Overview of the UK’s IT industry

Now considered a key industry within the UK’s fast-growing digital sector, skilled graduates can choose from the range of information technology (IT) careers on offer

What areas of IT can I work in?

With one million people employed in the UK’s IT industry, now is a great time to specialise in an area that interests you. If you possess the relevant knowledge and technical skills, you could work in:

  • applications development
  • computer forensics
  • content management
  • cyber security and risk management
  • data analysis and analytics
  • game development
  • geographical information systems (GIS)
  • hardware engineering
  • information management
  • IT consultancy (business and technical)
  • IT sales
  • multimedia programming
  • software engineering (designing, building, developing and testing)
  • systems/network management
  • technical support
  • telecommunications
  • web design/development.

For instance, your job may involve creating applications or systems, solving problems with technology or supporting those who use it. Employers in the IT industry also require graduates to work in their business, marketing, human resources (HR) and finance functions.

Many IT professionals also choose to work outside the sector, such as in the IT departments of retail, finance, manufacturing and public sector organisations.

To explore the various careers in this wide ranging sector, see IT graduate jobs.

Who are the main IT graduate employers?

Large and global companies include:

  • Accenture
  • Amazon
  • Apple
  • Capgemini
  • Cisco
  • Cognizant
  • Facebook
  • FDM
  • Fujitsu
  • Google
  • IBM
  • Infosys
  • Intel
  • Microsoft
  • Rockstar Games
  • Samsung
  • Softcat
  • Ubisoft.

Major telecommunications companies include:

  • BT Group
  • EE
  • Sky UK
  • TalkTalk
  • Telefónica UK (O2)
  • Three
  • Virgin Media
  • Vodafone.

As the sector is fast-moving and dynamic, there are many smaller businesses and tech start-ups that are worth seeking out for entry-level job opportunities. For example, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the IT industry provide a range of specialist services and typically offer consultancy and technical roles.

IT professionals are also employed to work in many other job sectors, including:

  • Financial services – recruiters such as Barclays, Citigroup, Deloitte, J.P. Morgan and Morgan Stanley are looking for IT graduates to work with the latest technologies. These include jobs with a focus on artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality software development, robotics process automation, UX or analytics.
  • Manufacturing – multinational engineering companies in the oil, pharmaceuticals, automotive and energy industries need IT specialists to work on the processes and technologies that underpin their operations. For instance, aerospace and defence innovator MBDA requires software engineers with numerous programming language skills.
  • Public sector – local authorities, central government and the NHS all recruit IT professionals to keep their systems running smoothly, deliver projects and analyse data efficiently so it can be used to make major decisions.
  • Retail – major online and high street retailers such as Amazon, Arcadia, Tesco, TJX Europe and John Lewis look to technology graduates to develop new systems and apps, while rolling out technological solutions that satisfy their customers’ needs.

Routes into the IT industry include apprenticeships, internships and graduate schemes.

Where can I find IT jobs?

Most employers expect you to have gained some technical knowledge of IT, although any relevant work experience or internship would be of benefit as you seek to land your first role.

You can search for graduate jobs in IT or visit the websites of major IT and telecommunications companies to browse job opportunities. Vacancies for entry-level and graduate jobs can also be found on specialist IT recruitment sites including:

  • Computerjobs.com
  • CWJobs
  • Dice
  • Purely IT
  • Technojobs

IT jobs in the public sector can be found on websites such as:

  • jobsgopublic
  • NHS Jobs

In addition, you can look for IT vacancies on general jobs websites. While the number of opportunities within IT companies may be relatively small, employers across all sectors require graduates to fill IT and computing roles in their organisations.

Another option is to find an IT apprenticeship, as you’ll be able to learn on the job while studying towards a recognised certification.

How do I apply for IT roles?

An IT CV, also known as a technical CV, can be used to apply for roles such as web developer, IT consultant, software tester or applications developer.

Include an introductory paragraph that mentions your technical expertise and experience and incorporate a ‘key skills’ heading that allows for more detail when discussing technical competencies.

While you might be tempted to showcase all your technical abilities at once, ensure that you highlight relevant skills first and foremost. You should also bear in mind that the document will need to be understood by non-technical people such as HR managers.

Use this CV template to focus on your:

  • ability to maintain existing software applications and develop new ones
  • experience of applying technical standards, theories and techniques
  • problem-solving capabilities
  • communication skills.

What about technology graduate schemes?

Many major companies run graduate schemes focusing on IT and technology. These are structured training programmes for new and recent graduates, usually lasting between one and two years. Explore graduate schemes in more detail.

Companies offering IT and technology graduate schemes include:

  • British Airways
  • EY
  • Morrisons
  • PwC
  • Tesco

Visit the recruitment websites of large businesses to find more opportunities. You can also search for IT graduate schemes.

What’s it like working in IT?

Graduates entering the IT industry in the UK can expect:

  • A higher than average starting salary – according to High Fliers’ The Graduate Market in 2019 report, starting salaries for technology jobs with organisations featuring in The Times Top 100 Graduate Employers have risen from the national median of £30,000 (which has remained the same since 2015) to £31,500.
  • Long working hours – employers tend to emphasise completing a task or project over maintaining standard 9am-5pm office hours.
  • Opportunities to work abroad – many large IT companies have branches or subsidiaries in other countries.
  • The chance to be self-employed – it’s not unusual for graduates to go freelance, work as a contractor or even start their own tech companies.
  • A constantly changing industry – as new technologies and software are developed, it’s important to keep your skills up to date to remain at the top of your profession.

To find out more about salaries and working conditions for specific roles, explore IT job profiles.

What are the IT skills shortages?

Representing around 850 member organisations ranging from SMEs to FTSE 100 companies, techUK has declared the UK a world leader in technology. However, in order to remain at the forefront of innovation and research and development (R&D), it highlighted the need for the UK’s growing digital skills gaps to be addressed.

Nimmi Patel, techUK’s skills and diversity programme manager, explains, ‘The UK’s tech sector is growing at 2.5 times the rate of the rest of the economy creating exciting jobs that require a range of skills and talent – but the UK is still facing a major digital skills shortage. In order to effectively prepare our workforce in an ever-changing digital economy, we need to inspire and support people into digital roles.

‘There are a number of vocational and academic pathways that can provide people with the right technical skills to flourish in the industry, but the IT industry needs more than developers and programmers,’ adds Nimmi.

‘It needs people with skills from across the board, such as creativity and critical thinking, meaning that there’s something for everyone. Often there’s a lack of awareness of the career opportunities in IT that exist and how to get to them, so we must do more to demystify the tech sector to students, teachers and parents.’

As one million people work in IT, the government has recently published a piece of research on the subject examining the demand for digital skills. In partnership with Burning Glass, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) produced a report on No Longer Optional: Employer Demand for Digital Skills (June 2019). It suggested that workers will need to constantly re-evaluate their skills to ensure they’re prepared for changing future roles while specific digital skills reduce the risk posed by automation.

Find out how you could upgrade your existing skills at IT courses.

What are the IT industry trends?

In its Digital Leaders 2018 report, BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT assessed the capabilities, skills and ethics required by IT organisations in the near-future. It showed that business transformation and organisational change were top priorities for these firms.

Driven by the advancements in digital technologies and the use of data, the report revealed how roles in change management, transformation consultancy and business analysis would be on the increase.

The specific skills identified by these organisations included some that would be fully expected, such as cyber security and cloud, all the way through to emerging sectors and the ‘as a service’ model (for example, SaaS, PaaS, IaaS).

In the survey, only around a sixth of organisations felt they needed bigger budgets – instead they were looking to upskill and train existing staff. Therefore, graduates already in the mindset of learning are well placed to get involved in a field so committed to personal development and on-the-job training.

Other growing career areas include agile methodologies, mobile and application development, the internet of things and artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Manipulation of data is a skill that cannot be overlooked, in its many guises – especially that of the relatively new data scientist role. We’ll also be hearing more about roles in blockchain, a system of delivering information in a fully automated and safe manner.

There are other considerations too. For example, the effect that current or incoming legislation will have on work, such as GDPR-related roles. This would have an implication for big data professionals, who would require skills in AWS, Python, Hadoop, Spark, Cloudera, MongoDB, Hive, Tableau and Java.

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