BY SYLVIA KOHL
IT jobs are certainly among the most promising and desired careers of our time, and this trend isn’t likely to let up any time soon. Even if you don’t intend to be a programmer or web developer, a certain degree of expertise in this area is going to help a lot – with every passing year, other industries get more and more dependent on information technology. So what should a student do to ensure his success in IT? Let’s find out.
1. Choose Courses with Focus on Employability
If you intend to work in IT, ideally you should have some idea of what exactly you want to do. As long as you don’t plan to pursue an academic career (and if you read this article you probably don’t), you should limit your choices to courses making emphasis on practical methods of learning. Pay attention to the ones that include numerous practical projects, placements to work for real clients and other opportunities to obtain real-life work experience. It will help you lay a solid foundation for your future career.
2. Supplement Your Studies with Online Courses
IT is an incredibly volatile and rapidly developing area of expertise, and college courses often lag behind the actual developments it undergoes (traditional education is in general slow to adapt to changes in the environment). It means that if you want to keep abreast of the industry, you should take matters into your own hands and sign up for additional courses. There are many online services like SkillsBuild that provide high-quality training in current IT skills.
3. Get a Strong and Broad Foundation in Computer Sciences
Even if you have a clear idea of what kind of career you want to pursue, don’t be in a hurry to get deep into this discipline. You may find yourself halfway through a course you that don’t want to finish after all, and that isn’t of much use for other branches of the industry. Before you dive deep into anything specific, specialists in IT always recommend getting a solid grounding in general computer sciences. It will make it easier to understand how things work and make an informed choice of your future career later on.
4. Obtain Necessary Non-Technical (or “Soft”) Skills
Technical skills aren’t the only area of knowledge an IT specialist should be excellent at. There is a host of other competencies you are going to need: project management, interpersonal communication, ability to work well in a team and so on. Employers highly value all of them, and if you concentrate solely on acquiring technical skills, you may find yourself lagging behind competitors who are just better at communication.
5. Participate in IT Competitions
The best way to test your skills and force yourself to grow is to set yourself against the best, both among your peers and throughout the industry. All kinds of computer science competitions, both local and large-scale, are held every year, and you should try to find a way into every one that deals with your area of the industry. They are useful not just for testing your abilities and challenging your limits – they look good on CV as well.
6. Join a CTE Program
Career and Technical Education programs may have been in decline for the last few decades, but they don’t deserve to be forgotten. They provide practical skills currently in demand on the job market and give you a chance to land a good job soon after completing them. The best CTE programs are directly connected with employers and even allow you to transfer credits to community college, giving you a much-needed boost in case you decide to pursue a degree. If you are in doubt, remember that CTE participation means higher wages, especially if you proceed beyond introductory courses.
7. Career Pathways Movement
Career Pathways Movement is based on the idea that everybody needs additional education beyond high school but that it doesn’t necessarily have to be a 4-year college degree. CPM is meant to provide high school graduates with an easier entry point into middle-skill vocations, with IT fields constituting a significant part of them. President’s last year executive order drastically increased the number of apprenticeships – the primary instrument of CTM – giving you a much better chance of getting one than it was previously possible. Apprenticeships are also getting more and more connected with the community and technical colleges, giving students an opportunity to start planning their future careers at an early stage.
If you intend to pursue a career in IT, there are good and bad news for you. The good news is that even if you don’t have special academic education in this area, you have a chance to obtain the necessary skills through practice and online courses. The bad news is that information technology is an area of expertise that requires your entire attention and calls for constant self-improvement – if you want to be good at it, you have to work on yourself all the time. We hope that these tips will help you determine your way.
Sylvia Kohl is an IT teacher with more than 8 years of professional experience. Her main spheres of interest are e-education and she convinced that learning process doesn’t stop after years in school and university.