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When it comes to working in IT, the degree you studied at university won’t necessarily limit your choice of roles in the IT profession. Simply by completing a degree course tells many companies quiet a lot of what you are capable of.

It’s a common misconception that everyone who works in IT has studied computer science at university. Careers in IT are so varied now that this is not always the case. In many cases employers are more than happy to see any degree on a candidates CV.

The main reason is because a person who has completed a degree course and graduated has many skills that are required in the modern business world.

Expert recruitment consultant, Gary Argent says,

“When it comes to getting a job in IT there are recruiters who accept any degree, not just one in computer science. They do this because they are looking for evidence of analytical skills, and the ability to process information and plan – all the things that a degree teaches you to do.

“The IT industry is about solving problems for other people, it’s not just about writing clever C++ code or designing a database. It’s about going into another company, understanding what’s causing that company a problem and then figuring out a way to solve it.”

There are also lots of other skills that graduates display simply by having a degree to their name. A basic one is literacy, as this is fundamental for everyone if you are to come across as a serious professional.

Gary adds,“Candidates need to be aware of literacy issues, too. At our assessment centre we run a written exercise, because the ability to present ideas in a written format is very important, e.g. anyone who joins the graduate scheme will be sending emails to the company’s clients from day one. Therefore companies need people who think about the way they write those emails.

“It’s not just the obvious things such as spelling and grammar, although those things are important. If they are writing a report for their boss or an email to a customer, or a letter to a supplier, they need to know how to approach that. These skills are important and unfortunately are becoming very difficult to find as recruiters.”

As IT is now seen as a business enabler, many organisations will also require even their IT oriented staff to have business skills as well as technical ones.

When it comes to working for large organisations, the skills learnt in education aren’t always enough; many companies now look for more applicable business skills as well.”

As for how applicants get these other skills it can sometimes depend on what they do outside of their degree. They could be gained by doing a work placement and a lot of companies take students on placement years or work experience, which give them some of the business skills that people need to have these days.

It often isn’t enough for a student to only have sat for three years in a very theoretical environment, as this is not going to give them the right interpersonal, business and analytical skills.

Another factor in a graduates favour is that university life often encourages students to broaden their horizons, take gap years and perhaps do charity work. This sort of activity is very sought after by recruiters as it shows that the candidates have initiative and are willing to think more widely.

“There is a big focus on getting a 2.1 or a first, but students must also consider that they are now paying to do that degree, so they don’t want to lose sight of that. But lots of students have got a 2.1, so they need to find some way to stand out from the crowd.

“Some students do this with post-graduate study and do a Master’s or other further study after their degree, but other students are getting smart in the way they are selling their other experience.” Gary adds.

One way to do this is not to have just any summer job, such as stacking shelves in a local supermarket, but to do something where new skills can be learned that which can then be added to an application form or indeed to a career.

“Charity work is one example of what some people do outside of academia and work. This shows some social conscience and also often enables them to pick up skills that are then directly applicable to the business environment” said Gary.

IT needs analytical skills in order to figure out how to break down a problem and solve it using technology. There are many good candidates coming through with physics, maths, and engineering degrees, as long as they’ve got that interest in IT as well, they bring a really good set of thinking skills with them. However, analytical skills aren’t limited to students who have studied STEM subjects at university. That said applicants do need to make sure that they show evidence of such skills.

Working in IT isn’t just about helping end-users use their PCs or coding databases. With a good set of business skills, literacy, a good initiative, analytical skills, and an interest in computing, there are a wealth of opportunities available whatever your background.

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