They say the only constant is change, but can you really make a career change? Absolutely—and it might be easier than you think. Even though you may currently be following a particular career path, there’s no reason to continue down that path if it no longer serves you. And if your dream job is in the IT sector, there are degree programs available to help you prepare for your career change—even as you continue to support yourself through your old career.
If you’ve ever wondered if the world of IT would be a better professional fit, read on to learn more about why it’s a good move—and how you can have a successful career change.
Before you make the decision to switch to an IT career, it’s important to self-reflect to determine why you want to make a career change. If your current job isn’t challenging enough, it might be worth exploring opportunities that take on more responsibility, moving up the ladder to a new job in your current company, or joining a competitor if you feel you’ve gone as far as you can go with your current employer. Taking some time off to rest and recharge your batteries can also help, both with rejuvenating your passion for work, and making a clear-headed decision to navigate an updated occupation. Recruiting events, sending out an updated cover letter, and preparing for a new job offer are key in making a career change.
But if you already know your heart is truly set on an IT career and you have a passion for technology that isn’t supported in your current job, then a move to IT could be the best thing for you. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in computer and information technology occupations is projected to grow 11 percent from 2019 to 2029, which is much faster than any other occupation. As more companies shift their focus to cloud computing, information security, and the collection and storage of data, the demand for IT professionals will continue to grow—which means there’s plenty of opportunity for you to find a good job.
With so many businesses that rely on technology, it’s likely you’ll find a job quickly. Plus, there is a wide variety of IT positions available, ranging from programmers to support specialists to database administrators to security analysts and everything in between. It’s likely you’ll be able to find a position that suits you. Another bonus to switching to an IT career? It pays well. The U.S. BLS notes that computer support specialists start at $55,510 annually, and the pay range scales up to an annual salary of $126,830 for computer and research scientists. Of course, these roles require a bachelor’s or master’s degree, depending on the job, so you’ll want to make sure you meet the education requirements for the position you want.
So, how can you transition to a career in IT?
So you’ve decided to transition to an IT career—congratulations! Do you know what kind of job you want to do? That’s the next step on your new career path. Before you make a plan for obtaining a new degree, do some research on the different IT career paths available to you.
Remember: while they may have similarities and rely on the same knowledge and skill set, no two jobs in IT are exactly alike. The role of a computer and information systems manager is different from that of a network architect or software developer. You don’t want to make the mistake of jumping into one role, only to find that it doesn’t suit your sensibilities—or that you had different expectations of what it would be like. And because not all roles require the same level of education, you’ll also want to make sure you meet the degree requirements for your new career. The more time you take to research the different IT jobs available to you, the fewer regrets you’ll have down the road. Career changers won't have a successful career change if one day they just wake up, ready for something new. In order to have a successful career change, they'll want a clear mindset, help from a career coach, and specific details in mind as they move forward.
If you really want to know what your day to day will look like in your IT role of choice, it helps to talk to people who are in the same or similar role. Try networking through friends or colleagues to find someone on a like-minded career path. Don’t have anyone in your orbit who’s working in IT? You can always try cold contacting people through LinkedIn. While not everyone will respond to your request, you’d be surprised how far a concisely worded note detailing your intent will get you. Not everyone you reach out to will have the time to go for a coffee and discuss the ins and outs of their work life—after all, they’re busy! But even one coffee klatch—or finding someone who can take the time to answer your questions via email— can make a big difference.
Other options you may want to explore include reading blogs written by IT professionals who share what their work life is like, or vloggers on YouTube. Even company blogs can have some valuable “what it’s like to work here” posts that can give you insights into what it’s like to work for certain businesses in specific roles. You can also see if there’s a tech meet-up in your local area or any conferences or conventions that may be happening near where you live. Events like these may offer you the opportunity to find a mentor who can help shepherd you along your new career path, supporting your professional goals and sharing their insights to help you along the way.
Because not all IT positions have the same professional requirements, there may be instances when you can transition into your new career path without having experience that’s specific to the role. Granted, it’s unlikely taking this route will land you in the most senior role at the highest pay right out of the gate—think of this approach more as getting your foot in the door, allowing you to work your way up into the position you ultimately want to be in.
This is where having some insights from other IT professionals can help. Not only can they alert you to roles within the industry, they may also be able to advocate for you on your behalf. But it’s important for you to identify the skills you do have that can translate to the crossover position you want. Perhaps you’re not necessarily credentialed in programming, but you have programming experience from side work you’ve done for friends. Or if you have solid organizational skills, you may be able to sidestep your way into a company through a project management role. It’s likely that your current skill set is part of what sparked your interest in transitioning to IT, so identifying those strengths—and how they translate into a starting role—could be your way toward the career of your dreams. Then, you can continue to pursue further training, education, and support to take the next professional step up.
While you’re making note of what skills you currently have that can support your new career dreams, it’s equally important to determine where your skill set is lacking. By identifying your current skill gaps, you can map out your change of career more effectively by making a plan to deal with those gaps. Look over your resume and cover letter and see where updates will need to be made.
This is where job hunting comes in handy. As you read through recruiting postings that detail everything needed to be successful in a new job in IT, you’ll be able to easily identify which capabilities you have, as well as the ones you need to build. This may mean taking courses that are specific to your role, getting certification in specific programming languages, or even earning a specific degree that can teach you what you need to know.
Do you remember what life was like before you could use your phone as a GPS system to help you get where you wanted to go? You’d either have to print out sketchy directions or haul out a Thomas Guide and attempt to make sense of it. Think of making your IT career transition in the same way. Without an easy-to-follow list of steps, you run the risk of getting lost.
After you’ve chosen the job that’s right for you, spoken to other IT professionals about the demands of that role, explored opportunities for crossover positions, and identified your skill gaps, it’s time to create a map to help you meet your career goals. If your role requires specific certifications, make a list of which ones and determine how you’ll complete them—and when. Do you have an associate degree but need a bachelor’s or a master’s? Then it’s time to go back to school. Some schools also offer degree programs that include certification, which can save you time and money.
Are there any other steps you need to take to earn your dream gig? If so, make sure you add them to your To Do list and check them off as you go along. If not, it’s time to start applying for your new IT job with confidence.
Whether you already have a degree related to your old career path and need a new one to transition to IT, want to uplevel your degree background from a bachelor’s to a master’s, or you want to sharpen your skill set so you can really shine in your new role, advancing your education is a great way to stand out among the crowd. One of the best ways to develop your IT skills is by going back to school and selecting a degree program that gives you the hands-on experience you need and top industry certifications to bolster your experience. Having both a degree and relevant certifications will definitely catch the eye of potential employers and show how serious you are about your new IT career.
Having a strong resume is key no matter what job you’re applying for, but it’s especially critical when you’re switching careers. Make sure that you’re tailoring your resume according to the job postings you’re applying for, highlighting both your education and relevant skills so employers notice your application. Even though you may be applying for your first official role in IT, you can show how your previous roles challenged you in ways that are pertinent to your new role, while sharing your education and certifications. The more hiring managers see this information presented in a way that speaks to the job listing, the better chance you’ll have that your resume makes it to the top of the pile.
Networking may have been a big part of your first steps on your new IT career path, but you shouldn’t let go of this practice—in fact, it’s even more crucial to continue networking now that you’re officially on the job hunt. You never know who might know someone who’s looking to hire for exactly the job you want, and oftentimes, IT professionals will refer colleagues to open positions so they can have a say of whom they get to work with.
IT meet-ups and like-minded social gatherings are great ways to connect with your new professional community, while conferences and conventions also offer opportunities to learn and grow while you meet your peers. LinkedIn is another great way to network, especially with HR departments who post job listings and keep their eye out for new talent on the platform. LinkedIn is one of many professional development resources you can leverage to help market yourself and network within the industry. Social media is another. You never know who may be paying attention to what you’re posting and messaging about. They may have an available job that is a perfect fit.
Despite being prepared to jump into your new career, job hunting can be challenging—even in the best of times—and making a career change doesn’t always happen overnight. But that doesn’t mean you should give up! Have patience and remember to keep trying—persistence goes a long way. And the path to your dream IT career may not even be linear. You may side-step your way into an adjacent position before landing your dream job, or you may have to take a more junior role just to get your foot in the door at the company you really want to work for. No two IT career paths are the same, but if you keep at it, you’ll find your way.