Overview of the IT sector in the UK

Dan Mason, Senior editor
September, 2016

Skills shortages in key areas of the digital economy mean there are lots of opportunities for talented graduates to launch a career in the IT sector

What areas of IT can I work in?

Types of work available in the IT sector include:

  • applications development
  • computer forensics
  • content management
  • cyber security and risk management
  • data analysis and analytics
  • games development
  • geographical information systems (GIS)
  • hardware engineering
  • information management
  • IT consultancy (business and technical)
  • IT sales
  • multimedia programming
  • software engineering (designing, building, developing, testing)
  • systems/network management
  • technical support
  • telecommunications
  • web design/development.

Your job could involve creating applications or systems, solving problems with technology or supporting people who use it. Employers in the IT industry also require graduates in areas such as business, marketing, human resources (HR) and finance.

Meanwhile, many IT and telecommunications professionals work outside of the sector, for example in the IT departments of retail, finance, manufacturing and public sector organisations.

For examples of job roles in this sector, see graduate jobs in IT.

Who are the main graduate employers?

Large companies in the IT sector include:

  • Accenture
  • Apple
  • Capgemini
  • Cisco
  • Cognizant
  • FDM
  • Fujitsu
  • Google
  • IBM
  • Infosys
  • Microsoft
  • Rockstar Games
  • Ubisoft.

Major telecommunications companies include:

  • BT
  • EE
  • Sky UK
  • TalkTalk
  • Telef√≥nica O2 UK
  • Three
  • Virgin Media
  • Vodafone.

The IT sector is dynamic and there are many smaller companies and tech start-ups that are also worth seeking out for job opportunities. For instance, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the IT industry provide a range of specialist services and often offer consultancy and technical roles.

Other sectors that employ significant numbers of IT professionals include:

  • financial services - for example in companies such as Barclays, Citigroup, JPMorgan and Morgan Stanley
  • manufacturing - in multinational engineering companies in the oil, pharmaceutical, automotive and energy industries
  • public sector - local authorities, central government and the NHS
  • retail - major retailers such as Tesco, TJX Europe, Arcadia and John Lewis.

What's it like working in the sector?

Graduates entering the IT sector can expect:

  • An average starting salary - according to the Graduate Market in 2016 report by High Fliers, graduate starting salaries in IT are expected to be the same as the national median of ¬£30,000.
  • Typically long working hours - employers tend to emphasise completing a task or project over maintaining standard 9am-5pm hours.
  • Opportunities to work abroad - many large IT companies have branches or subsidiaries in other countries.
  • Self-employment opportunities - it is not unusual for graduates to go freelance at an early stage in their career.

To find out more about typical salaries and working conditions in your chosen career, see graduate jobs in IT.

What are the key issues in the IT sector?

The growth of the digital economy and the pace at which new technologies are emerging mean that IT and computing graduates are more valuable to employers than ever before. There is a skills shortage across the IT sector, particularly in a number of key roles.

For example, there were on average 163,000 vacancies for digital specialists across the UK during each quarter of 2015, according to Tech Partnership, the sector skills council. Developers were the most sought after professionals, accounting for 27% of all digital jobs advertised. This trend is supported by data from jobs website Adzuna in April 2016, which put software developers among the top 10 posts that employers are struggling to fill.

Industry insiders are also concerned about a lack of cyber security specialists in the UK, so this is another area worth considering. Companies and public sector organisations increasingly prioritise the protection of their data against malicious threats or accidental loss and are looking at hiring information security specialists and risk managers.

The Cybersecurity: Protecting your future report, published in July 2016 by recruitment firm Robert Half, revealed that 77% of UK chief information officers (CIOs) believe that the security threat will grow because of a shortage of talent. Just over a third said they would hire additional permanent security staff.

Meanwhile, the Experis Tech Cities Job Watch report for the second quarter of 2016 notes that the skills shortage covers five main disciplines: IT security, cloud computing, mobile, big data and web development. This means increased salaries are available as employers attempt to attract scarce talent.

Getting work experience and qualifications in these areas - whether it be learning specific programming languages or gaining an industry-standard certification - will put you in prime position to start you career in the sector. Learn about IT training.

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