How to Begin a Career in Information Technology

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The information technology (IT) sector is expanding rapidly, but only committed, well-trained workers can get IT jobs. If you’re looking to work in IT, the following steps will ensure you a successful career:

1. Find an Area of Interest

The more specific you are about your Information Technology (IT) ambitions, the easier it is to plan your career. Different specialties require different amounts of education. Whereas computer systems analysts and network administrators need a bachelor’s degree in an IT-related field to get jobs, computer support specialists often need no more than an associate’s degree. On the other hand, information security analysts need both a bachelor’s degree and several years of computer-related work experience to get a job, while computer research scientists require a Ph.D. Specialties also determine your likely wages: whereas the median computer support specialist makes $48,900 per year.

2. Seek Hands-On Experience

Regardless of your specialty, the more hands-on experience you receive during training, the more competitive you will be in your field. Students with practical experience have an easier time responding to changes in the IT industry and creating new, innovative software and networking products. Look for classes that offer you real programming or network administration tasks and grade you according to your ability to come up with new solutions. You should also practice your specialty outside of class, especially if you’re studying computer programming or some other field that is easy to practice on your own time.

3. Make Certain of Certifications

Depending on your specialty, you may have to receive independent certification before you can get an IT job. Information security analysts, for example, handle large amounts of sensitive information, so employers are often unwilling to hire them unless they have a license. Licensing requirements vary by industry and specialty, and are often tailored to the specific businesses you’ll be working for. Cisco and Microsoft, for example, offer their own certification programs for new hires. Once you pick your specialty, identify any licenses or certificates you may have to get before you can work and prepare to test for them.

4. Master Time Management

Figure out how many hours per week you’ll be able to spend studying, practicing, and attending classes. Not only will this determine whether you can go to an information technology school, but it will also help you select a school if you can attend. If your time is limited, you may want to choose an online IT course or a course with flexible testing and classroom schedules. Also consider schools that offer work study programs; these allow you to earn money and train simultaneously, reducing the amount of time you’ll have to spend at a job.

5. Select a School

Once you’ve assessed all of the above factors, find a school that will prepare you for all of them. Don’t be fooled into applying to the most prestigious universities. Small, little-known colleges designed specifically for computer science enthusiast’s offer just as good an IT education as their better-known competitors, and often at a much lower cost. When searching for a program, don’t just look at the overall school’s reputation. Research individual professors and figure out whether they will accommodate your needs and learning style.