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What is Information Technology (IT)?
A computer information technology professional is a technology expert who helps a company build, maintain, and grow its tech presence. CIT professionals may work on their databases, networks, or cyber security protocols. CIT experts tend to specialize their degrees and their careers around one of these tech areas. However, each degreed CIT professional will have a general knowledge of the tech outside of their immediate work. After all, most technology interacts in some way.
Most computer information technology professionals work in office buildings where they maintain regular hours. However, these days more and more CIT workers are operating from home since their work can be mostly done via a high-speed connection. Some may even work from locations such as coffeeshops or over other public networks, albeit while using a secured Virtual Private Network. There are even many IT professionals who work from very remote locations, such as Thailand or Mexico, where their dollars are more powerful.
Mississippi is a small, but important state that also happens to be very fun to spell. It’s also home to the nation's lowest cost of living and an economy that is largely based on agriculture. While most of its sectors rank in the high thirties nationwide, Mississippi is still home to many high tech, financial, and service-oriented businesses. In fact, Mississippi's top industrial sector is manufacturing. While this may be supported in large part by food manufacturing, many automakers and other industrial firms flock to Mississippi to enjoy their lenient tax structures and low labor costs. The sector, which ranks 33rd nationwide, generates $19 billion annually for the Mississippi economy.
The state's second strongest economic sector is real estate, which ranks 39th nationwide and generates $12 billion annually. Other top industries in Mississippi include educational services, healthcare, retail trade, professional services, and wholesale trade. Each of these economic forces ranks in the mid to high 30's nationwide, reflecting Mississippi's small size.
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Online Information Technology (IT) Education in Mississippi
Though Mississippi's information technology sector doesn't rank in its top ten strongest industries, there’s still a strong demand for IT workers. For instance, the third strongest industrial sector - the super sector that includes educational services, healthcare, and social assistance - relies heavily on IT workers to conduct daily business. The state's finance and insurance businesses likewise need IT workers to maintain databases, secure networks, and build websites.
To help ensure that Mississippi's economy remains strong and growing, its legislators work hard to budget ample funds for the state's computer science programs. Thus, each of Mississippi's community colleges, state-funded four-year colleges, and esteemed universities offers students degrees in computer science or IT. In turn, each of Mississippi's CIT faculties take their budgeted allocation and work hard to bolster their CIT programs.
The best Information technology schools look for instructors and professors in the nation's top academic programs. They seek out PhD candidates to take their department's tenured positions. These professors are mainstays in any department, academic experts who can guide the program's curriculum and long-term trajectory. They are also looking for IT experts from the local economy. Mississippi IT experts who have a master’s computer information technology degree can teach undergraduates while offering practical insights into the state's economy.
Students looking for schools in Mississippi where they can complete a computer science program will have plenty of options. These options include Mississippi State University, Strayer University, the University of Southern Mississippi, etc. These schools in Mississippi, and others, offer computer science students a variety of educational environments, from a fairly large public school to small, private institutions. The best school for some information technology students might not be the best for another, so take your time researching your options.
Online Associate Degree in Information Technology (AS)
Computer information technology is a field that doesn't have any hard and fast requirements for a degree. Many people have forged very successful careers with little or no formal academic training in the field. However, a two-year degree from a Mississippi community college is recommended.
Even those who have a deep understanding of information technology can benefit from an associate computer information technology degree. The curriculum will highlight the principles of IT and will provide a strong formal foundation that may fill in the gaps left behind from a do-it-yourself education. Furthermore, an associate degree program requires that students complete the core college curriculum in the form of general education courses that are required for nearly all bachelor’s degrees in the country. This will instill soft skills, such as communication, while providing a well-rounded foundation that will be very helpful in the corporate world. Not only do students graduate with half of their bachelor’s degree complete but they do so at a dramatic discount when compared to those who studied at a four-year institution.
Online Bachelor's Degree in Information Technology (BS)
A four-year bachelor’s computer information technology degree is probably the best foundation for long-term success in the IT field. This is because employers will recognize the hard work it takes to complete a bachelor’s degree. They will know that students with these credentials have taken deep dives into IT subjects and that they have also completed group projects where they have learned to work with others. Further, students will be able to fine tune their academic training to help them focus on their favorite part of the IT picture.
Bachelor’s degree students can focus their academic work with courses that complement their major. Some take courses in higher mathematics which helps to hone their analytical minds. They may also be able to satisfy their degree requirements with courses in technologies such as database technology, networking, hardware issues, or cyber security. Many IT programs will also support an internship where students can gain exposure to how their IT knowledge is applied in real-world scenarios.
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Online Master's Degree in Information Technology (MS)
A master’s computer information technology degree is often the key to big-time success. Employers often give workers a raise or promotion even before they complete their MS in computer information technology degree. When workers hone their skills and have academic credentials, their value increases tremendously.
Another popular option for IT experts is a Master of Business Administration (MBA). Since every business relies on its information technology, this is a natural fit. MBA students start the degree with an immersion into general business concepts, at a master’s level. Then, their second year can concentrate on information technology. This way, IT experts can gain the business knowledge they need to rise through the ranks of management.
Students who have the ability to take three years off work may want to consider a dual MBA degree. These programs combine an MBA with a MS in information technology into an intensive course that takes around three years. This frees up the concentration portion of the MBA for subjects such as management, leadership, or more IT work.
Online PhD Degree in Information Technology (PhD)
A PhD in information technology can be a very valuable thing. While much of the business world doesn't place a high value on a doctorate, information technology can be an exception. This is because information technology is still evolving and becoming more and more complex all the time. The degree may lead to a raise or promotion in one's company, but it can also lead to a great new career path.
One option that many PhDs in information technology choose is consulting. This is a great choice because students can take their doctoral research and convert it into a career path. That is, if they wrote a thesis dealing with a hot topic, such as E-commerce or artificial intelligence, they can turn around and help firms that need consultations in these fields. Further, firms like to hire consultants with top credentials both from academia as well as from the business world.
Become an Information Technology Expert in Mississippi
Given that Mississippi has such a strong agriculture-based economy, it might seem like most students there aspire to take over their family farm or to otherwise work in this industry. However, the tech sector has reached even this far corner of the nation. Students are growing up with computers throughout their lives and many are interested in building careers based on high-tech.
To start a career in computer information technology one must first have a strong desire to understand what goes on behind their screens. Students who are curious as to how software packages work, and work together, are essentially taking their first step to a career in IT. They are in luck because, these days, the keys to building IT knowledge is only a keystroke away.
Students, no matter their age, who are interested in learning about computers can start watching YouTube videos on whatever part of IT interests them. Many will be curious about building websites or video games, and there are many websites that will teach them. In fact, students can start taking these classes for little or no expense. There are even some free classes that are offered through notable universities, though students may opt to pay extra for a certificate of completion or some other credential.
Those who start down the road of being virtually self-taught in information technology should also seek out like-minded friends. Their high school may have a computer club or some other organization that helps tech-minded students meet. During this time, students have been known to build rather interesting software packages or games.
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Students who maintain their passion for technology should start looking for the best Mississippi computer information technology degree program possible. There are many programs out there, but they should seek an accredited information technology degree program that has at least a CHEA-approved regional accreditation. There are also STEM-focused degree programs that boast ABET accreditation. Students who meet the admission criteria should certainly apply to these programs.
Students with a strong skillset might consider starting off with an associate IT degree, though at least a bachelor’s degree is advised for all students. Upon graduation, all students will still need to earn certifications to highlight their acumen with specific skills or technologies. Students with more formal education are able to earn more advanced certifications, especially since some certifying agencies have degree requirements. Furthermore, those in bachelor’s IT degree programs should start considering graduate school towards the end of their third year, if not earlier.
Computer information technology is a satisfying and growing field that Mississippi students should certainly consider. They should know that it's important to continually learn about new tech, both hardware and software. Furthermore, they should always consider what sort of business knowledge and skill they want or need.
Potential Careers for IT (CIS) Graduates
- Graphic Designers
These artists bridge the gap between the pure aesthetics of fine art and what the market demands. To succeed as a graphic designer, it's imperative to learn certain software packages such as the Adobe Creative Suite and even free, open-source software such as Gimp, Inkscape, and Blender. These days, designers also need to learn the basics of web design, including languages such as HTML and CSS.
- Data Scientists
These days every firm is clamoring to make sense of Big Data. Data scientists are experts at parsing huge troves of data for all sorts of commercial uses. They may have backgrounds in fields such as economics, public health, or sociology, though many are also scientists. To succeed in this field, data scientists need to know coding languages such as R and Python.
- Web and Digital Interface Designers
Interactivity is all the rage these days. Designers need to understand how to make their images interact with consumers or other end-users. The skills to succeed include knowledge of software packages such as Photoshop, Illustrator, and Blender. Interface designers should probably also have computer programming skills and knowledge of digital animation.
- Computer Science Teachers, Postsecondary
The entry-level credentials needed for this profession is a master’s degree in computer science. However, those with only a master’s degree usually never get past the status of adjunct instructor. To truly succeed as a postsecondary teacher, professionals will need to complete a doctorate degree program. They may also use their PhD to pursue a position as a research faculty member, if they prefer to spend their time researching and writing more than teaching.
- Web Developers
- Special Effects Artists and Animators
This field bridges the gap between pure creativity and high technology. Special effects artists and animators may be best known for working on dazzling Pixar films, but they also work in advertising or for firms that create corporate videos. There is also a need for digital animation for instructional purposes. Students ranging from aspiring cardiac surgeons to auto mechanics can benefit from illustrative, instructional animations.
- Database Administrators & Architects
It seems like every company these days needs a robust database. Database architects design and help to build the virtual home for a firm's information. To succeed, database architects need to understand SQL and a few variants. They should also have degrees in database technology from an IT degree program.
- Cyber Security Analyst
Cyber security is a vital part of business and government. A cyber security analyst spends their time analyzing their company's cyber security technologies and protocols. They may regularly audit the system to ensure that it has not been compromised and they may even work with penetration testers to see how the system can be compromised, if at all. Analysts also research new technologies to help their firm remain on the cutting edge of cyber security.