Go to the Head of the Class: From Liberal Arts to IT
You followed your passion and studied a field that sparked your interest: literature, languages, history, philosophy or any other of the many exciting and interesting areas of the liberal arts landscape.
But now what? Do you wonder “What career is right for me?” Many liberal arts graduates have trouble determining a clear path to good careers and feel a lack of direction.
Finding a job with a liberal arts degree can be difficult, whether through a lack of positions available or through fierce competition from other applicants. Even if you land a job in your field of dreams, the low pay in many liberal arts-related positions can make such a career unsustainable. And maybe the job isn't everything you hoped it would be and you find yourself thinking “I hate my job.”
IT could be a great career option for you, and getting into IT with a liberal arts degree is not as hard as you may think.
When I was in that interview and heard about the field of cybersecurity, I feel like a switch flipped.Mika DevonshireDirector of Digital Forensics
Comparing Liberal Arts to IT
You may think your English, philosophy or women's studies degree makes a career change to the digital world of IT impossible. Luckily, as a liberal arts aficionado, you have more than niche knowledge of some obscure subject – during the course of your studies, you likely picked up and practiced a universally applicable suite of skills, especially to many of the best careers in IT. And IT is so more than just math and computer science – in case you were worried about that.
Just like scholarly analysis, top IT jobs require strong critical thinking and problem solving. Clear, effective communication is just as important in IT as it is when presenting your argument to a group of liberal arts peers. All your hours in the library and online tracking down sources have given you plenty of experience with research, another skill critical to success in technology jobs. Finally, your ability to manage people, projects and schedules gives you yet another tool to apply to a career in IT.
IT Career Possibilities for Liberal Arts Majors
While the stereotypical image of IT careers is somebody sitting alone behind a computer all day, the reality couldn't be further from the truth.
The field is diverse, with many types of technology jobs, and a person with your skill set has many options available, including some top jobs in demand you may not have thought of.
Working as a content strategist gives you a chance to exercise your writing chops for a living – like you never left the arts! Roles like project management provide you the opportunity to communicate with a team and guide a project to satisfying completion. As a database administrator, you'd be in charge of organizing information. Web developers often apply their creative talents to resolve the problem at hand.
What's It Like to Work in IT?
Looking at two entry-level IT jobs, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects that help desk technician jobs will grow by 12 percent between 2014 and 2024, while computer support analyst positions are expected to grow by 10 percent.
|Help Desk Technician||Computer Support Analyst|
|Salary||$52,160 average||$52,160 average|
|Availability||“Normal” work hours||Generally requires some nights and weekends|
|Work–Life Balance||Can leave work at the office||Can leave work at the office|
Possible Career Path
|Help Desk Technician → End User Support Specialist → Network Administrator*||Computer Support Analyst → Coder → Software Developer*|
|Training||College degree not necessary, but certifications are beneficial||Associates degree or post-secondary classes often required|
|Job Outlook||12% growth expected||10% growth expected|
Estimated Time to Career Change
(Statistics and information from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; items marked with an asterisk (*) are from itcareerfinder.com.)
What Skills Do I Need to Get into IT?
Your liberal arts experience has given you many of the transferable skills required to succeed in an IT profession. Liberal arts students are exceptional learners, as you constantly absorb and digest new information to apply to your studies – and this ability will prove useful in the ever-shifting world of IT. You are a practiced communicator and researcher. You know how to manage projects and meet deadlines. And your creative instincts will find purpose in the critical thinking and problem solving that jobs with computers often necessitate.
Just as there were many paths to success in your liberal arts studies, there is opportunity in the IT field for people of diverse strengths. As long as you are computer literate and apply the skills you picked up in your studies, you'll be able to make IT work for you.
Getting into IT with a Liberal Arts Degree
If you're excited by the prospect of diving into IT, you may be wondering how to change careers. Luckily it's easy for someone with liberal arts experience and skills to get started on this transition. Reaching out to people currently working in IT, whether friends, relatives or helpful strangers, can be a great way to obtain IT career advice, get a feel for the field and figure out what role you'd like to pursue within it. And building a strong network will continue to prove useful in your career.
- First, figure out what it is you want to do. Taking our free career quiz will help you narrow that down!
- Then, do a little research (you're probably pretty good at that after all those term papers) and see what sort of career training you will need for what you think you want to do. Will you need a night class or two at the local community college? What about online options?
- Practice makes perfect. Writers set aside time to write. Readers set aside time to read. Why should IT professionals be any different? Whether you wish to pursue coding, web design or any of the other possibilities IT can provide, more practice will lead to stronger job skills. And that will give you both comfort in your new role and a leg up on other applicants. Can you volunteer your time at a non-profit, setting up their servers? Are you the one your friends and family go to when their computer crashes? All of this is experience to build on.
- After gaining and strengthening these new skills, you may want to earn an IT certification. It will show employers the skills you have developed.
- Get ready to find a job. In addition to these new technical skills, the aptitudes you picked up while studying liberal arts are very important – don't sell yourself short! Use the communication skills you honed while getting your liberal arts degree to convince employers just how valuable your strengths are!
Take our free career quiz to find out which IT career best matches your skills and start your journey toward a new career in IT. From there, you can decide which IT career path is right for you, and you will be able to decide when you are ready to take the necessary steps.