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Where to start  

IT is a sector in which the demand for talent far outstrips supply. Demand will continue to grow strongly, so if you have the right skills—or want to acquire them—then this area offers many opportunities. The reach of technology into virtually every work area means that there are career opportunities beyond the obvious IT employers who create software or provide IT services or solutions.

How to know if you’re suited to this sector

To work out the best starting place for you, consider these questions:

Programming or not? Whether you already know how to code or want to start learning, there are many opportunities if you’re interested in software development. You’ll often be taught on the job: either building on coding experience you already have or teaching you from scratch. If you go down this route, make sure you enjoy detail, problem solving, and working independently.

Application focused or user focused? IT activities range from the more technical development of applications to more user-centred activity such as developing user interfaces, front-end web development, and technical writing. Are you more interested in making systems and products, or focusing on how they are used?

What future roles attract you most? In IT, as people become more experienced they tend to take one of two routes: the technical specialist/architect/guru route, or the managerial/project management route with responsibility for systems and people. It is worth giving some thought to which path attracts you most.

Don't study computer science? Not a problem! Employers are increasingly willing to train candidates regardless of their background.  Be sure to demonstrate both general aptitude (particularly for technical roles) and enthusiasm for the sector. As a starting point, you may find this 'From History Graduate to Happy Programmer' article by a former Cambridge MPhil to be of interest.

Further study or certification required

In IT, if you can demonstrate a proficiency in coding, no further study or certification is generally required. You can also do an IT conversion course. There are several Masters’ programmes in IT that don't require a specific first degree, and which will teach you the skills you need.

How to find employers or training courses

For technical roles: Look for firms that will take students from any discipline and train them. Firms in this category that regularly recruit from Cambridge include IBM, Metaswitch, Bloomberg, Softwire, and FDM.

Consider non-technical roles: The IT sector also needs candidates for less technical roles such as project management and technical writing, and for core functions such as marketing, sales, HR, and finance. These roles usually focus on clients and the commercial aspects of the business, such as account management and marketing or business development. A real interest in the technology and how it is used is vital for these roles.

Online training and courses: Starting to learn some coding independently is easier than ever, due to the increasing amount of free online courses and tutorials. The main constraint is your time. Self-learning, however, shows future employers that you have initiative.

Cambridge University Computing Service has programming and scripting courses in C++, Python, PHP, Oracle, MySQL, plus Programming Concepts for Beginners, and access to LinkedIn Learning courses.

These external providers are also well-recognised for their quality: Codeacademy, Khan Academy, treehouse, CoderDojo, Decoded.

Introductory courses that are sometimes certified include Coursera, edX, and Udacity.

Tips for succeeding in the application or selection process

Generally, you'll require at least one of two things to get started in this industry: enthusiasm for information technology and a portfolio (on Github, for instance) of relevant work to demonstrate your skills. Be prepared to talk about the problems you encountered in your projects, and how you overcame them. Your CV should have a prominent section outlining your technical skills

What Cambridge offers to help with this career

Keep an eye out for competitions and hackathons that you can use to build up your coding skills. These are often sponsored by student societies.