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What is Computer Information Technology?

Earning a degree in information technology can lead to a wide variety of lucrative and innovative careers across many industries in Kentucky. While employment opportunities are often readily available, graduates most frequently find jobs in software development, finance, healthcare, and manufacturing. This field is likely to be particularly appealing to individuals interested in and proficient with computers. Overall outlook in this subject area is likely to remain good for the foreseeable future as companies and the general public place significant importance on cloud computing. The continued collection and storage of data, in conjunction with increased need for information security, is expected to keep the field relevant for a long time.

The information technology field is expansive, with many different potential occupations to choose from in Kentucky. Notably, employment opportunities are available in almost every industry, making it relatively easy for professionals to find jobs. The type of work performed, however, can vary drastically based on employer and the profession sought. Fortunately, most degree programs strive to ensure students obtain knowledge and skills in a variety of critical and easily applicable subject areas. In fact, they often have skills that can be utilized in almost every aspect of modern computing. From information technology support to software engineering and network administration, graduates are generally prepared to take on a wide variety of responsibilities.

Specifics differ, but most professionals in this field perform tasks associated with the study, design, development, implementation, support, and/or management of computer-based information systems. They may also be expected to analyze technical problems, identify computer requirements, and solve various technological problems as they arise, as well as responding to user needs when selecting, evaluating, and administering various computers. It’s quite common for positions to require taking on multiple roles.

Those interested in pursuing computer information technology professions should realize that work settings can vary, as well. Depending on the position and type of work performed, professionals in this field may have small offices or large research facilities. In some cases, they may be expected to move between multiple locations or perform duties from home.

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Online Information Technology Education in Kentucky

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 technology is not one of the top ten industries in Kentucky. Regardless, professionals with expertise in this field are likely to find jobs in many of the state’s top sectors. The majority of companies and organizations depend on computer information technology workers to some extent. As a result, opportunities may be available in manufacturing, real estate, education, healthcare, business services, wholesale, retail, finance, transportation, construction, and entertainment.

Prospective students must understand that degrees in information technology are distinctly different from those in computer science. The subjects are similar but often lead to separate career paths. While information technology programs teach the knowledge and skills needed to maintain and troubleshoot computers, networks, systems, and databases, computer science curriculums tend to focus on the theories and technologies used to design and develop computers and computer programs.

Information technology degree programs are common in Kentucky and beyond. Many colleges and universities offer both in-person and online enrollment. Either option is generally acceptable, as the field is particularly well-suited to remote learning. Even those who prefer enrolling remotely, however, should give strong preference to academic institutions located within the state. Graduating from these schools can make it easier to find professional employment in the Kentucky. Not only do these colleges and universities offer the most geographically relevant curriculums, but they also tend to have established relationships with nearby companies and organizations. This can be extremely helpful to students seeking internships, as well as alumni during the application process.

Students looking to attend a university or one of the many colleges in Kentucky that offer computer science programs might want to consider a state university such as Western Kentucky University and Northern Kentucky University, or Owensboro Community and Technical College, Murray State University, University of Louisville, Bowling Green State University, etc.

While it’s sometimes possible to obtain entry-level employment with a high school diploma or GED, most employers in the information technology field expect candidates to have higher education degrees. Opportunities tend to be extremely limited for those with basic, self-taught knowledge and skills. As a result, those who enroll in post-secondary academic programs tend to have the best professional prospects.

Applicable higher education programs in information technology are offered by most colleges and universities in Kentucky and throughout the nation. Prospective students can choose from degrees at the associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral levels. While earning a degree of any kind is likely to improve employment options, advanced programs typically lead to the best outcomes.

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. They are undergraduate programs, which mean students will receive instruction in both general liberal arts and major-specific subjects. This helps to prepare students for basic employment, as well as continuing education. Curriculums vary, but those enrolled can expect to study subjects in communication, mathematics, and science, as well as receiving a broad introduction to the information technology field as a whole. Instruction is also likely to cover fundamentals of web development, database management, web programming, and network infrastructure management.

This type of degree is ideal for individuals planning to seek entry-level employment as computer support specialists, industrial engineer technicians, web developers, digital designers, network system administrators, and computer programmers. Education at this level is not as extensive as that of traditional four-year degrees, but graduates are typically prepared to enter the workforce without difficulty. As most degrees at this level are offered by community colleges, students also pay less for enrollment.

It's important to realize that employment is not guaranteed. Graduates from these programs often compete for the same entry-level positions as those with bachelor’s degrees. As companies and organizations tend to select the most qualified candidates, individuals with more advanced education are often hired first. As a result, many graduates choose to seek further education instead of applying jobs right away. This can be beneficial, especially because most colleges and universities accept and apply credit hours from other appropriately accredited, undergraduate institutions. Students with at least 60 applicable credit hours can start their bachelor’s degree programs as juniors rather than freshmen.

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. They are undergraduate programs, which mean students will still receive instruction in both general liberal arts and major-specific subjects. Curriculums vary, but those enrolled can expect to learn about information technology infrastructure, database management, security, and information system design. Instruction will also likely emphasize technical communication and mathematics skills, as well as web design and programming. In some cases, it may also be possible for students to select related concentrates in the field. This allows for a more tailored study experience, which can prove highly valuable when seeking a specific type of work after graduation.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the majority of computer and information technology occupations require candidates to possess bachelor’s degrees. This type of degree is ideal for most individuals seeking employment as computer system analysts, security consultants, and software development specialists. Additionally, the knowledge and skills gained may also make it possible to pursue jobs in other industries such as education, healthcare, manufacturing, and business.

Not all graduates seek professional employment immediately. In fact, a significant portion opts to pursue further education by enrolling in master’s degree programs. While graduate school is not always required, it can 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 can typically expect extensive instruction in software design, data management, financial management, project management, and program and application development. It’s also common for institutions to require the completion of capstone projects before graduation.

Most colleges and universities allow those enrolled to select concentrations in relevant sub-fields such as data analytics, information security, information technology management, smart technology, or web design. This is particularly helpful for individuals planning to pursue employment that requires specialized knowledge and skills.

This type of degree is ideal for individuals seeking advanced positions as data managers, network administrators, software engineers, and security analysts. As graduates have undergone more extensive education and training, they often qualify for more employment opportunities and higher pay.

Online PhD Degree in Information Technology (PhD)

Doctoral degree programs in information technology vary significantly, but generally consist of between 60 and 120 credit hours. Additional independent study and research are typically necessary, however. As a result, those enrolled often require three to six years in order to complete the various education requirements. Notably, some accelerated online doctorate degree programs do exist, which may take less time to finish.

Curriculums vary, but students can typically expect to receive instruction in various topics related to computer science, information systems, networking, and database administration. Classes in strategic analysis research, research design, quantitative research, and qualitative research are also common. Additionally, those enrolled in PhD programs are likely to learn about programming languages, software systems design, and modeling communication networks.

While the first few years are spent in the classroom, the focus often shifts to incorporate more research and writing as the degree progresses. Most doctoral degrees culminate with the presentation and defense of dissertations before a board of professors.

This type of degree is ideal for individuals seeking employment in research and/or higher education. While rarely required for most other computer information technology jobs, graduates may also find them useful when pursuing careers as information technology architects, information technology project managers, postsecondary educators, and senior data scientists.

Become an Information Technology Expert in Kentucky

Becoming an information technology professional in Kentucky generally begins with identifying your intended profession. Knowing your ultimate career goals early can have a huge impact on how quickly and efficiently you progress in the field.

As previously mentioned, there are many different types of information technology occupations, with opportunities available in almost every industry. Standards and expectations vary, however, making it essential to research options of interest carefully. Pinpointing your preferred job early can help ensure you select the most appropriate degree program, as well as electives, minors, and/or extracurricular activities.

Once you have acquired the necessary education and training to apply for information technology jobs, it might be worth seeking at least one related certification and/or license. Obtaining professional credentials can be very beneficial at any stage in your career. Not only do they demonstrate dedication to the field overall, but they also show proficiency in specialized subject areas. As a result, becoming certified is a great way to distinguish yourself from other professionals, especially during the hiring process. Obtaining additional credentials can also improve your overall job prospects, lead to more promotion opportunities, and result in higher salary potential.

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Most information technology and computer science certifications are offered by well-known technology companies, professional associations, and professional certification boards, with vendor-specific and vendor-neutral credentials are available. While some employers necessitate specific credentialing standards for their workers, most professionals in this field are free to pursue certifications that align with their personal interests and/or career goals. The credentials you seek will generally correspond with the type of information technology work you perform.

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)
  • CompTIA
  • Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE)
  • Project Management Professional (PMP)

It’s important to realize that many certifying bodies require professionals to actively maintain their acquired credentials. The field is constantly changing and progressing, so this often means meeting established continuing education requirements in order to ensure you remain familiar with current information technology updates and trends. Expectations vary, but acceptable forms of learning typically include free and/or paid training programs, convention seminars, and academic courses.

While very few companies and organizations require computer information technology professions to be licensed in Kentucky, some do expect workers to have a high level of security clearance. In some cases, employers will offer candidates jobs contingent upon obtaining this clearance within a specified timeframe. Others, however, will only consider applications from candidates who already possess the necessary clearance level.

Potential Careers for CIT (CIS) Graduates

  • Animator
    Animators use a variety of programs and software to create 2D and/or 3D animations for 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 $58,791 per year.
  • Application Developer
    Application developers work with the programs and software used on smartphones, computers, tablets, and more. They are generally responsible for developing, managing, and maintaining the various technological elements of the apps they create. They also function as part of teams, regularly collaborating with other web and information technology professionals. According to PayScale, application developers make an average base salary of $73,797 per year.
  • Cyber Security Analyst
    Cyber security analysts maintain the overall safety to information technology infrastructures for companies. They regularly perform a wide variety of tasks including conducting assessments, offering advice to leadership, and reporting possible intrusion attempts. They may also be expected to detect potential security threats, analyze alarms, and monitor associated networks and systems. According to PayScale, cyber security analysts make an average base salary of $78,642 per year.
  • Data Entry Clerk
    Data entry clerks provide support to other staff members by entering paper documentation into databases and transcribing information from phone calls. They are also responsible for ensuring that data rosters are updated and easily accessible to other workers, as well as following various guidelines set by their employers. According to PayScale, data entry clerks make an average base salary of $36,195 per year.
  • Data Science
    Data scientists analyze, process, model, and interpret data using computer science, statistics, and mathematics. They typically work to prevent and solve problems for their employers, as well as recommending more cost-effective changes to existing procedures. According to PayScale, data scientists make an average base salary of $98,342 per year.
  • Graphic Designer
    Graphic designers utilize color, illustration, and text font to visually communicate messages and/or present products for their employers. Most are proficient with multiple mediums, but some choose to specialize in print or web-based media. They are often responsible for creating logos, product packaging, print materials, and websites. According to PayScale, graphic designers make an average base salary of $48,966 per year.
  • Computer Systems and Network Analyst
    Network analysts are coordinate data communications networks, cable installations, network systems planning, monitoring, testing, and servicing. This often entails troubleshooting various network-related problems, as well as planning and organizing the load configuration of central communication processors. They may also be expected to evaluate vendor products and recommend other related items for purchase. According to PayScale, network analysts make an average base salary of $60,821 per year.
  • Software Developer
    Software developers or designers create software for computers, often by collaborating with other programmers and testers. They often answer questions about the software they create and troubleshoot issues that arise. They may also be tasked with generating resource guides that detail what certain programs do and how they work. According to PayScale, software designers make an average base salary of $79,591 per year.
  • Software Quality Assurance Analyst
    Software quality assurance analysts verify that software development data is free of errors by implementing regular test plans and using various troubleshooting computer applications. These professionals are also frequently tasked with developing automation test, recommending processing systems updates, and helping to create related company standards. According to PayScale, software quality assurance analysts make an average base salary of $64,563 per year.
  • Web Developer
    Web developers create web pages and websites for their employers using code. These professionals also test and modify new software before incorporating it into projects. Additionally, they may be tasked with ensuring that various materials are well maintained and easily accessible in databases. According to PayScale, web developers make an average base salary of $61,797 per year.

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