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How To Start a Career in IT

How To Start a Career in IT (Career Path Guide)

11 minute read | April 15, 2024
Maria Muntean

Written by:
Maria Muntean

Ready to launch your career?

Starting a career in IT doesn’t have a one-size-fits-all path to success. The beauty of this field is that you can be either a self-taught professional with many certifications under your belt or follow the traditional path of college, get a degree, and then jump right into the workforce.

We’ve got you covered if you’re unsure where to start. In this article, we’ll look at some of the different career paths you can explore and a few steps to get there. Let’s get started!

Starting A Career In IT: Different Paths To Explore

A career in IT is gratifying, both in terms of income and opportunities for advancement. Below are all the career paths you can choose.

  • IT and technical support

  • Web design and development

  • Software and app development

  • Data management and analytics

  • IT project management

  • Cybersecurity

  • Machine learning and artificial intelligence

  • Tech sales

IT and technical support

IT and technical support professionals ensure that computer systems, networks, and software run smoothly while assisting end-users. This career path is ideal for you if you have strong problem-solving abilities, excellent communication skills, and a genuine passion for helping others.

In this field, you’ll find yourself tasked with a wide range of responsibilities, from troubleshooting hardware and software issues to configuring and maintaining network systems. You’ll be the go-to resource for users seeking technical guidance, working diligently to resolve their problems and ensure optimal system performance.

Some entry-level roles include:

  • Help desk technician: This position provides frontline technical support, answers queries, and resolves basic hardware and software issues for end-users.
  • IT support specialist: Handles more complex technical problems, updates software and hardware, and maintains network systems.
  • Computer systems administrator: Manages and oversees an organization’s computer systems, networks, and related services.
  • Network administrator: Responsible for computer network maintenance, configuration, and secure operation.

Strong problem-solving and analytical abilities are essential to success in the IT and technical support field, where you’ll be tasked with diagnosing and resolving intricate technical issues. 

If you want to enter this field, try gaining hands-on experience through internships, entry-level roles, or volunteering. One of the best things you could do is to pursue industry certifications, such as CompTIA A+ or Network+, to validate your skills and knowledge.

Web design and development

Web designers and developers create visually appealing and user-friendly websites and apps. 

As a web designer or developer, you’ll be responsible for crafting websites’ visual aesthetics and user experience while working on their functionality and performance. You can specialize in either front-end development, focusing on the user-facing aspects of websites and web applications, or back-end development, handling the server-side logic and functionality.

There are a few exciting career paths for web designers and developers, such as:

  • Web designer: Responsible for the visual aesthetics and user experience of websites, creating layouts, color schemes, and graphics.
  • Front-end web developer: Builds the user-facing part of websites and web apps using HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and relevant frameworks.
  • Back-end web developer: Focuses on the server-side logic, databases, and functionality of web applications.
  • Full-stack web developer: Proficient in both front-end and back-end development, capable of building complete web solutions from start to finish.

Proficiency in HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and relevant web development frameworks is essential. Besides, you’ll need to understand user experience (UX) and user interface (UI) design principles. 

You’ll also need knowledge of server-side scripting languages, such as PHP, Python, or Ruby, and familiarity with database management systems (SQL and NoSQL).

When breaking into the field, you’ll need a robust web design or development resume and portfolio, which you can build by contributing to various projects. Start by learning design tools like Figma and programming languages like React.

Software and app development

Software development is an exciting career for many because it offers a huge variety of paths. You can specialize in desktop applications, mobile apps, game development, or even enterprise software solutions for those who want to aim higher. 

Your role will involve translating user requirements into functional code and continuously improving and updating the software as needed.

Here are some entry-level roles you can pursue within software development:

  • Software developer: Designs, develops, and maintains software applications for various platforms (desktop, web, mobile).
  • Mobile app developer: Specializes in building applications for mobile devices (iOS, Android).
  • Game developer: Creates video games for consoles, PCs, or mobile platforms.
  • Software engineer: Applies engineering principles to design, develop, and maintain software systems.
  • Quality assurance (QA) engineer: Tests software applications to identify and resolve bugs.

To become a software developer, you’ll need a strong foundation and background in programming languages like Java, Kotlin, Python, C++ (not as popular as of latest), and Swift. It’d be great if you could possess an understanding of software development lifecycles, best practices, algorithms, and how to use agile methodologies.

Start by learning the programming languages above and participating in hackathons or bootcamps. Self-study is vital here, as varying industry professionals encourage different practices. You’ll need to be open to different advice and exposed to other methodologies. 

Data management and analytics

Data managers and data analysts are in very high demand, especially in the healthcare, finance, and marketing industries. 

As a data analyst, you’ll collect and analyze data to identify patterns and trends that help a business thrive. Your role may involve designing and maintaining data pipelines and infrastructure, transforming raw data into actionable information, or applying advanced statistical and machine-learning techniques to extract insights from complex data sets.

Some entry-level positions in this field are:

  • Data analyst: Collects, organizes, and analyzes data from various sources to identify patterns and draw meaningful insights for companies.
  • Business intelligence analyst: Transforms raw data into actionable information, creating reports and visualizations to help organizations better understand their performance.
  • Data engineer: Designs, builds, and maintains data pipelines and data infrastructure.

Data analysis tools and programming languages are essential for an aspiring data analyst. Think of spreadsheet software, Python, R, or Tableau. You should also be familiar with database management systems and data warehousing.

There are a few renowned certifications and online courses for data analysts, such as the Springboard Data Analytics Bootcamp. Consider pursuing one of these and use them to work on projects and develop your portfolio.

IT project management

This career path combines technical knowledge with solid leadership. It’s the perfect choice for those who thrive in dynamic environments, as there’s always something new to learn.

You’re usually responsible for overseeing the planning and execution of IT projects. You’ll also have to coordinate cross-functional teams, manage resources, mitigate risks, and communicate effectively with team members and stakeholders.

If you’re looking for a role in IT project management, here are a few options:

  • Project manager: Oversees the planning, execution, and delivery of IT projects.
  • Scrum master: Facilitates the implementation of the Scrum framework for agile project management.
  • Program manager: Responsible for the coordination and oversight of multiple related projects.
  • Product manager: Manages the development and lifecycle of a product or service.

As a project manager, you’ll need knowledge of project management methodologies such as Agile, Scrum, and Waterfall, depending on the methods used at the company you want to work for. Familiarity with project management tools and software is essential, as is managing stakeholder expectations and mitigating risks.

Start managing small-scale projects or taking on project coordinator roles to have something worthy in your resume. Try to pursue certifications such as Project Management Professional (PMP) or Certified Scrum Master to validate your expertise and demonstrate your commitment to the field. 


Cyber attackers and hackers are gaining even more ground as we rely even more on technology. That’s why cybersecurity is an exciting career path with many opportunities.

As a cybersecurity professional, your responsibilities will include identifying potential security risks, implementing measures to protect data, and responding to security incidents as they arise. You’ll have to conduct penetration testing and develop and enforce security policies.

Within cybersecurity, there are various roles available:

  • Cybersecurity specialist: Develops and implements security policies, procedures, and controls to protect organizations against cyber threats.
  • Network security engineer: Designs, implements, and maintains secure network infrastructures and security solutions.
  • Incident response analyst: Investigates and responds to security incidents, mitigating risks, minimizing damage, and implementing measures to prevent future occurrences.

A background in data analysis or data science is always a great start to breaking into the field. Ensure you know security tools, techniques, and best practices. You’ll also need a strong understanding of programming language and scripting.

Start by learning the fundamentals through online courses (Udemy is a great start). When your fundamentals are covered, move on to industry-recognized certifications such as CompTIA Security+, Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH), or Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP).

Machine learning and artificial intelligence

These fields are transforming industries such as healthcare, transportation, and entertainment. ML and AI engineers develop and implement algorithms that enable machines to learn to automate complex tasks and make data-driven decisions.

Your role may involve building and deploying artificial intelligence systems and applications, specializing in areas such as computer vision, natural language processing (NLP), or predictive analytics. 

Entry-level ML and AI roles include:

  • Machine learning engineer: Designs, develops, and optimizes machine learning models and algorithms.
  • AI engineer: Builds and deploys artificial intelligence systems and applications.
  • Computer vision engineer: Specializes in developing algorithms and models for image and video analysis.
  • Natural Language Processing (NLP) engineer: Focuses on enabling machines to understand, interpret, and generate human language.

ML and AI are some of the most advanced fields within IT. To excel in one of these fields, you’ll need knowledge of the most common programming languages mentioned previously (Python, R, Java) and a solid background with deep learning frameworks and libraries like TensorFlow and PyTorch.

There are various ways in which you can break into the AI and machine learning field, but some of the best things you could do are taking an online course or bootcamp and apply your learnings in real-world scenarios: sign up for hackathons, collaborate with others on open-source projects, or try to build your own projects to practice what you’ve learned.

Tech sales

No product sells itself! In tech sales, salespeople generate leads, manage the sales process, and negotiate deals with potential clients. 

It’s a demanding role, as you have to chat with many people and be an extrovert. It involves maintaining relationships with existing customers and grasping advanced selling techniques for potential upsells or cross-sells. Depending on the product, you might also be asked to provide technical expertise and guidance to sales teams and clients to demonstrate product capabilities and address technical concerns.

Within sales tech, you can pursue some of these roles:

  • Sales Development Representative (SDR): Responsible for generating leads, setting up appointments with potential customers, initiating the sales process, and identifying qualified prospects.
  • Account executive (AE): Manages the sales process, negotiates deals, and closes sales with clients.
  • Sales engineer: Provides technical expertise and guidance to sales teams and clients.

The entry path into tech sales can be smooth, depending on the field you’re transitioning from. You’ll have a competitive edge if you come from a business, sales, or marketing background, as these are closely related. Since this field is not technical per se, you’ll need a strong understanding of sales and sales techniques and, overall, be an open person who wants to deal with people on a daily basis.

Consider pursuing a few sales courses and even read a few sales books that teach you the basic, foundational techniques. Try to land an internship or volunteering position within a sales-heavy company to gain more experience before moving on to tech sales.

Helpful Resources To Start A Career In IT

Many resources are out there to help you get grounded and move in the right direction:

  • Online courses. They are flexible and diverse, and you can often tackle them quickly. When browsing a course, look for one that’s current (tech moves fast, and you don’t want to be left behind), has excellent reviews, and offers practical learning opportunities. Look for courses on some of these platforms:
    • Coursera
    • Udacity
    • edx
  • Certifications. Getting into IT can definitely be made easier by choosing a certification that aligns with your goals. Start with a data analytics certification that covers all aspects of the field, then move on to more specialized ones. A few certifications worth pursuing in IT are:
    • CompTIA A+
    • Cisco’s CCNA
    • AWS Certified Solutions Architect
    • CISSP
  • YouTube videos and books. Sometimes, a more laid-back approach can complement the more structured learning you get from courses and certifications. YouTube channels and tech books offer a wealth of knowledge, from tutorials to deep dives on specific topics. 
    They’re perfect when you’re curious about a new technology or need to clarify complex concepts. Here are a few recommendations of the best books you can learn from:
    • “Clean Code” by Robert C. Martin
    • “The Pragmatic Programmer” by Andrew Hunt and David Thomas
    • “Don’t Make Me Think” by Steve Krug
    • “The Phoenix Project” by Gene Kim, Kevin Behr, and George Spafford
  • Online communities and forums. Learning IT is way more fun when you’re part of a community. Hang out on sites like Reddit, Indie Hackers, and Hacker News and learn about the personal stories of people who’ve been where you are. These are places to ask questions, share successes and failures, and connect with people who get the challenges and victories of working in IT.

Starting A Career In IT: Real-Life Examples to Learn From

Here are a few examples from people who’ve pursued careers in IT and their advice.

Example 1

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Zach Hil from IT Career Questions has a very encouraging video on how to get started in the IT field. He emphasizes the commitment you need, whether through on-the-job experience or even chasing down a degree. 

He talks about how it’s not all about knowing everything right off the bat but about learning to adapt and change things as you go.

Example 2

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Sandra works as a cybersecurity professional and shares her experience in the field, highlighting that reality often moves away from the exciting, high-stakes image portrayed in movies and shows.

Instead, much of her time is spent on what might be considered more mundane tasks, like drafting reports and sitting through meetings. She discusses hitting a career ceiling where advancing further means shifting from hands-on cybersecurity work to management roles.

She also touches on the challenge of working with limited resources, especially in smaller organizations or those with fledgling cybersecurity programs, which can require a good deal of advocacy to secure the necessary tools.

How To Start A Career In IT FAQs

We answer your most frequently asked questions.

How Can I Get Into IT Without A Degree?

To get into IT without a degree, sign up for an online course, get a certification, and build real-world experience through projects or volunteering. Your skills and determination can speak louder than a degree.

Which IT Job Pays The Most?

Cybersecurity, cloud computing, and IT management jobs tend to offer the heftiest paychecks. Think of roles like Information Security Manager or Cloud Solutions Architect.

What Is The Least Stressful IT Job?

IT roles in organizations with a strong support structure and transparent processes, like Database Administrator or Web Developer, tend to be less stressful.

Am I Too Old To Start A Tech Career?

Of course not. The tech industry values skills and passion over age. If you’re willing to learn and adapt, you can start a tech career at any stage of your life.

Since you’re here…
Interested in a career in software engineering? Join our mentor-led Software Engineering Bootcamp or our foundational Software Engineering Course if you’re just starting out. We help people make the switch every day (just peep our reviews). You can do it, too!

About Maria Muntean

Maria-Cristina is a content marketer with 7 years of experience in SEO and content strategy for SaaS and technology brands. She holds an MA thesis on the effects of emotions in written and video content. She loves to spend time near the ocean and watch horror movies.