Your Career Blueprint: How to Change Careers from Construction to IT
A career in construction definitely has its appeal – it's an opportunity to work outside and stay in shape while earning a living, plus there's on-the-job training that often requires no formal degrees and are generally well paying. The appeal can be lost, however, as inclement weather comes along and the temperature rises to the triple digits or drops well below freezing. If you live up north, you may be out of work for months at a time due to the winter slowdown. And sometimes that hard labor results in a critical injury or worse. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, in 2015, 1 in 5 workplace deaths occurred in the construction industry, and 1 in 10 construction workers are injured every year. Getting hurt on the job will not only put a stop to your career, but it may put you out of commission when it comes to your friends and family as well.
A career change from construction to the IT field could be a good option for you if you are looking to switch things up a bit. And finding a new career in information technology has many of the same benefits as a career in construction with few of the workplace hazards.
What Do Construction and IT Careers Have in Common?
If you are thinking about a career change from construction, you may not have considered an IT career. On first glance, our picture of construction workers and IT professionals couldn't be more different. One has the reputation for being loud, tough and vigorous, while the other has a reputation for being, well, nerds. But those that have done some investigating and spent time in both fields know that this isn't the whole truth. There is significant overlap in both industries, with many construction workers finding a career change to be smoother than anticipated.
- Like construction, IT is often project focused and involves the creation or overhaul of a product from start to finish.
- Both jobs are in a fast-paced environment where you have to think on your feet and problem solve on a moment's notice.
- Many of these projects require teamwork and a wide array of specialists working in tandem with each other, much like the electricians, plumbers, steelworkers, dry-wallers and equipment operators on the job site.
When I worked as a rig manager, I fixed my own equipment. When I fixed that computer, I realized the similarities between mechanical troubleshooting and troubleshooting tech stuff.Lucas BlockTier 3 Backbone Engineer
Entry-Level Positions for IT Professionals
Take a look at two entry-level positions for IT professionals. Both are expected to grow over the coming years, and the starting salary for both is more than $50,000. Furthermore, according to US News & World Report, IT positions are among the top 26 careers with the most job stability.
|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.)
Keep in mind that many positions, like the two above, do not require a college degree at all. You might enroll in training classes, intern, get certified or even study at home so that you can keep the cost low while you switch careers into IT. There are many avenues to choose from depending on what position you're suited for. Take our free career quiz to see which IT career best fits your skills.
What Skills Are Required for a Career in IT?
Many of the top careers in IT are similar to top jobs on the worksite. Like a foreman or a crane operator, some of the more highly sought-after positions require a high degree of familiarity and technical knowledge, as well as experience working in other capacities across the field. But unlike the top positions in construction, with IT, you won't break your back along the way.
Meanwhile, plenty of those skills you've picked up in construction can translate well into the IT field. For example, the adaptability of learning to use and master new tools according to different projects is highly sought after in IT.
Ask yourself if any of these skills sound familiar:
- Ability to prioritize tasks
- Strong work ethic
These skills are all highly valued in the IT field, and employers know that they can't necessarily be taught in class. Other factors, like personality traits and interests, might place you in one of many different positions, and understanding where your strengths lie is key in moving forward in a new career in IT. You can take the experience you've acquired on the job site and transfer it in a whole other capacity in the growing IT industry.
How to Get Experience in IT Before Changing Careers
If one of the things that drew you to work in construction was working with your hands, taking things apart and putting them back together, you can think of IT in a similar way but on a smaller scale. IT expertise lies in both hardware and software, so if you have ever been someone that people seek to help them with computer issues, whether the computer itself or the programs on it, then chances are that you're already in a good starting position for a new career in IT.
To learn more about IT, go to that person everyone goes to for help hooking up the printer or reconnecting to the internet and ask them questions to find out what they know. Remember, learning about computers is similar to learning about any other trade or tool. It happens in steps and can be made easier with the right guidance. Because IT is a field in great demand, you are going to find many resources out there to learn how to get into IT. These resources can be in the form of books, classes or even internships, and they are geared toward a wide range of previous computer experience.
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.
Where to Start When Switching Careers to IT
As with any new venture, the best place to begin is to figure out where you want to end up. Which path is right for you? A good way to answer that question is to take our free career quiz to see what IT career matches your skills and interests. Remember that, just as on the job site, there are many specialties employers need.
You might also want to ask around the job site and the company where you currently work. There are numerous IT positions in the construction industry, and those positions will be multiplying in the coming years. Many people actually like their boss and the industry they work in – it's true – but they desire a role other than the one that they currently occupy. If this is your case, you may find a way to stay on where you are, but in a more stable, more necessary role. This way, you can look at IT expertise as yet another skill set that you can learn and master.