If you’re looking for a sector that offers extraordinary growth opportunities with great pay, look no further than the IT industry. Based on a Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) report, employment in IT is set to grow by 13% between 2020 and 2030, making it one of the fastest-growing job sectors in the nation.
Even with plenty of options, securing a job in IT requires hard work and patience due to the industry’s competitive nature. Most IT career paths require technical expertise, and acquiring these skills takes focused effort and time.
This article gives you a rundown of the steps you can take to help you land the job you want. We’ll also answer some common questions that you might have while considering a role in IT.
6 steps to getting an IT job
When job openings in a thriving industry like IT are numerous, so are the number of people applying. While the market continues to evolve, you can take the following steps to position yourself as a well-rounded IT professional looking to get a job.
- Do your research. Gain in-depth knowledge of the industry, think about which role you’re most passionate about, and understand the requirements of that role.
- Obtain relevant IT skills. Once you zero in on the type of work you want, start building a skill set that satisfies the specific job criteria.
- Get certified. Legitimize your technical prowess and soft skills and put a credential on your resume to stand out within a large talent pool.
- Get relevant experience. Having relevant experience can give you a boost. Gain experience through freelance projects, internships, or volunteer work.
- Network. Use your network to broaden your understanding of the IT industry and aid your job search.
- Look for the right entry-level positions. Try to break into the industry with an entry-level position. Apply to different job listings for part-time or full-time work. Once you’ve gotten a start, you can grow from there.
1. Do your research
Researching and orienting yourself to the IT space can help you select the subsector where you want to work. In addition, familiarity with the industry can help you decide which companies to apply to and which roles you want to consider.
The most sought-after IT professional is a software developer, with more than 373,000 job postings in the U.S. just during 2021. Other popular postings include network engineers, system engineers, and support specialists.
Researching roles, their requirements, and how you could fulfill them is the first step to understanding where you stand in the market. Acquaint yourself with the industry using platforms like GitHub and Stack Overflow, IT podcasts, YouTube channels, specific communities on LinkedIn (like the Global Information Technology Professionals Association), and Reddit topics (such as the subreddit IT Career Questions).
2. Obtain relevant IT skills
Companies look for specific skills in individuals, which vary with the role. You can acquire or polish these skills in many ways.
Study on your own with the help of online courses on websites like Coursera or Udemy. Many people keen to break into the sector may also seek a mentor to guide their efforts and provide consistent feedback and career advice. Months-long boot camps designed to build specific skill sets are also popular options.
If you’re looking for something more in-depth and formal, you should consider pursuing higher education in computer science. A college degree helps you build a strong foundation in the subject and establish a peer network. In general and in IT, completing a bachelor’s degree leads to higher ways and lower risk of unemployment than no degree or an associate degree.
As someone considering making the switch to IT, you should be acquainted with basic vocabulary and skills:
- Operating systems. You should know how to administer and operate programs on various systems, like Linux, Windows, or macOS.
- Estimated difficulty level: Moderate; administering operating systems is a finer but equally popular skill. Many operating system learning resources are available online.
- Networks. The ability to maintain local area networks (LAN), wide area networks (WAN), and virtual private networks (VPN) also strengthens your profile.
- Estimated difficulty level: Moderate; the expanse and depth of network infrastructure and security can make them difficult for beginners to grasp fully.
- Security. In today’s world, companies rely on IT to provide the essential security function for the business. Some skills that can prepare you for a security-focused role are risk mitigation and threat analysis, firewall installation, vulnerability assessment, and network security.
- Estimated difficulty level: Difficult; cybersecurity is a relatively difficult skill to pick up. With new advances being made in the field every day, the standard for what counts as current and feasible in cybersecurity keeps changing. Having said that, starting positions in monitoring, alerting and reporting are relatively easy.
3. Get certified
If you’re a newcomer to the field, getting a certification is a great way to add a credential to your resume while fine-tuning your skills. Recruiters look to benchmark your skill level with relevant certificates. Depending on the role you want, you can opt for:
- Help desk/desktop analyst certifications (A+, Network+). These certifications can help you stand out and find your footing in the IT industry. A Network+ certification validates the technical skills needed to maintain and troubleshoot networks used by businesses. The A+ certification confirms an individual’s skill in installing, maintaining, and customizing personal computers.
- Network certifications (CCNA, CCNP, CCIE). These are specific certifications offered by Cisco for network engineers or admin roles. The Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) is a great place for beginners to start after mastering fundamentals.
- Security+. CompTIA Security+ is a security certification that corroborates your skills for an entry-level cybersecurity role. If you’re interested in specializing in security, you can continue to obtain intermediate and advanced certifications like the Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) or the advanced Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP).
- Microsoft Certified Fundamentals. Microsoft Certified Fundamentals is a certificate for starting positions that deal with Microsoft products. You can choose to take AI, security, cloud solutions, or other exams and get certified. You should also consider getting certified for Microsoft’s cloud software, Azure Fundamentals.
- Amazon Web Services Cloud Practitioner. Cloud computing is a highly sought-after field in IT, and Amazon Web Services (AWS) is a worldwide cloud computing platform. Becoming an AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner is helpful for an entry-level position, giving you an edge when applying for cloud-related jobs.
Getting an IT certification requires time and dedication. You need to pick the accreditation, study the subject matter, and pass an exam. Taking a certification exam can be expensive (starting at $100 but going up to $15,000), but earning the credential can be a worthwhile investment for advancing your IT career.
4. Get relevant experience
Work experience can help you stand out among other applicants looking for jobs. Because IT is a field of knowledge and skill, gaining relevant experience is a great way to showcase your abilities. Fill gaps in your resume by:
- Volunteering. Volunteering your efforts for organizations looking for IT support can help you start gaining relevant work experience. Most companies are likely to accept you sooner than they otherwise might because they don’t need to pay for your services. On the negative side, you will be putting in time and effort but not getting paid. Companies may also deploy you on a project where you won’t learn many new or transferable skills.
- Getting internships. Internships are a great way to break into the field without prior experience and help sharpen your communication and problem-solving skills. They’ll also expose you to practicing your skills in a professional setting. Internships count as experience for entry-level jobs. You can make your internship stand out by winning accolades or getting a letter of recommendation from the firm. Be aware that some internships might have intense competition because of possible opportunities to land a full-time job with the organization after the internship.
- Starting your own project. Writing your own code, building a personal website, or fixing a system attacked by a virus are all examples of personal projects that show your willingness to learn and apply skills. These projects can’t replace years of work experience as a programmer or web developer, but they can impress hiring managers. Identifying a problem and delivering a successful, scalable solution can set you apart as a candidate. However, you’ll generally have to solve a problem single-handedly.
- Freelancing. Consider using Upwork or other platforms to list your services as an independent IT professional. This helps you build confidence and gain relevant work experience in your chosen role. Freelancing also offers the opportunity to earn money while gaining experience; you essentially have unlimited earning potential. Finding clients may be challenging, especially when first starting, but writing good job proposals and being persistent can get results fairly quickly.
- Getting a degree. Getting a degree in IT has both academic and corporate benefits. While you get to discover different IT concepts from the base up with professors, IT companies also greatly value an IT degree and are keen on hiring people who have enrolled in and finished relevant courses. Of course, getting a degree can require significant up-front expenses and will take years to complete. The standard degree program may involve certain classes or courses where you don’t learn what you’re interested in or must sit through training on what you already know.
A robust network of family, friends, and colleagues in the IT industry can help you demystify and understand the sector better. The biggest advantage of a strong network is support during your job search. Finding someone who can review your resume and make improvements, suggest suitable job openings, identify your strengths and weaknesses, and recommend the next steps can be a turning point in your career.
An excellent way to network is by attending IT conferences or summits where you can interact with industry veterans and some of the sharpest, most capable minds in the field. Adobe Summit, Google Cloud Next, and IBM Think are some of the top IT conferences currently held.
Reaching out to professionals on LinkedIn is another good way to start if you don’t have personal access to industry veterans.
6. Look for the right entry-level positions
The IT industry is full of opportunities, with new titles added every year. You need to look for the right entry-level IT jobs that fit your skill set, work experience, and job expectations.
Job descriptions will give you a clear idea of where you stand and how to customize your resume for applications. Browsing job boards for openings is an excellent first step in the job search process.
Some good entry-level roles to search for include:
- Quality assurance analyst
- Database administrator
- Web developer
5 tech jobs to consider
Finding a role in a new industry can be daunting, especially if the industry is super competitive. To help, we list some entry-level positions, the salaries offered, and the certifications required to land the role.
Technical support specialist
A support specialist provides technical support to users. They are responsible for installing software, addressing issues regarding software and hardware, and maintaining local area networks (LAN). Knowledge of both wired and wireless computer networks (including their security and architecture) is required for this role.
Certifications required: Any of the CompTIA A+, Network+, or Security+ certifications
Average pay: $27 per hour
Software developers use their programming knowledge to build software for companies. They are also tasked with the maintenance and upkeep of existing software and software databases. Software developers are required to have a good command of programming languages and digital data structures.
Certifications required: Any of the following certifications are accepted: Certified Secure Software Lifecycle Professional (CSSLP), C Programming Language Certified Associate (CLA), Certified Software Development Professional (CSDP)
Average pay: $15 to $30 per hour
A data scientist has the skills and ability to oversee the collection, storage, and interpretation of data for organizations. The job involves collaborating with other departments to understand the organization’s needs and devising a solution through data analysis. Data scientists are required to be comfortable with data mining and business intelligence (DMBI) and big data analysis (BDA).
Certifications required: As a beginner, you can opt for the IBM Data Science Professional Certificate, Google’s Professional Data Engineer Certification, or SAS’s Certified Data Curation for Data Scientists
Average pay: $25 to $50 per hour
A database administrator is responsible for maintaining and running a company’s database. They are tasked with organizing data, designing the database, granting access, and ensuring data backup. Database administrators should have a working knowledge of different SQL (structured query language) and non-SQL databases and their management.
Certifications required: IBM Certified Database Administrator, MySQL certification, SAP Certified Technology Associate
Average pay: $21 to $55 per hour
Information technology manager
An IT manager caters to a company’s technology needs by ensuring the smooth running and maintenance of software, overseeing an IT budget, and managing operating systems. IT managers are required to have a comprehensive knowledge of IT project management and finance management and a general understanding of products the company is developing.
While this position isn’t necessarily an entry-level job, it could be achievable over time or available for someone coming into a company with extensive experience.
Certifications required: Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) Certification, Certified Information Technology Manager (CITM)
Average pay: $17 to $79 per hour
FAQs about IT jobs
Individuals entering the IT field typically have many questions when looking for their first job. This section provides answers to some of the most commonly asked questions.
Can I get an IT job without a degree?
Yes, you can find a job without a formal education in IT. The field offers various experience-based positions that could be suitable for you. Another option is to validate your skills with certifications or specialized courses in your areas of interest.
Without a bachelor’s degree, you’ll have to bank on your network, gain professional experience, and upskill yourself to land the jobs you want.
How do I get into the IT field with no experience?
Having a solid set of skills but no work experience can put you at a disadvantage. You can fix this by volunteering in fields relevant to your job, completing internships, or taking on personal projects to demonstrate your capabilities.
Then, with a portfolio of your work, start crafting your resume and cover letter for the appropriate positions, join social media networking groups to hear about new opportunities, and contact potential employers. Landing a job without experience requires persistence, but it’s not impossible.
Is getting a job in IT hard?
With the right qualifications and skills on your resume, getting a job in IT shouldn’t be too hard, but it will take time and effort. If you need to fill gaps in your skill set or are new to the industry, securing a job can seem daunting. However, with the proper training and willingness to start at the entry level, the sector can offer a goldmine of opportunities.
The time for an IT job is now
The IT sector shows an upward trend in employment, signifying the abundance of jobs it will continue to create. Net employment in the IT sector is set to reach 8.9 million in the United States in 2022, with tech jobs growing at twice the rate of other jobs nationally over the next decade. If you’re looking to switch to the IT sector, the time is now.
Following the steps we’ve set out in this article can help you get your foot in the door to start a successful career trajectory. One way to get started is to consider freelance work in the IT industry. As the world’s work marketplace, Upwork can help you find the type of IT projects you love to do by connecting you with clients looking for your specific skill set. Browse available jobs today and jump-start your career in IT.
Upwork is not affiliated with and does not sponsor or endorse any of the tools or services discussed in this section. These tools and services are provided only as potential options, and each reader and company should take the time needed to adequately analyze and determine the tools or services that would best fit their specific needs and situation. Note that cost and salary information is likely to change over time.