When choosing the right IT apprenticeship for you, it’s about analysing your strengths and weaknesses, writes Simon Bell, founder and director of Careermap. After all - it’s not just about whether you’re right for the job, but is it right for you?

The information and technology sector is thriving and packed full of opportunities but you have to find your perfect fit. Whether you’re interested in coding or software engineering, data analysis or even cyber security, there are lots of IT apprenticeships out there!

Create a career plan

If you’ve decided that an IT apprenticeship is the right career route for you, it’s time to create your career plan. Firstly, you’ll need to figure out which one matches your career goals. Maybe you’re a self-taught coder, digital innovator or perhaps you have no prior experience. Don’t worry, whether you have sector-specific skills or none at all, you have options. After all, an apprenticeship is there to help you develop those skills.

There are a diverse range of IT apprenticeships available. See where your interests lie and whether you tick off any of the skills needed, already, to help you decide which role is for you:

Cyber security

A career in cyber security means preventing and managing cyber threats. Anyone can fall victim to online and network threats without security. Cyber security workers ensure they reduce threats by using network monitoring tools, root cause analysis, monitor servers and virtual servers, firewalls, routers. They also ensure prevention methods are put in place and learn about web vulnerabilities.

To work in cyber security, you’ll need to be able to explain complex concepts clearly and effectively. Do you have a technical mind and enjoy problem solving with a keen interest in IT? A cyber security career could be right for you. You will need to be able to prioritise workload and remain calm when under pressure. These skills include:

  • Written skills, so you can write technical reports
  • Verbal skills, to efficiently communicate prevention and solution methods
  • Time management and organisation skills
  • Analytical skills, to identify trends and patterns

Digital and technology

Working in digital and technology is fast-paced and requires you to keep up-to-date with the latest products and services. You will be working with the latest technology, investigating, identifying and actioning technologically strategic solutions. You’ll need to understand the organisation's goals and ensure you can effectively communicate solutions. This career route may also require you to design technology roadmaps for clients and agree on budgets. For this apprenticeship, you’ll need to be tech savvy in order to analyse information systems and have a strong understanding of data. Other skills include:

  • Ability to maintain high levels of concentration
  • Ability to manage competing interests
  • Being an active listener
  • Good written communication skills
  • Ability to verbally communicate complex issues

Digital user experience

Digital user experience (UX) apprentices work across a range of sectors, from retail to health and many more. You’ll be working to ensure the user experience is of a high standard by analysing and investigating the experience that people have with digital service. You will also explore different ways that digital experiences can be implemented, optimised and improved. For this career, you’ll need to be able to apply creative, critical and analytical thinking to the implementation of UX solutions. Other skills include:

  • Visual design skills
  • Understanding of coding
  • Verbal and written communication skills
  • Ability to look at things from a customer perspective

IT technician

As an IT technician, you’ll be developing, maintaining and implementing IT solutions which include servers and networks (hardware infrastructure), operating systems and applications (software). You’ll provide ongoing support to the end user and will be passionate about high levels of service. IT technicians have a range of responsibilities which include file manipulation, editing, accessing remote systems, system changes and implementing and upgrading. Skills include:

  • Ability to work well as part of a team
  • Excellent verbal communication skills
  • Ability to remain calm when under pressure
  • Analytical thinking skills
  • Ability to adapt to change
  • Good IT skills with knowledge of the main software packages

Network engineer

Network engineers work on the communication networks of an organisation. They design, install and maintain networks as well as providing support. Network engineers also optimise the performance of network systems and services and install and configure components including routers, firewalls and switches. Skills for this career include:

  • Logical and creative thinking
  • Ability to work independently
  • An organised and methodical approach
  • Ability to communicate effectively
  • Problem solving skills

Software developer or tester

Software developers or testers build and examine high quality code for different software. At times you’ll need to interpret software specifications to meet the customer’s requirements.

If you enjoy maths, then this could be the role for you! As a software developer / tester, you’ll need to be able to apply maths to your role. You’ll also need to have a flexible approach for when you need to respond to business issues. Enjoying working with data is also necessary for this role as you’ll need the ability to link code to data sets. Other skills include:

  • Logical thinking and problem solving
  • Attention to detail
  • Patience
  • Curious thinking
  • Good interpersonal skills

Unified communication trouble-shooter

Unified communication trouble-shooters are responsible for the installation of software and equipment. They are expected to competently handle any issues and requests in relation to unified communications technologies.

Do you enjoy problem solving? Are you driven, responsible and organised? Do you have the ability to think creatively and logically? These are all skills which employers look for when hiring a unified communication trouble-shooter. Other skills include:

  • Effective communication skills to liaise with internal and external people
  • Ability to recognise hazards and maintain a professional and secure workplace
  • A thorough approach to workload
  • Excellent analytical skills

What are the benefits of an IT apprenticeship?

There are so many benefits to doing an IT apprenticeship. From being able to earn while you learn to gaining a nationally recognised qualification. We’ve compiled a list of some of the key benefits of an apprenticeship:

Earn and learn

Unlike other qualification routes, an apprenticeship allows you to earn and learn without the burden of tuition fee debts. IT apprenticeships enable you to receive workplace experience, build skills and get paid. What’s not to love?

You’ll gain a nationally recognised qualification

As an apprentice, you will spend 80% of your time in the workplace and the other 20% will be made up of off-the-job training, where you’ll be working towards a professional qualification which is respected by employers.

Learn the latest technology

The world of IT is fast-paced and technology is always advancing. Working in the sector will give you exposure to what businesses are using now.

Improve employability skills

Apprenticeships don’t only help you to gain industry-specific skills, so you can become an expert in your field of work, but they also help you to become more employable. You’ll be gaining work experience and an understanding of how you must act within the workplace which employers love! Showing you’re able to be punctual, work to deadlines, proactive and responsible are all CV boosters.

Gain independence

Apprenticeships allow young people to gain their financial independence and workplace responsibilities. Imagine not having to ask your parents for your weekly spends!

Have money to spend for the holidays

Apprentices are entitled to 20 days’ holiday, plus bank holidays and you’ll get paid for them! If you’ve been saving, you might even be able to go abroad or explore somewhere you’ve never been before!

What level IT apprenticeship can I do?

IT apprenticeships are offered at a range of levels including:

  • Level 2 - equivalent to GCSEs
  • Level 3 - equivalent to A Level
  • Level 4, 5, 6 and 7 - equal to a foundation degree and above
  • Level 6 & 7 - equal to a bachelor’s or master’s degree

Put your plan into action

Now that you’ve matched your skills to the right IT apprenticeship, it’s time to put your plan into action. Firstly, you’ll need to set goals to help you land your dream career in IT. Think about what type of company you’d like to work for, what salary are you looking for and if you are happy to commute further for the right company?

Now you know exactly what you’re looking for, it’s time to get out there and start applying. There are several apprenticeship websites which have opportunities available with top IT employers and training providers, such as Careermap. BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, provides lots of information for young people considering an IT career and has also, recently launched its apprenticeship challenge.

IT apprenticeships are the future

Technology is constantly evolving. You will be guaranteed to see the introduction of new IT careers in the future, with some of these already on the visible horizon. From artificial intelligence to robotics engineering, you might be surprised to learn that an AI apprenticeship is currently being developed at this very moment. Existing careers in IT are also expected to boom with projected future growths of up to 33.7% in roles such as IT engineering. The world is changing at a rapid pace and this is being driven by technology. If you’re interested in a technology career then there really has never been a better time than now to start.

Artificial intelligence is already having a big impact on the world and has got people talking about the robots stealing our jobs. Look at AI as replacing the monotonous daily jobs you have to do and acknowledge how it has the potential to open up further opportunities. The artificial intelligence apprenticeship is a data specialist role which includes carrying out applied research which will create innovative data-driven AI solutions.

Technology is already restructuring our everyday lives, who knows where an apprenticeship could take you?

BCS podcast

Watch / listen to former BCS apprentice Luke Kuczynski in discussion with Lori French, Emerging Technology Developer Consultant at IBM. Latte with Luke is a BCS podcast about digital IT apprenticeships. It is available on the following platforms: