Education and training

Arts and business studies graduates are recruited as business analysts and sales support staff, where business understanding is essential. Courses that combine computing with skills such as business studies or languages can be useful.

For the more technical careers, like applications programming, systems programming and software engineering, there are various degree courses in computing and IT. Some are hardware or engineering oriented, others have a software, programming and applications emphasis. Specific entry requirements vary considerably, depending on the focus of the course. For example, a very theoretical course may require A level mathematics, whereas Business IT programmes would probably not ask for any science background beyond GCSE. Few courses specify A level Computing or equivalent.

Many universities run ‘conversion’ MSc courses for graduates, who, having completed degree courses in non-IT related disciplines, subsequently decide that they would like to pursue an IT-based career. For many companies, people with high level skills in two areas, one of them IT, are particularly attractive employees. It is important to remember that IT is very largely a service industry, in that the focus of the business is on oil exploration or chemical engineering or pharmaceuticals or banking or whatever, and that IT is simply one of the tools the business uses to achieve its ends. So an oil exploration firm might look for applicants who understand both geology and IT.

There are other routes into an IT career, some of which parallel the degree path and some of which precede it:

National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs) from levels 1 to 4 are available in areas from Operating Information Technology to Information Systems Development. These are primarily work-based qualifications.

BTEC First Diploma Information Technology Practitioners offers a basic introduction to the use of computers.

BTEC National Diploma Information Technology Practitioners courses (usually two years, full-time) need four GCSEs grade C, preferably including English and mathematics. The National Certificate is a part-time equivalent course.

BTEC Higher National Diploma courses in computer studies, computer science, information systems, etc. are offered at many universities and colleges. HND courses usually call for one A level pass, plus another subject studied to that level, or a relevant National Diploma. Many universities allow successful HND students to move directly into the second year of a degree programme.

Employer-based training, or perhaps a modern Apprenticeship, may be a possibility in your area. Your local careers service will be able to advise you.