Starting a careers in Information Technology (for school leavers)
Information Technology (IT) is a fast growing dynamic industry sector Demand for IT professionals are growing world wide at an unprecedented rate. IT is fast becoming one of the most exciting career options available around the world. Over the last 3 years, number of people entered the IT industry in Sri Lanka grew over 18%. And with the ever increasing world wide demand for IT services, a career in IT will remain one of the most exciting and rewarding careers for the years to come. The opportunities for career advancement, self development and financial reward in the IT industry are excellent.
Why should you consider getting in to a career in IT?
- Ever growing world wide demand
IT skills are universal in nature. A good qualification and experience in IT is equally recognized any part of the world. In fact a degree in IT has become standard across the world and it really does not matter where you earn it for employment. Unlike a doctor, accountant and lawyers, when you migrate to a different country, you dont need to recertify your skills to suit the regulations of the country you are going There is also a significant shortage of IT professionals in the western countries such as Europe, America, Australia and many of them have special programs to attach qualified IT professionals as citizens. If you are thinking of living abroad, getting in to IT would be one of the best ways to achieve it. Countries like UK, Australia and Canada have special programs to attract experienced IT professionals as permanent residents.
- Great financial rewards
IT is one of the industries which pay well for even the entry jobs. With an IT degree or an equivalent qualification one can earn as much as Rs. 25,000 a month at the start. As you gain experience and exposure your salary grows at a very rapid rate. With about 5 years of sound experience, its not uncommon to earn a salary of over Rs. 100,000 a month!
- Career advancement and self development
Most IT companies work with international clients and IT professionals get exposure to a global working environments which helps to learn and advance faster. Companies also invest heavily on training and development of their employees. With the constant advancement of the IT field, there is something new that is happening everyday. There are a wide range of areas such as Software Development, Project Management, Testing and Quality Assurance, Business Analysis, Client Management, Networking/Systems Administration, Web Development, Technical Support and Database Administration, to choose from. It also quite easy to move around in different areas which allow people to switch focuses to gain experience in number of different areas.
How do you get started?
As a school leaver, there are a number of routes that you can take to get in to IT.
- Entry jobs
There are number of jobs that you can start with little training if you have some basic skills. However this is a very unstructured route and success depend on how fast you can learn and make a real contribution to the company. If you are good writer or an artist and have some basic skills in computers, jobs such as Technical Writing and Web Design can be good entry job to the industry. However, while some have found a way to progress by specializing in specific skills areas, some find that the lack of a recognised qualification limits their opportunities.
- Vocational training
There a number of vocational training programs which gives you a good foundation to enter the IT industry. Among some of the popular courses are the British Computer Society (BCS) exams, Australian Computer Society (ACS) exams and the National Institute of Business Management (NIBM) Diploma. Most of these provide a very good knowledge and skills to get started in IT. Other programs like Certified Test Engineer (CSTE) from Quality Assurance Institute (QAI) USA, is also gaining popularity as good entry point to a career in Software Testing.
- IT Degree
A degree program in IT is a definitive way to get in to IT. Most employers in Sri Lanka and internationally look for a basic degree as a standard qualification. A degree in IT can be earned full time or part time.
IT Degree - National Universities
If you full fill the necessary entry requirements of the national universities, you can apply for a place in one of the computing courses. Most of the national universities now offer degree programs in IT. A Full list if these programs can be found in the IT pro Education Provider Directory
IT Degree - Private Colleges
There a number of private education institutes that provide IT degree program of good quality. Many of these institutes are associated with a foreign university to award a degree and follow the curriculum of the affiliated university. Most programs are 3-4 years in duration and award diplomas at each stage of completion towards a degree. Some program also provide you the option of going to the affiliated foreign university in the last year to complete the degree overseas.
IT Degree -S ri Lanka Institute Information Technology
Sri Lanka Institute of Information Technology (SLIIT) has been set up to promote IT education in Sri Lanka. It's a non profit making institute and cater for large intake of IT graduate with it's campus facility based on Malambe. SLIIT is one of the economical alternatives to obtain a degree in IT in Sri Lanka. SLIIT degrees can also be done part time, allowing you to work while study.
IT Degree - External Degrees
External degrees are largely self taught and requires you to have a good level of self discipline to complete in a reasonable time frame. One of the advantage of an external program is that you can start work while you learn. Many companies offer internships and trainee jobs for people who have some basic skills and enrolled in a part time program.
University of Colombo - Bachelor of IT (BIT)
Colombo university BIT program is an external degree program awarded by the University of Colombo. The University provides the curriculum, broadcast lecture on TV and conducts the exams. Many provide institutes also teach the curriculum of the BIT program to help you study.
The Open University
Sri Lanka Open University provides number of courses in IT. Open University courses are meant to be for distant learning. Course material and curriculum is provided by the university with some workshops to assist students in learning. Currently there is also an effort underway to provide rich online lessons on the internet for the students. Anyone can enrol in to a course at the Open University without restriction on entry qualifications. The Open University runs foundation courses for people without a background in IT, Science or Maths to help them get started in an IT degree program.
There are a large number of IT degrees that are provided by many universities around the world. Among them, USA, UK and Australia take the lead in terms on reputation and quality of programs. Studying overseas is a life experience and many gets a head start in employment with a qualification specially from a country such as USA, UK or Australia. However, these programs and lodging overseas can be significantly more expensive than studying in Sri Lanka. India also provides options for studying IT at a relatively lower cost.
Financing your degree
Education in IT is a very prudent investment with great returns. Many banks have recently started education loans schemes to finance local and foreign education. With the high potential to earn after the completion of a reputed degree program, financing your education though a bank loan is becoming an attractive option.
Working and studying
There are many entry jobs such as Web Design, Technical Writing, Testing, Help Desk support etc, which does not require a degree level qualification. Working and studying is one of the attractive options available to further a career in IT. You can start a degree program from an institute which cater for part time study and learn the basis skills in the first year or two. You can then compliment these skills with a professional certification in Java, Microsoft, Testing or any other professional certification to gain credibility to get a job. Once you start a job in an entry role, you can continue to complete your degree program part time. May of the companies who have employee friendly practices allow part time study while working. This option gives you the advantage of having some solid commercial experience by the time you graduate. Some companies will also part fund your degree program when you are employed with them. You need to be disciplined to focus all most seven days a week if you decide to work and study.