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Industry profile: Information technology

By Michael Crump | 23 June 2018

Regular readers may already have read our interview with software developer Ralph Willgoss. In last week’s blog post he provided a description of his role as a top-tier videogame developer, as well as insight into how to succeed in IT.

We’re following that up this week with an industry profile on Information Technology  that covers software development, website development, and networking. If you’re interested in a career related to these areas, read through the following sections to get a general idea of what to expect. We’d also encourage you to utilise your social networks to speak with people that already have the job you want.

What do you think would make a good start in IT?

What do these jobs involve?

If you’re keen to get into software development you’re looking at a lot of down-at-your-desk programming and maintenance using a variety of program languages. Plus you’ll need to engage in meetings with clients, consultants and other IT professionals to find out what you’re devising next and any limitations you should keep in mind.

If software developers are making the cars, networking developers are managing, planning and building the roads. In such a role you’d be tasked with the development and analysis of networks and their physical infrastructure. Troubleshooting may feature heavily at the commencement of your career. As you progress you’ll likely be called upon to create bespoke networking solutions.

Web development covers a diverse range of areas, from front-end design to back-end systems and scripting languages that drive a site’s functionality. Issues related to website security are becoming increasingly important. Depending on the size of the organisation you end up with, you could find yourself either in a back-office role, or responsible for directly liaising with clients.

Regardless of which area you enter, make sure you have a comfortable chair.

young asian woman network computer engineer working

What type of skills do IT professionals require?

A similar skillset is required across the roles of software, network and website development. Unsurprisingly, they include the ability to solve complex problems, think critically, and write computer programs using a variety of languages. Having strong numeracy skills is also a significant advantage.

You’ll also need to have the mental fortitude required to smash through problems in hot pursuit of solutions. If you’re the type of person that prefers workdays to go off without a hitch, we’d be weary of jumping into IT.

One thing worth pointing out is that a role in IT doesn’t mean you’ll be locked in a dingy programming den for weeks on end. Many IT professionals are astute client-facing professionals who call on their soft skills to understand the problems faced by clients. Even if you don’t start off dealing with clients directly, development of any kind requires a lot of teamwork and discussion between teams. Communication skills are mandatory.

What are the chances of getting a job?

Based on our data, software development is forecast to provide more opportunities than networking and website development. In November 2014 there were 85,600 software developers countrywide; this figure is expected to jump to 100,200 by 2019. The primary growth trend for software developers has historically also been reasonably secure, with solid growth occurring over the last decade.

Network developer numbers peaked in 2009, with an estimated 31,700 workers. It then dipped to 24,300 in 2014 but is forecast to rise by 19% to 28,900 in 2019. The numbers here show greater volatility, which suggests the role may have a stronger correlation with the business cycle.

But, oh dear. Website development, by comparison, is the riskiest. 6,500 developers made websites in 2014, a crash from a high in 2013 when there were 12,700 workers. The number is only expected to rise to 6,900 in 2019, offering a very miserly 3% total growth over 5 years.

What qualifications and training might I require?

Some significant differences exist between the three roles when we start discussing qualifications and training. A significantly high 54.6% of software developers have attained a bachelor degree while 26.3% have gone further and attained a post graduate qualification, including a graduate diploma or graduate certificate. Only 9.1% of software developers have high school as their highest level of education.

Networking professionals have a flatter spread. Only 37.3% of them have a bachelor degree, and only 14.2% a postgraduate qualification. 11.5% have a certificate III or IV, while over 20% of networking professionals have high school as their highest level of education.

The data we have for web developers is a little tougher to make sense of as they’ve been combined with multimedia specialists. Nevertheless, 44.3% of workers in this role have a bachelor degree as their highest level of education, while 22.9% have a post graduate qualification. 32.9% have only completed Year 12.

If you’re not one for hitting the books, it looks as though you’ll have an easier path through networking and website development, although a lack of formal qualifications may increase the risk of being stuck under a glass ceiling with either role, limiting your promotion potential.

How much can I earn and what are the hours like?

Perhaps due to the higher percentage of software developers having a tertiary education, this group also earns the highest median salary at $1,610 per week for full-time workers. Networking professionals come second with a median full-time weekly income of $1,442 per week, while full-time website developers earn $1,270 per week. As mentioned earlier, website developers have been combined with multimedia specialists in our data, so it’s possible this aggregation has caused a slight dip in average weekly income.

Interestingly, the hours for software and network developers are lower than the average across all other occupations. In software development, full-time males work an average of 39.9 hours per week, while full-time females work an average of 35.8 hours. The average across all other occupations is 42.4 hours and 38.2 hours respectively. That means full-time software developers work approximately 6% fewer hours compared with all other occupations.

Network developers work slightly longer hours, with full-time males working an average of 40.8 hours and full-time females working 36.7 hours – still below the average for all other occupations.

Not so with website developers. Full-time males work an average of 43.6 hours per week, while full-time females work 41.5 hours per week.

male programmer working

What should I do next if I think IT development is for me?

After you’ve chatted with friends or family that work in development, we’d encourage you to jump online and play with basic tools and methodologies. Website development is a good place to start if you’re stuck.

We also suggest you join IT forums and undertake short introductory courses to see if anything snags your interest. Most developers are strong at coding while also being knowledgeable regarding the various version control systems. That’s a lot to know – and it’s always changing – so if you want to succeed you’re going to have make development your hobby until it becomes your job.

We’d also encourage you to explore formal courses. Upskilled offers a Diploma of Software Development (ICT50718)Diploma of Website Development (ICT50615) and Diploma of Information Technology Networking (ICT50418), as well as a Certificate IV in Information Technology (ICT40115)Certificate IV in Information Technology - Internet of Things Specialisation (ICT40115), Web Based Tech, and Certificate IV in Programming (ICT40518). You can speak with an Upskilled representative online if you have any questions about these courses and what they can do for you. 

What sort of steps would you take towards becoming an IT professional?

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