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Part of Western Governors University

March 12, 2020

Information Technology

How to build an IT career without IT experience.

A man types on a latptop with a personal growth plan displayed on-screen.

If you're thinking of changing careers, you're in good company. According to an Indeed survey, 49 percent of American workers have made a radical career change. And 65 percent of people who haven't made a switch are actively considering it—and have been for an average of 11 months.

Many career switchers are moving into the rapidly growing field of IT. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the IT field will add about 546,200 jobs and that IT employment will grow 12 percent, much faster than the average rate, by 2028.

Still, launching an IT career when you don't have much actual IT experience—if any—might seem daunting, despite the encouraging projections. The good news is that all those years spent toiling away in your current profession weren't wasted—they can likely help you find a job in the IT field. What's more, with the right skills and experience, you might not have to start at the very bottom of the IT career ladder.

Here are four strategies that can help you make a successful switch to an IT career—even if you don't have prior IT experience.

1. Focus on the familiar.

Changing careers can be easier if you stay in your industry, as you could leverage your knowledge of that field. You might even be able to change careers and continue working for your current employer. If you're happy where you work but want a new challenge, ask if there are opportunities to learn a new role. The leaders at your current organization already know what kind of employee you are, and they might be willing to invest in your training.

If you're currently an EMT or a medical assistant, for example, you might have more success finding an IT job in the medical field. Pursuing a role in health information management would help you apply your medical knowledge to the tech side of hospitals and facilities. If you're lacking the specific IT skills to complement your medical experience for such a role, earning a degree in health information management can give you a leg up—and provide you the certifications, such as the Registered Health Information Administrator credential, to stand out on the job market.

2. Highlight transferable skills.

You might be surprised at how many of the skills you use every day also apply to an IT position. Nontechnical skills—such as creative problem solving, analytical thinking, communication, and collaboration—are highly coveted by employers in every industry.

When building your résumé and speaking with potential employers, be sure to describe how you've developed these transferable skills and point to specific examples of how you've applied them over your career. If you've built a career in retail, for example, you've likely developed communication and problem-solving skills along the way, as you've been tasked with helping customers and ensuring that operations run smoothly. These skills are critical in the IT industry, where you'll be working in teams to keep systems afloat. While you can learn much of the technical IT work on the job, exceptional customer service is harder to learn—and if you've cultivated this skill through years of work in your current position, this can help you stand out from the crowd.

3. Learn all you can.

Although nontechnical skills are critical, you will be expected to have some technical knowledge when transitioning to an IT role. Taking courses, earning an IT degree, or completing an industry certification will give you a leg up in your search for an IT position. You'll learn all about the essentials of any IT career, such as coding languages, cloud foundations, network administration, and database development.

WGU's full range of online IT degree programs will give you the flexibility you need to expand your knowledge while working full- or part-time, and you'll earn valuable certifications as you complete your coursework. The programs are competency-based, which means you complete coursework when you've mastered the material, and you can use your professional knowledge and experience to accelerate through topics you're familiar with. If you already have a strong professional background in business or management, for example, you can focus your attention on learning the technical skills you need for an IT role. Those who have a strong management and leadership background may wish to move into an IT leadership role.

4. Keep an open mind.

Don't be afraid to accept short-term IT contract work as a stepping stone to a full-time job. This will give you invaluable experience in your new career while you look for a stable, long-term position.

If an IT career is really what you want, stick with your job search and try not to get discouraged. IT is a vast field with a wide array of available positions, and new ones emerge every day. If you're having trouble finding a particular role that interests you and resonates with your previous professional experience, reach out to IT experts in the field for informational interviews. Learning more about their day-to-day responsibilities and how they obtained their position can help you decide if that role is right for you. Networking within your desired industry never hurts, either.

By highlighting your transferable skills, learning new skills, being flexible about new job opportunities, and persevering through adversity, you can successfully transition into a career in IT with little or no relevant job experience.

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