What do I need for a new career?

I am a 33-year old police officer who wants to train for a career in IT. I have no real experience, other than using computers as...

I am a 33-year old police officer who wants to train for a career in IT. I have no real experience, other than using computers as an office tool. What would be the best skill base to get? Is it realistic to start on £20,000-£25,000? Do I need qualifications to get my first job, and can I train myself? My other problem is that I live in South-East Wales - I don't see many jobs advertised in the area.

Determination will bring success

Retraining into a different career in one's early thirties should never be taken lightly. Whether it proves successful is very much down to the determination of the individual. Whilst your age itself will not prove a problem, the salary you require might.

If it were usual to start an IT career on £20,000 to £25,000 in South Wales, then everyone would be doing it. Suffice to say, those salaries are the exception rather than the rule. Realistically, you are more likely to start around the middle teens. However, once you have proved yourself within an organisation your salary can rise dramatically in a relatively short space of time compared with other industries.

If a high starting salary is important to you, you may need to consider relocating. However, you will also be faced with a cost of living that reflects that increase and so may in fact end up with a similar disposable income were you to stay where you are.

With regards to the best skill base to acquire, that depends entirely upon your personality. I would recommend doing a general IT course to ascertain which aspect of IT you enjoy the most. Whilst IT development is a lucrative market, especially Internet/e-commerce, C/C++/ Visual C++ or Visual Basic, programming is something people either love or hate.

If you enjoy interacting with others and are a good communicator, you may want to consider IT/network support. Most people get into this area via a helpdesk role, where you would begin first-line support.

Whilst IT qualifications are not mandatory for an IT career, they are useful to potential employers who wish to see a commitment to IT reflected in your CV. Most employers are keen to see a genuine enthusiasm for technology and so if you do teach yourself varying skills during your spare time, that will be considered a positive characteristic.

Finally, living in South-East Wales should not be a stumbling block to pursuing an IT career. Cardiff is currently Europe's fastest-growing capital city. IT growth is inevitable to facilitate that boom.

  • Solution by Jonathon Watts, Computer Futures
  • The panel: Elan, Best International Group, Apex, Computer Futures, Computer People, Monarch Recruitment and ITNTO

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