It’s increasingly hard to keep pace with today’s job market and know which skills and pathways will lead to meaningful, sustainable careers. A Burning Glass Technologies report conducted with JFF analyzed nearly 4 million resumes and revealed several fields rich with “springboard jobs,” or roles that offer high career advancement and income growth opportunities.
Excitingly, the report identified information technology (IT) as an area where 84% of roles are springboard jobs. Around 16% of IT workers moved up within five years, the highest advancement rate across all four of the career areas studied, and at least 65% of IT workers remained in their career area after five years.
To learn more about job opportunities and progression pathways within IT and how people with all backgrounds can enter this field, we talked with Burning Glass Chief Product and Analytics Officer Dan Restuccia.
Learn how to get started in information technology, a field rich with “springboard jobs” that have clear upward trajectories to high-demand, lucrative careers.
Why Information Technology (IT)? Opportunities Across Industries, Gateways to STEM Careers
Experts forecast that the need for IT professionals will continue to rapidly grow as technology continues to evolve at such incredible rates. IT jobs are in high demand particularly within non-tech sectors such as professional services, manufacturing, and financial services industries among others, and IT roles in these sectors are more accessible, making them high potential career path entry points.
"Less than half of IT jobs are employed by the tech industry; every hospital has an IT staff, every manufacturing plant has an IT person, schools have IT people."
“When you think about IT jobs—help desk jobs, network administrators—these are jobs that don’t cluster in big cities. Less than half of IT jobs are employed by the tech industry; every hospital has an IT staff, every manufacturing plant has an IT person, schools have IT people. These are jobs that exist in small cities and are some of the best jobs that exist in rural America. So lots of opportunity across industries, lots of opportunity across locations,” Restuccia said.
“And these are jobs that to get into should not require a bachelor’s degree. We see IT jobs as one of the really important entry points into the STEM field, into the tech workforce and ecosystem, because there is both a clear entry point, you can open a door with initial skills and then stack as you go, and you can move up through success of roles and branch within IT networking, into other tech jobs, and also into other parts of the business.”
How Do I Start an Information Technology (IT) Career?
The report compiled key findings on what IT skills can specifically be tied to career advancement. It found that roles in the IT field value both technical expertise and non-specialized skills such as communication skills.
Step 1: Master Technical Skills
If you’re interested in an IT career, your first step is to develop the technical skills necessary to be successful. IT job descriptions may require knowledge of programming languages, troubleshooting methods, network configuration, security infrastructure, data administration skills, and/or systems administration and networking knowledge.
"These skills are really the foundation of almost any of these technical disciplines. It’s a critical part of information technology, because these are the systems we maintain."
“These skills are really the foundation of almost any of these technical disciplines,” said Aspen Olmsted, Adjunct Professor at New York University Tandon School of Engineering and instructor for NYUx’s Computer Science Fundamentals MicroBachelors® program on edX. “You need to understand programming to understand the vulnerabilities we leave behind us. You need to understand the operating system to understand how the host in the machine has vulnerabilities. You need to understand networking and how we transmit data and the vulnerabilities there. It’s a critical part of information technology, because these are the systems we maintain.”
For instance, the report shares that to advance from a computer network support specialist to a network administrator, the skills most associated with advancement on resumes are software engineering, systems engineering, information security, and knowledge of programming languages.
To learn these fundamental skills, Nancy, an edX learner in Indiana, took WGUx’s Information Technology Foundations course, part of the Introduction to Information Technology MicroBachelors® program. “This course helped me have a better understanding of the inner workings of a computer,” Nancy said. “At my job, we are in the process of upgrading to a new computer system. I now understand the terminology better and I can better understand this project’s direction.”
Step 2: Develop Soft Skills
“While IT roles are commonly viewed as technical professions, fully one in four skills advertised in IT roles are for foundational skills such as communication and problem solving,” the report reads. Restuccia shed some light on some of the pathways that build these types of valuable soft skills.
"When you unpack what an IT job really is, a huge part of it actually is customer service. There’s a really high degree of overlap."
“We see a nontrivial number of people moving from retail and customer service jobs into IT. On one hand, that doesn’t make a lot of sense, right? These are two very different jobs. One is a customer job and the other is a tech job. But when you unpack what an IT job really is, a huge part of it actually is customer service. There’s a really high degree of overlap,” Restuccia said.
“Another place where we see the blending of skills and really interesting ways in IT jobs is demand for writing. It has customer writing, here’s how you can fix the problem written in clear, calm, nontechnical language. Then there’s also a technical writing component, here’s why the network went down, here’s the steps I took to get it back up so that if it happens again, the next person who’s on duty at that point can follow the same recipe that I figured out and identify the solution.”
MicroBachelors programs are built to be stackable, with the ability to combine programs offering directly workforce-relevant skills with others that build foundational skills. For example, Arizona State University's Professional Writing MicroBachelors® program teaches rhetorical knowledge, critical thinking, and refining your writing for various audiences, which are core concepts to professional business writing
IT Job Functions and Roles: From Support Specialist to Systems Administrator and More
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the growth in computer and information technology occupations is projected to add about 667,600 new jobs between 2020 and 2030. If you’re just starting to explore the IT field, here is a sampling of the information technology jobs you may find available across different function areas:
Help desk and customer support roles provide technical support by addressing issues and requests from internal and sometimes external customers. Job titles in this function include IT support specialist, computer support specialists, and help desk technician.
Network and system administrators install, maintain, and support the organization’s systems, including their computer systems, wide area networks, local area networks, and more. Job titles in this area include computer network architect, computer systems administrators, computer systems analyst, and network engineer.
Database administrators organize, maintain, and protect an organization’s data. Job titles in this area include database administrator and database analyst.
Developers and programmers create and deploy software used by internal and external customers. Developers on IT teams may hold titles such as web developer, software developer, application developer, and front-end developer.
Security roles protect the organization’s data from internal and external threats. One job title you’ll find in the cybersecurity function is information security analyst.
Project management roles plan, organize, and direct specific projects. A common job title in this function is IT project manager.
A Pathway to Job-Ready Skills and Credentials
Ready to start your IT career? If you don’t have any technical background, an associate’s degree, or bachelor’s degree, consider starting with an entry-level certification. Introduction to Information Technology, a three-course MicroBachelors program from WGUx, provides a foundation for launching an IT career. In the program, you’ll build knowledge of the many roles and functions of an IT department, fundamentals of networking and security concepts, and programming elements such as variables, data types, flow control, and design concepts.
Computer science skills are the foundation for all sorts of careers, from IT to cybersecurity.
Explore all of our current and upcoming online IT courses for learners of all levels to find the one that fits your career goals.