Information Technology

Power the connection between computer technology and business performance.

What is Information Technology?

Information Technology is a broad-ranging field that puts technology—including computer hardware, software programs and communication systems—to work for organizations.

IT professionals stay current with the latest trends, evaluating and recommending the best software, hardware and security for business and government. They may work hands-on in the server room to install and upgrade a company’s computer system, or they might meet with business leaders to strategize new ways to use technology. Essentially, IT pros are the people working behind the scenes to ensure consistent, reliable delivery of the technology tools that business uses every day—from email programs to accounting software.

Who Should Get an Information Technology Degree

Information technology is a great fit if you’ve got both an aptitude for technology and a mind for business. To join this fast-paced field, you’ll generally need a bachelor’s degree. However, some people break into entry-level positions with an associate’s degree or certificate.

Traits & Aptitudes

If you’re a solutions-oriented thinker with a passion for computers, the IT arena needs workers with tech savvy, solid decision-making skills, and the drive to keep up with an ever-changing industry.

Service Oriented

IT pros help colleagues and business leaders resolve technology challenges every day.

Curious

Stay on top of fast-moving industry trends to make the most of technology.

Critical Thinker

Weigh options and evaluate data to choose the most effective business technology tools.

Investigative

Follow clues to solve IT problems and puzzles as they arise on the job.

Communicative

Clearly articulate situations and solutions for colleagues who didn’t study IT.

Service Oriented

IT pros help colleagues and business leaders resolve technology challenges every day.

Curious

Stay on top of fast-moving industry trends to make the most of technology.

Critical Thinker

Weigh options and evaluate data to choose the most effective business technology tools.

Investigative

Follow clues to solve IT problems and puzzles as they arise on the job.

Communicative

Clearly articulate situations and solutions for colleagues who didn’t study IT.

Degrees in Information Technology

More and more colleges and universities offer Information Technology degrees in both traditional campus settings and online. Ideal for working adults with busy lives, online programs offer degrees at every level—including associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s and certificate courses.

If you choose an online program, there’s no need to relocate to earn your degree. You won’t even need to commute or pay for parking. In an online program, you’ll study at the time and place that’s most convenient for you.

Online Degrees in Information Technology

Today, millions of students are pursuing online degrees, and colleges are changing to meet the needs of adult learners. With year-round admissions, rolling start dates and mobile apps, school is no longer about giant lecture halls and cramming for exams. At some colleges, courses last just five weeks—giving you optimal momentum toward that IT degree.

But before you enroll in any school, check to see that it has received accreditation. This is your guarantee that the school meets outside standards for quality and rigor. Regional accreditation sets the gold standard for all U.S. colleges and universities. For online degrees, two accrediting agencies are widely known: the Distance Education Accrediting Commission and Accreditation Board for Engineering Technology. Federal aid is only available to students enrolled in accredited schools.

How It Works

An online degree in Information Technology, with its emphasis on collaboration and problem-solving, makes logical sense. Whether you’re pursuing a certificate or a master’s degree, you’ll log in to hear lectures (either independently or at scheduled times), watch videos, download course materials and stay in touch with the instructor and fellow students.

Instructors often assign group projects in which you collaborate with teams of other online learners. Concerned about lack of face-time with the professor? Ask about set “office hours” in which you can check in on your progress and ask questions.

Benefits

Almost every employer will require a degree when hiring for positions in its IT department. When you earn an online credential, you’ve achieved the same bar as a candidate who earned a tech degree in a traditional setting. The online IT coursework mirrors that for a brick-and-mortar program, and the same faculty often teach both in-person and online classes. (This is a good sign of a high-quality program; ask about teaching faculty before you enroll.)

The online curriculum is just as rigorous as the traditional degree path—and by some accounts, it’s tougher. In a distance program, you won’t have the built-in accountability of face time with your professor each week. The virtual path demands an extra helping of self-discipline and determination.

But what about employers? Do they consider online degrees legit? In a word, yes—if you attend an accredited program. Potential employers are primarily concerned with your mastery of the material, not the delivery method. In fact, an online degree can be a selling point in the technology field. By earning it, you’ve proven your fluency in the virtual environment and ability to work remotely with your colleagues.

Why Get a Degree in Information Technology?

Potential Career Paths

The career options in Information Technology are limited only by your imagination and commitment. From an entry-level position in computer systems support, to a role as a company’s Chief Information Officer, an IT degree opens up a vast array of career possibilities. Other common career paths include desktop support, project management and computer systems analysis.

Most employers prefer to see a bachelor’s degree on your resume when hiring for positions on their IT teams—especially for management roles. The credential can open up many career paths and positions, including database administration, network (or systems) administration and computer systems analysis. Although each of these roles fulfills a unique function, each one requires critical thinking skills and tech savvy to keep an organization’s computer systems optimized and secure.

Job Outlook

Almost every business and organization needs an IT staff, whether it’s a one-person shop or a large department in an insurance company or government institution. As organizations upgrade their technology and strive to outmaneuver hackers, demand for the profession shows no signs of slowing.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2016-17 Occupational Outlook Handbook estimates the demand for IT professionals to grow at 8 percent through 2024.

Salary

Information Technology professionals tend to command strong salaries. Here’s how the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2016-17 Occupational Outlook Handbook estimates the annual median pay for the following professions:

Computer support specialist: $50,380

Computer programmers: $77,550

Computer systems analyst: $88,890

Network and computer systems administrators: $75,790

Cutting Edge

If you’re driven to stay current with the latest options in a fast-changing field, IT could be the place for you. Businesses look to their IT team for support and advice on the best, most practical technology solutions.

Team-Oriented

In addition to computer savvy, IT pros must develop great working relationships with peers, supervisors and customers. They’re often the people who translate complex technology into language that their less tech-savvy colleagues can understand.

Educational Paths

Certificates

If you’re looking to build career skills as you work toward your degree or are already in the IT field but need to develop the chops to open the door to a new role, a certificate is your ticket.

Program Length

Depending on the topic and scope, certificates can be completed within a few months, or may require a year or more of study.

What You’ll Study

An IT certificate can assure a hiring manager that you’re committed to earning the skills you need to get the job done. Paired with a bachelor’s degree, a certificate in desktop support could open the door to a role on an IT team. Or, a certificate in Cisco networking could have you installing, configuring and operating LANs and WANs in short order.

If you’re eying a promotion to an IT leadership role, a certificate can help propel your career forward. Graduate-level certificates add new skills to your quiver while you’re still in your current role—and show your employer that you mean business.

A few examples of both undergraduate and graduate-level certificate topics are desktop support, information assurance and security, database administration and Cisco networking.

Associate’s

Consider starting your IT career with an associate’s degree, where you’ll get familiar with basic business concepts and practice hands-on IT skills such as computer programming; troubleshooting software and hardware problems; and guarding a computer network against threats.

Program Length

An associate’s degree in Information Technology usually requires two years to complete.

What You’ll Study

With an associate’s degree to your name, you could qualify for an entry-level position on an IT team, such as desktop or networking support specialist. These technicians keep the flow of information moving between networked computers and their users. The job usually involves installing, configuring and troubleshooting both hardware and software systems. Another common starting point in the IT field: security support. These savvy professionals help to safeguard business systems against malware, hackers and other security threats.

If you choose an associate’s program that offers specialized certificates, you might be able to prepare for industry certifications, such as Microsoft Systems Administrator or Cisco Network Security. Check to be sure that the school’s coursework aligns with the corporation’s requirements.

Core classes typically include such topics as LAN fundamentals, routing and switching implementation, computer architecture and networking security fundamentals.

The credits earned in most accredited associate’s degree programs are transferable to bachelor’s programs.

Bachelor’s

Most employers prefer to see a bachelor’s degree on your resume when hiring for positions on their IT teams—especially for management roles.

Program Length

A Bachelor’s degree generally requires four years to complete. But if you’ve already earned science, math or engineering credits from an accredited school, your time to earn a diploma may be significantly shorter. Check with the school to see if your credits will transfer.

What You’ll Study

In a bachelor’s program, you’ll gain a fuller understanding of technology concepts and learn how to apply them in a business setting. Starting with the fundamentals, such as systems integration, network architecture and database design, you’ll go on to specialize in the aspects of the field that interest you most.

The core courses for a bachelor’s degree in IT may include probability and statistics, database concepts, Java programming, application implementation and network security.

Master’s

An advanced technology degree can open the way to professional advancement and more challenging projects.

Program Length

If you pursue a master’s degree on a part-time basis, you’ll probably need two and a half years to complete the credential.

What You’ll Study

With an advanced degree under your belt, you’ll be primed to work with stakeholders, analyze business requirements and implement the best technology solutions to drive business results. A master’s degree in IT can open the door to a range of high-level positions, including project management, software development or a role as a company’s Chief Information Officer.

Unlike an MBA with a technology focus, an M.S. in Information Technology zeroes in on the science behind the computer applications. The topics you’ll study depend on the specialization you choose, from business intelligence to project management to information assurance.

Expect master’s coursework to include technology and management courses as well as classes in cyberlaw, risk management and disaster recovery.

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