Information Technology is a growing field for computer nerds who know their stuff when it comes to the way that technology is used to communicate ideas. IT is an encompassing field, and graduates go on to work developing hardware and software, establishing networks, and managing existing computer products on the behalf of companies.
If a job has to do with computers, odds are that an Information Technology major can at least help qualify you for it -- but with so many different kinds of jobs in the field, it can difficult to decide what the best ones are.
Well, that's where we come in. We literally created a map, just for Information Technology Majors such as yourself, to navigate your way through the choppy waters of recent graduation.
Feel free to focus on the map alone -- it's pretty cool, if we do say so ourselves. But for those of you who prefer step by step navigation on your path, keep reading. We'll give you the rundown on:
First thing's first: what skills you'll need to get started.
For most jobs in IT, you're going to be the go-to person when a company runs into technical issues. In order to deal with these problems quickly and efficiently, you'll need to have a lot of technical skills related to computers in general as well as the specific systems, programs, and databases unique to your place of employment.
Let's take a closer look at what sort of skills are required for Information Technology careers:
Computer Literacy Skills
Computer literacy seems like an insufficient word to describe everything that someone in Information Technology ought to know -- it isn't just an understanding of the systems and programs your company uses, but being in Information Technology requires you to understand things intuitively enough to solve problems before they start.
Having a good head for data and a mindset suited to solving problems creatively is extremely helpful to Information Technology jobs. Even in those where most immediate problems can be solved by telling someone to restart their computer, it helps to be able to quickly discover the solution to more complex issues as they arrive.
An unexpected skill for those who imagine Information Technology Majors to be doing most of their work in some dark basement, apart from humanity. In fact, it's very likely you'll be working with some sort of team, and in order to work effectively with others you need to have some understanding of how to translate your skills and work experience into something that your other less-technical coworkers will understand.
Internships are important for anyone trying to enter the Information Technology field due to the way that tech jobs are often centered more around expertise than on your level of college degree. IT internships give you on-the-job experience specific to an industry, giving you a leg up on experience in that specific field, and perhaps even with a specific company.
The best way to go after internships in IT is to look at companies you'd like to work for and see if they're looking for interns -- luck and opportunities tend win out over everything else. If you're still in school (or were until recently), the career services office at your university should have some leads on internships in the area or on alumni who would be willing to give a graduate of their alma mater a chance.
Before you settle on an internship or placement, though, you'll want to make sure it's the right fit for you. Ask yourself these questions:
While a degree in Information Technology can technically qualify you for lots of high paying jobs in the field, many of the more interesting ones require years of expertise in working with computer systems.
Interning at companies as part of a larger team can be excellent experience in this case -- getting some initial working experience is especially important in the Information Technology field, since your ability to succeed here has much less to do with the major qualifications and more to do with the expertise you can demonstrate. Jobs are fairly plentiful in this field, so as an IT Major your prospects are looking good, but if you're having trouble deciding what you'd like to do, we've got some information that might help you out.
With our map, you can click the Job Titles and learn more specific information for each position (what their responsibilities are, how much they get paid, etc.) But here, we wanted to call out some of the most common jobs for recent Information Technology Major grads.
Here are a few of the most interesting jobs for recent grads such as yourself:
Network engineers (or architects) are responsible for troubleshooting and supporting a company's networks and databases, and are also required to understand cybersecurity well enough to help mitigate threats.
Software Engineers apply the principles of engineering to the field of software design, designing and developing software for a variety of computer programs, applications, and systems.
Programmer Analysts identify the requirements of clients, then help to develop programs designed to meet these requirements. Their exact involvement with the programming process depends on individual position, and can range from supervisory to programming it themselves.
Earn Those Certifications
We'll go a bit more into the specifics of which certifications you should go after later further down this page, but it's important to bring up just how important certifications are in the tech world. One of the biggest deciding factors with whether or not you get a job in tech is in your ability to show your employers not simply what you're capable of, but what you can do in a very concrete sense.
A lot of this can come from working on your own, creating websites or freelancing or simply experimenting with IT skills in a way that is of interest to you (but which you can still show to someone in order to demonstrate your experience with their desired skills). But a certificate is an excellent, concrete source of proof that you have experience with a particular piece of software or tech.
One way to show off some of your knowledge and experience to employers is to start freelancing, showing that you know precisely how to do the work you say you can do.
Small businesses are often in need of newer websites -- many will pay small amounts of money to have their older websites updated, and if they can't afford it, you could offer to do so for free in exchange for a recommendation.
In the event that no one wants your services, start building things yourself. Find some used networking or computer systems equipment and start experimenting with them, learning how they operate by working toward some kind of personal project. Whatever you have, you can show to employers as a demonstration of your level of interest in the field.
And lastly, don't forget about the various internships that are available to you. Even if they're unpaid, using your information technology skills while working with a team provides excellent work experience to draw from when you're applying for jobs.
There are numerous IT certifications available to you both before and after graduation, but they're not all created equal. Certifications can be used to pad out your resume and up your pay, as well as qualify you for certain positions you might not have been able to do before.
Here are a few of the entry-level certification options available to you:
Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA)
ITIL® v3 Foundation
Citrix Certified Associate - Virtualization (CCA-V)
Obtaining a graduate degree in your course of study can serve as an excellent way to separate you from the herd - but you must first decide whether it's worth your time.
For Information Technology majors, the main reason to go for an advanced degree is if you would like to be considered for an administrative position -- these typically require Master's degrees, or else many years of industry experience.
Here are common advanced degrees that people with Information Technology degree normally consider:
Master's in Information Technology
PhD (Doctor of Philosophy in Information Technology)
If you're still not sure what to do with your degree here are some external sites, to help you with your decision:
One of the largest associations for those in the field of information technology, the AITP offers networking and education opportunities for its members.
This professional association is dedicated to furthering the efforts of women in computing fields, such as programming, system analysis, and technical writing. Chapter benefits are available, as well as individual benefits for those who are unable to attend chapter meetings.
Enter "Information Technology" into the search bar and you can get a sense of what kind of government jobs are available to Visual and Performing Arts Majors. Find a job title you like and come back here to learn more about it.
The BLS offers detailed data on pay, location, and availability of different kinds of jobs across the country.
In fact, we draw a lot of our research on the best places for jobs from the information provided on the site.
And if this all seems like a lot - don't worry - the hard part (getting your degree!) is already over.