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What is Information Technology?

California is the United States' largest single economy. In fact, it's been listed as the 20th largest economy in the world. The state is a leader in many ways. It dominates the entertainment, technology, and even agri-business sectors. Hollywood is synonymous with film and television, Silicon Valley is the home of high tech, and the ever-fertile Central Valley provides food for us all.

A computer information technology professional is a high-tech worker who can address any number of issues related to computing. Though there is often a distinction made between computer science and IT, the boundary is blurry at best. That is because CIT students learn to program, work on networks, and to address hardware issues. Depending on the individual department, some IT students receive an education that looks very similar to their CS peers.

Nevertheless, computer information technology professionals spend their working days on computer terminals where they may troubleshoot problems for other employees, monitor network traffic, or manage their firm's databases. Some work exclusively in offices but increasingly CIT workers may work from remote locations. There are also IT professionals who work as consultants, some of whom work at their client's physical offices and others who access their client's systems from afar.

It may come as little surprise that real estate is the top industry in California. Oceanfront property values alone could perhaps rival the GDP of several small nations. The state is also #1 nationally in its #2 industry, business and professional services. Other California sectors also lead the nation, including manufacturing (#3 statewide), information (4th in California), and social services such as education and healthcare which round out the top 5 industries in the Golden State.

One thing that these industries have in common is a reliance on high technology, especially the high-tech firms in Silicon Valley, who need internal people in their computer information technology departments. After all, top software engineers should be able to focus on their projects and have someone else ensure that their networks, databases, and security matters are taken care of. The need for CIT professionals extends even into the central valley, where farm machinery is increasingly computerized.

Thus, California has a vested interest in ensuring that its companies and government agencies all have the best information technology professionals possible. The legislature does this by making sure that the state's colleges and universities have budgets that can pay for the best IT faculty possible.

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Online Information Technology Education in California

It may be a given that California's colleges and universities support strong information technology departments - after all, the internet was virtually birthed at UCLA - however, each IT department is constantly conducting self-evaluations on top of regular accreditation reviews. To ensure that they continue to improve, faculty members seek out the best IT academics from around the nation. They look for specific sorts of specialties to help bolster their departments. For instance, a college may be strong in networking and database management but would need to provide more courses in programming.

To achieve these goals, faculties not only look for top academics but also for seasoned IT professionals who have the required credentials to teach at the college level. Students always appreciate working with faculty members who can relate dry textbook information to real-world scenarios. Given that California is rife with IT experts, faculties have little problem finding seasoned professionals who can teach their undergraduate students.

Online Associate Degree in Information Technology (AS)

An associate computer information technology degree is a terrific launchpad for a career in technology. These degrees provide students with fundamentals they can build on for their entire career. In a two-year computer degree program, California community college students are introduced to vital topics in networking, programming, databases, and server technologies.

On top of this, community colleges require that all students complete the core college curriculum as a major part of their associate computer information technology degree. They also charge far less per credit hour than any four-year program in California. This makes an associate degree a very good idea, even for those who are determined to earn a full, four-year college degree. California's community colleges are so affordable that students will find that their total costs fall dramatically when they take courses in that system.

Since many associate degree students go on to earn professional certifications, a two-year curriculum may be the only postsecondary education a professional ever needs. It might even be easy to land an entry-level position with a two-year degree. Then workers can better determine which areas they really want to strengthen with a certification – such as networking, programming, or databases.

Online Bachelor’s Degree in Information Technology (BS)

A four-year bachelor’s in computer information technology degree is perhaps the best foundation for long-term success in the business and IT world. Students who complete their bachelor’s IT degrees are more highly sought and command higher starting salaries than those who enter the working world with a two-year associate IT degree.

The reason for this is that they have had the opportunity to dive deeper into their studies and explore the specialties that can form a career. While associate degree courses peak at the 200 level, bachelor’s degree students are going twice as far academically. Those upper-level classes may require students to design whole networks or databases, for instance, and they will tend to have exposure to even more technologies than those in community college programs.

Finally, a California bachelor’s information technology degree program may include practicums or internships that can make a huge difference. When a student can graduate with the ability to include practical experience with a top California firm, hiring managers take note.

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Online Master’s Degree in Information Technology (MS)

A master’s computer information technology degree is a credential that will launch an IT career to the next level. Students in graduate information technology degree programs can dive deep into their chosen specialty areas. During those two years, students are further inspired when they complete large group projects with likeminded professionals.

While a master’s IT degree may sound like a difficult proposition, it's easier to achieve than ever. This is because many of California's computer information technology graduate degree programs offer students an online option. Some offer online-only programs that confer degrees to students worldwide. Others may be traditional campus degree programs that include online courses to help working students manage their time.

Yet another option is to pursue an MBA with a concentration in information technology. This is a particularly good option for those who are interested in moving into management and then the C-suites. Those who have extra time might even find a dual-MBA program that combines a master’s IT degree with the MBA in a three-year intensive program.

Online PhD Degree in Information Technology (PhD)

A doctorate degree is not a huge requirement for most IT degrees. However, given that master’s degrees are increasingly prevalent, a doctorate IT degree may give the holder a great edge in the employment marketplace. Students at this level will find a need to specialize with a hyper-focus on granular topics. This hyper specialization may be too much for many employers, but it can also open doors. After all, computer technology is always evolving, and those who have conducted deep and specific research can be of great use to an employer or client.

One specific area of IT that firms are hiring for is cyber security. Students who dive deep into cryptography or another InfoSec topic are sure to be in high demand. They can capitalize on their PhD by entering into a consultancy where they can help public and private concerns ward off black-hat hackers and maintain their systems.

Become an Information Technologist in California

California's students may grow up knowing lots about tech experts. This is especially true if they live in the Bay Area or Los Angeles, but it applies state-wide. There is near-universal demand for IT experts to service every industry. Nevertheless, even those who live in the middle of Silicon Valley may need to explore their options if they want to become a computer information technology professional in California.

One of the first steps if you want to become a computer technology professional in California is to cultivate a love of computing. This can start as early as grade school when students become enamored with video games. At that point, grade schoolers can exploit a few affordable online resources that help them cultivate an interest in programming and game design.

As a student grows, they can continue to experiment with IT topics using free and affordable online resources. Some youngsters have been known to create in-home networks to keep their family's computing secure from outside interlopers. Others might seek out high schools that focus on STEM subjects including computer science, electronics engineering, and information technology.

When it comes time to look at colleges, tech-loving students need to seek out the best IT program for them. Since computer information technology is a rather broad field, each program is sure to have its own focus. Students who love networking, for example, should seek the programs that offer enough courses in that area.

Not only is the curriculum important, but students should only apply to colleges and universities that are fully accredited. At a minimum, their favorite schools should hold a regional accreditation from a CHEA-approved accreditation agency. Most of California's public universities have these credentials. However, programs that hold credentials from ABET should be highly valued.

ABET is a program-specific accreditation agency that only considers STEM programs. When a student graduates from an ABET approved degree program, their credentials are sure to be recognized nationally, if not globally. Furthermore, working students may find that their employer's tuition reimbursement program offers more tuition coverage for ABET approved degrees than regional diplomas.

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Careers for Information Technology Graduates

  • Data Entry keyers:
    This is an entry-level position that is vital to the success of any firm. Data entry keyers must have excellent facility with the 10-key pad as well as a standard QWERTY keyboard. Most often, these workers spend their shifts entering large volumes of numerical and other data into a database. Employers are sure to test applicants for their speed and accuracy.
  • Graphic Designers:
    Artistic careers have been overtaken with technology in the past few decades. Graphic designers need to have a great eye for design and have the technical acumen to bring their vision to life. While in the past they would design primarily for print production, now graphic designers need to ensure that their creations translate to both print and electronic media.
  • Special Effects Artists and Animators:
    Nearly every movie these days is reliant on computer technology to deliver the stories we all love. Even dramas, which never used special effects in the past, now are able to have their aging actors perform even flashback scenes. CGI technology is able to approximate what they looked like in their youth so there’s no need for a second actor who may not really resemble the principal star.
  • Computer Science Teachers, Postsecondary:
    This field is surely in high demand. To succeed as a postsecondary computer science teacher, candidates need at least a master’s degree in CS. Some programs may want these instructors to also have some practical experience to help further inspire students. While a master’s degree is a minimum requirement to teach in colleges, a PhD is more likely to help a candidate land a full-time, tenure-track professorship in California's colleges and universities.
  • Data Scientists:
    Experts in data science are in high demand within a number of industries. Public health, for instance, needs these top-level data crunchers to aggregate and model disease and other health-related information in order to project where and how an illness is spreading. Economists and financiers also need data science to model their data.
  • Web and Digital Interface Designers:
    We may live in the information age, but people still want their information delivered in tasteful, stylish packages. Web and other digital designers focus on creating websites and software packages that are well laid out so that users can find the items they need with a minimum of fuss. It's vital to understand how and where data is being used because, these days, people are increasingly using software while they drive, jog, and shop in the market.
  • Information Security Analysts:
    InfoSec analysts are in high demand. Black-hat hackers work around the clock to compromise all sorts of databases including those in hospitals, banks, and government agencies. Recently, a social media website was hacked and hundreds of thousands of users had their data compromise. InfoSec analysts work to thwart these criminals. They constantly evaluate and seek to upgrade their firm's systems so that security remains as strong as possible.

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