Overview of information technology (IT)
What is information technology?
Information technology, commonly called IT, refers to the use of various pieces of technology and technological processes, such as computers, storage devices and networks, to perform a wide range of tasks.
The increased availability and reduced cost of technology has made it possible for many companies to use IT more, in order to improve their efficiency.
For example, businesses using electronic data capture over traditional methods such as pen and paper can save time and immediately start using the information effectively.
Now that many companies are using the latest software and hardware, information technology has come to refer to all the systems that they use and how they relate to each other – including the likes of physical hardware (laptops, phones, printers and tablets) and systems (such as operating systems, databases and servers).
What is hardware and software?
Hardware refers to the devices themselves, essentially the things you can touch and use, such as computers and phones, while software refers to systems and applications that run on the hardware, the best known examples being things like Microsoft Office and Google's Android.
The growth of IT departments
With the growth of technology and its importance for companies who need to compete in a digital world, there's also a far greater need for workers who have the technical knowledge and experience required to use it effectively.
An entire job sector that wouldn't have existed mere decades ago now employs thousands of people, as businesses large and small assign a lot of value to their IT and digital departments. IT professionals play a major role in managing computer systems that store and organise data.
What do IT professionals do?
IT professionals work on many different projects that are critical to the success of the company, including the likes of processing data and creating systems that organise data, supporting the technical decisions made by other departments, building business software and creating websites. Other key roles include:
- providing technical support to colleagues
- deploying business software across the company
- making sure important information is stored safely and securely
- creating an efficient network of computers
- building and maintaining databases.
It's important for information technology professionals to stay up to date with the rapid developments that take place in the wider industry and make sure they have the knowledge required to effectively look after the company's IT infrastructure.
This can be something as seemingly simple as choosing the right hardware and software to use across the company, which combines efficiency and cost-effectiveness. This may seem like something that's not overly significant, but when you're rolling it out across organisations that employ thousands of people, it can make a huge difference.
Careers in the IT sector
There are many diverse career paths available in the information technology industry, including the following:
- Chief information officer: chief information officers, or CIOs, bridge the gap between the company's business needs and the information technology department. They have to understand the organisation's requirements and develop an IT strategy, as well as devise a budget that meets the company's goals.
- Chief technology officer: chief technology officers, or CTOs, manage the company's current technology and make sure it's fit to meet the needs of the business. This role therefore requires solid business acumen and the ability to spot opportunities and risks, as well as managing research and development (R&D) and keeping an eye on technological improvements in the wider market.
- IT director: people in this role need to provide strategic IT direction that makes the most of the organisation's technical resources, as well as managing the IT department and making sure the IT systems used are scalable and flexible.
- Systems administrator: systems administrators, or sysadmins, are responsible for the installation, configuration and maintenance of the company's hardware and software. Among other things, typically they'll need to be proficient in using different operating systems, such as Linux and Windows, have scripting experience and also experience of working with servers.
- IT architect: these professionals need to understand business strategies and create 'technical road-maps' that fit in with a company's aims and objectives, in order to ensure the technology is supporting the business effectively.
The future of business computing
The evolution of online cloud computing means many companies are increasingly relying on the cloud, in order to do things like access software and applications over the internet (known as Software-as-a-Service (SaaS)).
This increases flexibility and connectivity and allows businesses to access what they need with greater speed. In many ways, the future of business computing will be largely tied to the growth of services like the cloud, which exist in a less tangible sense and are accessed online, via the internet.
Issues facing the information technology (IT) industry
The rapid development of new technology and systems opens up many new opportunities and improves operating efficiency, but it also brings with it challenges that need to be addressed. For example, one issue facing the IT sector is that of data.
Not only is new data constantly being created, therefore requiring a place to be stored, but the lifespan of data storage devices themselves is also a problem.
As many businesses rely on the analysis of data to function, they need to find more space to store important files, and also work towards creating data storage technology that has a longer lifespan, in order to cut down the amount of time it takes to transfer information.
Even the ability to read and make sense of huge amounts of data creates issues for technology departments, as it requires the use of immense processing power, hardware and software that can handle so many processes and bits of data, and also human analysts who can make decisions based on the findings.
Keeping the information safe is also an issue in itself, as there are many intelligent and determined cybercriminals globally who are always looking for ways to exploit weaknesses in organisations' digital security systems.
Businesses need to be proactive in order to stay one step ahead of the criminals, which is a huge ask given the fact that attacks could come from anywhere (and the fact that data is valuable, and therefore sought after).
On a more human level, for companies to function effectively internally, there has to be good communication between IT professionals and other departments (especially if other departments, both nationally and globally, aren't trained to use the technology to its full potential. If technology can't be used to work towards the company's end goals, it's pretty useless).
What's an IT internship?
An information technology internship is a period of time that you'll spend working for an IT company, or as part of a company's IT department, while still at university, in order to gain valuable professional experience and understand what it's like to work in a real-world work environment.
You'll be treated like a member of the team and as any other employee would be, in order to give you a real taste of what it's like to work on business projects and to aid your professional development, by helping you learn new skills.
How long do information technology internships last?
Internships are medium-length bursts of work experience, which can last anywhere from a month to about four months. They are not as short as short-term insight and work shadowing schemes, but they are not as long as most placements are.
They are designed to be flexible and fit in around your university studies, but give you enough time to get stuck into IT projects and get a real taste of what it's like to work in a professional office environment.
What will you be doing on an IT internship?
As IT work experience is designed to throw you into the thick of the action, you can expect to be given plenty of responsibility while working for the company. For example, you could be tasked with measuring the effectiveness of communications within the company and making suggestions on how this can be improved.
This would essentially test your ability to integrate new technology into existing business processes, and measuring the impact this has on productivity across different departments. As well as tackling one major project, you'll also be asked to assist with smaller projects and tasks that pop up on a day-to-day basis.
“Although each intern is part of a team, the intern community provides them with support, guidance and friendship, making the transition from university to the workplace smoother. Many of the interns are from different universities all over the UK”
Every company will have different ways of doing things, so you'll never really know what you're going to be doing until you're there, doing it.
For instance, in the past IT interns have been asked to work as global technology analysts, working on projects like server migrations, documentation, workload automation and running automation scripts in Visual Basic for Applications (VBA).
Other information technology interns have spent time working as software engineers (working on projects like the development of an auto-emailing system for a product, from initial coding / programming to writing customer-facing emails), R&D software developers (working with C++, another programming language, to develop a new tool) and financial software developers (working as part of a research and development (R&D) team on both backend and frontend systems).
What are the key benefits of IT internships?
There are a number of major benefits that mean it really is in your best interest to undertake an IT internship if you're keen on working in the technology sector after you graduate. Firstly, you get great experience to stick on your CV.
This is very important, because there are more students studying and graduating now than there ever have been before, so you need something concrete to differentiate yourself from them. Having applicable and relevant IT work experience will make you stand out from the crowd when you come to apply for graduate IT or technology jobs.
Another benefit that leads on from the last point is the fact that, thanks to your work experience, you'll be much more likely to have the qualities that recruiters look for in applicants. You can read all the textbooks you like, but the truth is that there's nothing quite like doing.
Spending time in a company's professional working environment will give you a first-hand reading into what it's like to work on projects on a daily basis, to work to deadlines, to receive feedback from colleagues, to evaluate, organise and manage your own workload, and to communicate with different stakeholders, both internal to the company as well as externally.
Showing employers that you have this experience, thanks to your IT work experience, will make them much more inclined to hire you over a candidate who has no relevant experience.
Many companies who take on IT interns also offer training sessions during the early part of the programme, in order to give undergraduates more guidance and support and get you up to speed with the skills required to work for the organisation.
This is training you may not be able to get at university, so you'll again be at an advantage compared to those who've undertaken no formal work experience or training.
Not to mention the fact that, if you complete your IT internship and show plenty of commitment and enthusiasm for the role, you'll be able to ask your employer for a reference.
You may even be able to get a few of your colleagues to provide you with recommendations on LinkedIn, something which can be invaluable when future recruiters are looking at your profile. If those reasons aren't enough to get you interested in IT internships, then frankly we don't know what would be!
How can you find technology internships?
Here at RateMyPlacement.co.uk, we list a lot of IT and technology internships that are offered by major technology companies, as well as IT roles in businesses that aren't purely technical.
After all, as already touched upon earlier, many major organisations need strong IT departments in order to compete.
The peak season for IT internships – and work experience in general – is from September to around the end of January (though there are companies who set application deadlines earlier or later than this, so always keep an eye out).
This is when most companies will advertise, when the university year has just started, so it's best to start searching as soon as you get back.
It's also worth bearing in mind that many IT work experience programmes are aimed at second year university students, as opposed to first or last year undergraduates.
Where can you do an IT internship?
There are opportunities across the UK to get involved in IT work experience. For example, Microsoft runs programmes, including placement years and summer internships, in locations including London, Reading, Guildford, Twycross and Edinburgh.
Similarly, Intel runs IT work experience schemes in Swindon, Winnersh and Bath, as well as London, while HP runs programmes in Bracknell, Newcastle, Bristol, Erskine, Cambridge and London.
There are hundreds of other companies out there offering information technology internships, so you should definitely be able to find work experience near you, wherever you're based.
Why should you do IT summer internships?
Summer internships are a popular type of programme for undergraduates, as they allow students to gain experience of working for an IT company during the summer months, generally between your penultimate and final year at university.
However, even though they are more 'condensed' forms of IT work experience, they are no less valuable to your development.
These IT internships 2017 exist to provide you with an idea of what the company does, how it does it and why you should be part of it. If you perform well on one of these schemes, you may also be able to secure a graduate job offer before you've even graduated from university.
On a summer IT internship, you’ll probably begin with a period of training, in order to offer you a foundation of knowledge on which to build.
Once you've completed that, you'll spend the rest of your time with the company working on a range of projects, ranging from business-critical tasks like software testing and carrying out research to compiling reports and analysing data.
In a nutshell, an IT summer internship offers you an incredible chance to get a whole lot of experience in a short space of time.
View IT internships
What are IT placements?
Information technology placements are extended periods of work experience (which typically last 12 months) that are offered to undergraduates – usually those who have a placement year in industry included as part of their university degree course before their final year.
Many companies, especially in recent years, have refined their technology placements and placed a lot of importance on their programmes, to make them stand out against their competitors, in order to attract the best students.
As a result, IT work experience schemes like these are often highly-structured, including training sessions and plenty of on-the-job learning, to get the best out of you.
What will you do on an IT placement?
The work you get to do on an IT placement will depend on the company that's employing you and the department that you're in.
There are many different aspects of information technology that you can get involved in, which should be listed in each placement job description, so make sure you read through each one carefully before applying to ensure it's what you actually want to do.
Certain roles will be much more technical than others, while other IT placements 2017 may include wider company exposure than others (such as marketing or sales).
On some programmes, you may be asked to get involved in tasks like building IT infrastructures, creating new applications that meet certain criteria, ensuring that systems are up-to-date and performing upgrades where necessary.
On IT placements that are more a blend of technology, marketing and digital communications, undergraduates could be required to manage the company's customer-facing or corporate social media channels (such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube), build websites, create multimedia aspects like videos and graphics and work with people across the business to make sure content is accurate.
To thrive on IT work experience programmes like this, you should ideally have an interest using design software, HTML and content management systems to create and publish content.
In more sales-focused IT placements, you'll need to combine technical knowledge with the ability to interact with stakeholders and customers.
This could involve helping users to get the most out of the technology that they're using, increasing revenue by spotting sales opportunities, organising corporate events and promoting the company's technology.
As you can see, every information technology placement is different, so there are opportunities to get involved in a whole host of exciting projects.
What are the typical entry requirements for technology placements?
As IT placements UK are the longest work experience programmes that you can undertake as an undergraduate, it's no surprise that companies can be very selective when deciding which students to accept.
Employers put a lot of time and money into providing undergraduates with inductions, training and on-the-job learning across the 12 month period, so it's not in their interest to take someone who doesn't meet their requirements or show passion for the industry, company and role.
It's because of these reasons that organisations often (but not always) prioritise students who are studying towards degrees that incorporate technical elements, such as IT, science, engineering and business.
Generally, you'll also be expected to be on-line for a 2:1 qualification or greater, while you may also need to have a certain number of UCAS points (gained at A level) and GCSEs in specific subjects (like maths and English) in the bag in order to be considered.
Remember though that each company may have its own requirements, so make sure you check before you apply.
How can you apply for 2017 IT placements?
To see what placements and internships are available and to apply for IT work experience, head to our job pages to see what live vacancies are being advertised.
When you've found a programme that you like the sound of, and have checked the requirements, click on the application link in order to access the application page.
What are IT summer placements?
While you may occasionally see undergraduate work experience jobs advertised as 'summer IT placements', it's fairer to say that these should actually be listed as summer IT internships.
This is because placements are the longest form of IT work experience that students can undertake, and often last for between nine and 12 months (essentially the same amount of time that a typical university year lasts for, hence why they constitute the third year of four year university degree courses).
If you're looking for information technology work experience during the summer, you'd be better off searching for an internship rather than a placement.
What are the benefits of information technology placements?
One of the major benefits of IT placements 2017 is the fact that you get so much time working in a professional role, with an actual company.
This is real-time learning in a real-world environment and the chance to gain top-level experience.
You'll have a year's worth of work experience before you've even graduated, which will either give you a much better chance of applying for graduate IT jobs at other companies, or being offered a graduate role at the one you worked for during your placement.
You'll be able to refer to your work experience on your CV, list projects that you were involved in and tangible results that you managed to achieve. You'll also have been able to gain a first-hand insight into the workings of a business and see how colleagues and departments interact, with the goal of helping the company realise its goals.
By becoming part of this working environment, you'll be able to develop your communication, teamwork, organisational and planning abilities on a daily basis.
You'll also be able to see for yourself whether the industry is right for you, and whether or not you can see yourself working in it for years to come.
Previous placement students have commented on how beneficial IT work experience was for helping them to improve their confidence, along with their time management, presenting and leadership skills.
Alongside all the personal development that you'll benefit from, you'll also be able to benefit from job perks, which could include (depending on the company of course) a competitive salary, benefits, performance bonuses and annual leave.
Where can you do IT placements UK?
There are IT work experience opportunities across the UK, from Slough or Leeds to Cambridge or Edinburgh (not to mention London).
To find out where you could work, either have a look at our review pages to see where students have gone before, see if there are any live jobs available or check out our top employers pages.
View IT placements
Top IT undergraduate employers
There are hundreds of undergraduate employers in the market, so it can be hard for students to see clearly who the IT industry's top companies are.
That's why, every year, RateMyPlacement lists the Top 100 Undergraduate Employers, to give credit to those organisations that deserve it the most (for running the best work experience programmes).
We also split them up depending on what sector they're in, to make it more useful for students. You can see the top IT undergraduate employers for 2016 / 2017 below.
- Microsoft, 6th
- Intel, 19th
- IBM, 31st
- HP, 34th
- Metaswitch Networks, 39th
- Accenture, 50th
- SAP, 65th
- Telefonica (O2), 67th
- ARM, 79th.
- Fujitsu, 83rd
- Verizon, 92nd
Graphic design internships and placements
What do graphic design internships involve?
Graphic design is defined as "the art and practice of planning and projecting ideas and experiences with visual and textual content" by the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA).
If you want to break into the competitive graphic design industry, it's definitely a good idea to become involved in work experience before you graduate.
Very often, companies will expect you to have some solid experience to show you have the required skills before offering you a role, as well as a portfolio of your work. Undertaking a graphic design placement or internship will help you to gain this required experience.
For example, on one of these programmes, you could be asked to get involved in anything from designing web pages, leaflets and advertisements, to working on technical designs for mechanisms and working with computer-aided design (CAD) software.
How will a graphic design placement benefit you?
Graphic design work experience will benefit you by giving you experience of working to specifications and following design briefs, as well as potentially creating work for clients (depending on what the company does).
You'll also be able to improve your technical ability, for example when it comes to using design software and packages like Adobe Creative Suite (including InDesign, Photoshop, After Effects and Illustrator) and Quark.
Being a graphic designer also requires you to work with colleagues on every project, in order to bring ideas to life and meet key project goals, so you'll be able to improve your teamwork skills as a graphic design intern.
We have thousands of company reviews online that have been written by former undergraduates who've undertaken technology work experience in the form of placements, internships and insight schemes (work shadowing).
If you want to get an idea of what working in the sector is really like and which companies offer the best work experience programmes, it's worth visiting our review pages and checking out our IT company reviews.
Computer science internships and placements
What is computer science?
Computer science essentially refers to all the scientific principles that underpin the world of technology and computing.
An appreciation of computer science can prepare you for a life working in the information technology sector, as well as other industries where technology is becoming increasingly important, such as banking, finance, engineering and consultancy.
By completing a computer science (or related) degree, you'll have a foundation of knowledge on which to build, regarding areas like artificial intelligence, computational mathematics and key general-purpose programming languages like Java, C++ and SQL.
Of course, it's one thing to have this knowledge – it's another thing entirely to apply it. That's where 2017 computer science placements and internships come in.
“You’ll get the opportunity to work on real projects and have fun along the way. This is your chance to show off your skills and work on cutting-edge technology. We offer internships in all job families and product areas.”
Why are computer science internships important?
This area of information technology is incredibly important, but to build on what you've learnt at university and apply your knowledge in a practical way, it's crucial that you undertake as much work experience as you can.
Jobs in this sector are sought after and require highly-specialised skills, so the best way to give yourself a chance of landing a job straight out of university is to make sure you undertake some work experience as an undergraduate.
Luckily there are placements and internships in the UK that are relevant to the sector and make use of your computer science studies. The following specialisms are just a few examples of the kind of career paths you can follow.
Computing internships and placements
Examples of typical computing internships (and wider computing careers for that matter) include the following.
- Systems developer
- Software developer / engineer
- IT consultant
- Business analyst
- Games developer
- Database administrator
- Network designer
Find out more about working in software development below.
View computer science internships and placements
Software internships and placements
What's a software developer?
Software development has become a huge area within the information technology industry, essentially becoming an industry in itself.
This is because there are now different specialisms within software engineering, including the likes of web development, application development, system development and programme development.
This has also opened up many opportunities for students to become involved in software internships in the UK.
Software engineers plan, design and create computer systems that carry out specific functions.
For example, a developer could build a software system that's used to sort through financial data or represent data graphically, or they may create a software package that's used to control automated machines in the manufacturing process, or they could build programmes that customers use, such as commercial packages like Microsoft Office or the Adobe Creative Suite.
What do software engineers do?
While the projects themselves may vary, all software engineer roles generally include similar requirements, such as the ability to write test code, iron out compatibility problems, work in a development team, work to project deadlines, contribute to the design and planning process, fix system bugs before the software is released for wider use, and maintain and improve the software once it's live.
You also need to be able to work out what clients want, work to project briefs and be equally at ease creating software code from scratch or working with off-the-shelf packages.
What can you do on a 2017 software development internship?
There are plenty of software placement and software internship opportunities for undergraduates interested in working in this exciting and growing industry.
The work you can undertake on software internships UK is also extremely varied.
Previous students and interns who've worked as developers have been able to do things as diverse as write code that contributed to the effective running of search engines, improve old software systems by fixing bugs and adding new features, work on internal debugging tools and develop new end-user web pages that enhance consumer experiences.
Why should you do a software engineer internship in the UK?
By undertaking a software developer internship, you'll be able to learn how to:
- overcome steep learning curves
- feel what it's like to work as part of a professional development team
- benefit from support offered by colleagues and managers
- work on code that is already 'live' and online
- present your work projects to senior team members
- accept constructive feedback
- develop your technical ability
- work with stakeholders and clients
- overcome problems and work with different programming languages
- help clients to use the system and diagnose problems
- understand what's involved in the development of a commercial software application
- plan your work using methodologies.
As you can see from the list above, the projects you can become involved in on computer science internships London will help you understand a lot more of the theory behind development, and apply it in practical ways.
Web development internships
What is web development?
Without web developers, you wouldn't be able to see this page or use this website. Or any website for that matter.
That's because people in web development design and construct websites and applications that can then be accessed online.
As there are many different types of website, from commercial transaction sites to job sites to news websites, developers need to be able to turn their hand to building different systems and processes that provide seamless user experiences (UX).
“Working in a small team of students, you’ll tackle a real business problem. Your task? Develop an idea to solve it – one that no one else has thought of – and then, turn that idea into a real, proof-of-concept solution. When the 12 weeks are up, you’ll showcase your project to our executives, business partners and clients.”
To secure a web developer internship or career in this IT field, it certainly helps to be passionate about creating great websites and making them as useful and efficient as possible.
Generally speaking, on a development internship or in a development career, you can either choose to specialise in the front-end or the back-end. Front-end developers work largely on the cosmetic or aesthetic aspects of websites, making them look appealing and incorporating web design aspects.
Back-end developers work primarily with code and programming languages that underpin the website and make it work effectively. Creating good sites means combing the two elements, which is why development teams often include front-end and back-end programmers.
What will you do on a web development internship?
The good thing about undertaking IT work experience in development is the fact that you may also get to work in different roles and try your hand at both front-end and back-end web development.
View software internships and placements
Programming internships and placements
In many ways, programming languages underpin the entire modern information technology sector. If you're able to write code using programming languages and are skilled with different types of code, your skills will be in demand for life.
If you have some experience writing code and want to test your skills in a professional environment, it's well worth seeking out a programming internship in 2017.
Many major companies offer UK coding internships for undergraduates, so if you secure a place on one of these programmes you'd be able to gain some amazing experience before you graduate.
For example, you may be able to get involved in the creation of software tools that are used globally, such as debuggers, analysis tools and simulation models.
Then again, on other computer programming schemes you may be asked to work on projects such as web application development, back-end system development or database management. Really it all depends on what the company does.
However, regardless of what your specific tasks are, many programming internships will require you to already have some decent experience when it comes to using major coding languages, like C, C++, Java, Perl, Python, SQL Server and HTML.
Programming placements are likely to suit students who have a real interest in learning more about the major languages that are used by companies, and are studying a technical degree at university (such as computer science or software engineering, among others).
View programming internships UK and placements
Career focus: work as a programmer / developer
If it wasn't for computer programmers you wouldn’t be reading this now. In fact we wouldn’t be able to do many of the things to which we’ve become accustomed. They play a key part in the development of software by using codes and languages that computers understand and then act upon, while also testing computer programmes to breaking point to ensure they do what they’re supposed to. IT programmers and web developers are important because without them and their skills, none of the software packages many of us rely on a daily basis would exist.
Read this blog post here
Ready to apply?
In conclusion, there are plenty of companies out there that offer IT work experience opportunities to undergraduates. To get ahead in this industry, it really pays to have experience before you graduate.
Employers want people who can show that have proactively sought out work experience and developed their own technical skills.
Frankly there’s no better way to learn than by doing, so regardless of what IT career you want in the future, we’d always recommend seeking out professional experience wherever you can.
Luckily we advertise hundreds of student jobs every year, while we also have thousands of IT company reviews online that can advise you further, so make use of these resources to get ahead today.