Starting in IT: Go to university or self-practice

Technology is all around us. Businesses and individuals use technology in almost every aspect of their everyday lives. If you are considering going into IT as a career field, you are definitely on the right track. There are no signs showing technology will be leaving our universe anytime soon, so starting a career in IT is a great choice for job security!

So how do you get started in IT? There are two main ways to get started, both requiring you to learn skills like coding prior to landing a job in the industry. Here we break down whether it is better to attend university for formal training or teach yourself.


If you are just getting started with your career, it is probably a good idea to go to college and get a formal degree in a technology related focus. Having a degree will give you credentials and is something that you will always have to show your knowledge. You will be taught by professors who are skilled in what you are learning and can help you become skilled as well.

It also opens doors for you to enter into company sponsored internships which can help you gain experience and ultimately lead to a position in a well respected company. These opportunities are not as frequently offered outside of traditional university settings.

If you already have a degree or have been in the workplace for some time, obtaining a formal degree will take time. Depending on the degree you earn, it could take several years. Not to mention the stress of working full time and taking classes on top of it.

Another drawback is that getting a degree will not guarantee you a position. You will want to try to get experience outside the degree as well, through internships or side projects to showcase your abilities.

One alternative to a full degree in something like computer science is a certificate. For example, if you already have a degree in Business it may be smarter to obtain a graduate certificate in a current IT function like coding to help you get a new opportunity.

Self Practice

One of the biggest pros to teaching yourself is the cost savings of not getting a formal degree. While you may have to pay for things like courses and books to help you gain the skills you need, much of it can be found for free.

Once you get the basics down, you can start gaining experience through volunteering and gigs though sites like Fiverr and Upwork. If you are currently working, you can volunteer for projects needing your newfound skills. This will allow you to learn from experienced professionals and also make contact in your new area of interest.

In order to teach yourself, you must be very self disciplined. There will be no grades or teachers keeping you on track with your learning. If you run into a challenging issue, it may be difficult to get help and work through it.

While many companies will value experience over education, you may find that it takes a lot of side projects and volunteering to convince a hiring manager to give you a chance. You will need to be strategic with how you structure your resume to showcase your new skills.

One example is to use a project section outside of your normal experience section. This is where you can add projects you have done through work, freelance, or volunteering that pertain to the new industry. I also recommend using the objective section to explain what you are looking for and how your unique skill set would be an advantage to the role you are applying to. This will help recruiters and hiring managers know that you are looking for a role in IT and why you would be a good addition to the team.

As you can see, there are positives and negatives to both options to getting started in IT. Whether you decide to go a more traditional route and go to university or try to teach yourself, both options are a viable path to get you started.

Honestly, it is a matter of determining which works best for you and your goals. There is no universal right or wrong way to do it. Think about each option and decide which one aligns with where you are in your journey. Congratulations on starting your journey to become an IT professional!

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