Technology is the fastest-growing industry in the UK and it has career opportunities and pay packets to match!
Over the past decade, the way we communicate, exercise, shop and even find love has changed beyond recognition. And judging by the 46 million people in the UK who own a smartphone – predicted to rise to 54 million by 2022 – the digital era has most definitely arrived.
But the tech world goes deeper than dating apps and step trackers. It underpins every part of our lives,from banking and pharmaceuticals to travel and developments in aerospace.
The third annual Tech Nation report revealed that in 2016 investment in the UK’s technology sector reached £6.8bn – almost three times as much as any other European country – and delivered a whopping £97bn to the UK economy. More than 1.6 million people now work in the digital tech sector, a workforce that’s grown at three times the rate of other industries since 2012.
With such rapid growth, the demand for highly skilled tech experts continues to soar. “In our business, we’re seeing triple-digit growth year on year, which means we are constantly on the look-out for the best talent,” says Nick Smith of cloud automation company Certain Six. “As a result, one avenue we’re exploring is working with universities to spot and nurture graduate talent.
“As demand for skilled individuals has grown, the salaries across the industry have become some of the most competitive around.”
In fact, digital earnings are 44% higher than the average job. Tech graduates can expect starting salaries of around £30,000, while talented computer scientists are among the highest-earning university leavers in the country, landing first jobs that pay more than £40,000. These wages are certainly justified when you consider that each tech worker contributes more than £100,000 per year to the UK economy, double the national average.
Interested? Here are a few roles you might like to consider.
Working with a team, you will develop computer code for web, mobile or desktop applications, using a variety of programming languages and project-management tools.
What qualifications do I need? Most companies require a software engineering or a computer science degree. A knowledge of multiple programming languages is a must, as is an interest in personal or open-source projects. Experience via an internship is preferred.
How can I progress? You can rise to senior software engineer, lead developer or chief technology officer.
How much can I earn? Salaries start at £30,000, rising to £75,000 to £100,000 for lead developers.
This role involves managing the development of new software products. Responsibilities include conducting market research, determining what features are required in new software, setting out timetables and pricing, and developing marketing strategies.
What qualifications do I need? A computing, scientific or mathematical degree is required. You’ll also need to be organised, good at multitasking, an excellent team worker and able to demonstrate leadership qualities.
How can I progress? You can move up the ladder to become a product owner in charge of projects.
How much can I earn? The starting salary is around £28,000, rising to £65,000-plus for a product owner.
People in this position are responsible for the day-to-day management of complex IT infrastructure systems such as servers, telephone systems and computers. As part of a team they maintain IT systems and are a central point of contact for support and assisting users.
What qualifications do I need? A degree in a relevant subject such as computer science or IT – as well as the ability to demonstrate and apply system-level thinking (how the system goes together) and knowledge of computers (such as Microsoft Windows technologies) – is essential. Applicants also need to be self-motivated with an aptitude for problem solving. Internships that involve managing and supporting IT systems are an advantage.
How can I progress? You can be promoted to senior systems engineer and, with additional training, progress to systems architect or head of IT.
How much can I earn? Salaries start at £20,000, rising to £65,000 for a senior systems engineer and around £120,000 for an IT head.
Computer Games Tester
The role includes testing multiple levels and versions of games, with a view to providing critical feedback to the product team, who report recommended changes and bugs.
What qualifications do I need? A degree in games programming (available at most major universities) or a related field, such as software engineering, is essential. You will need to be passionate about gaming and have an ability to create a structured test to assess quality and performance. Analytical and communication skills and attention to detail are pluses, while app testing experience is favourable.
How can I progress? With experience you can become a quality assurance manager or move into games marketing. With further training you could become a games designer, animator or developer.
How much can I earn? Salaries can start at anything from £20,000 to £40,000, rising to £70,000 for a games developer.
The role includes research and development, as well as building and maintaining aircraft and their systems. Day-to-day duties may include developing navigation, communications or weapons systems, researching ways to make fuel-efficient parts, testing prototypes and collecting and analysing test data.
What qualifications do I need? You’ll need a higher-education qualification in either aerospace engineering, avionics or related subjects, such as engineering, maths or physics. You’ll need excellent mathematical, problem-solving and IT skills – including knowledge of computer-aided design (CAD) or manufacturing (CAM). Proficiency in project management and budgeting are usually desired.
How can I progress? You can specialise in a particular field, such as aerodynamics, fuel efficiency, investigating air accidents or space technology, or move up to become a consultant aerospace engineer.
How much can I earn? The starting salary is £25,000, rising to £70,000 with experience.
Women in Technology
The tech industry may be forward-thinking, but it is still in need of some updating. For one thing, men still outnumber women by three to one within the sector. In 2016 only 9% of investment in British tech start-ups was awarded to companies with a female founder.
Barriers still remain for women going into this industry. Whether it’s lack of encouragement during school years, or unequal pay and male-dominated working environments within the industry, many women seem to be discouraged from going into the technology field.
“In the past, I’ve felt being a woman has put me at a disadvantage,” says Charis Kyriakou, senior development engineer at Certain Six. “I haven’t experienced direct discrimination, but sometimes I feel a male candidate has been picked over me because they’re ‘one of the guys’ and perceived to be a better fit.”
So what are companies doing to address this imbalance? “There are a few employers in larger companies that have recognised the value of having women in tech and are actively trying to attract more of them by championing equal pay, enhanced maternity and paternity leave and running women in tech events,” says Kyriakou.
She also believes gender stereotypes need to be tackled at a young age. Technology training organisation QA revealed half of the female technologists interviewed as part of its research were actively discouraged from entering the industry by people close to them, while a study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) found that at 15, fewer than 5% of girls expect to have a career in engineering or computing.
“Tech is an industry with a growing market, numerous opportunities and good salaries, so it’s an attractive prospect for anyone,” says Kyriakou. “Young girls need to have their eyes opened to this and be shown that a career in tech could provide them with a successful future.”