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What is Information Technology?

A degree in information technology can lead to a wide variety of lucrative and innovative career opportunities across numerous industries in Florida. While suitable for anyone, this field is particularly ideal for individuals interested in and capable with computers and technology. Work is often available in software development, finance, healthcare, and manufacturing.

It’s important to realize that an information technology degree is distinctly different from a computer science degree. While similar, computer science curriculums tend to focus on the theories and technologies used to design and develop computers and computer programs, whereas information technology programs teach the knowledge and skills needed to maintain and troubleshoot computers, networks, systems, and databases.

Overall, the outlook for graduates of this major is good. This will likely continue to be the case as companies, organizations, and the general public place significant importance on cloud computing. The continued need to collect and store big data, as well as an increasing need for information security, is expected to keep this field of study relevant for a long time.

While specifics will differ from job to job, most workers in information technology perform tasks associated with the study, design, development, implementation, support, and/or management of computer-based information systems. Responsibilities may pertain to both software applications and computer hardware. Other common assignments include analyzing technical problems, identifying computer requirements, and solving the problems that arise. They also regularly respond to user needs when selecting, evaluating, and administering various computer-based systems. In fact, these professionals often have skills that can be utilized in almost every aspect of modern computing.

It's important to realize that work settings can vary information technology professionals. This often depends largely upon the employer. They may perform tasks in small offices or large research facilities, as well as move between multiple locations. In some cases, technicians can even work from home.

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Online Information Technology Education in Florida

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.

Information is the tenth largest industry in Florida. It accounts for $41.6 billion in revenue each year. Additionally, many of the state’s other major sectors depend heavily on information technology professionals for success. As a result, graduates may also find employment in real estate, business services, educational services, healthcare, retail, wholesale, finance, entertainment, manufacturing, and construction.

Many colleges and universities in Florida offer information technology degree programs. Students can generally choose between in-person and distance learning options. While online degrees offer great scheduling flexibility, those planning to seek employment in the state may still want to give preference to local institutions. These schools will be more familiar with employer expectations and standards for information technology professionals in the area. Choosing a college or university like this ensures a geographically appropriate curriculum. It can also make it easier to secure internships while enrolled and/or employment after graduation.

A degree in information technology can qualify graduates for a wide variety careers in Florida. Companies and organizations across almost every industry hire professionals with computer knowledge and skills. Ultimately, the type of work performed will depend on the profession selected. This choice typically depends on personal preference and aptitude. Professionals can pursue various careers, ranging from information technology support to software engineering and network administration. As a result, professionals in this field may have many different responsibilities.

It’s possible to obtain employment in the information technology field with a high school diploma or GED, and some basic knowledge and skills can be self-taught. However, opportunities may be limited for those lacking higher education as most employers expect candidates to have degrees of some type.

Many colleges and universities in Florida offer applicable higher education programs. Prospective students can choose from degrees at the associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral levels. Additionally, many academic institutions also offer professional certificates undergraduate and graduate students. These are often most appropriate for those interested in specializing in a particular sub-field. Current professionals seeking to change fields may also find them useful.

While earning a degree of any kind is likely to improve employment prospects, more advanced programs typically lead to better outcomes. These graduates often qualify for the best occupations in the field and make more money.

Online Associate Degree in Information Technology (AS)

Associate degree programs in information technology generally consist of 60 credit hours of coursework that take full-time students approximately two years to complete. As undergraduate programs, most incorporate both general liberal arts education and major-specific classes. This helps to prepare graduates for basic employment, as well as continuing higher education. Every curriculum is different, but students can expect to receive a broad introduction to information technology, web development, database management, web programming, and network infrastructure management.

This type of degree is ideal for individuals planning to seek entry-level employment in the field. While not as extensive as traditional four-year degrees, these programs allow graduates to enter the workforce earlier and typically cost less. Most are offered by community colleges, which tend to charge lower tuition and fee rates. Not only does this make earning an education more immediately affordable, but it can prevent the accumulation of significant student loans as well. Graduates commonly qualify to apply for jobs as computer support specialists, industrial engineer technicians, web developers, digital designers, network systems administrators, and computer programmers.

However, employment opportunities may be less common at this level. Jobs do exist for graduates of associate degrees, but the best positions are generally reserved for those with more education. That is why many graduates choose to seek further enrollment in related bachelor’s degree programs. It’ can be relatively easy for students to transfer undergraduate credit hours between equally accredited colleges and universities and this can help those with prior college experience get a jumpstart on meeting bachelor’s degree requirements.

Online Bachelor's Degree in Information Technology (BS)

Bachelor’s degrees in information technology generally consist of 120 credit hours of coursework that take full-time students approximately four years to complete. As undergraduate programs, they are still comprised of both general liberal arts and major-specific classes. Curriculums vary, but students can expect to learn about information technology infrastructure, database management, cyber security, and information systems design. Instruction will also likely emphasize technical communication and mathematics skills, as well as web design and programming. Some colleges and universities allow those enrolled to select concentrates that help tailor studies in preparation for a specific type of work after graduation.

This type of degree is ideal for individuals seeking employment in the field. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, most computer and information technology occupations require candidates to possess bachelor’s degrees. Graduates often qualify to apply for work as computer systems analysts, cyber security consultants, and software development specialists. The knowledge and skills gained while studying at this level may also make it possible to pursue jobs in other industries such as education, healthcare, manufacturing, and business.

Instead of seeking professional employment after graduation, many choose to pursue further education by enrolling in master’s degree programs. Graduate school can often lead to more professional opportunities and higher pay. Those planning to apply to master’s degree programs should be prepared to provide official undergraduate transcripts to gaining institutions. Applicants will also need to meet minimum grade point average (GPA) and Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) test score requirements.

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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 take full-time students approximately two years to complete. General liberal arts classes are no longer incorporated into the curriculum, but some major-specific undergraduate classes may be required for admission. Students typically receive instruction in software design, data management, financial management, project management, and program and application development, though your exact curriculum will depend on the program and any specialization you choose. Capstone projects are commonly required prior to graduation.

Most colleges and universities also offer those enrolled opportunities to add concentrations in relevant sub-fields. Some common examples include data analytics, information security, information technology management, smart technology, or web design.

This type of degree is ideal for individuals seeking advanced positions in the information technology field. Graduates often possess specialized knowledge and skills that qualify them for positions with higher pay than those with associate and bachelor’s degrees. Common employment opportunities include data manager, network administrator, software engineer, and cyber security analyst.

Online PhD Degree in Information Technology (PhD)

Doctoral degree programs in information technology vary significantly from institution to institution. Most consist of between 60 and 120 credit hours, with additional independent study and research necessary. In most cases, those enrolled complete the various education requirements in three to six years. Notably, there are some online accelerated doctoral degree programs available that may be finished in less time.

Students typically spend the first few years of enrollment receiving traditional instruction in classroom settings. Courses may cover various topics in computer science, information systems, networking, and database administration. PhD programs are likely to incorporate instruction in programming languages, software systems design, and modeling communication networks. Research tends to be a prominent element, with classes in strategic analysis research, research design, quantitative research, and qualitative research also required. Most degrees culminate with the presentation and defense of written dissertations before a board of professors.

This type of degree is rarely required for computer information technology jobs. Doctorate programs are generally only necessary for individuals interested in pursuing employment in research and/or higher education. Graduates often possess the skills and theoretical knowledge necessary to lead extremely successful careers as information technology architects, information technology project managers, postsecondary educators, and senior data scientists.

Become an Information Technologist in Florida

If you intend to become an information technology professional in Florida, it’s important to identify your intended profession as early as possible. As previously mentioned, the field is expansive, with many different employment opportunities available in a wide variety of diverse industries. Every occupation has unique standards and expectations. Determining your ultimate career goals will help ensure you are prepared to meet them. Not only will you be better prepared to select an appropriate degree program, but you will be more familiar with which electives, minors, and extracurricular activities will serve you best moving forward.

After earning a computer information technology degree, you may also benefit from obtaining one or more related certifications and/or licenses. Professional credentials help demonstrate proficiency in specialty areas and serve as great ways to distinguish yourself from other professionals and showcase your knowledge and skills in particular sub-fields. This is particularly important in computer information technology, which plays a significant role in many other industries. Earning additional credentials can improve your overall job prospects, lead to more promotion opportunities, and result in greater 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. In most cases, the credential(s) you choose pursue depend on the type of information technology work you intend to perform.

Some common IT and computer science certification 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)
  • CompTIA
  • Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA)
  • Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE)
  • Project Management Professional (PMP)

It’s important to realize that most computer information technology professions do not require licensure in Florida. It is not uncommon, however, for workers in this field to need a high level of security clearance. Some employers may hire candidates contingently, while others only accept applications from those who already possess the necessary clearance.

Another consideration is continuing education. Many certifying bodies require professionals to actively maintain their acquired credentials. In most cases, this means meeting established learning requirements. The field is constantly changing and progressing, but continuing education helps ensure you remain familiar with current information technology updates and trends. While expectations vary, it’s generally possible to meet expectations by completing free and/or paid training programs, attending seminars at conventions, and/or enrolling in academic courses.

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Careers for IT (CIS) Graduates

  • Cyber Security Analyst
    Cyber security analysts are responsible for keeping information technology infrastructures safe. To achieve this, they often perform a wide variety of tasks, which commonly include conducting regular assessments, offering advice to leadership, and reporting possible intrusion attempts. These professionals also monitor associated networks and systems to detect potential security threats and analyze alarms. According to PayScale, cyber security analysts make an average base salary of $78,650 per year.
  • Data Entry Clerk
    Data entry clerks function as support staff for the companies that employ them. They are often responsible for entering paper documentation into databases and transcribing information from phone calls. They must also follow various established 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 utilize computer science, statistics, and mathematics to analyze, process, model, and interpret data. They are typically responsible for preventing and solving various problems. They may also recommend 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 use various combinations of colors, illustrations, and fonts to visually communicate messages and/or present products. Gifted designers may also create full images or videos in order to promote a product or service. These professionals work for organizations in a variety of industries creating logos, product packaging, print materials, and websites. According to PayScale, graphic designers make an average base salary of $48,950 per year.
  • Network Analyst
    Network analysts are responsible for coordinating data communications networks, cable installations, network systems planning, monitoring, testing, and servicing. They frequently troubleshoot various network-related problems, as well as planning and organizing the load configuration of central communication processors. These professionals may also be tasked with evaluating vendor products and recommending certain other related items for purchase. According to PayScale, network analysts make an average base salary of $60,800 per year.
  • Software Quality Assurance Analyst
    Software quality assurance analysts are responsible for reviewing software development data to ensure there are no errors. These professionals often implement regular test plans using various troubleshooting computer applications and work to develop automation tests. Additionally, it’s common for software quality assurance analysts to help create company standards by recommending processing systems updates. According to PayScale, software quality assurance analysts make an average base salary of $64,550 per year.
  • Animator
    Animators use a variety of programs and software to create 2D and/or 3D animations frequently used in games, films, television shows, and commercials. They typically have the knowledge and skills needed to design cartoons and other images through hand drawings, motion capture animation, and with computers. According to PayScale, animators make an average base salary of $58,800 per year.
  • Web Developer
    Web developers use code to create web pages and websites. They are also often tasked with testing and modifying new software before incorporating it into projects. These professionals may also be responsible for ensuring that various materials are well maintained and easily accessible in databases. According to PayScale, web developers make an average base salary of $61,800 per year.

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