Support or development: What's in an IT career?


For all of the opportunities you're promised are waiting at the end of university, a degree can feel restrictive as you begin to channel your energies into one increasingly vocational area. Although the thought of graduating with anything less than a five year plan can seem terrifying at first, the reality is that as many as 3 in every 5 graduates are choosing careers with no direct relevance to their course of study - so there's no need to worry if your interests have changed over the past three years. In the words of my Nan, "the world is still your oyster".

As a graduate myself, it took a long time to decide what it was that I wanted to do once university was over; even after realising that a career in marketing was my calling, I still wasn't 100% sure as to what marketing even entailed.

The IT industry is similar in this respect. Although we all have an immeasurable amount of contact with technology on a daily basis, many of us don't have the first clue as to what's going on underneath the hood. As the UK continues to prove itself on the world stage as a technology leader - with the help of East-London's Tech City and the numerous British-born apps and services in use across the globe - now's a better time than ever to have an interest in IT. If you're finding that other graduates are tough competition for the roles you've pursued thus far, you may find the IT industry with its huge skills shortages to be a much more accessible route into a well-paid and rewarding career.

To provide a better understanding of the opportunities available within the IT space, we've taken a look at the basics of what's involved on the two major career paths available to an entry-level IT professional.

IT Support and Infrastructure

It's the responsibility of a technical support team to maintain an organisation's network and systems, a critically important task for any business reliant on the stability of their IT infrastructure for making money. Whether you're the member of an in-house support team or an IT outsourcing company, you'll be diagnosing and troubleshooting technical issues both over the phone and in person, monitoring the status of users' hardware and software, as well as supporting the roll-out of any new technology.

IT support is an area of IT that often has an undeserved problem with perception but despite what Channel Four's The IT Crowd would have you think, IT support is in no way an antisocial career in which you're left in a basement asking whether they've tried turning it off and on again. No two days are the same for a technical support engineer, there's plenty of time to be spent away from your desk in the company of other people, and there's a clear career path on which salaries very quickly grow to £80,000+.

IT Development

Web and software developers use many different coding languages to create and maintain all manner of computer programs: from operating systems to mobile apps, and for enterprise or consumer markets. As a software engineer, you'll be working with project teams to find ways to turn a client's brief into a working piece of software - a process that involves regular refining and optimisation as the search for bugs and the addition of new features lengthens the development cycle.

With a huge number of programming languages, devices and platforms, the variety of demand for IT development is broad and ever-growing. With a developer's imagination as the only limit to what is possible in the world of development, this is a career path for creative types - and the added collaboration with designers, architects and userbases offers a very rewarding and often unconventional working day (if the types of radical workplaces that we're seeing in Tech City are anything to go by).

Whether it's IT support and infrastructure or IT development that takes your fancy, these careers don't have the strict route of entry that many people would assume. Holding a degree that isn't related to computer science will do nothing to hurt your chances of joining these industries at an entry-level position, as the professional IT classes and development schools available both online and offline can teach you the skills to kick-start your career at an affordable price.

A solid university degree will open doors in its own right, regardless of your subject of choice. It's just up to you as a graduate to work out what it is that you want to do next - something that will require research, motivation and a good amount of self-reflection.

Tom Coakes is the content-writer for Just IT, an IT training and recruitment company based in the City of London.
Was this helpful? Yes