Digital Careers

A world of endless possibilities.

IT and computer science are not ‘just for nerds’! Whatever your interests, there is a career for you. From creating websites for fashionistas or foodies, developing games, through to protecting the NHS from cyber-crime – there is something for everyone. And we all need basic IT skills, no matter what your day job is.

About Computer Science and IT

Computing is used in every aspect of our lives and the job opportunities reflect that. Computing careers are widespread in banking, retail, health, manufacturing, communications, and the creative industries to name a few. You could end up working for a start-up, through to a multinational company, a government agency or a charity. 

The sky is your limit and skilled people are in short supply, meaning a career in computing can be both lucrative and satisfying.  

App developer – designs and builds mobile applications for PCs, mobile phones and tablets. 

Business Analyst – analyses data so businesses can thrive.

Cybersecurity analyst – looks at the threats to IT systems and how to keep them secure. 

Computer games developer – creating online games for players

Data entry clerk – types information into databases  

Database administrator – plans, builds and maintains computer systems 

Digital marketeer – uses social media to sell products and /or ideas. 

E-learning developer – creates course materials for online study 

Forensic computer analysts -investigate computer-based crime, often called cybercrime.

Librarian – manages access to books, multi-media resources and computers in libraries

Media researchers/producers – finds information, people and places for television or radio programmes.

Robotics engineer – designs and builds machines for automated jobs from manufacturing, aerospace to medicine.

3D printing technicians – manufactures products from car parts to fashion accessories.

Retail IT coordinators – provides operations and support for retailers and their customers. 

Switchboard operator – answers and connect calls and take messages.

User experience (UX) designer – looks at what organisations need to create websites, applications and software that work for them.

Vloggers – create videos reflecting their life or special interests for social media channels.

Web content editor – generates all forms of content that you see on websites, from writing articles to making videos.   

Web designers – use their creative flair and technical skills to design new websites and redesign existing ones.

Web developer – creates and maintains websites and web applications

Photos courtesy of Royal Academy of Engineering

Digital Careers Skills

  • Analytical skills – identifying, evaluating and understanding what the project is about to come up with a technological solution
  • Problem-solving – sometimes the problems are complex so a systematic and logical approach to looking at problems is necessary
  • Creativity - coming up with solutions to problems requires a creative approach to make sure you’re delivering the most innovative and effective solutions
  • Critical-thinking skills - this is especially important when it comes to computer science – as you need to know what will or won’t work in certain circumstances and methodically go through the options
  • Resilience - programming involves trying out different elements of code until you find the best solution. This can sometimes involve trial and error – so learning to be resilient and determined in the face of multiple failures is part of the process

What you will find out:

  • Knowledge about new technology developments
  • Project management
  • How to prioritise your workload

A vital skill is being part of the team and for this you’ll learn:

  • Communication skills
  • Diplomacy
  • Time management
  • How to handle responsibilities

Pathways and qualifications

Key Stage 3

Post-sixteen you can take an A-Level in Computer Science at school or college. Ideally you would already have done a GSCE or Level 2 course in Computer Science and have Maths GCSE. Computer Science A-Level is recommended if you want to study for a computer science degree. It’s a good idea to take A-Level Further Maths and Physics too. The Scottish Higher is the equivalent to A-Level computer science. If you have a university course in mind – make sure you check its requirements.

You can also take a BTEC qualification. BTECs tend to be more practical and project based. It’s aimed at students who are thinking about going straight into their chosen field  at 18, or following further training, including an apprenticeship or higher education. You can choose from a BTEC National Diploma Level 3, which is the equivalent to two A-Levels or a BTEC National Extended Level 3, which is equivalent to 3 A-Levels.. Around a quarter of university entrants have a BTEC, although some universities only accept them when combined with other qualifications such as A-Levels.

A new qualification is coming in this September – T- Levels. It is the equivalent of taking three A-Levels and is taken post GCSEs’. It combines classroom learning with a work placement. It is designed to fill specific gaps in the industry. Find out more information on T Levels here.

University

To study computing at university you will need two A-Levels or a BTEC qualification and 5 GCSEs – good choices for the second A-Level are Further Maths, Physics or Philosophy. Some universities require a Maths GCSE for computer science degrees. Have a look at the UCAS site for more information.

There are loads of different university courses to apply for, from undergraduate through to postgraduate and beyond, depending on what you want to specialise in. Check out this UCAS site.

Postgraduate

If your degree was not in computer science, you can still study it at postgraduate level with a computer science conversion course. This is part of an overall campaign, supported by the government, to widen the pipeline of qualified graduates who can take up a career in computing. It’s part of the bid to bridge the skills gap and increase the diversity of people working in the industry. BCS has been active in advising the government on this issue.

Apprenticeships

Or one of the more accessible ways to get qualified, learn on the job and get paid is via an apprenticeship – which can be up to degree level. This pathway is proving increasingly popular – and there’s a great deal of demand from businesses of all types who want IT apprentices to join them. You could start your career as a data analyst, pursue a career in IT support or become a digital communications specialist, to name a few positions. Go to the website of BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT where you can find out more, including case studies about young people just like yourself!

To find apprenticeship positions take a look at the Find an apprenticeship Government website dedicated to this or Careermap.

Lori French - IBM Apprentice

Lori French is an Emerging Technology Developer Consultant at IBM, studying a degree level 6 apprenticeship in Software Engineering. Lori helps to deliver and develop projects such as building chatbots and working on other emerging tech. 

Lori says: “I work with IBM research, building what’s called proof of concepts – essentially demos that prove the technology is viable.  I’m doing a job I absolutely love and I’m getting my degree through my apprenticeship.”

Adam Boyne - The University Route

Entrepreneur and games programmer Adam Boyne set up BetaJester with two friends he met at University, where he did a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science with Games Development (with Industrial Experience). 

Now Adam works with businesses across the UK to build exciting virtual and augmented reality experiences. He continues to also work on games with his co-founders in between contracts. 

“When I was younger, I was told that the games industry was only for the hyper-competitive elite, an unobtainable pipe-dream. It was only when I studied Computer Science and made my first text-based game that I realised that this was something I could do as a career, and now with all the opportunities for young people, anyone can break into the industry!”

Did you know…

Just under a third of UK employers are confident of being able to hire the skills they need over the next three to five years with over two thirds having unfilled vacancies for digital careers.

Computer-scientist Karen Sparck-Jones, came up with the concepts that underpin modern search engines, without her there’d be no Google. She was a strong advocate of women working in the industry and came up with a slogan: “Computing is too important to be left to men.”  

In the early days of computer science, a woman called Ada Lovelace helped, in the mid-1800s, to write instructions for the first computer programme.

Women and young girls made up the bulk of the workforce at Bletchley Park, and helped to crack the code of Germany’s Enigma machine and shorten World War II by two years.

The Royal Academy of Engineering has produced a whole load of films of careers which use computing skills.

About the Author:

About the Author:

This article was created by BCS, The Chartered Institute of IT, who are passionate about supporting IT careers, improving education and driving standards to bring out the best in talent of all levels.

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