How to Become a Computer Information Technologist in Alabama

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What is Computer Information Technology?

Alabama's economy is a diverse and growing landscape that has opportunities for every sort of interest and ability. Their top industries include manufacturing, which ranks #23 nationwide, real estate, business services, social services such as healthcare, and retail trade. They've also seen rapid growth in areas such as waste services, hospitality & food service, and even arts/entertainment. Alabama is also home to the financial services behemoth Regions Financial, which calls Birmingham home.

While each of these industries is unique and has its own particular staffing needs, they all have one thing in common – computers. Even the construction segment has a need for computing power to help with payroll and other functions. Larger organizations will naturally have more need for computer information technology professionals and may have their own IT departments. Meanwhile, smaller businesses may outsource their IT needs to smaller firms or even individuals who work on a freelance or contract basis. For instance, there are database professionals who work independently and from home to help smaller businesses meet their database needs.

Thus, it's clear that Alabama must continue to grow and develop enough IT professionals to meet the growing demand. The state is able to do this by bolstering educational programs for information technology and computer science degrees. The state sends funds to schools so that they can hire the best IT educators. This push can start with high schools, which increasingly offer computing courses, and picks up steam in the community college system.

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Computer Information Technology Education in Alabama

Associate Degree in Computer Information Technology (AS)

A two-year associate computer information technology degree is often all the preparation professionals need to enter an IT career. The curriculum for a two-year IT major concentration introduces students to key topics in IT such as database technology, networking, and even computer programming. On top of that, an Alabama community college requires that all associate degree graduates complete the core college liberal arts curriculum including composition, mathematics, science, and social sciences.

A two-year community college degree is a good idea for other reasons, too. For example, Alabama community colleges charge students far less per credit hour than four-year colleges and universities. That makes an associate degree a great financial idea, even for those who intend to complete a bachelor's degree from a college or university. During that two-year period, students pay less but they’ll still have excellent instruction in smaller classes than their friends at Auburn or University of Alabama.

Bachelor's Degree in Computer Information Technology (BS)

A four-year computer information technology degree is perhaps the very best foundation for long-term success in the field. Students in bachelor's information technology degree programs are able to dive deeper into their subjects and may find that they gravitate more to certain sub-topics than others. Thus, they may focus their coursework on database technology, networking, or hardware management rather than in general subjects.

Such specialization will help them when they start looking for internship opportunities. Top firms want to have a focused intern who can be of assistance in their IT departments. It will naturally be a great benefit for a student who focuses on, say, database management to work alongside those on a database team. Such focused coursework and experience will be a boon when these prepared students enter the workforce.

Furthermore, a bachelor's IT degree may be helpful when students seek certifications. Not only do some certifications require a bachelor's IT degree, but the academic background will be useful when learning the material. Naturally, those with bachelor's IT degrees can also progress into a master’s computer information technology degree upon graduation.

Master's Degree in Computer Information Technology (MS or MC)

A master’s computer information technology degree is the best choice for workers who want to take their careers as far as possible. Employers tend to pay master’s degree holders more than their undergraduate counterparts, and promotions further raise one's status in the field. Before enrolling, however, technology students should evaluate their options for graduate school.

It’s perfectly valid to enroll in a master’s IT degree program, but it may be worthwhile to take the GMAT and consider an MBA. These days many, if not most, MBA programs offer information technology as a concentration for the second year. Then there are also dual-MBA programs that allow students to work toward both an MS in IT and their MBA. In this case, their concentration might be more business oriented such as management, finance, or leadership. Keep in mind that those seeking an MBA might have lofty goals, such as a C-suite position.

PhD Degree in Computer Information Technology (PhD)

A PhD or doctorate in information technology isn't so highly valued in the business world, but that may be changing. Since many students are extending their school time by two years in order to earn a master’s information technology degree, it may be logical to take things to the next level. It's also worth noting that some subsets of IT highly value a PhD. This is more for fields such as cryptography, yet even a PhD in mathematics can be tremendously beneficial in the job market.

Naturally, one of the more prominent applications of a PhD in IT is in academia. Those who are interested in teaching at the college or graduate level are urged to go all the way for a doctorate, because a master’s is often not adequate when seeking a tenured position in a college or university. Plus, those with a PhD can join a faculty as a researcher who never even steps foot in a classroom.

Become a Computer Information Technology Expert in Alabama

Pretty much every student these days has spent a great deal of their childhood with multiple computers in their house or on their person. Since the internet gained ubiquity between the late 1990's to early 2000's, anyone born in that era doesn't understand how a world could exist without Google searches, YouTube videos, and video chats. However, sometimes even technologically savvy individuals might be curious as to how they could work on computers for a living.

There are many opportunities for computer-loving students. Even before they reach college, students can begin to learn IT skills and gain experience in the field. This is due to the fact that there are so many free and affordable courses available on the internet. For instance, it's not uncommon to find a virtual web design bootcamp available for under $30. Students can use such a class to gain knowledge of web design and programming in general. There are also college courses available for free which can take your learning to the next level. Those free courses may even offer a formal certificate for an extra fee.

After high school, it's highly recommended to find an IT college degree program from a local Alabama community college. Formal education always looks terrific on a resume, and students who earn an associate degree or above will also have the benefit of earning a well-rounded education. The standard college curriculum will teach core soft skills such as writing, communication, and how to research a topic on top of your core courses in computer science. These courses provide a base of knowledge that can help every student integrate into a corporate culture.

A full four-year information technology degree is perhaps the ideal goal for any IT student. A bachelor's degree is often required for placement in a top IT firm, and it is a necessary foundation for a graduate IT degree or an MBA. As students gain skills in IT, they might even take on part-time gigs as remote workers. Given that these jobs pay very well, any student will appreciate being able to work on a short-term project over a summer break or as a side project while still taking a full load of courses.

Careers for CIT (CIS) Graduates

  • Data Entry Keyers:
    This entry-level position is a great way to enter the IT field. To succeed in this position, workers will need to exhibit very high speed so that they can keep up with the pace of work. Once they can meet the productivity targets, this may be a great option for a college student. This is because the job isn't terribly taxing from an intellectual point of view, so students can easily work shifts between their loftier scholarly endeavors.
  • Graphic Designers:
    Students who have a keen eye for art and design should consider studying graphic design. While the end result may be pretty or stylish product, graphic designers need to have great understanding of their technological tools. Graphic designers need to have an in-depth understanding of software packages such as Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, and Blender, to name a few. Graphic Designers should also be web-savvy and know languages such as HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.
  • Special Effects Artists and Animators:
    This may seem like an unattainable dream job, but there are actually many jobs available for those who understand how to create computer generated special effects and animations. Even relatively simple skills, such as photo-retouching using PhotoShop, can land a person a job with a graphic design firm, and simple animations may be sold to those with YouTube channels or who produce local television advertisements.
  • Computer Science Teachers, Postsecondary:
    Teaching at the post-secondary level requires a master’s degree from a well-respected, accredited IT or computer science program. Those with a master’s degree may only be hired as adjunct instructors who specialize in entry-level courses, but that is not a hard and fast rule. An instructor with a master’s degree and a hefty resume of professional achievements could find themselves with full-time associate professorships. However, tenure track positions usually go to those with PhDs.
  • Data Scientists:
    Data science is one of the newer and hotter fields in the business community these days. Since the advent of the internet, marketers and others have discovered huge troves of data just waiting to be parsed and analyzed. Data scientists need to have strong mathematical and programming skills to succeed, and the most prominent programming languages in this area are Python and R, though other languages may also help, depending on the needed application.
  • Web and Digital Interface Designers:
    While we all use good-looking websites on a daily basis, few know how to design attractive and effective websites. Interface designers are constantly needed to design and update websites for their employers. To succeed, it's vital to know HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, for starters. Some employers may want to see PHP or Python on a resume, as well as attendant certificates for each. However, experienced website designers may be able to land great jobs with a strong portfolio of successful, and attractive, websites.
  • Cyber Security Analyst:
    This is perhaps one of the hottest fields in IT. Every firm and government agency is clamoring for highly skilled cyber security experts who can thwart hackers. Students who are interested in a cyber security degree should look for a program with a CAE designation. That's an accreditation bestowed by the National Security Agency in conjunction with the Department of Homeland Security.

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