What is Information Technology?
A degree in information technology can prepare you for an exciting career in a variety of industries. As information technology (IT) plays an increasingly important role in business, employers search for skilled workers with experience in handling information technology hardware and software.
Whether you are a student graduating directly from high school or a working professional yearning for upward mobility, the right technology degree program waits for you. From traditional colleges and universities to accredited online and distance learning degree programs, you can take advantage of educational opportunities that suit every budget and schedule.
So, what is information technology? IT is the study of how computers process and manage all manner of information. IT professionals work in all manner of industries, designing hardware, software, communications networks, Internet applications, and more. Because of the broad range of opportunities available to information technology professionals, a degree in information technology can help nearly anyone with an interest in computers find a job they are qualified for in an industry they find exciting.
Students who earn information technology degrees can excel at a variety of jobs right out of college. Graduates with strong people skills can work at in information technology services help desk or at a customer service call center. Creative specialists can design microchips or new software. Skilled multi-taskers can juggle the management of an entire computer network for a company.
The broad information technology field allows students to bring their general computer knowledge into a variety of specialized niches. The world of information technology is always growing and changing, so learning how to keep up with the pace of technology is one of the most important things students learn when enrolled in a degree program.
The fast pace at which technology changes means that many different types of people are required to specialize in a variety of different areas, providing plenty of opportunity for everyone. It is much easier to keep up with one aspect of technology than with all of them. Therefore, it is important for specialists in different fields to communicate with each other.
Working professionals in any industry can benefit from information technology training. Staying current on trends in technology and the changing online environment can increase job security and upward mobility. Employers consider people with advanced computer knowledge and experience an essential part of keeping their company competitive in the Internet age.
Imagine this scenario: Two men work for a large corporate construction materials supplier. Both men have been at the company for the same number of years, and both are committed, dedicated workers. A managerial position has opened up, and both are under consideration for the promotion. The men seem equally qualified as far as experience, attitude, and dedication. But, one man recently earned an accredited online degree in information technology. Which employee do you think will get the promotion?
A degree in information technology won't get you every promotion you want, but it can give you the edge you need over others competing for the same position. No matter what industry you work in, you can rest assured that your company uses information technology in a number of ways. From streamlining order-processing systems to increasing customer service, information technology is moving to the forefront of industry in general.
Designing and managing Web sites is another thing students can learn while enrolled in a degree program in information technology. Knowledge of website design can help you earn money in your spare time designing Web sites for small businesses or individuals. It can even help you start your own web-based business, so you can be your own boss!
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Is a Major in Information Technology Right for You?
Knowledge of information technology can help almost anyone advance in his or her career. But is this course of study the correct choice for you?
First, you must be interested in computers and the ways they can help make communications more effective. The possibilities of what computers can do for industry have just started to become evident. Once people realize those possibilities, they tend to change their cynical attitudes toward computer technology.
Students who pursue college degrees in information technology tend to be natural problem solvers. While computers help streamline business to an amazing degree, they can also slow things down if they aren't working properly. Thinking on your feet, being able to identify, locate, and fix problems in a timely fashion are important skills for working professionals in the information technology industry.
People who work in information technology often work in an environment where they are the only ones who know the ins and outs of the computer system. This means that they have to be able to communicate with their less computer-savvy colleagues in a clear, patient fashion. This requires good people skills and excellent communication abilities, whether it is in-person, over the phone, or via e-mail.
Information technology professionals also tend to spend a lot of time at the keyboard and in front of the computer screen. This means having good manual dexterity, typing skills, and hand-eye coordination. Students who pursue a degree in information tend to already have these skills. If they don't, they tend to develop them quite rapidly.
A major in information technology is suitable for people for all ages at any stage of their career. Recent high school graduates will already have a familiarity with computers, having grown up in the dawn of the computer age. Working adults that did not grow up with computers can give themselves a unique edge over others their own age, while also staying competitive with younger generations of computer-savvy college graduates.
Here are some examples of the skills and characteristics people enrolled in information technology degree programs typically possess:
- Problem solving
- Typing skills
- Communication abilities
- Computer literacy
- Manual dexterity
- Logical thinking
- Critical thinking
- Creative thinking
- Technical writing skills
- Interest in changing and developing technologies
Career Education in Information Technology
Degree programs in information technology vary widely depending on the institution issuing the degree. Some places offer certificate courses in specialized areas of information technology, while other, more traditional institutions offer Associate, Bachelor, and Master's Degree programs designed to produce a more well-rounded student with knowledge in many different areas of information technology.
Deciding on what type of program is right for you can be difficult. The most important thing is to research the programs you are considering prior to applying, keeping in mind the costs involved and how sure you are that this the right career path for you.
Certificates in Information Technology
Certificate programs in information technology are usually six to twelve-month courses that certify the student as proficient in one particular area of information technology. These programs are widely available through accredited online and distance learning institutions.
Information technology certificate programs are appropriate for people who already have experience in the information technology field, but wish to extend their knowledge into another specialty area. Many information technology professionals take certificate courses to stay current in an ever-changing technological environment.
If you are not completely sure that information technology is the right career path for you, you may want to consider enrolling in an introductory certificate program in information technology. These programs will not only give you a good over view of what a career in information technology involves, but help you prepare for an Associate or Bachelor Degree program in information technology should you decide to continue your education.
Associate Degrees in Information Technology
An Associate Degree program in information technology can prepare you for an entry-level career as a help desk operator or computer user. The Associate Degree in information technology is designed to provide the student with a broad overview of computer science and communications networks.
Associate Degree programs at traditional on-campus colleges or universities usually last for two years and require the student to pass a certain number of general education classes before the degree can be conferred. How many courses and in what subjects varies from institution to institution, so be sure to research the program's requirements before applying.
Aside from general education requirements, specific courses in information technology are also required to graduate with an Associate Degree in information technology. Example course topics include, but are not limited to:
- Computer interfaces
- Basic communications networks
- Database administration
- Web design
- Business applications
- Information systems
- Systems analysis
- Technical writing
Associate Degrees in information technology can also be earned through accredited online and distance learning programs. These programs offer the working professional the flexibility they need to continue their careers and education simultaneously.
Credits earned while enrolled in an Associate Degree program in information technology can often very easily be used toward earning a Bachelor Degree in a related field.
Bachelor's Degrees in Information Technology
The Bachelor Degree program in information technology is similar to the Associate Degree program in that there are many general education requirements and the programs seek to produce well-rounded individuals with a broad range of information technology knowledge.
Information technology Bachelor Degree programs usually require four academic years of study to complete. The first two years of study usually include introductory courses in information technology and general education requirements, while the last two years focus on the more specific and advanced aspects of the information technology field.
Typical information technology courses that are offered in many Bachelor Degree programs in information technology include:
- computer interface
- basic communications networks
- database administration
- web design
- business applications
- information systems
- systems analysis
- technical writing
- software development
- information applications
- operating systems
- computer and network security
- project management
- computer architecture
- programming languages (Basic, Visual Basic, Java, C++)
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What Can You Do With an Information Technology Degree?
Information Technology Career Paths
Having knowledge of computers can also help you sell them. Knowing the ins and outs of a quality product, and what specific things make it perform better than the competitor's product can be an essential selling tool in today's computer market. As computer buyers become more informed, their decisions are often based on whether the individual attempting to sell them the computer can satisfactorily answer their questions.
Buyers need to be convinced that the model computer they are purchasing will fulfill their needs. To them, it is an investment, and the computer marketer needs to know his or her stuff to sell them a product that will meet their needs and expectations, thereby making them repeat customers.
Some smaller companies do not have the means or the need to keep a full time technical support team on staff. These companies will often hire technical consultants, either as an independent contractor or through a consultation firm. These individuals charge a specific rate and temporarily aid the company as they set up a new computer system or update their current system. The consultants work with the company to decide what hardware and software is right for the needs of the company. After the system is installed, they aid in training the employees and provide temporary technical support to the company.
If an individual has an inclination for programming languages, they can make a good career out of being a computer programmer. Computer programmers take specific instructions and design parameters and translate them into a language the computer can understand. This means that the programmer must have very good communication skills, as they must understand what their employer wants and then tell the computer exactly how to do it. Programmers usually know more than one programming language, including Visual Basic, JAVA, and C++.
Information Technology Trainer
As schools expand their information technology training facilities, more teachers will be needed to train the expanding technology workforce. Information technology trainers will work in the classroom and the computer lab to give students the skills they need to enter the technology industry with confidence. Information technology trainers are being integrated into public school systems at the elementary and high school levels, as well as in undergraduate college programs, so information technology trainers will be able to train whatever age group they feel most comfortable with.
Preparing for Information Technology Career Opportunities
There are many things you can do to prepare to enter a degree program in information technology. First off, it is very important to gain as much experience using computers as possible prior to enrolling. There are many ways to go about this, from taking computer classes, to having friends show you how to use different computer applications, to surfing the Internet in your free time.
Many people interested in information technology will join Internet chat rooms or receive e-mail newsletters that discuss the changes in technology and the latest breakthroughs in computer science. This helps the student get used to staying abreast of the latest technologies in their industry, allowing them to more effectively make decisions regarding what hardware and software to use. Knowing what is available to you is just as important as anything else in information technology.
If you are enrolling in an information technology college degree right out of high school, it is important to take the right high school classes to prepare yourself. If the college you are considering is a typical liberal arts college, they will require a minimum number of Math, Science, Social Studies, and English courses prior to admission. Make sure you meet these prerequisites before you send in your application fee.
Technical institutes may not require general education courses, but they might require you to have some proficiency with computers and networks. This means that you should definitely take as many computer courses as your high school offers if you plan on going to a technical institute for information technology. Some high schools offer free after school or summer courses for those interested in learning about computers in their spare time.
Many schools also have computer clubs or give students with proficiency in computers the opportunity to do supervised work at the school's information technology help desk. Getting a job in the computer industry, whether the position is sales or service oriented, is also an excellent way to gain valuable computer experience and information.
Licensing and Certification
Though state governments do not require certification for Information Technology specialists, many private companies offer voluntary certification for their hardware or software platforms. Many job applicants and independent contractors can improve their chances for finding quality assignments by completing as many independent certification programs as possible. Most college and university degree programs in information technology use industry-approved preparatory materials to help graduates obtain independent certification without duplicating coursework.