If there's one career path that's going to remain in high demand over the next few years throughout Australia and the rest of the world, it's in technology. IT and ICT jobs are in steady demand, and as well as front-line work there's an increasing opportunity for a crossover between ICT and management.
If you're keen on expanding your skill-set and moving sideways as well as upwards within the industry, studying online while working — or even while you're completing other studies — is a great way to get your foot in the door.
ICT specialists with relationship management, communication and strategic planning skills will succeed. Broaden your skills & study an MBA online.
ICT Specialties Are Consistently In Demand
Deloitte Access Economics' Digital Pulse 2016 report says that a mix of purely technical and business-related roles remain in high demand across Australia. Past trends and future forecasts show that while there are many flash-in-the-pan mobile app development opportunities that rise and fall, roles within core IT disciplines like infrastructure engineering, security and DevOps remain consistently available and slowly growing.
If you're planning not only for the next few years but further into the future, you'll be happy to know that Australia's ICT workforce is expected to expand to nearly 700,000 workers by 2020 — a growth of 2 per cent per year versus the 1.4 per cent of the job market more broadly. That's a consistent range of positions opening regularly in new companies, with both traditional roles as well as emergent responsibilities in Australia's thriving startup scene and big corporates' agile spinoffs.
There's a mix of senior and entry-level positions throughout Australia's IT sector, providing entry both for anyone still studying or looking to switch industries. That's in sync with an increasing number of enrolments in vocational education and training across the country, with Deloitte suggesting many of the ICT students currently enrolled are upskilling and cross-skilling in technology areas to become more valuable to their current or future employers. Those existing employees are studying as they work, too, using nights and weekends to educate themselves.
There's a good reason for this. As IT teams are consolidated into leaner groups in many large organisations, having a broader base of critical skills is an increasing advantage. If you're already a specialist within the field of development or software engineering, cross-skilling with a second area of expertise can massively widen the number of roles you can apply for or transition into. Many businesses, recruitment expert Hays says, are looking for dual-role engineers that can work on networking as well as core systems.
IT-Savvy Managers Are More Important Than Ever
Data from LinkedIn quoted by Deloitte says that employers looking for ICT hires are expecting more than a single specialty skill-set in their new employees, too. A core technical background will always be the foundation of any IT job, but managerial skills and qualifications are an important part of the future ICT leaders within Australian organisations. Customer focus and the ability to adapt is a critical skill across the entire IT sector. Nearly 40 per cent of respondents to an ACS survey undertook study in ICT fields in the last 12 months, while nearly 20 per cent studied business.
An online learning portal like Open Universities Australia gives you direct access to dozens of courses in highly specialised and broad areas of study without the large number of face-to-face hours that a traditional university course requires. Because many IT roles open up in new areas as they emerge — cloud computing and cybersecurity are relatively new within Australia, for example, according to Deloitte — an online degree gives you the flexibility to switch up your education as you're learning and to revisit material at your own pace as your free time permits.
Hays says in its most recent trends report that the permanent market for senior roles and team managers is growing, with the traditional MBA still highly highly valued for its broad application and strong foundation in team and relationship management, business analysis and understanding of wider business processes in different areas outside of IT alone. So even if you're in a comfortable position within IT, there's a future in training yourself in management.
Being able to cross the more traditional IT speciality disciplines with management skills — customer service, relationship management, internal and external contract negotiation and business analysis — means that if you're a traditional IT worker, you have a new career path into management open to you in a traditional corporate environment, or a potential entry into a lean startup looking to minimise its headcount but invest generously in the positions that they do create.
As technology becomes more central in many business in Australia, the role of a business development manager or project manager in an IT or operations department naturally intersects with those traditional ICT skills. If you're in an old-school IT role, training yourself in management by studying while you're still working full time is the best possible way to increase your usefulness to your current employer and also open opportunities to jump ship if you're ever tempted by a new role.