Vocational courses in IT

There are so many students who would love to have a career in IT, but believe that if they are unable to make it into an engineering course, or to take up science in Plus two, this can only be a wishful dream. On the contrary, some of those who have made very successful careers in the IT industry have done so without a background in engineering or even science. Computers and IT is a confusing world which is changing so fast, new developments, new skills coming up every day, that picking up the right skills, and keeping pace with change is as important as formal qualifications.

Virtually any job today requires some computer handling skills. Computers applications are vast and varied, ranging from space exploration to banking, from communications to entertainment. Whether keying in cash entries at a bank, or programming information for a TV reality show, whether preparing computer aided fashion designs, handling airline reservations or an online test for the MBA exam, the growing usage and versatility of the computer, and the ever-expanding reach of the Internet has opened a wide variety of career options for those with an interest in and aptitude for computers.

While most careers in IT require a degree in some computer related field, there are many professionals who enter with diplomas and certifications. There are many jobs in computers such as system analysts, system administrators, database administrators, web developers, cyber security and so on for which training can be through formal degree courses such as BE, B Tech, Bachelor of Computer Applications (BCA) or B Sc ( Computer Science) or any number of diploma and certification programmes.

Some of the jobs you could be doing include -

Systems analysts

 are responsible for identifying the requirements and for producing a design which meets those requirements. They are also responsible for final testing and advising clients on purchase and installation of appropriate computer systems. Work is with software houses, consultancy firms or large computer users.

Systems programmers

 write and develop systems software, which direct the computer and its functions. Work is mainly with computer manufacturers, software houses and R&D institutes.

Systems administrators

 are responsible for managing the operation of a multi-user computer system or network so that it runs reliably and meets user's needs; updates and configures software and hardware; provides assistance to users and managers.

Analyst programmers

 handle user requirements, programming, testing, and installation of software. Jobs are usually with small computer centres - or if very experienced - in user organisations with large computer networks.

Database administrators 

work with database management software and determine ways to store, organize, analyze, use, and present data. They identify user needs and set up new computer databases. Because many databases are connected to the Internet, database administrators also must plan and coordinate security measures with network administrators.

Hardware and Networking 

is another aspect of computers which offers increasing career scope. Working on computer hardware means computer systems, computer chips, circuit board, modems, printers keyboards etc. Networking in computers basically involves joining two or more computers together to share and exchange information. Network administration involves configuring and managing LANs (Local Area Networks), WANs (Wide Area Networks) and VPNs (Virtual Private Networks). You will be responsible for analysing, installing and configuring the company’s network even from a remote location. Monitoring network performance, troubleshooting problems and maintaining network security has to be done on a daily basis. There are MNCs or big IT houses with BPO like facilities with a network as vast as WAN or LAN.

In addition you can work in data entry, programming, cyber security, web development, web administration , e-commerce and many other computer related fields.

Training

Computers and Information technology is a vast and complex field  which offers a wide range of opportunities in all areas of work – software, hardware, operations related jobs, internet and web technology, cyber security as well as IT enabled services of all kinds. There is no strict compartmentalization in many areas of work  and so functions and skills required are interrelated and can be interchangeable too. A broad diploma or degree programme in computers can provide a base of  knowledge  for entry into this field with additional specialized training in areas of interest.

As training requirements vary you can enter the industry with many different levels of formal education, computer related degrees or equivalent courses, but relevant computer skills are always needed. Certification may improve your chances for employment and can help you maintain adequate skill levels throughout your career

For system analyst and database administrator positions, a bachelor’s degree in a computer-related field generally is required, but for many positions, related experience and certification may be adequate. The DOEACC courses offered by most computer institutes provides you with the basic computer skills and training which you can improve upon according to your fluency with computer languages and technologies like C, C++, Java, Cobol, UNIX, Visual Basic and many others. To increase your career prospects in this field, you can learn any number of new programmes, languages and technologies according to your interest and capability. Each level of fluency makes you competent enough to move into a higher  and more sophisticated technology. The “A” and “B” level DOEACC programmes  can prepare you to deal with development of applications for different operating systems, and enable you to take up jobs such as that of Systems analyst, Systems programmers, analyst programmers, database management, networking, coders and so on. The 'B' level course of DOEACC Scheme has been recognized by government as professionally equivalent to an MCA Degree course.

Knowledge of computer hardware is the foundation for a career in computer networking. A good course will familiarise you with the basics of operating systems, microprocessors, peripheral devices, computer architecture, assembly and disassembly, installing various software, configuring PCs, preventive maintenance and troubleshooting. Such courses are being offered by many computer institutes.

The basic qualification for getting into networking is preferably a Degree / Diploma in Computer Sc / Electrical / Electronics / Telecommunication followed by a course in computer hardware. People with non-engineering background who possess good knowledge of computer fundamentals can also enter this field. Moreover, most companies prefer to recruit those with global certifications. Some of the popular International Certifications like Microsoft’s MCSE or Cisco’s CCNA or CCNP or CCIE or Novel’s CNE or Sun Microsystem’s Sun Solaris Administrator is useful for this job.

Most jobseekers enhance their employment opportunities by earning certifications, which are offered through product vendors, computer associations, and other training institutions. Many employers regard these certifications as the industry standard, and some require their employees to be certified. In some cases, applicants without formal education may use certification and experience to qualify for some positions.

There are a number of authorized computer institutes like NIIT, Aptech, Tata Unisys, that offer diploma and certification courses in all aspects of computer usage. The courses include those in computer software and hardware, Java, .Net developers, Web 2.0., desktop Publishing, Systems & Networking, VB Net etc. They also offer some industry certified programmes by global InfoTech majors including Microsoft, Oracle, Cisco, IBM etc recognized world wide. Most of the programmes are practical and career oriented and designed to make students ready for jobs in the industry so placements are not difficult. The duration of these programmes vary from 3 months to 2 years, and as the curriculum is regularly updated, such courses prepare students with the necessary skills to perform effectively in the contemporary work environment.

There are also vocational and technical institutes that offer computer hardware courses.  Institutes such as Jetking  dealing with hardware and networking. Students with little or no computer background can take advantage of starter courses in Hardware & Networking which builds a solid foundation in computers.

To succeed in this field one must have strong problem-solving, analytical, and communication skills. Because they often deal with a number of tasks simultaneously, the ability to concentrate and pay close attention to detail also is important. A quick way to assess one's aptitude is to see whether one can make flow charts and write small computer programs. Many people simply do not have this knack. You also need to have skills in numeracy, imagination,  patience and persistence and the ability to sit for long hours at a computer terminal. Although you may work independently, frequently you will be required to work in teams on large projects. As a result, you must be able to communicate effectively with other computer professionals , such as programmers and managers, as well as with users or other staff who may have no computer background.

The scope in the field of computers is immense. Opportunities for work exist within a wide range of computer companies as well user organizations.  These could include banks, insurance and telecommunication firms to small consultancies and software companies. As the quality of Indian computer professionals is being recognised the world over, a large number are also getting assignments abroad to work on projects overseas, or with computer companies. From designing programmes, to software applications, hardware and multi-media, it is the skills that most employers look for. If you can handle networking, database management, systems programming and are fluent in the many new computer languages and processes  developed from time to time, jobs in this industry will  not be difficult to find.

Diploma holders may start on salaries of Rs.7,000–10,000 with programming jobs earning Rs 5000 – 20000, but can expect to double this within a few years of relevant experience. Additional skill training and certifications can put you on the fast track. Entry level salaries for those with relevant vendor certifications like CCNA, etc can be as high as Rs.20,000–25,000, going up to Rs 50000 – 1,00000 with experience and depending on your computer skills and expertise.

The recruitment and growth in this industry is among the highest. It is believed that around 65% of the world's software is produced in India,  and  some Indian IT companies like Infosys, Wipro, TCS,  NIIT, Zenith computers, Satyam Computers, and others are expanding both in the domestic arena as well as internationally. While the number of professionals in this industry is believed to have crossed the 2 lakh mark, there is still a huge gap between demand and supply leaving a large space to be filled by those with the aptitude and willingness to work hard.

Usha Albuquerque
29 Oct 2012