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Computing & IT | The Careers Service Computing & IT – Oxford University Careers Service
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About this sector

Computing, IT and telecommunications is one of the fastest growing employment sectors in the global economy, and offers a vast range of opportunities both within the sector and beyond. In fact, with IT now an operational necessity for nearly all organisations, more than 40% of all IT professionals are employed outside the sector.

There are numerous challenging and interesting roles available, from software developer to systems analyst, and from programmer to games developer. Moreover, the fast paced and rapidly evolving nature of the industry means that the range of opportunities and demand for people with the right skills is likely to continue to grow rapidly. Currently, cyber security, data analytics, machine learning and A.I. are areas that are increasingly prominent in recruiters’ interests and likely to continue to expand in the next few years along with the rapid development of the ‘internet-of-things’ and ‘web-of-things’.

There is already a substantial skills gap, which means that there are opportunities for those with demonstrable technical skills, whether these have been developed through their studies or extracurricular interests. In fact, a number of companies that attend Oxford careers fairs are happy to recruit graduates without relevant degrees or well developed technical skills where they can demonstrate an active interest in – and aptitude for – technology, and a willingness to learn.

The significant under-representation of women in directly relevant degrees (e.g. Computer science; mathematics and engineering) is replicated by the numbers of women in technical disciplines at most firms. This has created a particular strong interest across the sector and in the Computing and It teams of other firms to attract interest and applications from female students and researchers with the right mix of interest and either skills or potential to succeed in the field.

Types of job

There are an enormous range of employers that hire IT graduates; essentially every organisation which requires IT support is a potential employer. They typically fall into the following categories:

  • technology creators, which create hardware and software for end-users, including:
    • household names such as Google, Microsoft, LinkedIn, Apple and IBM, as well as local firms like Nominet; Tripadvisor; and Sophos, and
    • companies firmly rooted in digital based services, such as Brainlabs Digital; Mathworks; TPP, and games providers (e.g. King; Rebellion; Roxar)
  • the end-users, which is all organisations which use IT to support their core activities, many of which also develop their own tools and software in-house such as retailers (Amazon, Ocado, John Lewis …); banks (Barclays, BAML, Citi, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan …), ‘FinTech firms (Citadel, Jane Street, Tibra …) and firms of all sizes across all industries from conglomerates like BP, to publishers like OUP and Elsevier.
  • technology consultants and service providers, such as Accenture, CapGemini, and FDM, that advise on the development and implementation of systems, and may also embed consultants at client firms to implement solutions and support services.
  • start-ups, from app developers to spin-out firms leveraging Oxford University research, which can be some of the most exciting places for new graduates to start as new technologies are developed, products find a place in the world, and if the company grows quickly there can also be potential for responsibilities to grow quickly as well.

End user organisations employ about 55% of the IT workforce and often run highly developed graduate training programmes. Some of the larger technology creators also have established graduate recruitment programmes, whilst smaller start-up companies which are growing fast are keen to hire young people excited by the opportunity to work on developing new tools and concepts in a rapidly developing marketplace.

There are roles in the IT sector for both IT technical professionals and those from a wide range of other fields.

IT technical roles

Job titles and roles are varied. A recent survey of 80 recruiters revealed a total of 75 different job titles for their IT based roles! The job titles below is only a sample: follow these links to explore in more depth on the Prospects website:

Non-technical roles

Just as in any other industry, the IT sector hires staff into roles outside their technical IT teams. For example, Apple, Google, IBM and LinkedIn offer graduate scheme routes. These non-IT roles can include:

  • General Management and Leadership programmes
  • Finance and accountancy
  • HR and Personnel
  • Project management
  • Engineering
  • Market research
  • Sales and account management
  • Buying and procurement
  • Planning and partnership roles
  • Business development roles
  • Marketing and PR

When trying to decide on the type of organisation you would like to work for, take some time to understand how different firms are organised and resourced, and try to think about what environment suits you best.

Smaller organisations often offer a less ‘corporate’ working environment, in terms of location or the office set up (e.g. table football and bean bags in the office). They are also often more orientated around the individual, and may offer slightly shorter working hours, or greater flexibility. Other small-firm benefits may include more direct contact with senior managers or a greater opportunity to make an individual impact. However, the training and support you receive may be less structured than in a big firm.

Larger organisations may offer a greater range of opportunities and funding for training and development internally, not just in technical areas but also looking after your wider personal development. As with grad’ schemes in other sectors, you may work on a number of ‘rotations’, gaining knowledge about different core business areas (eg, sales; marketing; HR; operations; product development; financial management). Also, the scale of the projects you work on at a large organisation tend to be larger – and may be high profile – whilst the teams can be bigger too and you may be one of many working on a project. Many of the bigger international employers may also offer opportunities to live and work abroad in their international offices.

Entry points

As a recent graduate there are a range of dedicated graduate programmes at large firms or entry level positions within smaller organisations. IT is also a growing sector within the start up world for graduates interested in entrepreneurial endeavours.

Starting salaries

Salaries can vary across the sector and recent graduates can earn  up to £40,000. The industry average starting salary is reported to be similar to the national median of £30,000 (Graduate Market in 2015 by High Fliers). This average is part of a large spectrum – for example, students graduating from Oxford’s Computer Science programmes over the last four years have had starting salaries averaging £35,000 for undergraduates, with more than half of these students entering the IT sector. The highest salaries are mainly attributed to IT roles in the financial, chemical, oil and manufacturing sectors, and particularly in software development roles, even within smaller organisations.

Even outside London, there are plenty of organisations which will offer salaries between £28,000 – £38,000 for technical roles without a requirement for pre-existing programming skills, as well as a wide variety of non-technical roles in the sector commanding starting salaries typically around £25,000 – £30,000.

Skills & experience

Skills needed

Technical skills

In the past few years the most common programming languages sought by recruiters (based on CareerConnect adverts) were: .NET, C++, SQL, Java, C#, PHP, Python, CSS, VBA, MySQL, Ruby On Rails, Perl and HTML5. C is also very commonly sought after.

There are plenty of taught courses available here at Oxford University, ranging from short programmes at IT Services (usually free of charge or priced lower for Oxford students) right up to postgraduate-level courses.

In addition, Oxford’s IT Services provides FREE access to Lynda.com, a leading online learning platform with thousands of video tutorials covering software, technology, tools and both creative and business skills. It is easy to choose your own learning pathways, and you can learn flexibly and at your own pace.

If you are interested in working in a technical role, but don’t have any coding skills yet, you could start by taking one of the many ‘learn to code’ self-teaching programmes available online (e.g. Codecademy). The University’s Computer Science Society and Code First: Girls also run offer free coding courses during term time if you want to learn alongside others.

Oxford also has other student societies that have a core interest in and around the use and application of technologies and IT careers. In particular, Oxford Entrepreneurs runs a major conference, a pitching competition, treks to visit starts ups and in November runs the annual Oxfordhack, a student hackathon hosted by the Institute of Mathematics. 2017 has seen the emergence of the University’s Artificial Intelligence Society  which looks well placed to collaborate with other groups in the University and the Said Business School to explore this emerging field and its applications.

 Non-technical skills

Many organisations will recruit graduates from a wide range of degree disciplines – even for technical roles – if they demonstrate enthusiasm for the industry and potential to learn coding quickly. Transferable skills – such as being able to work collaboratively, communicate clearly, and to work with both data and clients – may be highly predictive of future success, and are likely to be given considerable weight in recruitment processes.

Getting experience

Experience is not essential to get a job in IT, but makes you far more competitive and demonstrates to a potential employer that you have an understanding of and interest in the sector. Experience in any IT field will help you to develop your understanding of commercial awareness, workplace communications, planning and organisational skills, teamwork and more.

A very large number of organisations will run structured internship programmes, some of which require no technical skills and focus more on training and personal development of coding skills (e.g. Ensoft; Metaswitch Networks; Softwire). You can meet representatives of many firms that target recruitment at Oxford in Michaelmas Term through our many career fairs – think especially about attending our Careers in Computing; Internship Fair; Science, Engineering and Technology Fair, and Jobs for Mathematicians event.  However, there are many other opportunities available (see live jobs on CareerConnect) and if you are interested in a company that doesn’t offer a structured internship programme, speculative applications can be a great way to generate opportunities.

Internships

Internships and work experience places are offered year-round on CareerConnect, and due to the IT skills shortage can sometimes go unfilled.  At the beginning of every Oxford term look for short-term work experience projects advertised as Micro-internships by the Careers Service – you will need to apply in the first 2 or 3 weeks of term and the placements take place in 9th week of the same term. There are also some fantastic opportunities exclusively opened to Oxford students – all over the world, in the UK and even within the university itself – every year in the Summer Internship programme: the programme opens for applications in January each year.

Smaller companies may not have a regular advertised programme, and will either advertise ad hoc as positions or projects come up or they may rely on speculative approaches. Contact them directly to learn whether or not they might offer work experience, shadowing, internships or similar. Use the employer directory on CareerConnect to search firms that have been in contact with the Careers Service in the past.

Technical internships without computer science skills

Organisations which might well consider an application for a technical role from a graduate without programming skills may not be able to offer the same degree of flexibility when it comes to their internships. This is because they just don’t have enough time to train you up so that you can contribute when the placement just lasts a few weeks or months. If you’re aiming for technical roles without a Computer Science background, it might be worth initially combining a non-technical internship with a separate opportunity to learn some programming skills (see ‘Skills Needed’ above).

Boot-camps

Short intensive technology training boot-camps are also a viable option to learn new skills quickly to add to your CV. These can sometimes be taken as an online course, or you attend a training centre.

At the top end are boot-camps targeting high potential computer science and STEM subject PhDs and Masters students. These may be paid (e.g. ASI Data Science Fellowship) or free to participants with a one-off registration fee (e.g. Science to Data Science (S2DS) programme, including free accommodation in London and food) or free for Fellowship recipients (e.g. the USA-based The Data Incubator , but participants cover accommodation and living costs).

Companies support these bootcamps by providing some of the course materials/datasets, and may be engaged in the teaching, funding and hiring from participants – so these bootcamps can be a springboard to getting into a new career field.

With the growing tech skills gap more bootcamp style courses are popping up to help you get up to speed on the latest tech skills. These typically last between 5 to 10 weeks. They can cost a fair amount however, so before committing yourself do some proper research; seek to understand what outcomes previous attendees have achieved, whether participants are introduced to recruiting companies during the course, and how quickly they enter work on course completion? To start you research, take a look at Switchup.org’s research and reviews online.

External resources

General vacancies

Sector vacancies and Guidance

Bootcamps

  • ASI Data Science  Fellowships available for paid 8 week bootcamp in London.
  • Science to Data Science (S2DS) –  There is a registration fee, but S2DS is a free 5 week Data Science boot camp in London (including free bed & board). There’s also an online edition.
  • The Data Incubator – Fellowships provide free access to data science boocamp in USA.  Participants cover their own travel, accommodation and living costs.

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This information was last updated on 28 September 2018.
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