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5 tips to break into the IT industry


This article has been vetted by University of Phoenix's editorial advisory committee. 
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Kathryn Uhles

Reviewed by Kathryn Uhles, MIS, MSP, Dean, College of Business and IT

We are living in an incredibly exciting time for information technology. Think about it: The tech industry impacts the way we live, work and interact with the world around us. No wonder employment across information technology is projected to grow faster than average, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

If you’re among those considering the potential rewards of a career in IT, here’s what you need to know to get started.

Career-focused tech degrees aligned to skills employers want. 

Tip #1: Look for an area in IT that interests you 

One advantage of IT — its breadth of specialties — can also be its drawback. How do you choose what kind of work you want to do?

Well, start by exploring the broader categories of IT, such as cybersecurity, computer science, data science, software development and information security.

Once you identify one or two of these general tech fields, you can work your way down the funnel of options. Maybe after a little digging, you find you love machine learning, have a knack for working with the Internet of Things (IoT) or were born to enhance the field of ethical hacking. These and other emerging technologies are revolutionizing organizations and daily life, making them exciting fields for driven professionals.

Why is passion important in IT? 

According to, “60% of surveyed employers said that they believe a lack of passion for the work is a reason some employees don’t perform well in their roles … [and] that 76% of employers don’t believe that passion can be learned.”

Finding your passion in IT can lead to higher job satisfaction, in other words, and a greater sense of fulfillment.

The tech industry is also evolving rapidly, which means you will find yourself having to adapt and continually learn. Having a passion for what you do can aid you in staying motivated to keep up with the changes, trends and techniques. Passion can also help you be creative and innovative and persevere in your field, all of which are qualities IT relies on. 

Tip #2: Seek and develop relevant skills

Once you identify the area of tech you would like to work in, it’s time to start building your skills. Earning an academic degree or a certificate is a good place to begin. IT degrees and certificates will introduce you to relevant concepts, theories and techniques that can help you break into IT.

I cannot stress enough how critical it is to learn and understand the fundamentals and to gain practical experience. Take cybersecurity as an example. By having a strong foundation in cybersecurity fundamentals (e.g., threats, vulnerabilities and network security), you’ll be in a better position to apply your skills in daily life. Maybe you learn to detect and avoid a social engineering attack. Maybe you bolster your defenses on your home network. By tinkering and fine-tuning as you learn, you can develop stronger skills that can apply more broadly.

You can also pursue industry certifications with reputable leaders such as EC-Council and CompTIA. Industry certifications can include:

You can also bolster your tech skills on your own time online. The internet offers a repository of IT tutorials, videos and additional information to enhance your skills. Seek out industry blogs, webinars and tutorials. Dig into relevant books. Then, use these resources to practice hands-on learning by building a website, writing code, troubleshooting coding challenges or searching for vulnerabilities. This practical experience will help prepare you for a professional role down the road.

Finally, I would also encourage you to seek out internships and opportunities to volunteer. Not only are those low-stakes ways to develop your skills, but they also offer you a pathway to start on the next tip!

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Tip #3: Network

Networking is one of those things that offers value in just about every industry, and IT is no exception. Looking back, I don’t think I ever encountered someone who was unwilling to help answer my questions. Even if a colleague or mentor couldn’t answer a question, they would direct me to someone who could.

IT, in other words, benefits from shared knowledge. So, start sharing! You may be surprised by just how excited many tech professionals are to receive your inquiries and help where they can.

I recommend you write down your goals before starting to network. You may be seeking an entry-level IT position, or you may just be curious about cybersecurity and looking for more information on what day-to-day duties look like in that field. Once you pinpoint your goals, you’ll be able to determine the best avenues to network and make meaningful connections.

One convenient way to network with tech professionals is on LinkedIn® and other social media outlets. You can also:

  • Attend seminars and networking events
  • Join online communities
  • Participate in mentorship programs
  • Explore your current workplace for people working in roles you might aspire to one day

Just keep in mind that professional networking is more than simply collecting names. Ask questions, listen carefully, engage in discussions and show genuine interest. Do all that, and you will begin to see your professional network take shape and grow.

One day soon, you may even be able to pay it forward by helping others who are looking to break into IT. 

Tip #4: Prepare for interviews

You may not be new to interviewing for a job, but applying for a technical interview is a different experience. In this field, it’s not enough to simply understand theories. Some employers will want to be convinced by what you know, so be prepared with real-world examples. Others will want to see it, so be prepared to practice coding or engage in problem-solving exercises (depending on the role you’re applying for).

What’s a would-be tech pro to do? Practice, practice, practice. There are countless online courses, workshops and industry publications, many of which are complimentary, that you can turn to as you prepare.

Another tip is to study, memorize and understand common technical jargon and abbreviations. You may hear jargon and abbreviations during your interview, and it will benefit you to know them beforehand. (Think IoT, DevSecOps, open source and SaaS, to name just a few.)

If you do get a curveball of a term, don’t be afraid to ask about it during an appropriate time in the interview. There’s no shame in admitting where your skills or knowledge is limited, and it may reflect your openness to learning new things.

Recently, I was in a faculty interview, and I mentioned an IT abbreviation. The person I was interviewing stopped me and asked what it meant. I commended him for doing so, and then we had a brief discussion about how important it is to ask questions when you’re unsure of a term’s meaning. Even when you think you know the definition, you should listen to the context because it might surprise you. (Some abbreviations have multiple meanings; others are used internally and may not be broadly known outside an industry or company.) The takeaway? Ask if you don’t know, and pay attention even when you think you do!

Finally, don’t forget to showcase your skills and enthusiasm during the interview. The interviewer will have already reviewed your resumé, so use the interview as a time to highlight your experience, skills and passion for the job opening. Express your interest in IT in your tone, facial expressions and other mannerisms. One of the most important soft skills in the IT world is communication, after all, so communicate what kind of an IT employee you will be.

Tip #5: Have fun!

Yes, you can and should enjoy working in IT. In this field, there is and will always be something new to learn. Remember, no one knows everything there is to know about tech, so be easy on yourself and have fun on this journey of developing and applying your skill set.

I encourage you to embrace every opportunity in front of you to grow, whether it’s through tech conferences and events (where you can discover the latest innovations) or by growing your network. Embrace the challenges along the way, learn from your mistakes and remember to celebrate your accomplishments. There’s never been a better time to be a philomath in IT!

Build your IT skills at University of Phoenix

If education is the foundation of a career in information technology, University of Phoenix can help you form the bedrock of your career path.

Explore flexible, online certificate and degree programs where students learn career-relevant skills for today’s workforce.

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J.l. Graff


J.L. Graff is an associate dean in the College of Business and IT. He has served University of Phoenix since 2002 and has been a faculty member since 2008. He is a member of Epsilon Pi Tau and a trustee for the UOPX Delta Sigma chapter. He also served as a Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe®) Product Owner for three years and worked on enhancing and improving the University’s business agility. He has served as a member of the board of examiners for Southwest Alliance for Excellence and the Future Data Reporting Group for the National Student Clearinghouse. He has served on committees for Pacific Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers and American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers. He is excited about the current and future state of information technology and helping students reach their academic and professional goals.


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