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Explore: the digital industry

We take a detailed look at the current state of play in the digital industry. From the types of jobs available to the skills you’ll need, you’ll find everything you need to know about working in this sector.

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Digital technology is driving significant changes across just about every area of our lives. New developments and advancements mean that there are all kinds of jobs in the digital industry, creating opportunities for many different professionals. 

As this fascinating area continues to grow, we take a detailed exploration of the digital industry and all it can offer. As well as examining the types of jobs available, the skills you’ll need, and the salaries on offer, we also look at how the coronavirus pandemic has impacted it.

The global digital industry

Let’s kick things off by exploring some of the trends in this sector across the world. It’s a good way of understanding where things are currently, and where they’re likely to go in coming years.

What is it?

Perhaps a better term for measuring this industry is the ‘Digital Transformation Market’. Essentially, this refers to the integration of digital technology across areas of businesses. This adoption of technology results in a fundamental change to the organisation and the way they operate. 

Of course, the word ‘digital’ itself has many definitions and can refer to all sorts of different areas. For some companies, it means going paperless and introducing software and technology. For others, it means a greater focus on emerging technologies such as cloud computing, big data analytics, and machine learning. 

All kinds of sectors are embracing this digital transformation. While industries such as eCommerce and banking have already taken big strides, eLearning, health care, and supply chain are all starting to make progress.

How big is the industry?

As you might expect given the nature of digital technology, the market is forecast to grow significantly over the coming years. According to some figures, the global digital transformation market is expected to grow around 16.5% between now and 2025 (at Compound Annual Growth Rate). 

Currently, estimates suggest the industry is worth around $469.8 billion globally. By 2025, this is expected to increase to $1,009.8 billion. Much of this growth is attributed to technology such as the Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing, and mobile devices and apps.

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How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the digital industry?

One of the saving graces of the coronavirus pandemic is that we’ve had plenty of digital technology to keep us connected. Whether for keeping in touch with loved ones or for working remotely, the internet has played an essential role. So what has this meant for the wider digital industry? 

In many instances, it’s forced the hand of change. Companies of all sizes across many sectors have had to think differently about the way they do business. One survey from McKinsey & Company showed that 76% of business leaders are considering implementing the use of new technologies and systems. 

A further report from cloud computing experts Twilio found that ‘COVID-19 accelerated companies’ digital communications strategy by an average of 6 years.’ When it comes to digital transformation, the pandemic has clearly highlighted the need for new approaches. 

As for specific industries, there are several where the pandemic has had a particular impact. Reports show that the digital media industry saw a rise in subscriber numbers as people sought out information about coronavirus.  

We’ve also seen digital technology being used in response to the virus itself. As medical journal The Lancet highlights, countries are using all kinds of innovations to tackle the pandemic, including: 

  • Tracking the spread of the virus
  • Screening for infection
  • Contact tracing
  • Quarantine and self-isolation 
  • Clinical management. 

Across these areas, innovative technology such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, and data analytics are helping massively.

What kinds of jobs are there in the digital industry?

The digital industry is a broad and varied one, with all sorts of career options available. Given how vast it is, it can sometimes be difficult to narrow down some of the key roles. What’s more, as well as many established positions, there are also plenty of emerging ones. 

If you want to go into the digital industry, you’ll want to start by thinking about some of the types of jobs available. Below, we’ve highlighted some of the main categories and roles that you might want to consider:

Technical roles

Technical digital jobs often require a lot of specialist knowledge and focus on the creation and implementation of various technologies. Popular roles include: 

  • Software developer. Also known as a computer programmer, this job focuses on writing computer code to create and implement new software. It’s often a problem-solving role, and software developers work across all kinds of projects. 
  • UX designer. A user experience (UX) designer works to create usable, enjoyable, and accessible products and technology. It requires elements of design, psychology, business, and technical knowledge. 
  • QA analyst. QA analysts are problem-solvers. They test websites and software to check for bugs and problems, documenting their findings as they go. Often, they work closely with developers to deliver a successful project.
  • Game developer. This role is similar to a software developer, as they design, program, and test games. Games developers can work independently or in large teams, working on anything from indie games to AAA titles.

Business roles

Those who work on the business side of the digital industry often focus on the commercial aspects of technology. Again, the scope is varied, with jobs including: 

  • Project manager. Project managers oversee the smooth operation of digital projects. They bring together other professionals to develop things on time and on budget. It often requires a range of expertise in the digital field. 
  • Data scientist. Data scientists and analysts use technology to gather, process, and interpret all kinds of data. They work in areas such as machine learning to focus on personalised data products and understanding customers and the businesses they work in. 
  • Product manager. Digital product managers oversee the development and delivery of online products. They’re involved in everything from the inception to launch and use insights and analytics to make decisions.
  • Digital marketing manager. These professionals focus on digital marketing strategies for businesses. They’re responsible for creating digital campaigns that promote the products and services the business offers.

Creative roles

Creative digital roles often centre on delivering content for the end-user. They’re usually expressive and more artistic than other areas. Examples include: 

  • Web designer. Web designers are responsible for planning, designing, and creating the layout of a website or web pages. They use code to combine text, graphics, video, and other content to create something appealing to the user. 
  • Copywriter. Copywriters create all kinds of written content for the purpose of selling, educating, persuading, and other reasons. They write articles, advertising content, email marketing, and other forms of media. 
  • Social media manager. As you might expect, this role is focused on digital marketing across social media channels. Professionals in this role work to create campaigns, build relationships with customers and increase brand awareness.
  • UI designer. These professionals work closely with UX designers. However, user interface (UI) designers focus more on the visual side of customer interaction. They design the various elements that users interact with when using technology.

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What skills do I need to enter the industry?

If you’re hoping to get a job in the digital industry, you’ll need to have a fairly diverse set of skills and understanding. Much of what you’ll need to know depends mostly on the role that you’re aiming for, as well as the type of organisation you’re hoping to do it at. That being said, there are some skills that are particularly useful no matter what you’re hoping to do. 

As we often highlight, many businesses are looking for candidates with a range of both hard and soft skills. Although the technical knowledge needed to do the job is important, the less tangible skills that make good employees (such as communication and problem-solving) are also essential. 

Below, we’ve highlighted some of the most useful skills for those hoping to enter the digital industry:

Hard skills

When it comes to the specialist knowledge you’ll need to find a digital job, there are countless skills we could choose. However, here are just a few that might come in useful: 

  • Data analytics. We’re all producing huge amounts of data each day, and those who can analyse and interpret it are in high demand.  Check out our introduction to Google Analytics to find out more. 
  • Coding/programming. Understanding how computers are programmed and being able to write code means you’ll always find work in the digital industry. Our guide on how to learn to code has more details. 
  • Social media. Many social media platforms have gone beyond just a place to share pictures of cats. They’re now a viable sales and marketing channel, and those who can maximise the potential of social are in high demand.  
  • Blockchain. Blockchain is the technology behind cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. As an emerging area of expertise, many companies are trying to get on board with this innovative technology.
  • Content creation. One area that’s common to just about every sector of the digital industry is content. Creating the words, images, videos, and audio that help to inform, describe, and sell, is an art form in itself.

Soft skills

The less-teachable skills are those that are common across just about every sector. Employers frequently look for a mix of the following: 

  • Collaboration. In the digital industry, you’ll need to work with a diverse range of other professionals. Being able to forge productive relationships that bring out the best in others is highly desirable. 
  • Emotional intelligence. This skill is closely linked to the others in this section. It’s the ability to use and manage your emotions in a positive way, as well as to recognise the same in others. 
  • Adaptability. The digital industry moves and changes rapidly. Those who can adjust and adapt with these changes will always be in demand.
  • Creativity. Ultimately, this is an industry that rewards new ways of thinking. Whether you’re creating content, code, or business processes, creativity is a valuable asset to have.

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How do salaries compare?

One of the main considerations for those hoping to work in the digital industry is how much such jobs pay. Again, given how broad the scope of the roles is, salaries tend to vary considerably. However, we take a look at pay scales across the industry, as well as how they compare to other sectors.

Salaries across the industry

We took a look at some of the salary trends across the technology industry to see how much certain roles pay. These provide a guideline of annual salary and range based on experience: 

  • Chief Information Officer (CIO). From £105,000 to £250,000. 
  • Project manager. From £44,500 to £80,000. 
  • Back-end developer. From £35,500 to £80,250.
  • Business analyst. From £34,500 to £56,000.  
  • Social media manager. From £24,000 to £35,000.
  • Digital assistant. From £20,000 to £26,500.

Salaries compared to other industries

So, with the high demand for digital professionals and an industry that’s continuing to grow, how do salaries compare to non-digital sectors? According to some 2019 research commissioned by the UK Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), ‘roles requiring digital skills pay 29% (£8,300 per annum) over those roles that do not (£37,000 p.a. vs £28,700 p.a.).’ 

There were some other interesting findings too. The difference in salaries increases at higher skill levels. For low-skilled roles, the difference is just £2,700. For high-skilled jobs, this figure increases to £11,300. What’s more, the research found that at least 82% of roles advertised online required some digital skills.

Why choose a career in digital?

Clearly, salaries for those working in digital roles are appealing. However, that’s not always enough to tempt someone into the industry. After all, there are many considerations to make when choosing a career path. 

There are many reasons why you might want to work in the digital industry. And, while many of these depend on the individual, there are several notable ones worth mentioning: 

  • It’s varied.  As we’ve already explored, there are all kinds of digital roles available, and across a broad range of different businesses. It’s the type of industry where you can build and develop skills in one area and easily transfer them into another. 
  • It’s growing. The digital revolution is well underway, and the pace of change often seems like it’s speeding up. There will be a greater demand for people with the right skills, and you’re sure to be able to grow as the industry does. 
  • It’s future-proof. With emerging and established technologies, it’s safe to say that the digital industry is one that will last for a long time. Having the essential digital skills will help you now and in the future.
  • It’s flexible. As the pandemic has shown, this is a sector with a lot of flexibility. You don’t have to be chained to a desk in an office – you can take your skills with you anywhere where there is an internet connection.

How to get started in the digital industry

If our exploration of the digital industry has piqued your interest, you might be wondering how you can break into it. In reality, there is no one route into it. There are many ways you can build your skills and knowledge to get a job related to this sector, including: 

  • Education. Whether it’s an introductory online course or an entire 4-year degree, you’ll need to start building your knowledge base across a wide range of areas. Research the requirements for particular job roles and start exploring your options. 
  • Experience. Positions in the digital technology industry can often be reached through gaining experience. An entry-level job can soon lead to one with more responsibilities. Similarly, a lateral move from another industry is always possible if you have the knowledge to back up your current experience. 
  • Networking. Connectivity is an essential part of moving into this sector. You need to start building your network and finding people you can learn from. Check out our guide on how to network for more info.
  • Freelancing. If you already have the skills, you can start picking up some freelance work on the side. It’s an ideal way of getting exposure to the industry and building experience. Our article on how to become a freelance writer has some examples and inspiration.

Final thoughts

There you have it – our detailed look at the digital industry. It’s a fascinating and rapidly growing sector with plenty of opportunities. The types of job roles available span all kinds of different areas, meaning that there’s something for just about anyone.  With the right skills, knowledge, and ambition, you can start your own career in the digital industry.

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