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What is Information Technology (IT)?
Are you interested in obtaining a degree in computer information technology in Arkansas? Pursuing this major can lead to a variety of lucrative and innovative career opportunities across numerous industries. Anyone can enroll in these degree programs, but the field is generally best suited for individuals with an interest in and aptitude for computers and technology. Notably, earning a degree in this field can lead to jobs in various fields including software development, finance, healthcare, and manufacturing. Overall, outlook for graduates is good as companies, organizations, and the general public continues placing great emphasis on cloud computing, as well as the collection and storage of big data. Additionally, increased need for information security is likely.
Broadly, information technology professionals often study, design, develop, implement, support, and/or manage computer-based information systems. This includes both software applications and computer hardware. They can be involved in almost every aspect of modern computing, with some individuals taking on multiple roles. Some of the most common responsibilities include analyzing technical problems, identifying computer requirements, and solving problems that arise. These professionals are also often responsible for responding to user needs when selecting, evaluating, and administering various computer-based systems.
Work settings can also vary, from small offices to large research facilities. This often depends largely upon the employer. Those capable of excellent analytical thinking, organization, communication, and leadership often make the best information technology professionals.
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Online Computer Information Technology Education in Arkansas
While similar in concept to computer science degrees, the information technology major is distinct. Whereas computer science curriculums focus on the theories and technologies used to design and develop computers and computer programs, information technology programs teach the knowledge and skills needed to maintain and troubleshoot computers, networks, systems, and databases.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment in computer and information technology occupations is expected to increase by 15% from 2021 to 2031. This is much faster than the average of all occupations and will account for approximately 682,800 new jobs in the field throughout the nation. An additional 418,500 openings are expected each year due to the need to replace workers leaving their occupations permanently.
While computer science and technology is not considered a top industry in Arkansas, many of the state’s biggest sectors depend heavily on information technology professionals. In fact, workers in this field are essential in most companies and organizations worldwide. In Arkansas, graduates may have particular success seeking employment in manufacturing, business, real estate, education, and healthcare.
Many colleges and universities offer information technology degree programs in traditional classroom settings and online. Distance learning offers flexible scheduling options and makes it easy to attend classes from anywhere in the world, but prospective students should carefully consider their career goals prior to enrolling. Those who plan to seek employment in Arkansas may benefit from selecting academic institutions within the state. These schools are often more familiar with the standards and expectations of local businesses and organizations hiring information technology professionals. Choosing a college or university located in the state results in more geographically relevant instruction and can lead to more relevant employment opportunities.
Notably, earning a degree in information technology can lead to a wide variety of professional opportunities in Arkansas. The knowledge and skills obtained are often considered highly valuable by most companies and organizations, with graduates capable of finding work in almost any industry. This means overall job outlook is generally good, but employment expectations can vary significantly and these professionals may be tasked with a wide variety of different things. Ultimately, graduates can pursue many different careers in the field, ranging from information technology support to software engineering and network administration. This typically comes down to personal preference and aptitude.
While the information technology field does offer some limited professional opportunities to those without formal education, most employers expect candidates to have degrees of some kind. Self-taught knowledge can be helpful, but the best way to qualify for many occupations is to graduate from a higher education institution.
As previously stated, there are many colleges and universities in Arkansas that offer applicable programs. Prospective students can choose from degrees at the associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral levels. Some colleges and universities also have undergraduate and graduate certificate programs available.
Higher education of any kind is beneficial and often preferable, but prospective students should keep in mind that more advanced degrees will likely lead to the best career prospects.
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Online Associate Degree in Information Technology (AS)
Associate degree programs in information technology generally consist of 60 credit hours of coursework that takes full-time students approximately two years to complete. Most programs require both general liberal arts education and major-specific classes, which prepares graduates for further education and/or entry-level employment in the field. Curriculums vary, but students can expect to receive a broad introduction to information technology, as well as instruction in the fundamentals of web development, database management, web programming, and network infrastructure management.
Graduates are often qualified for various entry-level employment, making this degree a good option for those seeking jobs in information technology but who do not want to commit to a four-year degree. Common opportunities for graduates include computer support specialist, industrial engineer technician, web developer, digital designer, network systems administrator, and computer programmer.
While employment opportunities do exist at this level, many of the best opportunities require additional education and/or experience. As a result, many graduates seek to enroll in related bachelor’s degree programs. Fortunately, undergraduate credits earned are often easily transferred between academic institutions and applied towards future learning. This can save prospective students both time and money.
Online Bachelor's Degree in Information Technology (BS)
Bachelor’s degrees in information technology generally consist of 120 credit hours of coursework that takes full-time students approximately four years to complete. Like associate programs, bachelor degrees are comprised of both general liberal arts and major-specific classes. In addition to English, mathematics, and social sciences, students can expect to learn about information technology infrastructure, database management, cyber security, and information systems design. Curriculums are also likely to place emphasis on technical communication and mathematics skills, as well as web design and programming. Additionally, some colleges and universities allow those enrolled to concentrate their studies in specialized areas of the field.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), most computer and information technology occupations require candidates to possess bachelor’s degrees. Some of the most common employment opportunities include computer systems analysts, cyber security consultants, and software development specialists. Graduates at this level may also have the knowledge and skills necessary to pursue entry-level jobs in other industries such as education, healthcare, manufacturing, and business.
A popular alternative to seeking professional employment immediately after graduation is choosing to pursue further education. Graduate school can lead to even more opportunities, making it a popular option. Those interested in enrolling in master’s degree programs should be prepared to provide gaining institutions with undergraduate transcripts. Applicants will also need to meet minimum grade point average (GPA) and Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) test score requirements.
Online Master's Degree in Information Technology (MS)
Master’s degree programs in information technology generally consist of 30 to 60 credit hours of coursework that takes full-time students approximately 18 months to two years to complete. These programs no longer incorporate general liberal arts classes the way that undergraduate programs do, and they may or may not include capstone projects. Curriculums vary by institution, but students can generally expect to take courses related to software design, data management, financial management, project management, and program and application development. Those enrolled may also have opportunities to add a concentration, or specialization in a relevant sub-field such as data analytics, information security, information technology management, smart technology, or web design.
Graduates often possess specialized knowledge and skills in the information technology field. As a result, they often qualify for advanced positions and earn higher salaries than those with associate and bachelor’s degrees. Employment options will vary, but this level of education regularly leads to work as data managers, network administrators, software engineers, and cyber security analysts.
Online PhD Degree in Information Technology (PhD)
Doctoral degree programs in information technology can vary significantly, with the credit hours required ranging from 60 to 120. This is especially true for options offered online, which often provide accelerated learning opportunities. In most cases, however, those enrolled can expect to complete core education requirements in three to six years.
Curriculums vary, but many programs are designed so that students spend the first few years of school receiving traditional instruction in classroom settings. Later, those enrolled may be expected to conduct their own independent learning and research. Most colleges and universities require prospective doctoral graduates to present and defend written dissertations prior to graduating.
It’s important to realize that few computer information technology professions require candidates to possess doctoral degrees. These programs do, however, often equip students with the skills and theoretical knowledge necessary to lead extremely successful careers. Some common employment opportunities available to graduates at this level include information technology architect, information technology project manager, postsecondary educator, and senior data scientist.
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Become an Information Technologist in Arkansas
One of the first steps to becoming an information technology professional is identifying your intended profession. Individuals in this field can work in many different capacities, with opportunities spanning across almost every industry. As a result, it’s important that you consider the various options available carefully. Every occupation has unique standards and expectations. Knowing your preferred profession now can help ensure you obtain the necessary and recommended education, training, and experience needed to be successful moving forward.
Once you meet the established education requirements for your intended information technology profession, you may also benefit from obtaining one or more related certifications and/or licenses. As previously mentioned, there are many different aspects of the information technology field. Professional credentials demonstrate proficiency in certain areas, helping to showcase valuable knowledge and skills to prospective employers. By choosing to pursue certification, you may distinguish yourself from others and/or demonstrate your capabilities in particular sub-fields. Other benefits can include improved job prospects, more promotion opportunities, and increased salary potential.
Most certifications related to information technology and computer science are offered by well-known technology companies, professional associations, or professional certification boards. Both vendor-specific and vendor-neutral credentials are available.
Some common options include:
- Certified Cloud Security Professional (CCSP)
- Certified Data Privacy Solutions Engineer (CDPSE)
- Certified Data Professional (CDP)
- Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)
- Certified Information Security Manager (CSIM)
- Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)
- Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE)
- Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP)
- Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA)
- Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE)
- Project Management Professional (PMP)
The credential(s) you choose to pursue will depend on the type of information technology work you intend to perform.
Notably, most computer information technology professions do not require licensure in Arkansas. Some employers may, however, require workers to obtain a high level of security clearance prior to employment. It’s also not uncommon for companies and organizations to offer incentives to those pursuing additional credentials, such as help funding training and/or pay bonuses. You should also note that many certifying bodies require professionals to actively maintain their acquired credentials. In most cases, this means meeting established continuing education requirements, which are intended to ensure you remain familiar with current information technology updates and trends. The field is constantly changing and progressing, making it incredibly important to remain informed and updated. Generally, continuing education requirements may be met by completing free and/or paid training programs, attending seminars at conventions, and/or enrolling in academic courses.
Careers for CIT (CIS) Graduates
- Application Developer
Application developers create, develop, manage, and maintain programs and software that can be used on smartphones, computers, tablets, and more. They often work for companies and organizations as part of teams or as team managers collaborating with others in web and information technology departments. These professionals are often expected to work quickly and meet provided deadlines. According to PayScale, application developers make an average base salary of $73,800 per year.
- Cyber Security Analyst
Cyber security analysts are often employed by companies and organizations to keep information technology infrastructures safe. They perform a variety of tasks to ensure data remains secure, including conducting regular assessments and offering advice to leadership. These professionals also spend time monitoring associated networks and systems in order to detect potential security threats and analyze alarms. Cyber security analysts may also be responsible for reporting possible intrusion attempts. According to PayScale, cyber security analysts make an average base salary of $78,650 per year.
- Data Entry Clerk
Data entry clerks provide support for the companies and organizations they work for. This can include entering paper documentation into databases and transcribing information from phone calls. These professionals are also responsible for following employer guidelines, as well as ensuring that rata rosters are updated and easily accessible to other workers. According to PayScale, data entry clerks make an average base salary of $36,200 per year.
- Data Scientist
Data scientists analyze, process, model, and interpret data for their employers. Utilizing computer science, statistics, and mathematics, these professionals work to prevent and solve various problems for companies and organizations. They may also make recommendations for more cost-effective changes to existing procedures. According to PayScale, data scientists make an average base salary of $98,350 per year.
- Graphic Designer
Graphic designers visually communicate messages and/or present products using various combinations of colors, illustrations, and fonts. They work for companies and organizations in a wide variety of industries, creating logos, product packaging, print materials, and websites. These professionals often specialize in particular areas of media, such as print or web-based materials. According to PayScale, graphic designers make an average base salary of $48,950 per year.
- Network Analyst
Network analysts coordinate data communications networks, cable installations, network systems planning, monitoring, testing, and servicing. This often entails planning and organizing the load configuration of central communication processors, as well as troubleshooting various network-related problems. These professionals may also evaluate products offered by various vendors, as well as recommend certain related items for purchase. According to PayScale, network analysts make an average base salary of $60,800 per year.
- Software Designer
Software designers work with programmers and testers to create software for computers, as well as helpful resource guides detailing what certain programs do and how they work. These professionals also answer questions about the software they create and assist in troubleshooting issues. According to PayScale, software designers make an average base salary of $79,600 per year.
- Software Quality Assurance Analyst
Software quality assurance analysts review software development data, ensuring packages contain no errors. They often use various troubleshooting computer applications to implement regular test plans, as well as developing automation tests for maintenance purposes. These professionals may also be responsible for participating in the creation of quality assurance standards and making recommendations for changes to processing systems. According to PayScale, software quality assurance analysts make an average base salary of $64,550 per year.
Animators create images used in games, films, television shows, and commercials. Using their knowledge of basic animation, they design cartoons with hand drawings, motion capture animation, and computers. These professionals may be expected to create 2D and/or 3D animations using a variety of programs and software. According to PayScale, animators make an average base salary of $58,800 per year.
- Web Developer
Web developers create web pages and websites for their employers by writing code. They are often responsible for ensuring important materials are maintained and easily accessible by other employees through databases. These professionals may also be expected to test and modify new software before incorporating it into company or organization websites. According to PayScale, web developers make an average base salary of $61,800 per year.