Understanding the career interests of Information Technology (IT) students: a focus on choice of major and career aspirations

Sophie McKenzie*, Dawn Bennett

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

    Abstract

    Despite continuous growth in the number of positions in Australia's Information Technology (IT) industry since 2015, only half of Australia's IT graduates go on to work in IT positions. A much-debated challenge for graduates is that the transition to work is complex and often demands several attempts. Less discussed is why school students choose to study IT at university and whether these motivational factors inform their career choice. The motivation to study at university has many potential influences including social factors, prior experience, self-perceptions, intrinsic or personal utility values, or simply the prospect of a good salary. Students' choice of university major has similar influences; however, many learners select their major and enter university without having thought about possible career pathways. As such, without appropriate support during their time at university, students may not translate interest and motivation into career identity or commitment, and they may not develop realistic career goals or job-seeking strategies. To understand the antecedents to career interest, this study investigated the choice of major and career aspirations of undergraduate IT students at an Australian university. The two-year study engaged students in two phases of data collection. First, students completed an online self-assessment of study and career confidence, answering two open questions on why they chose to study IT and how long they intended to work in the discipline. Students then responded to a short online survey about their short- and longer-term career aspirations and prior experience. The results show that the motivation to study IT is based largely on intrinsic interest and enjoyment of IT rather than on external factors such as salary or job security. Most students reported broad career aspirations related to IT; however, students were unable to articulate what these careers might entail and they were unsure about the amount of time they would spend in the IT profession. The study concluded that understanding IT students' motivation for study could inform career development learning activities through which students transform their interest into career choice and pre-professional identity.

    Original languageEnglish
    Number of pages15
    JournalEducation and Information Technologies
    DOIs
    Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 10 Jun 2022

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