Over a million people are employed in computer-related fields in the UK, with more than half in the software and computer services industry. The UK's ICT sector is the largest in Europe, and is expected to grow to over £29 billion by 2012.
The UK is home to over 100,000 specialist software houses, and is the world's leading internet gateway with 36 per cent of internet traffic routed through UK servers.
All businesses also need Information Technology and IT professionals to service their main function, whether that is finance or education, manufacturing or heritage. So one of your choices is whether to work for a technical IT company such as IBM , an IT consultancy such as Accenture or work in-house for an employer in a different sector such as The Bank of England or GCHQ .
Opportunities for graduates exist in all of these routes, so you need to consider which suits your needs and wants best. There are also opportunities in small / medium sized employers where there are no formal graduate training schemes but plenty of jobs in IT roles.
Agcas, the professional body for higher education careers advisory services has produced an Industry Insight forInformation Technology and Communications which provides an overview of what it is like to work in this area.
For more information and opportunities in this sector, see:
Computer systems sales and services
|IT sales professional|
IT ancillary services
IT business strategy
|IT technical support officer|
|Information systems manager|
|Geographical information systems officer|
Work experience is critical both in terms of improving your employment prospects but also in terms of helping you to decide which aspects of the IT sector most interest you. The BCS website is an excellent resource with to begin researching the diversity of available career options. There are some excellent graduate opportunities in the IT sector in a variety of different organizations but competition is high. Undertaking some form of IT experience, whether it be a structured internship or temporary employment, will improve your competitiveness.
A wide variety of organizations offer structured summer internships which can lead to offers of employment. Typically, formal internships are aimed primarily at students in their penultimate year; closing dates can be as early as December and January! The internships last 8-12 weeks; they are usually salaried and involve structured, project based work. Opportunities exist with technology companies and IT consultancies but also within the IT departments of large organisations in the private, public and not-for-profit sectors. The companies listed below represent only a very small sample of the internship opportunities that are available:
- Mitsubishi UFJ Securities
- Goldman Sachs
- Credit Suisse
- IBM Extreme Blue
Opportunities are advertised via our vacancy service, which is available through the Careers Centre website, but also through the main graduate careers websites such as Prospects, Target Jobs, Inside Careers and Milkround. Gradcracker is a graduate careers website specific to the technology industries and is a good source of work experience opportunities. It is also useful to use IT specific job sites, such as BCS Recruit and Technojobs (www.technojobs.co.uk), as occasionally internships will be advertised: try a key word search under ‘internship’, ‘placement’ or ‘work experience’.
It is feasible to undertake work experience with SMEs (small and medium sized enterprises) through the ‘Step’ programme.
Longer term placements (6-12 months) are also available in the IT sector but are usually undertaken as an integrated part of academic study (e.g. sandwich degree).
A further option is to approach organisations speculatively with a persuasive CV and covering letter. This may result in a shorter period of unpaid work experience and provides scope to engage with technology companies that interest you. It is also useful to consider organizations, such as charities, that rely on volunteers and which could provide scope to engage in IT related projects. Universities and local authorities require expansive IT services and maybe able to accommodate someone seeking work experience. Vacation employment in the IT sector may be possible, particularly in respect of entry level roles. Appropriate recruitment agencies can be identified using the Recruitment Employment Confederation website.
It is possible to evidence your relevant skills outside of internships and work experience. You could, for example, develop a portfolio of work to illustrate your coding or multimedia skills should that be your area of interest. You may be actively involved in an IT role in the context of your extra-curricular activities e.g. societies, college. Another option is to develop specific skills and knowledge via short courses or distance learning; it is not uncommon for individuals to teach themselves in respect of programming languages or software packages. Irrespective of what it is that you do related to IT, it is very important that such activities are effectively communicated to employers.
Graduate training schemes are widely available in respect of the IT sector although competition is high. Technology companies and IT consultancies are perhaps the obvious employers to consider but very good graduate IT schemes are also offered by employers across all sectors of industry. Opportunities are as diverse as the sector, ranging from highly technical positions requiring a relevant degree to commercial roles that are open to all graduates. Organizations usually have closing dates between November and January of your final year. Refer to the Inside Careers guide to careers in IT and Target Jobs for information on graduate schemes. Opportunities are also advertised via the British Computer Society. Gradcracker is a recruitment resource specifically for students interested in technology careers; the website provides information on graduate schemes and provides details of relevant employers. The directories provided by Prospects and Target Jobs (available in the Careers Centre and online) detail graduate employers within IT. It is essential to research graduate schemes before applying as entry requirements do vary.
Examples of graduate schemes (IT employers and technology consultancies)
Examples of graduate schemes (Other IT recruiters)
In addition to graduate schemes, it is not uncommon for organizations to recruit graduates on an individual basis into trainee or entry level roles. This is particularly so in respect of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) which are crucial to the technology industries in the UK. Non-graduate level employment with a relevant employer is another means of entering the profession. The resources below are appropriate in respect of both graduate and non-graduate employment opportunities. Refer to the Recruitment Employment Confederation website for details of appropriate recruitment consultancies.
Useful vacancy websites
There are many general and specific job search resources in respect of IT; below are a number of key resources with which to begin your job search:
- Opportunities across all areas of IT
- Graduate vacancies advertised; you need to do a keyword search under ‘Graduate’
- Graduate opportunities listed
- You can create a candidate profile to make the most of the services offered
- This website allows you to upload your CV, sign up for email job alerts or search for IT jobs.
- You can search by location and either by technical specialism or simply by searching for graduate role.
- Specialist IT recruitment site and part of the Total Jobs group
- Dedicated section for graduates
- Junior and entry level opportunities also advertised
Postgraduate study is not essential for a career in the IT sector: it is an area in which there are established training programmes for graduates. However, postgraduate study options are available that will enhance employment prospects particularly in respect of more technical roles, such as software development.
Further information on postgraduate courses can be found on the Prospects and FindaMasters websites. Research the courses on offer before you apply - don't assume that they are all the same particularly as the IT sector is so diverse and constantly evolving. It is vital to approach admissions tutors at an early stage to establish specific entry requirements. Courses that are very specific and/or highly technical (e.g. artificial intelligence, advanced computing) may require relevant academic study at undergraduate level. There are no absolute deadlines for postgraduate courses in this field but it is recommended that you apply early.
It is very feasible to work in the IT sector without a relevant degree, particularly in respect of consultancy and business analysis roles although it can be more challenging to move into technical IT roles. Conversion courses in subjects such as computer science provide a means for non-computing graduates to broaden their employment options. There are different types of IT and computing conversion courses available; entry requirements do vary and some courses may stipulate evidence of numerical ability e.g. A-level Mathematics.
In addition to HE institutions, there are other organizations that deliver relevant IT courses at a range of academic levels. The BCS provides details on different types of learning and training opportunities including short and professional courses. The BCS website details accredited learning centres in the UK and further afield.
Professional bodies (also known as associations, organizations or societies) are non-profit organizations concerned with developing, and supporting, a particular profession. They represent a valuable resource for anyone considering entering a particular profession as they will provide information on employment and training opportunities. Professional bodies will often accredit relevant professional and postgraduate courses; they can also provide a range of other services linked to job and training vacancies, network events, conferences and careers information.
In the field of IT the main representative body is the BSC. This body is an excellent source of careers and employment information; it also actively engages in professional development and learning related to the industry. Other relevant professional organisations include the Institution of Analysts and Programmers and the Institution of Engineering and Technology.
E-skills UK is not a professional body but does represent employers linked to information technology, with a particular focus on addressing skills shortages. Creative Skillset is an industry body which supports the audio-visual industries. If you are interested in the animation or computer games industry then their website is an excellent source of information including computer games news and events, industry accredited courses and recruitment agencies and job websites. If you click on ‘careers advice’ and then ‘job profiles’ you can read about careers linked to gaming and animation.