These days there are quite a few entry-level IT jobs that allow someone to make a decent living. Working one of these jobs has helped you and your family get by thus far. But as your children are growing like weeds, so are your expenses. Groceries, extra-curricular activities and braces aren’t cheap—not to mention planning for college.
It might be time to take the next step in your career now that you’ve accrued some valuable years of experience. There are two paths IT professionals could follow in order to work their way up the corporate ladder.
One route is to become a specialist by mastering an advanced technical skill that’s in demand—such as Unified Modeling Language (UML) or NoSQL. But if you don’t consider yourself a technical whiz and you’re great with people, a more appropriate option is to move into management.
Becoming an IT manager will allow you to leverage your valuable experience to lead and develop a group of individuals. Not to mention, IT managers sometimes have the potential to earn six figures in a career that’s growing faster than average, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS.)*
We gathered a combination of expert insight, government information and real-time market intelligence to determine three things you need to succeed in IT management: skills, experience and education.
What IT management skills are needed to succeed?
IT management is unique in that it takes a lot more than technical expertise to thrive. To become an IT manager you’ll need to have a foundation of practical knowledge, but communication and leadership abilities are imperative as well.
"People are emotional beings that won’t say ‘404 file not found’, but they do have their own diagnostic codes."
One of the most important responsibilities of an IT manager is to lead and motivate a team to ensure they are effective and efficient. IT teams deal with computer error codes and bug fixes every day, but humans are more complex, according to Sean Vogt, director of operations for Greenview Data, a software company.
“People are emotional beings that won’t say ‘404 file not found’, but they do have their own diagnostic codes,” Vogt says.
IT management is an ideal career path if you’re interested in technology, but wouldn’t classify yourself as an expert in the technical arena. “You have to know enough to provide guidance, but not necessary every nitty-gritty detail,” Vogt says.
The perfect IT manager will possess a healthy balance of hard skills and soft skills. We used real-time job analysis software from Burning-Glass.com to examine nearly 65,000 IT management job postings from the past year to identify the top skills employers are seeking.** Here’s what we found:
Hard skills in demand:
Soft skills in demand:
- Business process
- Communication and coordination
- Project management & process flow
- Problem Solving
How important is experience for IT managers?
One way to develop some of the skills mentioned above is through hands-on experience. It’s likely that you’ve sharpened some of your technical skills simply through on-the-job training. Even entry-level tech jobs provide instrumental knowledge that you can use to climb the corporate ladder in the future.
Individuals who provide technical support to end-users, such as help-desk technicians or IT support specialists, have invaluable experience that is beneficial for IT management, says Kevin Morgan, COO of internet architecture firm Anant Corporation.
Morgan says that support techs are forced to simplify very technical information so a non-technical end user can understand. This experience comes in handy when IT managers present to senior executives to get budget approval for IT projects.
Our IT management job analysis helped us determine that 60 percent of employers require candidates to have at least five years of experience in the field. This means all those years you thought you were working just to put food on the table can actually be instrumental in your career advancement.
How much education do IT managers need?
There are various levels of education that can help you land a job in technology. Whether you have an IT certification or an associate degree under your belt, you’ve acquired the necessary knowledge to be successful in your current position. But if you’re still lacking some of the IT management skills mentioned above, it may be necessary to advance your education as well.
Our analysis of IT management job postings revealed that 92 percent of employers prefer candidates to have at least a bachelor’s degree. The most common educational option for these professionals is a degree in IT management.
IT managers serve as the liaison between their team and the rest of the company, according to Hussein Yahfoufi, the vice president of technology at OneRoof Energy. “The ability to translate between technology and business vision is key,” he says.
A typical IT management degree program will provide you with a blend of technical and business skills that will help you develop and manage IT solutions across multiple industries. Students will also become familiar with the latest IT trends—such as cloud computing, virtualization and risk mitigation.
Here are a few examples of common IT management courses that will help prime you for success:
- Introduction to business
- Fundamentals of hardware & software
- IT project management
- Organizational behavioral analysis
- Operating systems design
Make your move
If you’re certain about one thing, it’s that you’re ready to take the next step in advancing your career and supporting your family. Now that you know what it takes to become an IT manager, you can determine if it’s an opportunity that interests you.
If so, learn about how earning your IT management degree online could provide the balance you need to maintain convenience in your life. If you don’t think you’re cut out to become an IT manager, check out these other ways to advance your technology career.
*Salary data represents national, averaged earnings for the occupations listed and includes workers at all levels of education and experience. This data does not represent starting salaries and employment conditions in your area may vary.
**BurningGlass.com (Analysis of 64,193 IT management job postings, March 25, 2013 - March 24, 2014)