With almost daily, rapid advances in technology, the opportunities provided in the IT sector continue to expand and evolve at a similarly fast pace. This means that prospective students – regardless of their major field of interest – should do careful research to determine whether there might be a match between their aspirations and strengths, and a career opportunity in this burgeoning industry, an education expert says.
Nola Payne, Head of Faculty: Information Technology at The Independent Institute of Education, SA’s largest and most accredited private higher education institution, says often prospective students will only be exposed to more traditional options, but that there is a world of new choices where skilled graduates are highly sought-after.
“Careers now exist which were non-existent 5, even 2 years ago,” says Payne.
“With this shift, forward-looking education providers are incorporating new technology and new careers into their curricula, and future students would do well to investigate new growth industries within their field of interest,” she says.
“Furthermore, even working adults are now more than ever required to commit to lifelong learning. And adding an IT strength to one’s repertoire within a field could help future-proof your career.”
Payne cites the example of someone interested in studying education, or already working in the sector.
“That does not mean that you only have the option to become a teacher and stay one for the rest of your life. Because as education adopts technology, new professions are emerging. You could, for example, consider specialising in the exciting, very new field of instructional design,” she says.
Instructional designers are the people who help subject matter experts to improve the learning experience by analysing learning needs and processes and systematically developing learning materials to address those needs, Payne explains.
“To some extent, all competent lecturers and teachers design their instruction. What differentiates instructional designers in the digital education space, is their use of technology and multimedia to enhance learning. An instructional designer will match a learning theory to technologies that not only add value to the content to be learned, but also enhance skills which need to be developed,” she says.
In high demand due to the specialised skills required, instructional designers can work across any discipline with an appropriate subject matter expert to bring learning to life on a digital platform. They need to have a solid educational background – normally a qualification at postgraduate level in education – as well as experience working in the industry concerned, such as education or corporate training.
Payne says that it is also worth noting that even within the field of IT, rapid tech advances have demanded swift adaptation from workers.
“Enterprise technology has shifted to include mobile devices, access to some data and software to the cloud, and social networking.
“IT employees have had to make this shift and learn how to incorporate these technologies into their careers. Education providers have had to review their IT qualifications to develop their students into these emerging careers.
“If you are in a career in IT, or intend to pursue one, it is imperative that you constantly upskill and adapt yourself to ensure longevity in your career. It is impossible to predict the future of IT, but the one certainty is that it will change and that change will happen quickly.”
Likewise, someone considering a career in sales or marketing may not be aware that they could actually specialise in the fast-growing field of social media marketing, which is no longer just a sub-function of being a marketer.
Payne says the current technologies and trends to be taken into consideration are:
· Social media
· Mobile technology and the various platforms (smart phones, tablets)
· Cloud services and virtualisation
· Big Data and real-time data analytics
· Gamification of business
· The Internet of Things
· Networking for these technologies
· New hardware (3D printers, drones, robotics)
And some of the hottest new careers include:
· Business Architects, strategists and analysts
· Data scientists who are proficient in big data
· Security strategists and architects
· Social media architects and user experience gurus
· Mobile Technology experts in mobile application development
· Cloud integration specialists
· Game developers
“As tech takes over even traditional fields of study and specialisation, it is especially important that future students carefully investigate all their options, because there may be many more than they, their parents or teachers imagined.
“Then it is also important to carefully consider the best match of course or combination of courses to the envisioned career, and finally the best institution at which to study. Many of these new fields and career options rely heavily on the ability to do, rather than just theoretical knowledge. It’s a new world out there, with lots of exciting new choices to make,” says Payne.