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What Does it Mean to Study Information Technology?

Considering the enormous role that information technology (IT) plays in business, it's no surprise that IT professionals can be found in a variety of industries, designing hardware, software, communications networks, internet applications and more. In fact, jobs in computer operations are expected to grow by 12 percent by 2028, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). With such a broad range of opportunities available to IT professionals, earning an information technology degree can be a smart and versatile career decision.

Types of Information Technology Degrees

Information technology degree programs vary widely depending on the institution issuing the credential. From traditional colleges and universities to accredited online and distance learning degree programs, educational opportunities are available to suit nearly any budget or schedule. Some schools offer certificate courses in specialized areas of information technology. Others offer associate, bachelor's, or master's degree programs designed to produce well-rounded students with broad-based knowledge in many different areas of information technology.

Here are several degree options to consider before choosing to pursue an information technology major:

Certificate Programs in Information Technology

Certificate programs in information technology usually last between six and 12 months. Generally, these programs help a student to learn the basics of information technology, from networking to programming to databases.

Factors prospective students should consider

IT certificate programs are often suitable for students who want to be exposed to the field and want a broad understanding of IT concepts and principles. Coursework might later be transferable to an associate or bachelor's degree program in information technology.

Types of courses and clinical experiences

Core courses could include exploring the internet, introduction to programming, visual basic and relational database concepts.

Skills students can learn

You should be able to gain an understanding of databases development, computer programming and information systems.

Jobs related to this degree

You might be able to seek employment as a help desk support technician, a data center technician or network support technician.

Associate Degrees in Information Technology

An associate degree program in information technology typically takes two years to complete and includes a broad overview of computer science and communications networks as well as some general education courses.

Factors prospective students should consider

A high school diploma or GED is typically needed to enroll for an associate degree in information technology. You could use this degree to look for an entry-level job or to transfer into a bachelor's level program. The number and type of credits that can be transferable vary from school to school.

Type of courses and clinical experience offered

An associate level program could require coursework such as fundamental of computer networks, problem solving and troubleshooting for computers, programming principles and strategies in virtual communications.

Skills students can learn

A major in information technology may enable you to learn how to solve software and hardware problems, build software applications, design web pages, install computer and wireless networks and complete other essential tasks.

Jobs related to this degree level

Jobs in this field could include IT help desk associate, new business development associate, software engineer associate or associate security consultant.

Bachelor's Degrees in Information Technology

IT bachelor's degree programs usually require four years of academic study to complete. The first two years often consist of introductory courses in information technology and general education requirements, while the last two years focus on the more specific and advanced aspects of the field.

Factors prospective students should consider

While you may be able to transfer in credit from an associate degree in information technology program, you also can seek admission directly into a bachelor's level program. With a bachelor's degree, you can explore curriculum in greater depth and be able to specialize, too.

Types of courses and clinical experience offered

In a bachelor's degree program in information technology, or BIT, you might take courses such as foundations of database management, fundamentals of computer-based systems and intermediate computer networks and project management in IT. An internship to practice new skills also could be an option.

Skills students can learn

You can learn the fundamental of IT operations, develop critical-thinking skills and be able to determine what existing and new technologies can be deployed small or large scale.

Jobs related to this degree level

You can look for employment as an information technology analyst, IT support specialist, a manager of information systems or a systems administrator. Amazon.com, for example, hires computer and IT employees in various fields ranging from program coordinators to risk specialists.

Master's Degrees in Information Technology

A master's degree program in information technology is meant to dive deeper into the specialized higher-level areas of the field that a bachelor's degree program only touches on. A bachelor's degree is typically considered a prerequisite for admission to a master's program, as it lays the groundwork of basic skills and knowledge that a master's degree program can build upon.

Factors prospective students should consider

To be accepted into a master degree for information technology program, you need to have a bachelor's degree, submit your official transcripts and meet other requirements. Once accepted, a master degree program could provide the opportunity to choose an area of specialization, such as Information Assurance and CyberSecurity, Information Systems or Software Engineering.

Types of courses and clinical experiences offered

Although curriculum varies by specialty and institution, master's-level courses could include: Advanced Computer Network, Fundamentals of Computer Forensics, Organizational Impact of Information Technology and Management of IT Resources.

Skills students can learn

This information technology degree can help you to develop collaboration, communications and real-world technical skills in addition to building knowledge about the principles of programming, database design and computer networking and operating systems.

Jobs related to this degree

With a master degree in information technology, you might find employment as a business systems manager, manager of information technology operations or vice president of information technology. Of course, job titles vary company to company and industry to industry.

Doctoral Degrees in Information Technology

A doctorate in information technology degree is often pursued by students who are aiming for a career in IT research or IT-based postsecondary education. A PhD is more focused on research while a doctoral program could be more applicable to leadership and decision-making.

Factors prospective students should consider

In most cases, doctoral degree programs allow students to further specialize in various areas of information technology. These programs typically culminate with the completion of a dissertation.

Types of courses and clinical experiences offered

Core courses vary by specialization, but could include Cybersecurity Threats and Countermeasures, Enterprise Architecture, Operating Systems Security and Quantitative Methods and Experimental Design in Computer Science.

Skills students can learn

With a PhD in information technology, you can learn how to plan and report on research, deliver instruction at the college level or design and evaluate information systems.

Jobs related to this degree

Information technology degree jobs for graduates with PhDs may include postdoctoral researcher, senior data scientist or president of information technology. While doctoral graduates often find employment at universities, other employment options may include careers in consulting, management or government.

Online or Campus-Based Information Technology?

If you are looking for information technology degree programs, you'll find both on-campus and distance-based choices. An online program could be a good choice if you want to enroll in a school that is far away, but not move from where you live. In fact, online information technology degrees come in many different shapes and sizes. These include hybrid programs, which are a blend of campus-based and distance learning courses, fully online programs, accelerated online options and even joint degree programs. Most online information technology degree programs also use an interactive learning management system that allows you to submit assignments, ask questions and have discussions with other students.

Financial Aid for Information Technology Students

Scholarships can help you to pay for some of the costs of an IT education. Unlike loans, scholarships do not need to be repaid and can offset your overall costs. Scholarships in IT are offered by the groups below:

There are many other scholarships in IT available, so do extensive research. Helpful tips and information on financing your information technology degree, or any education, can be found at our financial aid page.

What Can You Do With a College Degree in Information Technology?

The table below provides helpful information, including total employment numbers, annual mean wages and projected job growth, for a variety of information technology degree jobs. This information is provided by the BLS, which keeps governmental information on various jobs.

CareerTotal EmploymentAnnual Mean Wage
Computer and Information Research Scientists30,780$127,460
Computer Network Architects152,420$115,110
Computer Network Support Specialists185,430$68,860
Computer Programmers199,540$92,610
Computer User Support Specialists647,330$56,550
Database Administrators and Architects125,460$96,110
2019 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2018-28 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov.

Computer Support Specialists

Computer support specialists assist customers with solving issues related to particular computer software or equipment. Many support specialists work inside of a call center, although they may also be asked to visit client locations. Some roles may require support specialists to assist IT professionals working for business organizations. Other support positions require interaction with non-IT professionals experiencing issues.

  • Minimum Educational Requirement: An associate degree is typically required for entry-level computer support positions, although those holding a certificate in information technology may be considered. That being said, many companies prefer to hire candidates with a bachelor's degree in IT or a related field.
  • Special Certifications or Licensures: Computer support specialists may be required to earn certifications for vendor-specific products on which they offer support.

Computer Programmers

IT majors interested in programming languages may choose to pursue a career in computer programming. Computer programmers write and test computer code for computer systems and applications. They adjust their code to ensure each program completes its intended function. These professionals often work alone and may have the ability to work from home.

  • Minimum Educational Requirement: Most entry-level positions in computer programming require a bachelor's degree.
  • Special Certifications or Licensures: Programmers may need to know more than one programming language, including Visual Basic, JAVA, and C++. Additionally, they are often required to be certified on vendor-specific products.

Database Administrators

Database Administrators (DBAs) create and oversee databases which store and organize data important to their individual company. DBAs are also responsible for ensuring that the information collected is stored in a secure manner. Additional duties may include creating database backups, testing the database structure, and monitoring database performance.

  • Minimum Educational Requirement: Most database administrators are required to earn a bachelor's degree in information technology, computer science, or a related field. Employers may also require prior work experience.
  • Special Certifications or Licensures: Generally speaking, database administrators are required to earn certification on the products they use. These certifications are typically offered by product vendors.

Computer Network Architects

Computer network architects are responsible for designing and building data communication networks for organizations. These networks may include wide area networks (WANs), local area networks (LANs), cloud infrastructure, or a combination of several different networks. These professionals must also consider network security and implement measures to ensure company information is protected.

  • Minimum Educational Requirement: Computer network architects are typically required to have bachelor's degree, although some employers may prefer candidates with a graduate degree.
  • Special Certifications and Licensures: As with most IT professions, certification is generally sponsored by specific vendors and is used to signify that the recipient is proficient with their products.

Computer and Information Research Scientists

Computer and information research scientists seek to improve existing computer technologies or invent new technologies to suit their needs. They are required to solve complex IT problems throughout a number of different industries, and use algorithms to make various computer systems function in the most efficient way possible. These IT professionals may focus on computer programming, data mining, robotics, or other computer related fields. Additionally, many computer and information research scientists find work as professors at colleges and universities.

  • Minimum Educational Requirements: For most computer and information research scientists, a Ph.D. is preferred.
  • Special Certifications and Licensures: Depending on the specific industry in which they specialize, computer and information research scientists may need to obtain additional training or degrees in that field.

Information Technology Associations and Organizations

Information technology professionals can join a number of associations and organizations for professional development and support. Examples of such organizations include:

  • Data Management Association International (DAMA) — DAMA seeks to support information professionals through a variety of methods, including local chapters, informational webinars, and more. They offer the Certified Data Management Professional (CDMP) designation, as well as an annual conference for members.
  • CompTIA (formerly the Association of Information Technology Professionals or AITP) — CompTIA is a non-profit trade association for the information technology industry. They seek to advance the interests of IT professionals through advocacy, training, certifications, and educational resources.
  • Association of Independent Information Professionals (AIIP) - The AIIP is an association that seeks to advance the business success of its members. This network of business owners leverages information to benefit one another and provides support to beginning and expert information entrepreneurs.
Article Sources
Article Sources

Sources:

  1. Bachelor of Science in Information Technology Degree, Strayer University, Accessed Dec. 26, 2019, https://degrees.strayer.edu/
  2. Certificate Program in Information Technology, U Mass Lowell, Accessed Dec. 27, 2019, https://gps.uml.edu/certificates/undergrad/online-information-technology-certificate.cfm#tab-two
  3. Computer and Information Technology Options, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Accessed Dec. 26, 2019, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/home.htm
  4. Earn an Associate Degree in Information Technology at Purdue University, Purdue University, Accessed Dec. 26, 2019, https://go.purdueglobal.edu/infotech/
  5. Indeed.com, Accessed Dec. 26, 2019, https://www.indeed.com/jobs?q=Bachelor%27s+Information+Technology&rbc=Amazon.com+Services,+Inc.&jcid=f75d974cf34d64ad
  6. MS in Information Technology, Walden University, Accessed Dec. 27, 2019, https://info.waldenu.edu/
  7. PhD in Information Science and Technology, Syracuse University, Accessed Dec. 27, 2019, https://ischool.syr.edu/academics/graduate/doctoral/information-science-and-technology/
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