The increasing demand for tech workers coupled with growing salaries makes information technology quite the promising career path. As a result, many job seekers are eager to hitch their wagons to this industry’s star and try to land entry-level IT jobs.
But where exactly do you start when trying to launch yourself into the tech field? What is the best starting position to aim for?
Fortunately, there are numerous roles that can help you begin your career. Here are eight entry-level tech jobs, their requirements and the starting salary midpoints (or median national salaries) based on data from the Robert Half Technology 2020 Salary Guide — as well as some tips on how to land them. Keep in mind that compensation is affected by many factors, including labor market demand for the position, job location and individual negotiation during the hiring process, so salary expectations may be higher or lower than what we show here. Our Salary Calculator can give you a closer estimate for specific cities.
1. Help desk analyst
Many tech workers have debuted on the help desk. Typically, you’ll start off at Tier 1, which is triage work where calls regarding complex issues are processed to Tier 2 for more in-depth support. At Tier 1, you’ll be logging incoming calls and offering help for relatively straightforward matters.
- Requirements: Soft skills are a must when working the help desk, especially communication and problem solving. Previous customer service experience is a plus. While you may not need technical knowledge at this entry stage, understanding the topics you’ll handle can be a big help. For example, if the help desk fields networking queries, a bit of networking savvy will be beneficial. Even if you don’t come 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.
- Midpoint salary: $40,500 for Tier 1 and $50,000 for Tier 2
2. PC technician
If you like taking things apart and 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 professionals can assist users in a live environment or work on large-scale setups in new offices.
- Requirements: 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. Additionally, consider obtaining a CompTIA A+ Technician certificate. The designation is relatively affordable and can be acquired in a few months.
- Midpoint salary: $40,250
3. Computer operator
Here you’ll keep the 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.
- Requirements: Because the role is varied, it’s crucial to have technical knowledge in areas like hardware, software and networking. Be prepared to answer some challenging questions about these topics at the interview stage. A background in Unix can set you apart from the competition and stellar communication skills can help you seal the deal.
- Midpoint salary: $42,250
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 be responsible for deployment. A software developer generally works with a larger team, guiding each project through a development cycle, so understanding Agile can score you major points with hiring managers.
- Requirements: An IT-related degree is a must when applying for junior developer positions. 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.
- Midpoint salary: $120,750
5. Technical writer
Technical writers produce documentation related to a company’s products, processes or services. This can include user manuals, white papers or answers to online FAQs. Whenever there is a need for clear copy, technical writers leap into action. While it’s not an IT position, per se, this entry-level IT job can help you get your foot in the door.
- Requirements: You’ll need a strong writing portfolio to impress employers. Remember that technical writing isn’t about creative flair. Rather it’s focused on the clear and objective transmission of information. That requires excellent written communication skills, an analytical mindset and the ability to break down complicated matters into easily understandable terms and steps.
- Midpoint salary: $68,500
6. Front-end web developer
This discipline has become more complex in recent years, as users are now accessing websites on screens as small as smartphones 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.
- Midpoint salary: $81,750
7. Quality assurance (QA) analyst
These professionals are central to the software development process. Before applications, games or websites are released, they have to 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.
- Requirements: An IT-related degree is generally preferred, as well as a working knowledge of software development methodologies like Agile. More importantly, you’ll need to be an analytical problem-solver with exceptional attention to detail.
- Midpoint salary: $76,500
8. Database administrator (DBA)
DBAs are tasked with the operational side of database management. This includes functions such as managing permissions, improving performance and testing modifications. You’ll collaborate with information systems managers and application development teams to help meet organizational needs.
- Requirements: Entry-level DBA jobs can be hard to come by, as many organizations don’t want inexperienced employees working within their production databases and therefore don’t have DBA roles at the starting level. Consider pursuing a recognized qualification, such as those from Microsoft or Oracle. Demonstrating outstanding knowledge of SQL and enterprise database environments can get you started on this career path.
- Midpoint salary: $100,250
Tips for landing an entry-level IT job
Apart from Tier 1 help desk analysts, you might not see many of the positions above advertised. But that’s not to say these jobs don’t exist. You just need to know how to find them.
- Use your personal connections. Locating a work opportunity is often all in who you know. A family member, friend or former colleague may be able to get you an interview for an entry-level IT job.
- Ramp up your networking. Conventions, seminars and industry gatherings are all excellent ways to meet potential employers. IT professionals also have some unique networking options, 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 make it as attractive as possible to hiring managers.
- Work with a recruiter. Specialized staffing professionals have access to positions you might never find on your own. Meet with a recruiter to discuss the type of role you can reasonably expect to find with your current level of education and experience, as well as what you can do to increase your odds of landing an entry-level tech job.
Whether you’re a novice, a recent graduate or a tech enthusiast who wants to turn pro, you should be able to find a position that suits you.