Even before the COVID-19 pandemic turned many office workers into work-from-home (WFH) experts, the trend toward working without having to commute was clear.

As internet bandwidth has become more available, with homes having access to gigabit download speeds, a whole new world of career paths has opened for those who want to control their work hours and conditions. Maybe you want better pay, to be home near your kids or you just like the idea of avoiding the daily drive to an office. Whatever the reason, you can likely find work online.

One of the hottest fields right now on the WFH radar is the information technology (IT) sector. But you’ll first need to learn the specifics to get to work. Fortunately, there are online classes you can take to get that knowledge – and best of all, you can take them for free.  Let’s look at what’s available and how you might jumpstart a new career.

What Can You Learn to do in the IT Field?

Most IT jobs require you to have some sort of experience before you can start charging enough to make them viable as full-time employment. And some are more like a side hustle or temp job.

Having said that, here are some examples of IT careers you can learn online through free courses:

Computer security specialist

The more we do online, the more criminals want to take advantage of us. That makes fighting cybercrime a definite growth industry. A wide range of companies, in just about every field, are adding computer security specialists. In fact, these jobs are expected to increase a whopping 31% by 2029. This job involves planning and implementing security measures for large and small companies that rely on computer networks. You will need to develop the ability to anticipate techniques used in future cyberattacks so they can be prevented.

Many universities offer massive open online courses (MOOC) in cybersecurity. These courses are free, but you will not earn college credits for completing them. However, you can request a certificate of completion for a fee.

Consider these starting courses as an introduction to your field of study. While you’ll need a bachelor’s degree (not necessarily in cybersecurity specifically) for most of these jobs, the median pay is a very solid $47.95/hr.

IT specialist/manager

This job might best be described as a jack-of-all-trades: IT specialists/managers monitor computer networks, troubleshoot problems, update hardware and software and install upgrades. They may work with computers or handheld devices, or other linked systems, such as point-of-sale machines. They also build and maintain databases.

Educational requirements vary, and some companies require a bachelor’s degree while others don’t, asking only for certification of your skills. This type of IT position starts in the area of $41.97/hr.

Alison is a company that offers free IT courses online in information management. Students can opt to purchase diplomas after their course of study.

Programmers

This is perhaps the best-known job in the computer industry. Programmers write computer software. This is known as coding, and it involves creating code in a variety of languages, such as Python, C++ and Java. You’ll need a keen eye and attention to detail to take on this job because a mistake as simple as a misplaced comma can cause a program to fail. Programmers build many versions of an application before they release it, testing and asking for feedback along the way. After it's released, they update it as new requirements develop.

A bachelor's or associate’s degree may be required to be hired as a programmer, which pays around $41.61/hr.

Free Code Camp provides a list of hundreds of free programming courses from beginner to advanced.

Computer systems analyst

This job involves looking into an organization’s existing computer systems and procedures and finding solutions to make them operate more efficiently.

You’ll need to have the ability to understand the kind of work the firm is doing and how its computer network fits into it. Some computer systems analysts help design new networks –making up flowcharts for engineers to follow and determining the speed and memory the system will require. Others may keep the budget under control and ensure deadlines are met and standards are achieved.

A bachelor’s degree is usually required, although, it doesn’t necessarily have to be in a computer-related subject. The median pay for this position is $43.71/hr.

Alison offers systems analyst courses for free.

Web developer

Web developers code websites, creating them from the ground up, so to speak. The goal is to build a website that incorporates all the features the client wants, and to simultaneously make it as user-friendly as possible. You’ll need to know web programming languages as well as the specific needs the clients may have for “front-end” development, which is how the site looks, and the “back end,” which is the code that makes it look and operate correctly.

This is a job that may be found within a company (in a wide variety of businesses), or it can be a freelance gig. The level of education you have is not a critical factor; training and ability are the keys. The median pay for web developers is $35.46/hr. You have many options to pick when looking to learn web development.

Alison offers free programming courses for any skill level.

Computer support specialist

Computer support specialists are troubleshooters, helping users become “unstuck” when they’re confused with a program or website. Patience is a necessary skill if you want to do this job, along with a thorough knowledge of the system they are using.

If you’re looking for a flexible schedule, this job may be for you. Because companies that operate large computer networks have users online all hours of the day and seven days a week, they often need people available nights and weekends.

The educational requirements are variable, from high school completion through a bachelor’s degree, depending on the employer. Median pay is $26.33/hr.

Digitaldefynd.com offers six free courses to get a certification as a computer support specialist.

What You Need to Get Started

Obviously, there are some technical requirements you will have to meet just to take the classes for certification for these jobs. You’ll need a speedy computer, and it wouldn’t hurt to have dual monitors, although you may be able to get along with just one. A reliable internet connection is a must, and checking your current speed is wise so you have time to switch your internet service provider if needed before starting classes. At least 400 Mbps is preferable. You will be watching a lot of streaming video as you take the certification courses, so an unlimited data plan could be necessary.

If you can get a gigabit fiber line, consider it an investment in your education — and you’ll use it once you’re hired, too.

Ready to go?

There are many ways to break into the IT field and lots of free resources to help you do it. Remember that you won’t start at the top, and may well have to put in a few years of work before you make the money listed in this article. But considering the cost of the training and the ability to work from home, your patience may pay off with a new and better career.

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