Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to understand the career development and employability needs of undergraduate information technology (IT) students at an Australian university, and their relation to students’ career interest. While many factors and stakeholders contribute to student career development, this study focused specifically on the student experience. Social cognitive career theory (SCCT) is used as an approach to understand the students’ needs of career development and employability. Design/methodology/approach: An online survey was completed by 126 IT students to record information about students’ career development and employability background and needs. Findings: The results demonstrate that SCCT helps understand the factors that impact on IT students’ career development, with their outcome expectations and self-efficacy informed by prior studies in IT and their need for access to ‘IT professionals’ to contribute towards their career interest. In addition, IT students rely on academic achievement and experiential learning, rather than career resources, to guide their career development and employability., Research limitations/implications: The data collected in this study are limited to one discipline (IT) at one university, which necessarily limits the generalisability of the specific results. Practical implications: Career development is a complex, life-stage-dependant and discipline-specific process that varies for every decision maker. This research makes an important contribution in presenting the IT student experience and demonstrates how an appropriate career development model can help understand students’ needs. This outcome will help educators better support IT students to build the career interest. Originality/value: This study explored the often-overlooked student experience of career development, providing valuable insight into IT students’ needs.