To Do This Year: How to Change Careers from Admin to IT
You may be thinking, “What do careers in technology have in common with my administrative role?” At first, it may seem like a stretch, but think about it: many admin roles involve assisting someone in doing their job well, supporting them on a daily basis and probably putting out fires as you go. The IT world isn't just typing out code day-in and day-out in a dark, windowless office. There are lots of top IT jobs that have everything to do with helping people and problem solving…something you may already be doing! And if you have been an administrative role for a while, you may thrive in the fast-paced world of IT, where you would need to move from one thing to the next very quickly, buzzing like a bee in a hive. Whether you're an administrative assistant, receptionist or messenger, there is likely an information technology job out there waiting for you!
Picture Yourself in IT
If we compare two entry-level IT jobs, you'll be able to see what sort of work and life you can expect with a career switch to IT. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, a job as a help desk technician will grow by 12 percent between 2014 and 2024, and job availability as a computer support analyst is 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.)
The Skills You Need to Get into IT
As you are thinking about what career in IT is right for you, consider the skills you already have at your current position. For example, you may be great at customer service and communicate well with people. This is something needed no matter what your career goals are in IT – the tech world needs people who know how to communicate with the public.
Also consider your ability to follow directions. As silly as it sounds, many people can't (or won't!) follow the directions in front of them and end up wasting the time of their employer or team. In the administrative world, you may have experience deciding when it's important to follow directions and when you can take some liberties, and you can bring that skill to IT.
You also may be at ease transitioning from task to task. In your job, your day may not go the way you think it will, and that can also happen in IT. Sometimes, problems pop up that need attention ahead of what is actually on the roster for the day. Your skill of quickly switching gears from one task to another will work well for you in a technology job.
Experience and IT
To start your career in IT, think about what it is you'd like to do. Our free IT career quiz – How Do Your Skills Transfer to IT? – is a great place to start. Once you have a direction you think you'd like to go in, consider what experience you will need to get an IT job beyond the right training and certifications (we'll get there, I promise).
First and foremost, you should probably like computers and technology and be somewhat savvy in both. There's a lot to be said for teaching yourself how to do things at home, and teaching yourself a few things never hurt anyone. Are you the person that your friends and family call when their computers have a problem? Do you enjoy tinkering on your own computer to make it run more efficiently? Both of these things can help you launch a new career in IT.
I like learning the latest cool stuff. The web development industry is always going to be changing, and that's exciting.Bonnie BrennanAngular architect and Google developer expert
You may want to consider other things to give you more experience and practice, too, like helping out a nonprofit with its technology needs, or teaching a class at your local library for seniors wanting to learn about how to use computers and other devices or navigate social media. If you can swing it, maybe you can moonlight as a self-employed IT support technician and help people with tasks that they find daunting but you know how to do.
How Long Will It Take to Change Careers?
While you may be really excited to hit the ground running in IT, it's important to remember that a career change takes time. Corinne Mills, author and managing director of Personal Career Management, suggests patience when transitioning to a new career.
“While some people want to radically reinvent their career instantly, it is more realistic to work toward a new career over time. This might mean making changes in your current job, studying a course in the evening, shadowing someone in the role or learning new skills to make yourself more attractive to potential employers,” she told The Guardian. “It might also mean that you gradually move into your new career via a series of jobs rather than one giant leap – and this is important if you want to protect your salary rather than going back to entry-level wages.”
The amount of time will be different for everyone, depending on your transferrable skills and experience and the amount and type of training you need. Career coach Daisy Swan says you'll need to allot time “to (re-)educate, to develop a new network in that field and to gain meaningful experiences that introduce you as a player... which then leads to gathering credibility and accessibility to your new work and new career.”
For some, it may be a few months, but for others it may be longer. Regardless of how long it takes, remember to go into the process with patience and a list of SMART goals that will keep you steadily on the path to a career in IT.
How to Get from Here to There
Once you take the free career quiz you can narrow down which IT career path is best for you. Next, do some research to see what training or certifications you may need for your new career in IT. You may just need to take a course or two at your local community college or earn an entry-level certification, like CompTIA A+.
You may also want to think about building a portfolio, if that's what is necessary in your new career. For example, if you are thinking about a career as a coder, now might be the time to start building your web portfolio and polishing your skills. Don't forget, you likely already have many of the skills necessary to work in IT, such as customer service and communication! Certifications and training can get you the rest of the way to achieve your IT career goals.
Be sure to take our free career quiz to help you figure out which IT career you are best suited for. From there, you can figure out your career path to start your new life in technology!