Working in Information Technology, IT for short, is an aspiration for many people, with many not knowing whether it’s worth the time, money and effort to pursue. I’ve worked in IT for many years and found it very rewarding both financially and from the work I do.
So, is an IT career worth it? An IT career is worth it as the jobs in IT tend to pay more in salaries than most of the other job sectors. A lot of these IT jobs do not require any degree qualifications or lengthy amounts of experience compared to other high paying jobs in other sectors.
IT careers tend to pay more than most other job sectors in comparison to the amount of experience required. With some high salaries possible with just a few years of experience compared to other sectors like law, where many years of experience are required.
There are many IT careers where it’s possible to earn more than most doctors and lawyers, without having to sacrifice many years of a university education to get a degree. Along with the time taken to become suitably qualified to practice, this can end up being as much as a decade. Compared to IT, it can take months to a few years depending on the IT sector selected to earn substantial amounts.
There are also many IT jobs where a minimal amount of technical knowledge is required such as working in privacy, risk management to project management. In my day-to-day role, I work with many people in IT who do not do technical roles. It’s a popular misconception that all roles in IT are technical and most of these roles require from coding skills, therefore making them only suitable for programmers and developers.
When people ask me what I do for a living and I tell them I work in IT, I’m always met with a response of,
“Oh ok, you’re a software developer”.
Even though I do not do any programming or have any commercial programming experience. It’s just a false presumption from many people and in a way, this is good because it stops these people exploring potential opportunities in IT, thereby keeping the supply pool of talent lower.
IT careers can be rewarding not just in terms of financial benefits but the actual job being done. Many careers in IT involve working with other people in teams and this social aspect has many intrinsic benefits. Relationship building with other people and teams is the way to get things done in IT. However, there are still many misconceptions where people believe roles in IT are siloed and involved very little contact with other people. This could not be further from the truth.
IT careers especially in sought after areas where there are acute skill shortages, like Cyber Security pay more than other IT sectors. It’s a simple supply and demand situation where there aren’t enough people with appropriate cyber security skills, leading to employers having to pay more money to attract people.
Artificial Intelligence specifically Machine Learning to DevOps, Cloud, Big Data and Data Science are other areas where there is huge demand for skills. Leading to higher salaries and benefits on offer to suitably qualified candidates.
There are also areas in IT which are saturated like support, where salaries tend to be lower in comparison to the rest of IT. Simply because there are more people looking to get into this sector in IT than there are jobs overall, giving employers ample opportunity to pick and choose the best candidates at more competitive salaries. These support jobs tend to be the least rewarding, as they can be quite stressful from the increased workloads and the type of jobs themselves.
I’ve worked in support early on in my career and found it quite tough, the hours were longer than I work now and dealing with issues day in day out, made it very stressful. It was as almost being in a situation where I just couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.
|IT Roles||Average Salary||Job types|
|Executives||$250k||Chief Technical Offer (CTO)Chief Information Officer (CIO)Chief Information Security Officer (CISO)|
|Management||$160k||System ManagersIT Managers|
|Cloud||$150k||Cloud ArchitectCloud Engineer|
|Cyber Security||$130k||Cyber Security ArchitectCyber Security EngineerCyber Security Analyst|
|Architects & Designers||$125k||Solution ArchitectsSolution DesignersEnterprise ArchitectsTechnical Architects|
|Project Management||$120k||Program ManagersProject Managers|
|Data||$110k||Data AnalystsData ScientistsBusiness Intelligence (BI) Analysts|
|Networks||$90k||Network EngineersTelecom Engineers|
|IT Support||$60k||IT Helpdesk1st Line Support2nd Line Support3rd Line Support|
The salaries in the table are average salaries and, in some areas, they may not be as high as this, whilst others especially in the San Francisco Bay area, the salaries can be much higher.
Searching on the internet for average IT salaries in your area can give you an indication of what the prospective salary ranges are. This can be further compared with the national average to see get a perspective of whether where you live pays reasonably compared to the rest of the country.
It’s also important to forget not everyone in IT gets a salary, as there are many contractors working in IT, who earn an hourly or daily rate. The rates offered tend to be much higher based on annual calculations to salaries paid, sometimes nearly double what the salary equivalent would be.
The rates tend to be higher as the contract roles tend to be shorter from days to a couple of months. With the exception some contract roles can last a few years, but these tend to be the exception rather than the rule. Contract roles tend to lack the benefits of more permanent roles in IT, especially around social payments like holidays, sickness to pension contributions which have to be made by the contractor out of their own earnings.
IT Career Growth
I found the IT career growth was far much better than my peers in other job sectors, as I quickly went from working in a support role to an engineering one, eventually moving on to become a Cyber Security Architect in a matter of a few years.
As a result, my salary increased nearly 10-fold and looking back, I’m sometimes somewhat shocked at my progress and I’m not alone. As there are many other people who have experienced similar levels of career growth, that would not be possible in other job sectors.
Friends of mine involved in accountancy, have seen at most the trebling of their salaries but this has happened over a longer period of time. They have had to pass many exams to get countless certifications to move up the career ladder.
I’ve not really had to take any certifications and pass any exams, as the demand for my skills has been based on my experience in specific areas of cyber security. Where I have a track record of dealing with cyber security issues and formulating strategies to deal with these.
IT Career Opportunities
There are far more career opportunities in IT compared to other job sectors and as I’ve said before not all of them are technical. This gives scope for many different people with different skill sets to get into IT.
The technical areas like software development, cloud, cyber security to artificial intelligence is growing at exponential rates, increasing the number of jobs on offer. This has led to a skills shortage in many of these areas, resulting in higher salaries and contract rates.
The non-technical roles around certain aspects of analysis like business and risk analysis, to project management roles like project managers, programmer managers to PMO roles, are also on the up in demand.
Fast IT Career Entry
Supply and demand dictate how IT hires and fires and with acute skill shortages in many areas, getting an entry level in IT becomes a lot easier, again compared to other job sectors. As the minimum level of experience can fall to months instead of years.
I managed to get into IT quickly with minimal experience doing a support role on contract even though I lacked certain skills. My new employer needed someone desperately and was prepared to offer me on the job training for the technical areas I lacked, especially around Microsoft’s Exchange email platform.
My technical knowledge in Microsoft Windows, albeit mostly gained from voluntary work and from my own experiences at home, was sufficient to get me into an IT role. I then expanded on this experience by being exposed to server versions of Microsoft Windows, Terminal Services, Citrix to Microsoft Exchange.
There is no way I could have progressed as fast as I did in a different non-related IT career with minimal experience. When I look back at the transition, I’m sometimes dumbstruck how quickly it happened and how far I’ve got.
Start an IT career without a degree?
Many people in IT start their careers without a degree, this includes those without an IT related degree as well as those without non-IT related degrees. A degree is not a prerequisite for many jobs in IT and many of the highest paid jobs held in IT are not done by those who have been to university and have obtained a degree.
The only caveat to this would be where the competition for jobs is extremely fierce and as such an IT related degree is a minimum requirement. This is particularly too in India where many employers will only look at degree educated candidates as there are so many candidates available.
In other countries such as the UK, US, Canada to Australia and European Union, a degree will most likely not be mandatory. Even many employers in Switzerland many years ago seemed to have a policy of requiring a degree but this has changed substantially.
I do not have a degree and have been very successful in IT including working in the UK, European Union and Switzerland. I have never been asked about whether I have a degree or not for any of the jobs I’ve successfully applied for.
Even if I had a degree, I wouldn’t even put it onto my resume (CV) because it does not enhance my employability one bit. Instead, I save the valuable space to put something more sellable, that is my experience in the areas I’ve built up over the years.
IT career switch?
When it comes to an IT career switch, many people look at either switching from their current career into IT or if they are already working in IT, they look at switching within IT itself.
Those switching from other careers into IT will primarily do it for greater financial rewards as said before the salaries and rates are must higher in comparison. I’ve worked with people in IT who previously worked in unrelated fields like in retail, in the government to being in the army. They’ve managed to transition over to IT for what they deem to be a better career with more opportunities.
Others may switch careers within IT to expand their knowledge and earn higher salaries. Many people look at highly prized areas like Cyber security to make their career switch to, as the financial rewards are greater.
Some people may look at an IT career switch because they feel they are not enjoying the IT sector they work in. Maybe, the work they do is not rewarding just in terms of financial terms but also from a personal enjoyment perspective. Many of the low-end roles around IT support can be very demanding and have a high turnover of staff.
Those with the correct aspiration will use these low-end roles as steppingstones to move into more lucrative and rewarding roles, like I did. As it will be difficult to get into high paid cutting-edge roles with a minimal amount of experience. The progression up the career ladder is still required but it’s become more like an elevator with IT, as the speed of progression can be a lot faster.
Written for Purplepedia by Jas Singh