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What you can do with the computer skills you have

If you have some skill with computers and fancy working in IT, then the good news is that it is possible to get into the industry at a level that is suitable for you, and then learn on the job. Computer skills are vital these days for almost any sort of job, even if it’s just basic word processing or being able to send an email. Most office jobs require at least a basic competence in Word, Excel etc, and knowledge of how to navigate the internet. If you lack confidence in these areas then basic computer literacy courses are probably available in your area as part-time evening classes, either free of charge or at minimal cost. You may also be able to study at home using an online course or with the Open University.

IT is everywhere

Information technology now permeates almost every aspect of modern working life. Whatever career sector you look at, there will be a role for IT professionals within it. Computers are used in offices, retail, banking, engineering, science and the arts. Every business has a website and needs someone to design and maintain it. You can use your computer skills to become a graphic designer, software developer, data analyst, web developer, systems administrator or any one of hundreds of roles that currently exist under the IT umbrella.

In-house or contract

With so many different options available, it’s little wonder that many IT professionals choose to work on a contract basis rather than as an employee of one particular company. This means that programmers, developers and digital designers can choose projects on their own terms, and often command a higher hourly rate than their equivalents on the company payroll.

The advantage of this approach is freedom, variety and the satisfaction of being your own boss; the disadvantages include a lack of security and the added hassles of having to do your own tax and accounting, finding clients and so on. As a self-employed contractor, you also need to be careful not to fall foul of IR35 legislation. This was introduced by the UK government in April 2000 to close a loophole, which saw contractors avoiding tax and National Insurance payments by using an intermediary company. This can also affect individuals who are unaware they are doing anything wrong, so make sure you get good IR35 advice.

Training and where to go next

A computer science degree is the most obvious route into IT, but it’s not essential. A degree in Maths, Economics, Design or any other subject relevant to the area you want to work in may be just as useful, followed by a post-graduate qualification in IT. Many employers are more impressed by the professional certifications offered by companies like Microsoft and Oracle, because they recognise specific work-related skills.

Whatever route you take, there’s bound to be an IT role to match the computer skills you have. Just make sure you constantly update your abilities to stay in the game, and remember that learning on the job is the best education anyone can have.

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