Information technology professionals aim to help individuals and organisations harness the power of computing by using appropriate software, hardware, services, networks, and infrastructure to meet a range of goals, from centralising customer records in a readily accessible database to performing large-scale data analysis.
It’s difficult to overstate the importance of IT to modern business – almost all major organisations rely on computing, whether they’re replying to emails or aggregating huge amounts of online shopping data. Consequently, IT has become a mammoth industry in its own right, with some of its most successful businesses, such as Apple and Alphabet (formerly Google), becoming household names the world over.
In Australia, the IT industry is now seen as critical to the economy and national security, providing wide-ranging graduate career opportunities. Global companies including Canon, Citrix, Google, IBM, and Microsoft employ many thousands of Australians, while home-grown firms have made valuable contributions to areas as diverse as education, mining, finance, cybersecurity, and health.
Broadly speaking, IT professionals fall into five categories that reflect their area of expertise.
First, there are IT workers who specialise in hardware, such as servers, microchips, printers, computers, network equipment, and mobile phones. They have responsibilities ranging from research and development to manufacturing and design. IT companies are engaged in a constant arms race when it comes to hardware (and software), with new breakthroughs and products promising lucrative returns. In the second category are the many IT workers who focus on software. Here, programmers, software designers, app developers, security experts, and other professionals create many pieces of software that make computers useful. This includes operating systems (such as Windows and Android), word processors (such as Microsoft Word and Google Docs), email clients (like Outlook and Gmail), and video games (from Pong to the present).
The third category contains professionals who focus on providing IT services. These professionals offer software support, systems integration (i.e. making two incompatible software applications work together), the design of custom networks and computer systems, and more.
Fourth, there are many professionals dedicated to IT infrastructure. This includes all of the hardware and software used to support telecommunications networks, cloud data centres, colocation facilities, and the internet. Finally, there are positions in the IT industry which focus on administration, managerial responsibilities, sales, human relations, and other primarily non-technical areas.
Tech companies hire the largest proportion of IT professionals. These organisations tend to focus on one segment of the market, though others – particularly larger companies like IBM and Microsoft – may invest in multiple areas. Common market segments include hardware (Apple and Dell); internet retail (Amazon and Netflix); software and programming (Microsoft, Oracle, and Adobe); semiconductors and chips (Intel and Qualcomm); and computer services (Facebook, Google, and VMware). The success stories of companies like Whatsapp and Instagram has inspired many IT professionals to establish their own ventures. Hence the proliferation of startup companies in the IT sector, with major businesses like Microsoft and Google originating in the garages of their founders.
The past decade has also seen an increase in the demand for IT professionals within various management consulting firms, which offer IT solutions as a form of business support. IT consultancy divisions can now be found at leading firms like Deloitte, McKinsey, Capgemini, and the Boston Consulting Group.
Of course, many businesses have sought to avoid relying on outside assistance by hiring IT professionals of their own. It’s not unusual for banks, insurance companies, media companies, schools, and other institutions to hire IT professionals who work on-site full time.
Finally, the government is a major employer of IT professionals, whose tasks in the public sector are similar to those they would perform for a private business: troubleshooting hardware, designing software, enhancing cybersecurity, upgrading systems, and so on.
While it’s still possible for savvy programmers and other specialists to crack the industry with practical demonstrations of their experience (for example, apps they’ve designed or problems they’ve solved), almost all professional IT jobs now require you to possess a relevant degree. This usually means completing a four-year bachelor’s degree in computer sciences, programming, systems administration, management information systems, computer engineering, information technology, or a related area. While there is some overlap between these areas, you’ll find that some are better suited to certain positions than others (and maybe specifically requested in a job advertisement). For example, a programming background is essential for a software engineer but not necessary for a sales professional.
Many major IT organisations run dedicated graduate programs, with competitive salaries and exciting training opportunities available to successful candidates. Often, applicants must pass through as multi-stage recruitment process involving an online application, in-person interview, and various aptitude tests. Your application will benefit from evidence that you’ve completed an internship, gained industry experience, or worked on personal or academic projects related to the target role.
The IT industry is expected to grow by leaps and bounds over the coming decades, with its centrality to modern business and culture encouraging many to push for the inclusion of subjects like programming in standard school curricula.
Areas of major growth include e-commerce, mobile applications, cloud computing, health technology, and computer security. Each of these expanding fields promises to employ many tens of thousands of additional IT professionals, with software developers, computer systems analysts, and web developers in, particularly high demand.
The advancement of your own career will be determined largely by your specific role, and the organisation for which you work. For example, larger companies like Microsoft and Apple offer various paths for internal career advancement, whether you decide to pursue leadership positions, overseas roles, or acceptance to competitive research and development teams.
For many popular jobs in the IT industry, a STEM degree is mandatory: you will, for instance, require a computing science degree to apply competitively to most graduate software development positions.
Instead, it’s better to focus on advantageous ways to augment your STEM degree by acquiring additional experience or education. For example, you could enter coding challenges, apply for internships, research potential employers carefully, join professional networks, or hone your skills by enrolling in an online open education program.
Salaries for IT graduates range from $52,000 in industry and commerce to $59,000 in government. However, salary progressions vary widely based on specialisation and employer, with competitive employers willing to secure talent by offering generous packages to standout graduates.
Visit our site for more IT career advice.