Monday, October 17, 2011

Information technology : Overview

The industry in a nutshell

Information technology (IT) is at the centre of everyday life and can be found in almost all other industries. IT underpins many organisations and pastimes, from shopping to watching the television, and it is at the core of every business. IT will continue to be the key element that enables businesses to grow. It is a very dynamic industry and is constantly changing. IT positions include:
  • highly technical roles, including programming and systems analysis;
  • business-related roles, including project and relationship management;
  • creative roles, involving digital technologies used in web design and development.
The IT industry was affected less than most other industries during the recent recession. This was partly due to companies employing IT professionals to help them cut costs but also down to the overall strength of the industry and significant presence in industries as a whole. It also has a central role to play in the government's current drive to create a 'Digital Britain' so that managers, employees, leaders and citizens can use IT to enhance all aspects of their lives.

What kind of work can I do?

The most common roles for new graduates include:
  1. IT/telecoms management - responsible for all aspects of IT infrastructure, application and operation;
  2. systems development - uses a combination of database design, programming and system architecture skills to develop systems;
  3. systems design - includes systems, business analyst and systems auditing roles which work on the technical design, functional processes and implementation of a system;
  4. IT consultants and planners - improve systems and structures of their client organisation's IT systems;
  5. IT operations technicians (network support) - provide support for all communication and computer networks in organisations;
  6. IT user support technicians (help desk support) - solve faults and problems. They also help clients maximise the use of software features;
  7. programmers - have responsibility for writing and testing individual programmes;
  8. software designers and engineers - design, research and develop computer software and software systems for clients. Testing and debugging existing software systems are also included;
  9. web developers and producers - design and produce websites. This role combines technical expertise with graphic design;
  10. network/systems designers and engineers - install and maintain communication networks in organisations. They work to provide maximum performance and network availability for clients;
  11. database administrator - responsible for the design and operational management of new databases and maintenance of existing ones.
The UK economy will require an average of 110,500 new IT professionals every year for the next four years (Technology Counts UK, 2010).

What's it like working in this industry?

  • IT is a dynamic industry that is often informal, but always focused on achievement. IT graduates highlight working on different technologies and interesting problems. They enjoy variety, relaxed work environments, flexible working arrangements, working to deadlines, working closely with a variety of people and a good work/life balance.
  • Mobility is becoming a necessity for IT employees working in IT services and consulting roles.
  • Many graduates work a fairly standard day. However, in some areas extra work may be necessary to meet project deadlines. In the games industry for example, long hours are standard.
  • Entry level salaries can start at £19,000 for a technical support officer to £25,000 for a software engineer. The average starting salary in the IT industry is around £23,000.
  • Across the industry IT professionals can earn an average of £38,000; this can be significantly higher in more specialist fields and in different parts of the country.
  • Women remain severely under-represented in the IT profession in the UK. They make up 45% of the overall UK workforce but only 17% of people in IT are female. (Technology Counts UK, 2010)
  • Various groups exist to support women in IT. The BCS (The Chartered Institute for IT) has a specialist online support group, BCSWomen , which offers a CV clinic service, career development workshops and networking meetings.

How big is this sector?

According to Technology Counts UK :
  • 1 in 18 employed people in the UK work in the IT and telecoms industry (1.52 million people).
  • This amounts to approximately 860,000 in the IT and telecoms industry itself and an additional 663,000 employed as IT or telecoms professionals in other industries. 
  • There are over 150,000 businesses in the industry, 87% of which are IT-related.
  • The UK's IT and telecoms industry produces an annual Gross Value Added (GVA) contribution of £71billion (8.4%) of the total UK economy.

Where can I work?

Opportunities exist throughout the UK, although over 44% of UK IT jobs are based in London and the South East.

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