. Facebook
  2. Google
  3. World Wide Technology
  4. Fast Enterprises
  5. LinkedIn
  6. Adobe

(“25 Best Tech Companies to Work For in 2016, According to Employees.” Business Insider. December 6, 2016)

How to Know If an Information Technology Career Is Right for You

If you want to have a career in information technology, your choices are many: you could pursue an IT occupation in the IT industry, an IT occupation in another industry, or a non-tech occupation in the IT industry. There should be something here for you, regardless of what career is most suitable based on your aptitudes, interests, and other personal traits.

Is there anything to dislike? If a simple 9 to 5 job is what you are after, you should consider a different field. IT workers often work long hours. About 20 to 25 percent of workers in the occupations listed work more than 40 hours a week. And depending on your specific profession, you may have to spend time on-call in case an emergency arises that only your expertise can solve.

Education and Training

How you prepare for an IT career plays a big role in your success. As with any career, you need to acquire the hard skills that will allow you to do your job. For many occupations, this means earning a bachelor’s degree. You should attend a strong technical college program.

In an ever-changing field like this one, you will constantly have to upgrade your skills. With those long work hours, you may have little time to do this. Taking online courses can help you keep your skills up-to-date.

Certifications are quite valuable in the IT industry. They serve as proof to employers that you are qualified to perform a particular job. Usually, professional associations and software companies oversee the certification process, which requires candidates to pass an exam after learning a skill, computer language, or software program. Having the right credentials can make you more competitive as a job seeker or as a professional trying to advance to a better-paying and more responsible position.

Which certifications should you get? Time and money will force you to narrow down your options. It is best to go after the ones that will make you most competitive in the hottest technologies. For instance, if you want to build your career in big data, you might pursue these certifications:

  • Cloudera Certified Administrator for Apache Hadoop (CCAH)
  • Cloudera Certified Professional: Data Scientist (CCP: DS)
  • Cloudera Certified Professional Data Engineer

What Skills Do You Need?

As an IT professional, you may need to have knowledge about development tools, programming languages, and operating systems. It is impossible to know everything, but a good place to start is with high-demand skills like the Unix Operating System, Linux Operating System, and Java Programming Language.

Knowing a variety of programming languages can help garner you high earnings. Begin with the highest paying languages, including Ruby, Objective C, and Python.

Getting Hired: How to Find an IT Job

When searching for an information technology job, you can use general job search websites like Indeed.com. There you will find job announcements culled from various sources, including other job listing sites and company websites. Employers also post job openings directly to Indeed. In addition, you can share your resume there so employers seeking someone with your qualifications can find you.

You can also use niche sites that are specifically for employment opportunities in the IT industry. The benefit of using sites like this is that it allows you to narrow down your focus and spend your time more efficiently.

Networking is essential when it comes to locating open positions. If you aren’t on LinkedIn, you should be. It will allow you to connect with people in your field or those who know people who are.

A finely-tuned resume or curriculum vitae, while it won’t get you hired, will get a potential employer to notice you. Online portfolios are a must for web designers and developers who need to show off their work. If you are trying to build a freelance career, you should get ​client testimonials.

While a resume or portfolio will bring you to a potential employer’s attention, your performance at a job interview can get you the job you desire. As with any profession, you should always prepare for a job interview and think about out how you will respond to any possible question — including illegal ones.

Job search tips

Looking for a new job can become a job in itself, however if you plan your search correctly, you could be on your way to a great new career sooner than you think.

Here’s our advice on the key things to need to do to make your job hunt a resounding success:

  1. Look for hidden vacancies
    Instead of advertising their available jobs, employers often look to fill vacancies by word-of-mouth, headhunting or simply by recruiting internally. Knowing how to get yourself in contention for these roles could give you a major boost when it comes to finding your next role.
  2. Get employers to come to you
    Getting headhunted is no longer the preserve of employees in senior management. When you post your CV online, you are immediately putting your details within reach of thousands of employees may save you the trouble of searching through job adverts.
  3. Target the right companies
    Do you want to be a big fish in a small pond or would you rather have the safety of a large organisation with job security and a clear career path? Knowing what you want allows you to narrow down your search and spend more time on applying for the roles you really want.
  4. Build a network
    Networking is getting to know people who can help you develop your career prospects. You don’t need to be a big shot or the most outgoing person in the world to network effectively; just keep your ears open and listen for information that could work to your advantage.
  5. Keep your spirits up
    As time passes, the rejections mount up and the budgets get tighter, it’s easy to become disheartened. However, this is exactly the time when you need to dust yourself off and put in more hard work than ever. One of the main attributes of a successful job seeker is persistence.