Not long ago, getting a job in IT strictly required a bachelor’s degree in computer science. However, that has since changed as there are now many alternatives to four-year universities that employers accept, and sometimes even prefer.
If you do not have a degree in computer science, but want to start a career in IT, this article is for you. By the end of it, you will know how to get a job in IT, including the required education and skills, important preparation tips for the interview process, and frequently asked questions.
What Is IT?
IT is an acronym for information technology. It is the use of computers, software, systems, and networks to develop, process, store, safeguard, and exchange electronic data. It is the building of communication networks for companies for the efficiency and security of business information systems.
The field is growing, along with the increasing demand for IT specialists. IT specialists work in various industries like business, government, and manufacturing. They also go by different titles depending on the industry they are working in, such as information security analysts, computer programmers, or network administrators.
IT Job Outlook
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, IT jobs are projected to increase 13 percent from 2020 to 2030, which is faster than average. Additionally, the average annual salary for IT occupations in May 2020 was $91,250.
What Education Do I Need to Become an IT Specialist?
There are several educational paths to become an IT specialist. You could get a bachelor’s degree in computer science or other IT-related fields, attend a coding bootcamp, or enroll in a community college or vocational school.
Can I Get an IT Job Without a Degree?
You can get an IT job without a degree, although not all employers will accept an educational qualification lower than a bachelor’s degree. There are a variety of educational paths outside of a four-year degree that are also valued by employers in the industry. Some examples include a coding bootcamp, apprenticeship, community college, or vocational school.
Can a Coding Bootcamp Help Me Get a Job in IT?
A coding bootcamp can help you get a job in IT. Coding bootcamps are a faster and more affordable alternative to universities. They typically last three months to a year, depending on the program and the learning format. Students have flexible learning options and can choose to learn part-time or full-time.
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The average bootcamp grad spent less than six months in career transition, from starting a bootcamp to finding their first job.
The majority of bootcamps accommodate a range of skill levels, making them suitable for anyone. The best coding bootcamps offer programs and career services in specific fields to prepare students for the workplace after graduation. Some of those services include interview preparation, resume writing, and job guarantees.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Job in IT?
Depending on your preferred educational path, getting a job in IT can take anywhere from a few months to four years. A college degree usually takes four years to complete. An associate degree usually requires two years. You can also attend a program at a vocational school, which can take from a few months up to a couple of years.
While bachelor’s degree holders typically find employment soon after graduation, vocational school or community college graduates may need to apply for internships or seek additional experience before applying for IT jobs.
Fortunately, you now have other, faster options. A coding bootcamp lasts between three months to one year. You can receive the training you need and be ready for your first job in IT in a matter of months if you choose to join an IT bootcamp.
Common IT Education Paths
The most common educational paths for IT professionals are four-year colleges, community colleges, and coding bootcamps. Each alternative has its advantages and disadvantages. Here’s what you’ll need to know about each one:
IT bootcamps are coding bootcamps that cover programs that can help you start a career as an IT specialist. They offer short-term intensive education to make you hireable after completion of the program. Coding bootcamps are more affordable than universities, and may also provide financing options to help make funding easier for students.
Coding bootcamp graduates are equipped with all of the knowledge and skills needed for this career, and this is very apparent as most graduates land a job within six months of graduation. Many coding bootcamps also offer job assistance, career services, and job guarantees.
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Community colleges are two-year institutions that offer associate degree programs. The college credits earned in community colleges are transferable to four-year universities. This allows community college graduates the option of transferring to a university at any point if they decide to pursue a bachelor’s degree.
Community colleges are more affordable and flexible than universities. Similar to public universities, community colleges offer financial aid, online classes, free tutoring, and other support. According to NCES, community college tuition costs an average of $11,389 annually. Community college graduates in STEM courses are also recognized by employers in the IT industry.
A bachelor’s degree is the most common educational path for students who want to start a career in IT. You can pursue a degree in computer science, computer engineering, information technology, statistics, and other IT-related fields.
Universities typically last for four years and are highly valued by employers, making this educational route one of the most popular. However, universities are more costly, take longer, and offer less flexibility than other education alternatives. According to NCES, four-year universities cost an average of $28,123 annually, although public universities offer financial aid.
Key IT Skills to List on Your Resume
The IT skills you include on your resume as an IT specialist are very important, especially as employers will be looking for specific ones. Here are three key IT skills to develop and include on your resume:
Coding and Programming Skills
Coding is a basic skill that is highly important in IT, especially for those who work as web or software developers. Programming languages are vital in IT which makes it important to highlight your programming skills on your resume.
Most employers prefer candidates who are proficient in more than one programming language, since organizations operate with different languages. Some of the most popular programming languages are Python, Java, C++, HTML, Ruby, and R. You’ll want to be sure to know at least one, but preferably multiple languages from that list.
Computer Network Skills
Strong knowledge of computer networks is very important for IT specialists. Computer network skills show that you can operate various network systems to enable organizations to communicate internally and externally with the rest of the world. Some examples of computer network skills include IP setup, cloud systems administration, cyber security, and cloud services.
Cloud computing skills are in high demand by employers as more organizations now rely on the cloud to store data and access software and applications. The main types of cloud computing services are platforms, software, and infrastructure. Cloud management skills are crucial for most IT roles. Some important related skills are network management, data migration, and networking.
Where to Find IT Jobs
Job seekers in different industries have different channels to find jobs, many of which are specific to the occupation. Some examples are job boards, online communities, forums, and company websites. Below, you’ll find some of the most common places to find IT jobs.
There are general and specific job boards that can be used to search for openings online. They can be very useful but many require you to create a profile before starting. Some IT-specific job boards are Dice, Hired, The Ladders, CrunchBoard, Underdog, Triplebite, The Muse, ProductHunt, AngelList, Craigslist, and GitHub.
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IT communities are a good way to connect with people who are currently working or looking for work in the IT field. These communities are predominantly online, and give you access to IT-related events, updates, conferences, workshops, and job openings.
You also get to participate in projects that could help build your IT portfolio. Some of the most popular IT communities include Women Who Code, Kaggle, Spiceworks, StackOverflow, Hashnode, freeCodeCamp, HackerNews, and Hackernoon.
Although this is a more traditional method of finding IT jobs, there are certain perks unique to this method. If there is a specific employer that you want to work for, you can go to the company’s website and navigate to the section for job openings.
Aside from the positions available there, most company websites will give you an option to subscribe to email updates on company changes, job openings, and other relevant news. This allows you to be one of the first to hear of and apply for opportunities available.
How to Prepare for Your IT Interview
You should thoroughly prepare before your IT job interview. You’ll want to learn as much as you can about the company you’re interviewing with to make sure that anything asked or required during the interview doesn’t come as a surprise. These are some of the most common questions you can expect in an IT job interview:
IT Interview Questions
- What coding languages are you proficient in?
- What online resources do you utilize when working?
- What key skills are important for an IT specialist?
- Explain IT concepts in simple terms.
The Five Highest-Paying IT Jobs
|IT Jobs||Average Salary||Projected Growth|
|Computer & Information Research Scientist||$126,830||22%|
|Computer Network Architect||$116,780||5%|
|Information Security Analyst||$103,590||33%|
|Database Administrator & Architect||$98,860||8%|
Computer and Information Research Scientist
Computer and information research scientists are the highest paid IT professionals, with a projected growth of 22 percent. They also have a median salary of $126,830, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Computer and information research scientists design innovative uses for new and existing computer technologies.
Computer Network Architect
Computer network architects earn a median salary of $116,780 and have a projected growth of five percent from 2020 to 2030, which is slower than average for IT occupations, according to the BLS. Computer network architects design and build data and communication networks.
According to BLS, software developers earn a median salary of $110,140. Software developers analyze, design, and build computer programs and applications for mobile or desktop use. To become a software developer, you’ll need strong problem-solving and communication abilities and be able to pay attention to small details and work as part of a team.
Information Security Analyst
According to BLS, information security analysts have an average annual salary of $103,590 with a projected growth of 33 percent from 2020 to 2030. Information security analysts are primarily tasked with protecting computer networks. You should consider becoming an information security analyst if your calling is to help companies protect their systems and data.
Database Administrators and Architects
Database administrators and architects have an average annual salary of $98,860 and a projected growth of eight percent from 2020 to 2030, according to BLS. Database administrators and architects design and manage large, complex electronic databases that store and organize massive amounts of data.
IT Career Path
There are many different kinds of IT careers and career paths. Additionally, there are different IT job levels, all of which have different requirements. You may already know exactly what kind of IT profession you want to pursue, or perhaps you’re still in the process of deciding. Regardless, here are some entry, mid, and senior-level IT positions you may want to consider:
Entry-Level IT Jobs
- Software Engineer – Software engineers design, develop, debug, and implement software solutions. This role typically does not require a bachelor’s degree, however, some employers might require it. Coding bootcamp graduates, apprentices, and people with similar levels of training can become software engineers.
- Web Developer – Web developers create websites for businesses and other clients. The requirements for this role vary depending on the employer but typically will include coding bootcamp training, apprenticeship, bachelor’s degree, or similar educational credential.
- Technical Program Manager – Technical program managers are in charge of the technical projects of an organization. They initiate programs, stay updated on their progress, and handle any arising issue. Getting hired in this field requires a bachelor’s degree, coding bootcamp training, or similar education.
Mid-Level IT Jobs
- Security Director of IT – A security director of IT, also known as IT director, is in charge of the company’s IT infrastructure. They handle team management, IT security, and maintain the systems and operations of the organization. The minimum requirement for this occupation is a bachelor’s degree and at least five years of experience.
- Senior Data Engineer – Senior data engineers build, maintain, and optimize pipelines that facilitate deeper analysis and reporting by the IT department. The minimum requirement for a senior data engineering position is a bachelor’s degree and at least five years of experience in the field.
- Senior IT Program Manager – Senior IT program managers are also known as information system managers. They are in charge of developing program objectives and strategies and assessing how they will impact the organization. Senior IT program managers are required to have at least a bachelor’s degree and five years of experience.
Senior-Level IT Jobs
- Vice President of IT – The vice president of IT is in charge of planning the IT systems of a company, as well as implementing and maintaining the current systems. They must also ensure the security and stability of the company’s systems and networks. This position typically requires at least a bachelor’s degree and 20 years of experience.
- Vice President of Product Development – These professionals are in charge of leading product development and production teams from concept to final product. They ensure that the product meets company standards and consumer needs. The minimum requirement for this position is a bachelor’s degree and a number of years of experience, which will vary depending on the employer.
- Vice President of Engineering -The vice president of engineering is in charge of an organization’s development team. They are in charge of designing specifications, ensuring consistent user experiences, and managing the engineering and development team. This position requires at least a bachelor’s degree and experience in the field.
IT certifications prove that you’re up-to-date on the skills and knowledge needed in the IT field. They are also highly valued by employers and give you an advantage when applying for jobs. Some certifications are more reputable than others. We consider the best ones below.
CompTIA certifications are ideal for IT newcomers. The organization offers a variety of certifications, one of which stands out: CompTIA A+. This credential covers best practices in security, networking, operational procedures, mobile devices, technical support, troubleshooting, and various operating systems.
The Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA) is another entry-level certification. It is for aspiring professionals in desktop infrastructure, server infrastructure, or private cloud computing. There are various exams available, each testing a different set of skills and tools. This certification does not require prior education or IT experience.
The Certified Data Professional (CDP) certification is offered by the Institute for Certification of Computing Professionals (ICCP). This certification has five tiers, starting at the foundational level all the way to executive management. It also has specific areas of focus, such as business analytics, data governance, enterprise data architecture, data analytics, and data warehousing.
This certification is offered by Amazon Web Services (AWS), which is the largest provider of cloud computing services. Earning this certificate demonstrates your ability to design and deploy cloud environments using AWS.
Tips on How to Get a Job in IT
IT specialists are in high demand, earn a comfortable salary, and enjoy great career stability. As long as you have the necessary education and skills, it’s not difficult to land a job in the IT field. Here are some tips that can assist in your pursuit of an IT position:
Get an Education
The first step in starting your career as an IT professional is getting an IT education. Although employers’ standards and requirements will vary, some of the most popular educational paths for IT careers include bachelor’s degrees, associate degrees, bootcamps, and apprenticeships.
Acquire Relevant Skills
As an IT professional, some of the most important skills you must develop include programming, cloud computing, networking, and communication. It’s also important to remember that employers will very likely test you on these skills during the application process.
Get a Certification
Certifications are a great way of boosting your appeal to employers, especially if you don’t have a bachelor’s degree. They prove to employers that you have the skills, knowledge, and experience needed for the IT field. Additionally, certifications are an excellent way to increase your knowledge in a specific area of IT.
Build Your Professional Network
A professional network can help you stay updated on current changes and trends within the industry. Your peers in the IT industry also give you the opportunity to exchange information and knowledge related to the field. Lastly, a professional network can help you access job openings in the field.
Many jobs require previous experience. To get this experience, you can apply for internships or apprenticeships. These types of programs prove to employers that you’re prepared and qualified for the variety of tasks that the position involves.
Should You Get a Job in IT in 2021?
If the IT field interests you, then getting a job in IT is a great idea! Most IT positions offer a comfortable salary, excellent job stability, and plenty of opportunities for advancement. Additionally, there are many industries that need IT professionals, which provides you with a variety of workplaces to choose from.
Technology is advancing and spreading faster than it ever has, which makes now an ideal time to pursue an IT career. This is also a field that offers flexibility in the educational requirements, which allows you to choose the educational path that best suits you.
IT Specialist FAQ
Yes, you can become an IT specialist without a degree. There are several alternative educational paths that allow you to learn and develop the necessary skills. Some of these options include coding bootcamps, community colleges, internships, and apprenticeships.
It is not hard to get into IT, as long as you have the education and skills required by employers. You’ll want to receive some form of IT education, pursue a certification, obtain work experience in the field, join professional networks, and start applying!
The qualifications for IT jobs vary depending on the employer and the specific position you’re applying for. Typically you’ll want either a bachelor’s degree, associate degree, bootcamp certification, or apprenticeship.
Not all IT entry-level positions will require experience. However, if you are aiming for a position that does require experience that you don’t have, it would be a good idea to apply for an internship or apprenticeship. This will allow you to gain the experience you are missing.
About us: Career Karma is a platform designed to help job seekers find, research, and connect with job training programs to advance their careers. Learn about the CK publication.