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.
For people with coding skills, it is a good idea to share and showcase your personal projects. Recruiters will be interested in seeing your work on GitHub and will typically put candidates through coding exercises as part of the recruitment process.
For those looking to learn and improve their skills, there are plenty of taught courses available at Oxford University, ranging from short programmes on the IT Services website (usually free of charge or priced lower for Oxford students) right up to postgraduate-level courses. In addition, Molly: Oxford’s IT Services Learning Centre portal provides free access to LinkedIn Learning, which includes thousands of tech'-related video tutorials from beginner to expert. 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, the University’s Computer Science Society and Code First: Girls offer free coding courses during term time if you want to learn alongside others. Alternatively, you can start by taking one of the many ‘learn to code’ self-teaching programme, either with LinkedIn Learning or another online platform (e.g. Codecademy).
Oxford also has other student societies that are focused around the use and application of technologies and IT careers. In addition to the Oxford Computer Science Society, consider seeking out Oxford Women in Computer Science (OxWoCS); the Oxford AI Society; or the Oxford Blockchain Society. You can also sign-up for hackathons (e.g. Oxford Hack, Varsity Code), run projects or take on some of the competitions and challenges on Kaggle or those run by companies as part of their graduate recruitment. Students interested in both entrepreneurship and technology can investigate opportunities and activities at The Oxford Foundry, and sign up for regular newsletters from Enterprising Oxford.
Many organisations will recruit graduates from a wide range of degree disciplines - even for technical roles - if they demonstrate enthusiasm for the industry and the potential to learn to code quickly. Transferable skills - such as being able to work collaboratively, communicate clearly, and work with both data and clients - may be highly predictive of future success, and are likely to be given considerable weight in recruitment processes. See our suite of advice on Developing your Employability Skills for ideas and inspiration for how to enhance your transferable skills.
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.
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 career fairs - consider especially attending our Science, Engineering and Technology Fair; Careers in Computing fair; and Jobs for Mathematicians fairs. 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 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 from the Careers Service - you will need to apply in the first 10 days 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 planned programme, and will either advertise ad hoc as positions or projects come up, or they may respond to speculative approaches. Contact companies 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, in a placement which lasts a few weeks or months, there may not be enough time to train you so that you can contribute to the work. 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).
Will I get paid?
Internships and summer jobs are governed in the UK by National Minimum Wage law, which means that if you are carrying out activities that class you as a “worker” by the employer, then you should be paid. Full details of Employment Rights and Pay for Interns are published by the government.
If you are undertaking a learning and development opportunity such as a micro-internship, or volunteering for a charity or statutory body, or shadowing or observing, then you may not be eligible for the National Minimum Wage. The organisation may reimburse you for your travel and/or lunch expenses, but they aren’t obliged to do so.
Boot camps for Data Science
Short intensive technology training boot camps are also a viable option to learn new skills quickly to add to your CV. With the growing skills gap in these areas, more boot camp-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.
In particular, boot camps can offer the chance for students to gain experience in working on business-related projects. The better programmes tend to work closely with commercial companies which can provide datasets and expertise to support teaching. Participants will sometimes undertake analyses and make recommendations on live projects for the commercial partner organisations - which may also be looking to recruit directly from the boot camp!
Most boot camps carry a cost for participants, and we are reluctant to suggest fee-based programmes. However, in the field of data science, some boot camps run exclusive programmes for final-year and newly graduated PhDs and STEM Masters students with fellowships or significantly reduced costs.
These boot camps can be an excellent springboard to transition from an academic track into a more commercial field. Students considering investing time (and money) in one of these programmes should undertake their own research and due diligence to check whether the programme is a good fit for them. Make a start with Switchup.org's research and reviews online, but we recommend that you also connect with current or recent participants to clarify:
- the programme content, the quality of teaching and the learning experience,
- the extent to which the boot camp supports participants' employability, and
- alumni's success in transitioning into paid work at their 'target companies' and into 'target roles'.
Expect to make applications up to 3 or 4 months before a programme starts, so follow social media feeds and register for updates and newsletters from providers for any programme to which you might apply. Some programmes that we have noticed include:
- Faculty Fellowship: Paid fellowship opportunity with London-based Faculty.ai (previously the ASI Data Science Fellowship) offering intensive training for two weeks followed by six weeks working in-house at a host company, helping to deliver a real AI project and ending with a Demo evening to showcase your work and contribution.
- The Data Incubator: award-winning US-based programme that offers a free Data Science Fellowship (you pay accommodation and living costs) alongside its paid programmes.
- S2DS Science to Data Science: A London-based programme run 3-times each year by Pivigo. In-person and online editions both carry an £800 registration fee, but free accommodation and meals are provided for the in-person training in London. Read the Pivigo blog for industry insights.
- Data Science for All / Women: An online programme devised and delivered by US-based Correlation One, which also runs a high-profile datathon recruitment competition for a leading finance firm.
Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, some boot camps ran online rather than being based at a training centre, and we expect this to continue.