IT: Those with an interest in maths and business studies can learn a lot

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The Independent Online

What are the entry requirements for this course?

Generally around 240 to 300 Ucas points or the equivalent, and GCSE mathematics and English at grade C or above. Science and maths at A- or AS-level are often preferred but not necessarily essential.

Who applies?

You won't be surprised to hear that an interest in computers is a particularly good starting point. However, those with an interest in maths and business studies can also take a lot from a degree in IT, even combining it with subjects such as economics or marketing as a joint-honours degree. You don't necessarily have to have any prior knowledge of computing beyond word processing and playing solitaire either.

What does the course involve?

Students study modules in software engineering, programming, IT support, network security and web design, to name just a few. Many institutions also provide a placement year in the industry, to give students a better idea of how IT operates in a working environment. Microsoft, Intel and IBM all offer placement opportunities, or students might be placed with smaller organisations and research companies.

Lectures, seminars, workshops and tutorials are all key parts of the majority of IT courses, as well as group work allied to individual research and projects.

Of course, while we are concentrating specifically on doing a degree in IT, you should bear in mind that there are a number of other degrees you can do that involve computers. For example, you could study IT management, which concentrates more on the business and people element of the sector. Or there's computer science, which is about the computer system itself, looking at things such as artificial intelligence, languages and databases. If you are interested in doing a degree in one of these areas then be sure to look into each one carefully and pick the right one for you.

How would I be assessed?

Essay-based coursework and assignments, laboratory exercises, exams and a final-year project. If you take a placement year the work you do as part of that will be assessed by a "placement tutor" or similar.

How long does it last?

Generally courses are three years full-time, although a placement year can bump it up to four. Having said that, often the placement is included as part of the third year.

Are there opportunities available for further study?

Absolutely; there are any number of institutions that offer an MSc in IT.

What career options are there when the course is completed?

The IT sector is well placed in the industrial and commercial sectors when it comes to finding a job. A career in general management or teaching is achievable, or graduates can go for a more computing-specific career: IT technician, systems analyst, or software engineer, for example. If you take a placement year at a company and do well, you may also find that you have a job lined up after graduation - if you achieve the grade they are looking for.

Current student

Graham Hoffman, 19, is about to start his second year studying computer games at the University of East London

"I studied business studies, ICT and computing at A-level. After a lot of research regarding the different elements involved with creating a computer game, I decided that programming was my preferred position.

The course touches on all aspects of how computer games are created; so this means learning programmes such as Director to create mini-games and using Photoshop to create and manipulate images for games.

This year, I have had to complete nine pieces of coursework and two exams for my six modules. I intend to try and achieve my Masters once I complete my degree."

Recent student

Michael Worgs, 27, is director of his own company, Computer Technicians Limited

"My interest in computing grew as I read more about the subject. I spent my IT placement year at BT as an analyst programmer, which made me want to start my own business.

I started my company after my final exams at university in May 2006. My job is to coordinate all aspects of the company, ensuring that the business runs smoothly.

Getting new business can be a tremendous challenge for SMEs (small and medium enterprises). However, we have managed to acquire business from blue-chip companies. I am now aiming to grow the business so that we become a national force within the new three to five years."

WEB WATCH

The British Computer Society (BCS)

BCS is the professional body for those working in IT and also offers additional professional qualifications

www.bcs.org

Microsoft

Get an idea of the career you could aim to have in a few years time!

www.microsoft.com/uk/careers

Computing

The latest news, comment and jobs from those in the know

www.computing.co.uk

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