What is Computer Information Technology?
Computer information technology is a broad field that is growing all the time. In fact, it's hard to think of a single industry or job that doesn't need the help of an IT professional. Even very small businesses need websites, database administration, and even big data analyses. You can also find work in networking, cyber security, and software development. There are enough specializations in information technology that you can craft a career that suits your individual goals.
Since this field is still very much focused on skills, it's possible that self-taught professionals can rise to the top. There are innumerable books that offer instruction in programming languages, network protocols, and more. And it's always possible to attain a certificate in nearly any technology you have an interest in. However, academia still offers structured degree programs that ensure that you learn everything you need to know before you land your first job.
Alabama has much to offer future IT professionals. The state's many public and private colleges and universities are matching the ever-growing demand for technology professionals. Depending on your specific training and long-term goals, you can find a tech job in Alabama that will provide satisfaction for a lifetime. You might be an IT worker for one of Alabama's many financial institutions or you could join a software start-up. There are also opportunities to work in the automotive sector, not to mention Alabama state government.
In fact, may Alabama tech professionals are able to put their skills to work in other states, or even other nations. This is because remote work is becoming more common all the time. When you can live in a small Alabama town yet earn a salary commensurate with a San Francisco standard of living, you will be able to do very well indeed.
Computer Information Technology Education in Alabama
Associate Degree in Computer Information Technology (AS)
A two-year associate degree in computer information technology is a terrific way to kick off a career. When you work through an entire two-year IT degree program you will emerge with ample computing skills with which to join an IT department. You will also have the necessary credits to launch a four-year bachelor’s degree in computer information technology.
While some feel that a bachelor's degree in computer information technology is preferable for launching a career, a two-year degree has significant advantages. For instance, rather than paying for a full 120-credit hour degree, you can add specific skills and certifications to your associate degree. There are professional associations as well as respected online academies that will provide you with the specific skills you need. For instance, you could add a Cisco or Microsoft certification to your resume. On the other hand, you could take a few courses in programming. When you start a career with your associate degree, you'll know exactly which courses to take, and your employer will reward you one you show them your skills.
Bachelor's Degree in Computer Information Technology (BS)
A four-year bachelor's degree in computer information technology is probably the strongest way to launch a career. During the course of your degree program, you can earn credits in internships and you can also add to your academic skill sets with a minor concentration or a double major. For instance, if you are interested in data science, you might add a minor concentration in statistics. If your long-term goals include business, you could minor in management or even finance.
A computer information technology bachelor's can also help you in the long-term. Once you have a full four-year degree, you can easily apply for a master’s degree in information technology, computer science, or even an MBA. Since there's no better way to reach the C-suites than by earning an MBA, you should certainly start your career with a bachelor’s degree if that is your goal.
Master's Degree in Computer Information Technology (MS or MC)
When you work towards a graduate degree in computer information technology, you can narrow your focus to specific areas that most intrigue you. For instance, you could delve deeper into database management, management information systems, networking, or even cyber security. When you complete a master’s degree, your dedication will be rewarded with a higher salary and perhaps a promotion.
You might also seek out an Alabama MBA degree program that offers an information technology concentration. This solution will provide you with vital business skills and knowledge while also providing added insights into your primary high technology profession. Another option is to find a dual-MBA program that pairs business with your favorite tech specialty. Essentially, any master’s degree program in computer information technology will boost your career. When you advance your skills and credentials, employers and clients alike will value as the highly skilled professional that you are.
PhD Degree in Computer Information Technology (PhD)
Since more and more top offices are filled with graduate degrees, one way to help yourself stand out is by earning a PhD in computer information technology. Actually, for your PhD, you might find that you need a very specific focus. That is, if you are interested in cyber security, you might hone your focus down to cryptography or even a subset of that field. Blockchain technology, for instance, might be a good general subject for your dissertation.
Not only will a PhD help you rise above the rest in competition for a top position, but it will also open up new avenues. For instance, you could spend time working as a researcher either for a private firm or a university. You could also use your doctoral credentials to land a full-time position teaching for a college or university. Whichever way you go in terms of your employment, your credentials will establish you as a thought leader in the field of Information Technology. You might be asked to speak at conferences and your research work will surely turn heads when you have it published.
Become a Computer Information Technology Expert in Alabama
Alabama, like other states, is in need of information technology specialists with top degrees in computer information technology. If you have the necessary skills, you can launch a terrific career in this ever-growing state. For instance, you might pursue a specialty area such as data science, software development, web development, cyber security, or work as a support specialist.
To get started, you might first explore your local community college to see if they offer a degree in computer information technology or something similar in the realm of computer science. An associate degree in computer science or IT can help you land an entry-level position with a great firm. You might also pursue training in non-academic venues where the non-credit courses will be far more affordable. There you might pick up skills specific to programming, data analytics, networking, or cyber security, to name a few options. When you show an employer that you have completed a full degree program and also have focused training, your knowledge plus initiative will surely impress them.
You can also consider a professional certification in a specific platform like Cisco, Microsoft, or Linux. You can find certification programs for any particular aspect of their product line, such as their servers, networks, and databases. There are also professional associations that offer focused certificates that may require ongoing education to keep the credentials current.
As your career progresses, you will likely need to complete your formal education with a bachelor's degree in information technology, if not a master’s degree. These academic degrees will help especially if you wish to rise into management. If you have your eye on the C-suites, you will probably need to consider an MBA with a concentration in your chosen tech specialty. If you have the time for a full-time program you might also consider a dual MBA degree that pairs business skills and knowledge with your technology focus and results in two master’s degrees.
Best College Programs in Alabama for Computer Information Technology
- Columbia Southern University:
CSU offers several options for the tech-savvy student. You can graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and concentrate in information technology. They also offer two degrees that focus squarely on technology – a BS in Information Systems and Cyber Security and a BS in Information Technology.
- University of South Alabama:
USA has a swath of terrific options for all students. For those interested in computer information technology degrees, their School of Computing offers bachelor's degrees in Computer Science, Information Systems, Information Technology, and Health Informatics. If you're interested in cyber security, the University of South Alabama is a designated Center of Academic Excellence by the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security.
- Tuskegee University:
This historically black university excels in many areas, including information technology. Undergraduate students can earn bachelor's degrees in Information Technology, Computer Engineering, or Computer Science. In fact, their Computer Science degree is accredited by ABET, a national accrediting agency.
- Athens State University:
Students who want a well-rounded education including a BS in Information Technology should apply to Athens State University. Their Computer Science program is ABET accredited which lends it national esteem. Students can concentrate in information security if they choose. ASU also offers a full major in Information Technology.
- Auburn University:
Alabama has many fine universities, but Auburn stands out as one of the best. The Samuel Ginn College of Engineering offers AU students bachelor's degree options in Computer Science, Software Engineering, and more. In fact, AU offers an online BS in Computer Science degree and their graduate offerings have an even broader scope.
- Oakwood University:
The Business and Information Systems Department at Oakwood University prepares students for success in the world of commerce. For those with a tech-savvy bent, OU offers a degree in management information systems (MIS) which can lead to great success. Their business programs are accredited by ACBSP, a national accrediting agency.
Careers for CIT (CIS) Graduates
- Data Scientist / Big Data Analyst:
This specialty area is in demand wherever organizations need to assess large volumes of data. That is to say, nearly every organization needs a data science specialist. To launch into this data analyst career, students will need to have a strong background in statistics and computer science. One key programming language that this field currently demands is Python. It's also recommended that students seek out a master’s degree to ensure success.
- Network Architect:
Designing, refining, and maintaining networks are the three general areas of concern for a network architect. Students can launch into this field with an associate degree in information technology but it won't hurt to have a certificate in a specific technology such as Microsoft or Cisco Systems.
- Computer Systems Analyst:
You'll probably need a bachelor degree to begin a career as a computer systems analyst. If you major in IT, you could minor in business management to help you get your foot in the door. There are also degrees in management information systems which should help you in this field.
- Information Security Analyst:
Cyber security is a huge issue these days, and computer science departments are answering the demand. Seek out a program that has been designated as a Center of Academic Excellence by the NSA and the Department of Homeland Security. Though you can launch a career with a bachelor of science degree, you may need to pursue a master’s degree later in cyber security to enter a position as a cyber security analyst.
- Computer Programmers:
Though the demand for this specific job description seems to be on the wane, there is always a high demand for these skills. Once you know a few key languages you'll be able to launch a career in software development or software engineering. This is one field where self-taught programmers can still thrive. As long as you have the talent and knowledge necessary, hiring managers will want to speak with you.
- Database Administrators:
Every organization of any significant size maintains a database of vital data. Thus, they need a technology professional to administer all of that information. Once you learn a few database languages, often versions of SQL, you can launch a career in database management and administration. However, a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science or Information Technology will provide a stronger foundation.
- Software Developers:
With a strong set of programming skills and a talent for coding you can launch into the world of software development. You can gain your skills through a Bachelor of Science degree program or you could even get started with an Associate of Science in Computer Science.
- Information Technology Professor:
To teach at the college level, you need a master’s degree at a minimum. However, if you want a full-time tenure-track position you will probably need a PhD. In either case, colleges and universities will appreciate a deep resume full of interesting projects and professional accomplishments.