Information Technology Career Pathways For School Leavers
Our entire world - from plane journeys to grocery shopping to Instagram stories - relies on computing systems, and IT is the industry that keeps all this functioning.
IT is one the world’s fastest-growing career areas, as every part of society adopts new types of technology. The drive forward is relentless, and a skills shortage in the industry means that organisations are always on the look-out for those with the expertise to power the future.
Having the right technical skills in things like coding and IT systems can open up many different opportunities, in many different companies in many different industries. The whole world is open, and you can be integral in driving it forward.
Information Technology Jobs
You’ll need some specific technical knowledge for a successful career in IT, alongside softer skills such as teamwork, attention to detail and communication. Here are some of the skills you’re likely to need:- Coding
- Computer Programming
- Problem Solving
- Project Management
- Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC)
- Time Management
You should be in a position to apply for junior IT roles after you complete your apprenticeship, if this is the route you decide to go down when pursuing your career in IT.
There are lots of roles in the IT sector, meaning a direct career path is not necessarily the same between different jobs and companies. In general, you are likely to start in an assistant or junior position, before senior is incorporated into your title. As you progress you will be given greater responsibility and more prestigious projects. From here, and as you build your career further, you may be able to manage a team or take on consultancy work.
If you’ve completed an apprenticeship in IT, you could consider going on to university afterwards in order to increase your professional standing.
Courses recognised by the British Computer Society (BCS) are also a good way to build your skills, and your employer might be happy to sponsor or support you in these if you can show how these skills will directly improve their business. Professional qualifications offered through BCS include software development and architecture, business analysis, data protection and GDPR, software testing, and asset and data management.
As an apprentice, you’ll earn a minimum of £3.70 per hour if you’re under 19 or in the first year of your apprenticeship, or the National Minimum Wage if you’re over 19. This works out at around £150 - £240 per week.
Because IT skills are in such high demand, they can often command relatively high salaries – especially as you move further along in your career. Here are the average salaries for some jobs in IT, according to Payscale:
Software engineer – £34,142
IT support specialist – £23,759
Senior network engineer – £43,287
Web developer – £24,872
Senior web developer - £36,622
Qualification requirements & subjects to study
To get a job in IT as a school leaver, it’s a good idea to undertake a vocational qualification. A diploma, certificate or short course can give you the practical skills you need to get a job in this sector.
Professional organisations (like those listed at the end of this article), as well as colleges, can provide these qualifications.
Alternatively, you could look at apprenticeships in IT. Apprenticeships will see you studying and working for a company at the same time. You will work alongside experienced staff and will have one day off per week to study, usually at a local technical college or equivalent. This can be a great route for those who know what they want to do early, and don’t want to burden themselves with the time and debt of university.
The amount of technological growth that the world has seen over the past few years – and will continue to see in the future – means that there are now qualifications and training courses dedicated to areas that didn’t even exist a decade ago.
Traditional qualifications in areas such as IT and computer science will qualify you for a wide range of jobs within the sector, and will ensure that you have skills in essential areas such as coding, programming languages, database building and IT support.
More specific courses, such as data science, computer networking, software engineering or web development will focus on a specific part of the industry, and will make you an expert in that area in particular.
There are also a large number of entry levels roles in IT, both within IT companies and within IT departments of other organisations. These roles will often pay relatively well, as they require specific technical skill.
Keeping up to date with the latest developments in your industry and making sure you can discuss them and demonstrate your skills at interview stage will give you a good chance of getting an IT job.
BCS – The Chartered Institute for IT
Association of Information Technology Professionals (AITP)
UK Web Design Association
Women in Technology
Institute of Analysts and Programmers (IAP)
UKITA (UK IT Association)
CompTIA (Information Technology Industry & Association)
Institute of Information Security Professionals (IISP)