Skills shortages in key areas of the digital economy mean there are many different IT careers available for graduates with relevant qualifications and experience

What areas of IT can I work in?

Types of work available in the IT sector include:

  • applications development
  • computer forensics
  • content management
  • cyber security and risk management
  • data analysis and analytics
  • game development
  • geographical information systems (GIS)
  • hardware engineering
  • information management
  • IT consultancy (business and technical)
  • IT sales
  • multimedia programming
  • software engineering (designing, building, developing and testing)
  • systems/network management
  • technical support
  • telecommunications
  • web design/development.

Your job could involve creating applications or systems, solving problems with technology or supporting people who use it. Employers in the IT industry also require graduates in areas such as business, marketing, human resources (HR) and finance.

Meanwhile, many IT professionals work outside the sector, for example in the IT departments of retail, finance, manufacturing and public sector organisations.

For examples of job roles in this sector, see graduate jobs in IT.

Who are the main graduate employers?

Large companies in the IT sector include:

  • Accenture
  • Apple
  • Capgemini
  • Cisco
  • Cognizant
  • FDM
  • Fujitsu
  • Google
  • IBM
  • Infosys
  • Microsoft
  • Rockstar Games
  • Softcat
  • Ubisoft.

Major telecommunications companies include:

  • BT
  • EE
  • Sky UK
  • TalkTalk
  • Telefónica O2 UK
  • Three
  • Virgin Media
  • Vodafone.

The sector is fast-moving and dynamic, meaning there are many smaller companies and tech start-ups that are worth seeking out for job opportunities. For example, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the IT industry provide a range of specialist services and often offer consultancy and technical roles.

Other sectors that employ significant numbers of IT professionals include:

  • Financial services - for example companies such as Barclays, Citigroup, J.P. Morgan and Morgan Stanley.
  • Manufacturing - multinational engineering companies in the oil, pharmaceuticals, automotive and energy industries.
  • Public sector - local authorities, central government and the NHS.
  • Retail - major online and high street retailers such as Amazon, Arcadia, Tesco, TJX Europe and John Lewis.

Routes into the IT industry include graduate schemes, apprenticeships and internships. Find out how to get an IT job.

What's it like working in the sector?

Graduates entering the industry can expect:

  • An average starting salary - according to High Fliers' The Graduate Market in 2018 report, starting salaries in IT are the same as the national median of £30,000.
  • Long working hours - employers tend to emphasise completing a task or project over maintaining standard 9am-5pm office hours.
  • Opportunities to work abroad - many large IT companies have branches or subsidiaries in other countries.
  • The chance to be self-employed - it is not unusual for graduates to go freelance, work as a contractor or even start their own tech companies.
  • A constantly changing industry - as new technologies and software are developed, it's important to keep your IT training current to impress employers.

To find out more about typical salaries and working conditions in your chosen career, see graduate jobs in IT.

What are the key issues in the IT sector?

BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT published a report for digital leaders in 2018 which looked at the capabilities, skills and ethics needed in IT organisations in the near-future. It showed that business transformation and organisational change were top priorities and roles in change management, transformation consultancy and business analysis would be on the increase.

The specific skills identified by these organisations included some that would be fully expected - cybersecurity and cloud for example - through to emerging sectors - such as the 'as-a-service' model.

In the survey only 14% of organisations felt they needed bigger budgets - they were in fact looking to educate and train existing staff. That means that graduates, already in the mindset of learning, are well placed to get involved in an industry that is so focused on personal development.

Other areas ripe for careers include agile methodologies, mobile and application development, the internet of things and - increasingly in recent years - artificial intelligence and machine learning. Manipulation of data is a skill that cannot be overlooked, in its many guises - especially that of the relatively new data scientist role - and no doubt we will be hearing about roles in blockchain more and more.

There are other considerations, too, for example the effect that current or incoming legislation have on work - such as GDPR-related roles - that has an implication for big data professionals, who would need skills such things as AWS, Python, Hadoop, Spark, Cloudera, MongoDB, Hive, Tableau, Java and so on.