What are eight of the best entry-level IT jobs?
The demand for tech talent is so strong right now that skilled IT professionals could spend half their days answering messages from recruiters on LinkedIn. But what if you’re looking to break into the industry and haven’t yet built a professional track record and reputation? In that case, you’ll be looking for an entry-level job that can be a springboard to a successful and lucrative tech career.
Whether you’re a recent graduate or a tech enthusiast who wants to turn pro, here are eight entry-level tech jobs, their must-have requirements and some insider tips on the skills and qualifications that could give you an edge over other candidates applying. You can find the starting salary midpoints for technology professionals in the latest Robert Half Salary Guide. Note that starting salaries can vary greatly depending on your experience and expertise, market demand for the role you’re targeting, and company size. That’s why the guide separates them into percentiles based on the attributes a candidate brings to the table.
1. Help desk analyst
Many tech workers have launched their careers on the help desk. Typically, you’ll start at Tier 1, triage work, where you’ll log incoming calls and offer help for relatively straightforward matters. Calls regarding complex issues are escalated to Tier 2 for more in-depth support. Even if you don’t come in with existing knowledge, what you learn at Tier 1 will help you build a foundation as you move forward in your career. Many companies will provide on-the-job training to help you grow your skills.
- Must-haves: Relevant soft skills such as problem-solving and grace under pressure are essential when working at the help desk. If you have experience dealing with demanding customers — a seasonal job working as a customer service rep, for example — highlight it on your resume.
- Can give you an edge: While you may not need advanced technical knowledge at this stage, understanding the basics of the topics you’ll handle can place you ahead of other candidates. For example, if the help desk fields networking queries, a bit of networking savvy can go a long way.
2. PC technician
If you like taking things apart and, crucially, putting them back together again, this could be the job for you. PC technicians offer hands-on technical support in an enterprise environment. They install hardware and software, diagnose problems and coordinate repairs. These days, many PC technicians spend at least some days working from home, remotely accessing the devices of clients or colleagues to help them with issues like app installation and troubleshooting, sluggish performance, and malware.
- Must haves: You can secure this entry-level IT job by demonstrating solid knowledge of PC hardware, networking and Windows, as well as an ability to learn quickly.
- Can give you an edge: Obtaining a CompTIA A+ Technician certificate is relatively affordable and can be acquired within a few months. While Windows remains dominant, a grounding in macOS and Linux looks good on your resume and opens the door to companies that use those operating systems.
3. Computer operator
Here you’ll keep the company’s IT infrastructure up and running. A job as a computer operator can involve a wide range of functions, including — but not limited to — troubleshooting networking issues, performing preventative maintenance on hardware and software, executing batch commands and checking error reports.
- Must-haves: Because the role is varied, it’s crucial to have technical knowledge in hardware, software and networking. Be prepared to answer some challenging questions about these topics at the interview stage.
- Can give you an edge: A background in Unix can set you apart from the competition, and stellar communication skills can help you seal the deal.
4. Software developer
In this job, you’ll build applications, usually using compiled languages like Java and C++, fix bugs identified by quality assurance and provide guidance and support to the program manager or product owner responsible for application deployment.
- Must-haves: Junior developers typically have a bachelor’s degree in computer science or a related discipline. However, those without degrees might be able to catch employers’ eyes by engaging with the development community through hackathons, open source projects and making their code available on GitHub.
- Can give you an edge: A software developer generally works with a larger team, guiding each project through a development cycle. Familiarity with software development methodologies like DevOps and Agile can score you major points with hiring managers.
5. Cybersecurity technician
Cybersecurity is booming, with many organizations scrambling to raise the drawbridge against malicious hackers, ransomware gangs and other bad actors. As an entry-level cybersecurity technician, you’ll perform hardware and software updates to protect users against known vulnerabilities and monitor firewall logs and network activity for suspicious behavior.
- Must-haves: Most employers expect applicants to have at least an associate’s degree in computer science or a related discipline. However, with demand for cybersecurity talent currently outstripping supply, hiring managers will also consider candidates with two years of work experience in a cybersecurity-related role.
- Can give you an edge: Entry-level cybersecurity certifications are highly valued by employers and relatively inexpensive to obtain. Good options include CompTIA A+ and CompTIA Network+, EC-Council Certified Ethical Hacker, and Certified in Cybersecurity from (ISC).
6. Front-end web developer
This discipline has become more complex in recent years, with end users now accessing websites on screens as tiny as smartwatches and as large as widescreen TVs. Front-end web developers combine an understanding of design and usability with practical development skills in web-related languages to create functional and attractive environments for users.
- Can give you an edge: A hiring manager might see you as an excellent investment if you can prove you’re on the path to becoming a full-stack developer — that is, a professional who manages both the front end and back end of web development. So, if you’re working hard to gain proficiency in scripting languages like PHP and Python or database management systems like SQL or MySQL, emphasize this during your application.
7. Quality assurance (QA) analyst
These professionals are central to the software development process. Before applications, games or websites are released, they must pass through rigorous quality assurance testing. QA analysts are responsible for this, using a test plan and tools to identify any bugs or inconsistencies that need to be logged and fixed before products are released.
- Must-haves: An IT-related degree and a working knowledge of software development methodologies like DevOps and Agile are generally preferred. You must also be an analytical problem-solver with exceptional attention to detail.
- Can give you an edge: You can demonstrate that you understand the basic concepts and methods of software testing by earning the Certified Associate in Software Testing (CAST) certification.
8. Database developer
Database developers (also known as database programmers) create databases, often working as part of a larger software development team. They retrieve, add, update and delete data, mainly by using some variation of the SQL language. Because different database systems use different variations of SQL, early-career database developers need to choose a system to specialize in. (You can learn others later.) Oracle and Microsoft SQL Server are good choices if you want to work in a large enterprise, while MySQL skills are highly valued by smaller companies engaged in web development projects.
- Must-haves: There are two paths to becoming an entry-level database developer. The first is having a bachelor’s degree in computer science or a related subject. The second is to pursue a certification, such as those offered by Microsoft and Oracle.
- Can give you an edge: Don’t have much work experience? Build your own database and add it to your portfolio! What it contains is unimportant — populate it with your favorite movies if you like —but it must be designed from scratch using SQL.
Tips for landing entry-level IT jobs
No matter what IT position you’re seeking, the following tips can help you on the job hunt:
- Use your personal connections. Who you know can be as important as what you know. A family member, friend, mentor or former professor may be able to get you an interview for an entry-level IT job.
- Ramp up your networking. There are several virtual networking options you can choose from, such as hackathons, GitHub and open source communities.
- Cultivate an online presence. Recruiters actively search for candidates on Facebook, Twitter and sites like Stack Overflow. However, LinkedIn is still the best place to get noticed. Treat your LinkedIn profile like your resume — keep it updated and mention any soft skills that can help you fit into a company’s work culture, handle stress and communicate clearly.
- Work with a recruiter. Specialized recruiters, like those with Robert Half, have access to positions you might never find on your own. Meet with an IT recruiter to discuss the type of role you can reasonably expect to find with your current level of education and experience and what you can do to increase your odds of landing an entry-level tech job.
By definition, entry-level job candidates lack the experience employers are looking for. But in this talent-short market, many firms are willing to take a chance on an adaptable, resilient worker and a quick learner.