Even though I have undergraduate degrees in physics and mathematics, I really like computers and would like to work professionally within IT. How can I find a job within IT?
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Thanks for your email. To your question, one of the best ways to get an IT job is by leveraging your knowledge in areas outside of IT. In your case, with a degree in physics, you would be very marketable to IT groups that develop and/or support science related organizations. This is the case because you have an understanding of the work being performed by the organization you are supporting. In your case, you would be an ideal candidate for IT departments within companies that:
- Provide math-related software products/services
- Build products (like airplanes) that require an understanding of physics
- Electronics manufacturers
- Green energy engineering firms
- Other companies in similar industries
Additional advantages of looking for IT jobs within these industries include:
- You will be marketable to both their internal IT and software engineering departments
- You will be able to retain and take advantage of some of your physics knowledge
- It will be easier for you to gain the professional respect of your internal business users because you speak their professional language
- You will be able to design and develop higher quality software because you have an understanding of science that will be incorporated in the software you will be creating
- If at some future point you decide that IT is not right for you, you can more easily pivot into a business-related role because of your physics and/or math background
I give you this advice based on my own experience. I personally have two undergraduate degrees, one in Accounting and one in Computer Information Systems. Professionally, I always worked within IT, but because of my accounting background, always worked on accounting and business-related software applications. My accounting background was of great advantage to me in this role because I had a deep understanding of business fundamentals and processes related to the software I was building. The same should be true for you in the physics and/or mathematics area.
Another thing to consider would be to become an expert in using and supporting specific industry standard software used in physics and mathematics. The products that first come to mind in this area are MATLAB and Simulink from MathWorks. Gaining an understanding of these products will be much easier for you than someone with a non-scientific background. An understanding of these products can dramatically raise your personal marketability to companies that use them.
As a closing thought, if you truly want to move away from the physics area, your mathematical background can be of great value within the IT groups of financial services firms. There is an enormous amount of mathematics done within insurance firms, asset management firms, and other aspects of the financial industry. In fact, I personally know someone who was trained as a physicist and used his mathematical background to become a portfolio manager specializing in the mathematical analysis of stocks and other investment securities. As you would expect, all of these mathematical analyses are done via specialized software developed via the combined effort of Investment and IT professionals. My point here is not that the financial services industry is right for you. My point is that your knowledge and understanding of physics and mathematics is very transferable into a number of other industries.
If you have any questions about your career in IT, please email me at eric@ManagerMechanics.com or find me on Twitter at @EricPBloom.
Until next time, work hard, work smart, and continue to grow.
Read more of Eric Bloom's Your IT Career blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Eric on Twitter at @EricPBloom. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.