Things to consider before switching IT careers (with tips)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 9 July 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Career changes in the information technology (IT) sector may be exciting and potentially profitable, but there may be things to consider before switching IT careers. IT jobs follow particular specialisations like data mining, application development and cybersecurity software. Although career changes are fairly common in this sector, you might want to think about the challenges of embracing an entirely new niche or how employers might regard your experience. In this article, we list things to consider before switching IT careers and discuss some tips to help those changing jobs.

Related: 10 IT jobs that are in high demand (with salary info)

Things to consider before switching IT careers

New careers entail both opportunities and challenges, and for IT professionals, there may be things to consider before switching IT careers. Having a technical degree and IT work experience may not be enough to enter a new subfield as specialisations can be very particular. You may have years of experience in cybersecurity, but how easily you transition into a field like software engineering depends on what you can demonstrate within your new, desired position. Here are some factors to consider when trying to change careers:

1. Be ready to compete

While some companies respect and appreciate work experience, they also look for candidates with the right skills. Some hiring managers might prefer candidates with the required education, internships or experience specific to the job over work experience in general, so be sure to demonstrate what you know in your CV and cover letter. During interviews, focus on what you have accomplished in your specific IT subfield, whether it's application design, front-end development or programming.

Remember also to pace yourself during your job search. Take time to read the job description and adjust your CV to incorporate its keywords. Additionally, emphasise your qualifications and skills and the benefits that your experience could bring to the company.

Related: Highest paying IT jobs in the UK (with job duties)

2. Accept that you may return to the entry-level

Some of the most promising candidates may shy away from major career changes in IT because of the requirement to learn new skills in a different sector. Be realistic with your expectations and ask for help from more experienced professionals in the field. Additionally, take time to examine your reasons for switching and what you hope to achieve in the long run so that you might be mentally prepared to adapt to new situations.

3. Expect a modest salary early on

You may have switched careers in the hope of earning a higher salary, but anticipate a realistic, gradual rise rather than an immediate jump. You may wait a year or more to achieve your income goals. If you have several years of experience in your field, changing careers may mean a drop in your current salary as employers hire according to relevant skills. Additionally, make sure to research the new field's pay scale and compare it with your current job, as IT positions may differ in terms of income potential and promotion.

4. Anticipate the need for additional training and certification

Candidates for IT jobs may require specific certifications. Getting a certificate before applying can be a good way to demonstrate your commitment and enthusiasm to potential employers. Some common IT certificates include UX design, Scrum Master and Python Professional. Studying for a certificate might also benefit you personally by allowing you to learn more about your desired field and your potential in a new line of work.

Online courses may be a good way to gain new skills. These courses can help you get the job you want or allow you to explore other career options. Review online courses that require payment but also those that are free of charge but still give you a certificate on completion.

Tips for switching IT careers

There are several tips that can help to ease the career change process. Despite some challenges, career changes within IT can be rewarding long term. So, if you decide to change, try to think ahead and plan your moves wisely. Here are some helpful tips for those making the switch:

Switch jobs internally

When switching IT careers, consider moving between positions in your current company instead of going to a new employer. Some companies appreciate and even encourage career changers because it allows the company to build a more skilled, well-rounded workforce. Additionally, some companies may prefer to train people who already know its protocols and routines. Staying with the same company might also help you avoid potential reductions in salary that may occur with a career change.

Consider joining a small company

Small companies might give you the chance to develop skills outside your area of expertise. Although large companies offer several benefits, small companies, especially start-ups, may be more accepting of employees with several areas of expertise and more open to training opportunities. You may move to a larger company later in your career once you have acquired more experience.

Highlight your skills with professional projects

Try to demonstrate your ability in your new speciality. Certificates and official training programmes offer a good route, but a portfolio allows you to highlight your skills. You might fill your portfolio with projects you worked on, thus demonstrating your ability to build freestanding programming, design an app or use a UX design.

You could also consider enrolling in courses and training programmes to build your portfolio. Through academic courses, you might build a project to include in your portfolio right away or get ideas for projects to do in your free time. Consider free and paid courses when building your portfolio for IT work.

Related: 9 of the best free computer courses with certificates

Decide on your options early

Consider what alternatives you might want to pursue in the future. Even if you find yourself in one specific field of IT, try to prepare for alternatives later on. At university, you might take modules that diversify your knowledge even if you plan on focusing on one niche. You might learn business analytics alongside data mining as a complement to your main subject and a route for different careers.

Seek help from job sites and services

Candidates have several options when planning a major career change. Job websites and services offer CV reviews, portfolio advice, company recommendations, training courses and certification opportunities. Consider using these options, especially if you feel uncertain of the particular field you hope to enter. Some websites might also connect you with career advisers specifically trained in IT.

Look to industry connections and networks

Sometimes the best opportunities come from professional acquaintances who recommend you to an HR manager because they know what you're capable of. While blind hiring may be challenging if you have limited experience in a particular field, your contacts might be more open to giving you a chance to diversify. In some situations, your connections at work may be the ones to suggest a career change in the first place. Once you begin a new job, your more experienced contacts might offer good advice and guidance.

Return to education

Consider enrolling in certifications or higher education degrees. While many professionals may resist the idea of returning to academia, having extra qualifications may provide you with an advantage over competitors. Hiring managers presented with several candidates often look at academic training. They may be more accepting of candidates without specific work experience if they have formal training listed on their CVs.

IT professionals have many options to gain further education. Universities and colleges offer master's degrees or certificates, while programmes provided by lesser-known institutions are less expensive and maintain a high reputation among employers. Additionally, consider exploring company-sponsored training courses or seminars that might allow you to transition easily into a new job.

Explore more articles