South Africa Computer Science and IT Graduate Jobs and Opportunities
What is the difference between Computer Science and IT?
Computer science and IT (information technology), are two interrelated and often intersecting fields. The role of both are becoming increasingly important to domestic and international business.
Computer science deals with the programming and development of hardware and software. The focus is very much scientific and mathematical, rather than strategic. Jobs include software engineering and computer programming. Jobs requiring computer science tend to be paid better on average than jobs in IT, although of course it is possible to be paid extremely well in IT.Information Technology focuses on the utilisation of computer systems to solve business problems. While it also includes programming and development of systems, networks and software, IT professionals tend to focus on how the product will be used in real life, and they play an important role in strategy, maintenance and support. Jobs include systems analysts and administrators, and tech support specialists.
It is worth bearing in mind that most degrees for either IT or computer science will teach skills that are applicable to both, so a graduate of either degree will usually be able to choose whether to pursue a career in either information technology or computer science.
The South African IT and Computer Science Sector
South Africa’s IT and computer science sector is the most advanced in Africa, but it is currently suffering from a major skill shortage, and is particularly negatively affected by the ongoing electricity crisis. The skills shortage however means that as a graduate, if you have the requisite skills, you will be in demand, and may find it easier to find work than graduates from other degrees. In the “Critical Skills” list put out by the government, the nation particularly needs network analysts, IT security specialists, Microsoft system engineers, network controllers, desktop support engineers and enterprise architects, as well as others listed on the DHA’s website. The downside for local graduates is that these jobs are also offered to foreign workers, meaning that competition can be high.
What do you need to get a job in this industry?
For both computer science and IT, a strong skillset and understanding of the theory behind and application of various information systems is required, as well as the ability to adapt and continually learn from a swiftly changing industry. For IT, some business knowledge is usually required as well.
Areas of Study in Computer Science and IT
South Africa has several excellent universities, including the top two universities in Africa, the University of Cape Town and University of the Witwatersrand. In most universities, the Bachelor of Computer Science will be offered under the faculty of Science, while Bachelor of IT will be offered under the faculty of Commerce. It is also possible to learn computer science or IT as a major of another degree, such as a general “Bachelor of Science” or “Bachelor of Commerce”.
Types of IT and Computer Science Jobs
Many of the following jobs are may be performed by either computer science or IT graduates. It is important to also bear in mind that because the digital world is constantly in flux, job titles and the specific work assigned to each role will differ depending on your employer. Some of the most
In this field, it is usually the case that roles and titles are not exactly standardised throughout the industry, so the work required for a certain role depends to an extent on the size of the organisation and the context of their business. Some of the more common jobs are shown below:
- Applications developerApp developers design and create software applications to fulfil a specific set of requirements. The resulting product is designed to function across one or more devices and operating systems. These are more likely to be IT professionals.
- Computer hardware engineerThis computer science job involves the designing the technical components of computers. It requires hard technical skills, and a modicum of creativity.
- Database administratorDatabase administrators work to satisfy the data needs of corporations by developing and evolving data storage and retrieval systems. They need to be able to define the data, and make sure that it is consistent, useable, secure and recoverable, and accessible in a format appropriate to the data’s end users.
- Computer systems analystThe computer systems analyst is responsible for assessing the needs of an organisation, and enhancing its efficiency through information technology (hardware and software) solutions.
- Network architectNetwork architects create, institute and maintain ICT (information and communications technology) systems, such as local area networks and intranets. They may also be required to test systems and products in the market place, and to solve any problems that may occur after implementation.
- Information security analystInformation security analysts are the defenders of privacy and information safety, protecting networks and websites from the numerous threats that infest the internet, as well as other threats to information security which may come from other sources.
- Computer/information systems managerThe job of these managers is to buy, install and maintain the computer systems belonging to an organisation. They may work either as part of a large company’s IT department, or independently as a service professional. They may also be required to work with the company manager to make sure the system integrates within the corporate culture.
- IT consultantIT consultants advise businesses how to improve and optimise the efficiency and effectiveness of their IT systems.
- IT technical support officerTech support officers are critical to many businesses, and this particular role is rather common at the entry level. The job required of the tech support officer is simply to maintain and observe the communications and computer systems, and to assist with solving any problems that may arise.
- Technical authorTechnical authors translate the often esoteric jargon of the computer science and IT industry into simple, understandable language, so that ordinary people can learn to use technology. User guides, troubleshooting manuals, tutorials and instructions are all amongst the documents that a technical author will be required to prepare.
Industry experience is a great advantage to any job seeker, since it helps prove to the prospective employer that you have the practical skills required for the job. Doing work experience, an internship or a vacation program are all great ways of obtaining industry experience. Vacation programs are usually only offered by large companies, but internships and other forms of work experience (including part time work) may be found at small to medium businesses also. It is ideal to get work experience in computer science or IT, but if all else fails, any kind of job will indicate good things about your commitment, willingness to work hard and pro-active attitude.
ICT Graduate Salary Estimates
Graduate salaries for computer science and IT will depend on the type of job, and the employer that you obtain. The general trend in the job market will also be a factor. Specialised skills, such as Python or Linux, are associated with higher pay.
As an example, according to PayScale, the average salary for a graduate software engineer is ~ R260 000, while entry-level software developers earn ~ R212 250 each year and systems analysts can earn ~ R290 000.
Information Technology Graduate Programmes by Location