Computer Systems Technology

Striving to be a help desk hero or savvy systems administrator? The field of computer systems technology has room for plenty of talent.

What is Computer Systems Technology?

Fast-paced. Ever-changing. Never dull. Join the world of computer systems technology and you’ll always keep busy.

Computer systems technology includes an extensive list of responsibilities. The role encompasses everything from installing new software and replacing old hardware to configuring local-area networks (LAN) and wide-area networks (WAN), troubleshooting and set up. With so many tasks under one umbrella, it’s not uncommon for IT professionals to specialize in certain areas. Problem-solvers thrive in troubleshooting environments while web-savvy technicians may implement or improve websites.

Computer systems technicians are needed in just about every industry. Financial institutions can only function with secure networks, large corporations require updated software to run efficiently and small businesses need someone around to fix that broken laptop. Without computer systems technicians on staff, most employers would have a hard time keeping up.

Who Should Get a Computer Systems Technology Degree

Have you spent hours devouring information about the latest software release? Your passion for computer technology can take you far, but you might still need an extra oomph.

To excel in the field of computer systems technology, a degree is the next logical step. Upon graduating, you’ll be equipped with the skills to problem-solve for different types of organizations. Earning a degree also strengthens your communication skills and teaches you how to manage a heavy workload.

Traits & Aptitudes

Computer systems technology is more than fixing, updating and developing. Learn what else you’ll need to succeed.

Critical Thinker

Take a look at the whole picture to make a balanced decision.

Problem Solver

Investigate new ways to fix a problem (if rebooting doesn’t work).

Avid Learner

Stay updated on cutting-edge technology and apply it to your job.

Communicative

Answer inquiries and train others in a simple and clear manner.

Detail-Oriented

Deliver the best results to customers by being accurate and exact.

Critical Thinker

Take a look at the whole picture to make a balanced decision.

Problem Solver

Investigate new ways to fix a problem (if rebooting doesn’t work).

Avid Learner

Stay updated on cutting-edge technology and apply it to your job.

Communicative

Answer inquiries and train others in a simple and clear manner.

Detail-Oriented

Deliver the best results to customers by being accurate and exact.

Degrees in Computer Systems Technology

What better place to learn about computer systems technology than on your computer? Primarily designed for those looking to boost their job skills or advance in their career, online computer systems technology degrees offer different levels of flexibility. Some programs are self-paced while others follow a strict schedule.

If you’re on a budget—and what student isn’t—online learning can be a great cost-saving measure. Tuition is typically less than a brick-and-mortar school and without a commute, you’ll save money on transportation.

Online Degrees in Computer Systems Technology

Online learning offers some autonomy but remember: Professors will expect you to hand in assignments on time, be communicative and log in for lectures when instructed.

Even with a passion for computers, online learning isn’t always the right environment for every technology student. Characteristics such as being a self-starter and highly organized are often signs you can succeed in an online classroom setting.

How It Works

Today’s online education environments are user-friendly and designed for students with different levels of technical expertise. Even so, it’s always a good idea to tour the course delivery system before enrolling.

To access the syllabus, assignments and lectures, you’ll log on using a unique username and password. You’ll also be able to view discussion boards and communicate with other students.

Some programs are synchronous, which means you’ll be required to log in at certain times to view real-time video lectures or participate in discussions. Looking for more flexibility? A program that is asynchronous allows students to complete their work at different times, based on their own schedule.

Need to contact your professor? They’ll provide you with the best method to reach them; many of them also have office hours when they’re available to answer questions.

Despite being in different geographic locations, you and fellow classmates may virtually work on projects together.

Benefits

In the world of cutting-edge technology, employers want educated and skilled candidates. A college degree or certificate can set you apart in the computer systems technology crowd.

Instead of leaving your job (and paycheck) behind to head to school, an online program allows you to continue gaining professional experience while learning new skills in school. Despite being online, your classes will equip you with the necessary know-how related to computer equipment, networks, tools and maintenance.

Why Get a Degree in Computer Systems Technology?

Potential Career Paths

Computer systems technology programs are incredibly comprehensive. A single degree can lead to vast possibilities. Your schooling will prepare you to work in programming, database systems or computer security, among other areas. In fact, many of these paths top U.S. News & World Report’s list of best tech jobs in 2015.

And, any industry with a computer needs an expert in the field. Your grasp on technology can open up opportunities in finance, healthcare, retail and government.

Job Outlook

One thing is certain: Computers aren’t going away any time soon, therefore the job outlook is promising for the technology field. Some career paths have a rosier future than others, however. Computer network architects and computer support specialists are expected to see faster than average employment growth through 2024. Network and computer systems administrator jobs are expected to grow at an average rate for the same period.

Salary

Computer systems technicians command a range of salaries, depending on their area of specialization. The median pay for computer network architects in 2015 was $98,430, whereas computer support specialists earned significantly less: $58,380. Network and computer systems administrators earned a median salary of $75,790.

Job Variety

Worried about getting bored on the job? Fear not: Two days are rarely alike for computer systems technicians. On Monday, you could be installing new updates on a company-wide network and by Friday, you’re investigating the source of an overheated server room. Each day offers variety and a chance to interact with any number of people.

Educational Paths

Certificates

Boost your credentials and skill set by specializing in an area of computer systems technology.

Program Length

Recognizing that technology is fast-moving and competitive, certificate programs have laser-focused classes that can be completed in eight to 12 months.

What You’ll Study

Designed for the working professional, certificates give students the knowledge they need to advance in a computer systems technology career. Already have basic knowledge? Plenty of schools offer specialized tracks, such as networking or security, where you can build your expertise further.

Earning your certificate can put you on the path to advancement with your current employer or help you land the job you’ve been dreaming of. The additional schooling gives you a vast knowledge of computer fundamentals and provides you with expert problem-solving skills. Many computer support specialists earn more credentials so they can become computer systems administrators or network administrators.

A certificate can also open doors to specialized careers. A network technology certificate, for example, can help qualify you for a career as a computer network architect.

If you decide to enroll in a general certificate program, expect to see courses such as processor design, introduction to networks, LAN and Internet connectivity and technologies for business.

Associate’s

Employers have different education requirements for computer systems technicians. An associate’s degree can develop your skills and demonstrate your passion for the field.

Program Length

Computer systems technology students can expect to devote two years to earning an associate’s degree.

What You’ll Study

Because the field of computer systems technology is so broad, you can choose from associate’s degrees that are general or specialized. If you don’t have much of a background in computer science, a general degree can give you an education in all areas of the field. No matter what, in addition to computer-centric classes, you’ll be required to take physics, math and communications. Already working and need to improve your educational standing? Choose a more specialized area to study.

As a computer support specialist, you may have to be “on call” at irregular times of the day, but many people find fulfillment in this problem-solving role. The direction you take will largely depend on your area of concentration in school. For instance, does your knowledge lie in CISCO levels and how to troubleshoot connectivity issues? Network technician roles may be a suitable fit.

Some of the curriculum for a general computer systems technology program may include network architecture, wireless networking and virtual computer systems courses.

Bachelor’s

In-depth classroom instruction and hands-on learning prepare students to work with innovative technology.

Program Length

A traditional bachelor’s degree takes four year to complete, however, self-paced courses may allow you to finish slightly faster. If you’ve completed related college-level coursework, you may be eligible to transfer some of these credits.

What You’ll Study

A bachelor’s degree curriculum offers a soup-to-nuts perspective on the field of computer systems technology. It also allows students to specialize in such areas as computer programming, networking, web design and computer security.

As more employers seek out computer systems technicians with bachelor’s degrees, you’ll find a range of career options to choose from:

  • Software developers are the innovative minds that analyze a user’s needs to develop a solution.
  • If you enjoy writing code and seeing a program come to life, paths toward computer programmer starts with a bachelor’s degree.
  • If you prefer face-to-face interaction with customers or clients, a support role may be the best fit. Consider a career as a PC support and maintenance technician, network system technician or computer systems analyst.

Upon graduating, you should be fully equipped to manage the latest technology and will have studied such topics as database systems fundamentals, technical mathematics and technical writing and project management.

Master’s

Gain advanced technical knowledge while preparing for managerial roles in the IT field. Narrow your focus by specializing in such fields as health informatics or web application development.

Program Length

Master’s degrees typically take between two and three years to complete. However, some online programs allow students to finish in less time.

What You’ll Study

Because a master’s degree is designed to provide an education in a specific path, you won’t find many general computer systems technology graduate programs. Instead, the degrees fall under topics such as information technology or computer information systems. You’ll then choose a concentration such as computer networks, database management or security.

If managerial positions are your goal, a master’s degree can set your career in motion. Large corporations, healthcare organizations and federal and state agencies often seek out employees with highly specialized knowledge.

With a master’s degree, you’ll be qualified to work as a database and network administrator, IT consultant, project manager or computer and information research scientist. More specialized paths include healthcare informatics specialist and business intelligence manager.

Some of the courses you can expect to see, depending on your area of focus, include industrial logistics, electronic health records, data mining and enterprise risk management.

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