Why ongoing professional development in IT matters

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The information technology sector is one of the most in-demand, and simultaneously, fastest-changing industries today. This is not only true from a user and provider standpoint, where new devices, applications, and technical capabilities are emerging all the time; but also from a black hat perspective — hackers are continuously updating and developing their strategies for unauthorized access and information compromise.

Close up of a hand on a computer keyboard with coding on the screen and other computer equipment in the background.

In this way, ongoing professional development for IT workers is critical. Not only does continuous learning enable professionals to keep up with the latest and greatest in all things consumer- and enterprise-level technology, but it also ensures that IT teams are better equipped to safeguard important company information systems.

This makes the University of Alabama at Birmingham Collat School of Business online Bachelor of Science in Information Systems an ideal program for both individuals just breaking into the industry and seasoned professionals looking to brush up their skills. Today, we’re taking a look at the advantages of professional development, particularly in the IT field.

The need for ongoing development

While it’s true that professionals in almost any industry will need to occasionally update their skills, this is even more pertinent in the information technology and information systems industry. There are a few reasons for this:

  1. Technology changes quickly. Consider the technology professionals used just a few years ago. Elements like mobile and cloud-connected devices are recent developments when one considers their technological predecessors. This is why IT and IS professionals must ensure that they are on the cutting edge of technology, including for emerging end user devices, digital tech systems, and best practices for leveraging these systems.
  2. As technology changes, so do industry certifications. As the following list from Foote Partners, LLC shows, the certifications available for IT professionals are growing all the time — as is the pay that comes along with them. As new approaches and advanced systems emerge, businesses and other organizations need IT professionals with the necessary, specialized skills to set up, deploy, integrate, and maintain these systems. IT certifications have become very specific, including those just for systems and solutions of certain brands like AWS, Avaya, Cisco, Citrix, CompTIA, Google, IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, SalesForce, VMware, and more. The professionals who take the time to earn these specialized certifications can also boost their pay, potentially by a significant amount.
  3. Hacker activity is becoming increasingly sophisticated: It’s not just technology providers that are advancing their systems and capabilities — cybercriminals are doing so as well. And as hackers continue to improve the sophistication of their intrusions and attacks, the IT sector needs professionals who are well-versed in these black hat strategies and can enable proactive protection.

Professional development for IT professionals is critical, and benefits not only individual workers who can expand their skills and potentially their earning power, but the enterprises that employ them as well. As CIO contributor Stephen Zafarino points out, this is particularly true when it comes to data governance and security.

“IT security talent is by no means cheap, as with all niche, in-demand talent groups in today’s candidate-driven market,” Zafarino writes. “But the real question business leaders are starting to ask themselves is whether they can withstand the cost of failing to catch a cyberattack in time because they lacked the qualified talent.”

Where to focus professional development efforts

There are a few critical areas in which IT professionals can center their development efforts through degrees for IT careers and IT professional development courses. These specialized areas of knowledge are in high demand with employers and can enable professionals to bolster their skills in meaningful ways. These include:

  • Information Security (InfoSec): Security related to the information systems and data used by businesses and other institutions is always an in-demand skill. And because the threats to information security are always evolving alongside hackers’ advancing breach activity and approaches, InfoSec is a beneficial area in which professionals can further develop their knowledge. In fact, CIO reported that 84% of all IT security decision-makers noted that their organization could improve its security, demonstrating a critical need for professional development in InfoSec.
  • Cloud, application, and infrastructure security: In addition to improving the protections of critical information, IT professionals can also boost their skills pertaining to the security of cloud environments, applications, and overarching infrastructure. Each of these require certain considerations and protection techniques to prevent unauthorized access and ensure security. What’s more, because applications can be hosted either within on-premises servers or cloud environments, the security of these elements is interlinked and factors into the security of the overarching infrastructure.

How to support information technology professional development

There are a few ways in which students entering the field, as well as individuals currently employed as information systems professionals, can engage in continuous development.

First, professionals can earn a relevant degree in the industry. This includes a program like the online Bachelor of Science in Information Systems from the University of Alabama at Birmingham Collat School of Business. This program touches on an array of pertinent subject matters in IT professional development courses, encompassing data, asset management, security, networks, and infrastructure. Earning a degree like this provides a key advantage for those just getting into the information systems sector, as well as those already employed in the IT field.

Earning a specialized IT degree is another beneficial way to support continuous professional development. Professionals can select a certification that aligns with a particular IT provider (i.e., the AWS Certified Solutions Architect certification or Microsoft Office Specialist, for example) or a certain skill (Certified Information Security Manager or Certified IT Architect, for instance).

Additionally, there may be opportunities through mentoring or other programs from employers that can help workers update and develop their skills.

Overall, professional development is crucial for professionals in any industry, especially those seeking or already employed in careers in information systems. To find out more, connect with one of our expect enrollment advisors today.

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