How to Change Careers from Finance to IT
If you want to change careers from finance to IT, then you're in the right place. Maybe you've enjoyed the paycheck that comes with a career in finance, but you're tired of the hellacious hours. Or maybe you feel that you haven't been sufficiently recognized for your achievements or that there aren't enough opportunities for growth. Whatever your reason for considering a career change, we're here to answer your questions and help you make a shift to a more fulfilling position.
There's a lot to discuss here, but before we really dig in, we want to alleviate some of your anxieties and say that changing careers is not so outrageous, no matter your age While a career shift to IT won't happen overnight, with the right amount of curiosity and dedication, you can make a happy transition to a new job in IT.
IT Careers vs. Finance
Similar to finance, working in IT involves engaging your problem-solving skills. In IT, this may mean wrapping your head around why a computer is loading slowly or determining how to recover recently deleted files. There is always a problem to be solved, meaning your brain is constantly engaged; there is never a dull moment in IT.
Like in finance, a career in IT also involves helping people. If you're concerned that working behind a computer means less contact with people, you shouldn't be. A job in IT actually entails a substantial amount of human-to-human contact, whether that be in office, by phone or via chat.
Addicted to that fast-paced lifestyle that your finance job offers? Working in IT can provide a similarly electric energy, like when a user's computer has shut down and they need it fixed ASAP. If you enjoy the buzz that comes from fast-paced work environments, then IT may be the right fit for you.
Whether you're a financial analyst, financial advisor, accountant or portfolio manager, you can find a suitable position in the wide world of IT.
How to Change Careers to IT: Where do I start?
You may have climbed pretty far up the career ladder in finance and are reluctant to start over in IT. However, did you know that IT is one of the best career paths for those looking to grow? For example, if you start out as a help desk technician, you could end up as a network specialist. Or, if you begin your career in IT as a computer support analyst, you could become a programmer. With the right level of dedication and commitment to ongoing education, you can scale the IT career ladder to attain the job of your dreams.
Two common, entry-level IT jobs include help desk technicians and computer support analysts, the demand for both of which is rapidly increasing: according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the need for help desk technicians will grow by 12 percent from 2014 to 2024. Similarly, the need for computer support analysts is projected to grow by 10 percent. Both positions offer plenty of opportunities for growth.
Now you may be asking yourself, “But what do a help desk technician and a computer support analyst actually do? Are these positions right for me?” See the chart below for a comparison of these two entry-level IT jobs.
|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.)
It's important to note that both positions don't necessarily require a bachelor's degree. You can attain the skills and experience you need for both jobs by taking computer classes, studying at home and obtaining the right certifications, making a career change to IT a cost-effective and accessible decision for many people.
Your Finance Skills Will Benefit You in an IT Career
While you may be concerned that a career shift into the technology sector will require learning a whole new set of skills, don't worry: the key ingredients to success in IT are curiosity and a willingness to learn. The technical skills you'll need can be gained through classes and a healthy amount of practice.
And here's another bonus: you probably already possess a host of skills from your finance career that you can transfer to your new IT job. For example, if you previously worked as a financial advisor, perhaps you have an interest in and knack for helping others. In other words, you know how to work with people and put them at ease. In IT, you will need this customer service acumen when dealing with frantic users who feel their computer issues are apocalyptic.
From your experience working in finance, you may have also acquired some serious analytical skills. For example, financial advisors analyze clients' financial situations and determine which investments and savings strategies are best for them. These analytical skills can be applied to IT in a number of ways – whether you want to work your way up in infrastructure and recommend the best products and services for your company or you want to get into cybersecurity and analyze user behavior to identify cyberthreats.
Regardless of your position in finance, you have built a skill set that you can bring with you into your new career in IT.
The following skills consistently top the list of those needed by IT pros:
- Analytical abilities
- Project management
- Problem solving
- Interest in helping others
In addition to these, you will also need technical acumen and some hands-on experience. Wondering where and how you can acquire those critical “hard” skills to change careers from finance to IT? Keep reading to find out.
The Experience You Need to Break into IT
Now that you know what skills you need to succeed in technology, you're probably wondering, “What experience do I need to land my first big IT job?” There are a number of things you can do today, right from your home, to build up the experience you need.
First, you can start by playing around on an old computer; many of us have older model laptops or desktops sitting around in our basements. You may have thought you'd never have a use for it again, but today's the day! An old computer is the perfect tool for exploring connections, practicing virus eradication and other IT skills (and making mistakes). Set up a home laboratory.
You can also build your tech experience by helping out friends and family with their computer issues. Offer to help your sister-in-law set up the wireless router in her home. Help your father get rid of that pesky virus plaguing his iPad. Establish yourself as the go-to computer tech in your family or community.
You can also try volunteering with a local nonprofit or donating your services to a small business that may not have the resources to hire a professional technician. In exchange for your work, ask the organization to write a recommendation, which you can use when applying to your first IT job. In doing so, not only will you build up goodwill, you'll also build up your repertoire of skills for your future IT career.
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.
Breaking into IT: A Game Plan
With this information in mind, you can begin to pursue your new career in IT. While a transition from finance to IT won't happen overnight, there's a path you can take to make this process manageable and achievable. As a first step, we recommend taking our >free career quiz to see what IT career matches your interests and “very particular set of skills,” as Liam Neeson would say. This will help you to determine the right career for you and what type of training you need to achieve that career.
Based on the position you're interested in pursuing, the training you'll need will vary. It may be as simple as taking a class or two at the local community college, or you may need to acquire some IT certifications. Talk to people who hold the position you're interested in and ask them what type of education and training they've acquired and/or what they recommend. They will be able to set you on the path to success.
Once you've gotten some experience and have the training, education or certifications needed for the job of your dreams, it's time to get a job. Remember that you already have many of the skills necessary to work in IT. Tailor your resume to the job you want and tell your story in a way that makes employers see how valuable of an IT employee you would be.
Wondering what IT job is right for you? Take our >free career quiz to see what position matches your skills and interests.