There is a traditional path for high school graduates: Go to college, decide upon a major, study it for four years, then get a job.
For many students, there are three problems with this route. First, you have to invest a lot of time and money into a career direction without being sure it’s a good fit. Second, it’s expensive; the average college student graduates almost $30,000 in debt. Finally, you have to wait four years before you start earning any significant income.
Fortunately, there’s an alternative that avoids all three problems. In the IT sector, it’s possible to launch your career soon after your high school graduation with a modest investment of time and money.
But you might be wondering if IT is for you. Keep reading to find out what careers in IT are like and which IT jobs for high school graduates are possible.
Is IT for me?
What do you picture when you think about IT? For some, it might be a person sitting alone in front of a screen in a dark room writing code.
If your picture is anything like this, you might be surprised to find out how broad the IT field is. IT stands for information technology and includes anything related to the creation, storage, transmission, and processing of information digitally. Coding is certainly part of IT, but so are smartphones, the Internet, and working together in teams to solve problems.
Here are some of the major areas within IT in which you could work:
- Hardware: Design and build all kinds of computing and networking components
- Software: Conceptualize, build, and maintain the software that runs on the hardware
- Analysis: Use software to generate, process, and analyze data
- Systems: Design and set up networks and databases, manage projects, and help businesses select and deploy IT resources
- Support: Install hardware and software, train others in their use, troubleshoot problems, manage company IT assets, and ensure data and network security
Some roles in IT are very technical while others are focused on leading or helping other people. All this variety means there is probably a place for you in IT, whether or not you think of yourself as someone who is deeply into computers and technology.
IT is a dynamic, innovative, and growing field with salaries that are well above average. If that sounds like the kind of industry in which you’d like to work, keep reading to find out how you can get started as a high school graduate.
IT jobs for high school graduates
One way into an IT career follows the traditional path we outlined at the beginning of this piece: Earn a four-year degree before looking for a job. While that’s a valid route and can be a good idea for some students, we’d like to explore the path you can take if you want to get started in IT right away.
Probably the most strategic way to get your foot in the door with IT as a high school graduate is to pursue a position in technical support.
What is technical support? Broadly speaking, those working in this role help end users of IT resources by handling things like the installation, troubleshooting, and maintenance of equipment, software, and systems.
Here are five reasons why this area makes a lot of sense as a place to begin:
1. You don’t need a degree.
Traditionally, most employers for office jobs have wanted candidates to hold a college degree. This has been changing, especially in tech. Many technical support positions are open to high school graduates who have the right skills, with or without a degree.
2. You can quickly earn the qualifications you need.
If you don’t need a degree, what do you need? Employers are looking for evidence that you have the technical knowledge and skills required to do the job. A college degree is one way to demonstrate this.
Another way is with a certification. It’s kind of like a mini degree in a focused area of knowledge. A certification is earned after passing an exam that assesses what you know. You can also prepare for and earn a certification in a few months instead of a few years.
3. You can earn a good salary right away.
Technical support certainly isn’t a minimum-wage job. One of the common job titles for a person working in technical support is helpdesk technician. Data from Indeed, one of the largest job sites, indicates that the average hourly rate for this position is $22.99. For a full-time job, the average salary is $47,056 a year.
That’s impressive, given that the average salary for those with just a high school degree is only $36,600.
4. You can learn a lot.
To get qualified for a position in technical support, you’ll need to know the basics of many different domains in IT.
The most common credential mentioned in job postings for tech support positions is the CompTIA A+ certification. To earn it, you’ll need to be competent in the areas of hardware, operating systems, software, networking, security, mobile devices, cloud computing, and troubleshooting.
Once you’re on the job, you’ll continue to deepen your skills and knowledge.
5. You can build a career.
A job in technical support is a starting place, not an endpoint. Given all the knowledge and skills you’ll acquire, there are several paths forward to advance in your career.
One option is to specialize in tech support and move into management in this area. The average salary for a technical support manager is $81,248.
Another option is to build experience and gain additional certifications in more specialized areas within IT, like cybersecurity. CompTIA has laid out a certification pathway to becoming a cybersecurity specialist. Salaries for beginners in this area range from $61,520 to $102,600.
Your next steps
Let’s talk about the practicalities. If this sounds like an interesting opportunity to you, how do you move forward?
There are three basic steps:
1. Learn: You’ll need to acquire both knowledge and hands-on skills in the areas we outlined above.
2. Get certified: Earning your CompTIA A+ is key to being able to show potential employers that you have what it takes to do the job.
3. Find a job: Once you’re certified, you’ll need to craft your resume and work through the process of finding open positions, applying, interviewing, and, hopefully, getting hired for a position.
Get started with a trusted guide
Though it is clear what the steps are, we recognize there is a lot more to know about how to take them. If you’re the sort of person who loves the challenge of figuring it all out, you’ll find plenty of resources on our blog to help you.
On the other hand, maybe you would be more comfortable with a well-marked pathway that leads you step by step through the process of learning, certification, and finding a job.