What Does a Career in Information Technology Entail?
Information technology is a driving force in modern business and the globalization of economic opportunity. Increased connectivity and information processing power has transformed the modern business structure. Information technology created a lean, versatile model for success that relies upon computers and computerized systems to perform vital processes. While there are many decision makers and upper tier executives in most organizations, only a few can operate these complex systems and even fewer can keep them operating safely, securely, and efficiently.
Information Technology is a field of study with a wide range of occupations and operating environments. The field of information technology centers on a blend of theory and practice. The IT career combines leadership, management, and business ethics with software, hardware, database management, networks, and network security.
Computer Science & Career Paths
Components of A Successful Career In "Information Technology"
Information technology supports a wide range of functions and processes in the modern corporation and business. The IT professional must be knowledgeable about a variety of important organizational requirements. To have a successful career in Information technology you must adapt to the fact that organizations use computer-based systems in nearly every part of their activities.
Information technology professionals work in many parts of an organization, and the potential barriers and difficulties that occur may be unpredictable and unique to each organization. Problem-solving is a vital part of the Information Technology professional’s job description.
The IT professional must be adaptable to changes in software, hardware, and internal arrangements of functions and processes. Businesses today must be leaner, more agile, and versatile due to the global nature of the business economy.
Communications and Interpersonal Relationships
The IT function does not operate in a vacuum; rather, the IT professional must be able to work quickly and well with a wide variety of organization personnel, experts, programmers, and consultants. Communication skills are a vital part of the make-up of a successful IT professional.
Information technology involves software, hardware, coding, and unique applications of computer-based systems. The IT professional must stay up to date on trends, practices, and innovations. They must be able to master new hardware and incorporate innovations quickly.
How to Earn a Degree in Information Technology
- Identify educational goals
- Select a school or program that meets those goals
- Confirm that the school or program has accreditation
- Estimate costs and select online, on-campus, or hybrid attendance
- Apply for admission
- Apply for financial aid and scholarships
Typical Information Technology Degree Requirements
Associate Degree in Information Technology
The two-year AA or AAS degree requires 60 semester hours. The usual division is one-third to the major, one-third to general education and one-third to minor and electives that support a specialization.
The Bachelor’s Degree in Information Technology
This is a four-year degree requiring about 125 credit hours. The typical curriculum requires about 45 hours in major and minor fields, about 60 credit hours in general education, and the remainder in electives including a concentration or specialization.
The Master’s Degree in Information Technology
The master’s degree requires a bachelor’s degree in Information Technology, or a related field. The coursework requires between 30-35 semester hours. Students can complete the master’s degree in two years or less of full-time attendance.
Typical Information Technology Certifications Needed
There are no overall licenses or certifications required to work as an Information Technology professional in most work environments. There may be an exception for some medical testing facilities or sensitive security positions, but those restrictions apply to nearly every employee in those situations.
Voluntary certifications can help associate degree holders, and high school graduates get entry-level positions. They can establish expertise in Microsoft, Oracle, and other proprietary systems and can prove competence and ability in many coding processes and languages.
Entry level applicants can qualify for some IT positions with certifications that confirm a skill set in one or more areas of knowledge, or some particular coding, programming, or hardware system. The prerequisites are typically a high school diploma or GED and some background in English, math, science, and computers.
Academic Standards for an Information Technology Degree
The Information Technology degree depends on student involvement with several areas within the computer and software subject and many other sets of knowledge outside of that subject. For example, communications, digital communications, and marketing are common additions to an IT education.
Be aware that you will need to provide your high school transcripts or GED and possibly meet certain standards for scores on the SAT/ACT in order to start in an IT program at a college.
Exam/Experience Needed for an Information Technology Degree
The Information Technology degree does not require a test or exam. Similarly, there are no particular experience requirements for the associate or bachelor’s degree. Many master’s programs do require capstone projects that could easily involve real-world type settings. Bachelor’s programs that feature internships and hands-on projects offer an advantage for students and recent graduates that can show an outstanding resume of academic achievement and experience.
Important Questions to Ask
How long does it take to earn an Information Technology bachelor's degree online?
Most bachelor’s degrees are provided in four-year programs and IT degrees are no different. The typical program requires 120 semester hours. Students can complete the degree in four years or eight semesters with a full-time course load each semester. It can also be completed entirely online. With full-time attendance, online students can also complete the degree in eight semesters.
Online attendance, for many students, allows for the continuation of a job, operation of a business, or other important matters such as family or community obligations. Unfortunately, this also means that those who attend online often do not attend full-time. In this case, it can take 5-8 years to complete the degree.
How much does an Information Technology bachelor’s degree cost?
The cost of a Bachelor’s Degree in Information Technology includes tuition, fees, and expenses. The expenses include room and board along with books and equipment. Tuition is the major expense for nearly every group of students. The average range of yearly tuition for a bachelor’s degree at private four-year schools is about $36,500. At public schools, the rates depend on the student’s residence. For in-state students, tuition rates would average about $9,600 per year, and the out-of-state rates are about $26,220 per year.
Does the school have the major(s) you’re considering?
Picking the right school can boost a career by providing high-quality education in the field that a student seeks for their career. When given an opportunity, students can get an immersion in their chosen field complete with internships and hands-on experience. University HQ strongly recommends that students carefully review their college information to be sure that the program they select matches their career goals.
There are many reasons to select a school, and the student’s career goals should be near the top of that list. Every school or program does not offer a major in Information Technology that suits every student. Each school shapes the course offerings to their own standards, their faculties plans, and other educational resources. It is vital to align the student’s goals with the selection of the school and program.
Some students have a firm idea of their job or career path and require a specific set of courses to achieve the IT degree they desire and to develop a specialization. For example, some students take digital communications to specialize in IT and Digital Communications.
How many students graduate “on time,” in four years?
The graduation rates for any school is an important piece of information. The experience of the previous student body is predictive of what the applicant can expect. Graduation rates show you previous students rates of success and the real costs of the education. When students take longer than the on-time date to complete a degree, they add to the cost by about 25% for each year of added attendance.
The current trend in undergraduate education is a strong shift away from four-year degree completion. At public schools, the on-time completion rate is about 35%. The completion rate at the six-year mark is about 58%. At private schools, the four-year rate is higher at about 53%, and the six-year mark shows 65.6% success.
What kind of accreditation does the program hold? How is it regarded in the field?
Accreditation is a sign of quality education. The business and educational communities rely upon accreditation to inform their decisions about graduates and their level of knowledge. Regional accreditation of institutions and Information Technology programs has the widest acceptance among employers and schools.
The Council on Higher Education and the US Department of Education authorize accreditation agencies. The system divides the US into regions and assigns an agency to perform accreditation in that region. This type of accreditation has wide acceptance in the business and education communities. Some schools offer accreditation from national accreditation agencies. Students should make sure that any accreditation has approval from the US Department of Education and the Council on Higher Education (CHEA).
There are two types of regional accreditation. Institutional accreditation assesses the entire college or university and this accreditation applies to all the programs and departments. A second type is a programmatic accreditation, and this applies to a specific program, department, or school such as a School of Technology and Sciences. ABET is a group who specifically accredits Computing/Engineering degree programs at the bachelor’s and master’s levels.
High school students interested in information technology studies should prepare by taking courses that provide base knowledge in computers, computer coding, and computer systems. High school students can also benefit from website design, computer science, calculus, and business classes. Information technology majors would benefit from backgrounds that included the basics of computer hardware, writing, and oral communications.
Earning Potential for Information Technology Degree Fields and Occupations
Impact of experience is dramatic. The salaries of most occupations rise over time as employees gain experience and enhanced skills. The entry level is typically a beginning position with some educational achievement and little or no experience required. In the information technology field, many positions require a bachelor's degree and many years of progressive responsibility or a master’s degree with some, but a lesser amount, of experience. In a typical career progression the late-career salary can show further, and dramatic, increase and many employees rise to leadership positions.
The impact of education is clear from government and other research across broad populations. The median income rises with the level of education. Further, the opportunity to advance into different occupations or related fields increases as persons attain higher levels of education. Technological advances and innovations can drive change and create new lines of work. It is true of the internet age that many of the dominant enterprises on the globe did not exist only 20 years ago. Education can put individuals in positions to move with change rather than watch it pass by.
The below-listed median income figures compare earning power and levels of education.
Associate Degree in Information Technology
The 60-hour course of study often in information often holds other labels, like Information Science and Technology. The course of study prepares students for entry-level IT positions and further study for specialization or a bachelor’s degree. The associate degree establishes a foundation in general education including writing and communications. Many associate programs connect to other fields like business or marketing. Information technology requires ease with one or more major computer languages and a facility with systems like Microsoft, Oracle, or open source equivalents. Most programs require or encourage internships and cooperative projects.
- Introduction to Networking
- Introduction to Systems Analysis and Design
- Computer Architecture
- Introduction to Database Management
- Introduction to Web Design and Development
- Networking and Telecommunications
Bachelor’s Degree in Information Technology
The Bachelor of Science degree typically requires 125-130 semester hours, and it must cover the basics of programming, computer systems, and networks. It must also cover business ethics, privacy, and innovations in web development. The core and general knowledge courses intend to develop creativity, problem-solving, and leadership.
- IT Project Management
- Business Systems, Data, and Communication
- Web and Mobile Development
- Computer Programming and Technology
- Database Systems Management
- Digital Systems
Concentrations for Bachelor’s Degrees in Information Technology:
Cybersecurity, Data Analytics, Management, Network Systems Management, Web Design, and Development.
Master’s Degree in Information Technology
Most Master’s programs require between 30 to 36 hours of coursework and projects. The coursework builds on fundamentals and introduces advanced levels of understanding. It also focuses on the latest trends and innovation. Most programs require a capstone project that is a hands-on activity in a real-world setting.
- Advanced Information Technology
- Innovations in Information Technology
- Project and Team Management
- Software Application Development
- Database Design
Concentrations for Master’s Degrees in Information Technology:
Artificial Intelligence, Computer Science, Data Analytics, Web Design, Healthcare Informatics, Information Security
Information Technology Fields of Study
- Computer Engineering is the field of study that provides the design and structure of software systems.
- Information Security is the field of study dedicated to protecting data from intrusion, loss, and unauthorized uses.
- Networking is the field of administration that sets a communication system into a productive and secure process.
- Computer Programming, Programming, and Software Engineering develops the critical infrastructure for computer operations.
- Web Development involves the creation, development, and maintenance of websites and networks
Field of Study Average Salary by Degree Level
|Field of Study||Associate’s degree||Bachelor’s degree||Master’s degree|
Information Technology Occupations
- Web Developers create websites and maintain servers, dealing with both hardware and software issues as they arise.
- IT Specialists work with technology products, either in design or maintenance. They may create entire databases or update software as needed.
- Senior IT Project Managers are proficient at working with various technologies in fast-changing industries. They manage a group of workers to move programs or processes forward.
- IT Security Analysts are responsible for creating and maintaining firewalls, hardware and software defenses, and defining permissions within databases. Chief Information Officers are responsible for constructing, maintaining, and upgrading a company’s entire IT framework. They may work from the ground up with a new company or be required to translate the work of a previous specialist into an efficient usable system.
Annual Salary by Occupation
|IT Sr. Project Manager||$89,000||$103,000||$118,000|
|IT Security Analyst||$65,000||$80,000||$94,000|
|Chief Information Officer||$119,000||$124,000||$174,000|
|IT Support Specialist||$43,000||$49,000||$60,000|
Information Technology Scholarships
Morgan Stanley Richard B. Fisher Scholarship Program Diversity North-America
Amount: Up to $10,000
The program awards summer internships and financial stipends up to $10,000. Eligible applicants will be members of minority groups currently enrolled as sophomores or juniors.
AFCEA Cyber Security Scholarships
Amount: Up to $5,000
Deadline: April 12
The AFCEA awards scholarships up to $5,000 to undergraduate and graduate students pursuing degrees in cybersecurity and information technology from an accredited two-year or four-year school. Applicants must be US citizens with a 3.0 GPA or higher. Applicants must have finished their first year of an undergraduate program at least. These are merit scholarships with need as a factor.
CLA Scholarship for Minority Students
Amount: $ 2,500
Deadline: December 31
This program awards three scholarships per year. Eligible applicants must be a member of a US minority group, citizens or permanent residents, California residents, and enrolled in a library science program. Recipients must intend to work in the California library system.
Amount: $3,000 (10)
This program awards ten $3,000 scholarships to US citizens - preferred applicants include ROTC, Veterans, and disabled applicants. There are preferred schools Including Ohio State, USC, Villanova, and others. Awards go to sophomores through second-year graduate students.
Professional Information Technology Organizations
Association of Information Technology Professionals
The AITP offers free membership to students. They have a student section with educational resources and opportunities for networking with student and career professionals. The association can be an excellent source for networking and referrals to opportunities.
Women in Technology
The WIT is dedicated to promoting women’s participation in the Information Technology sector. They offer networking opportunities and educational resources. They advocate for greater diversity and are an excellent placement for companies seeking to develop female executives, analysts, and technicians.
National Association of programmers
The NAP is a student-friendly organization that provides career development assistance for Information Technology students. The association offers continuing education, certifications, and educational resources. Members can research and publish on the association’s platform.
Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility
The CPSR is an advocacy organization that takes on the question of the impact of computerization on the larger societies in which they exist and exert profound technological influence. The organization offers participation for students to demonstrate their commitment to ideals and civic responsibility.
Choosing an Accredited College
University HQ rates accreditation as a priority for students when selecting a program for information technology at any level. Accreditation is an assurance of high-quality education for the student and the future schools and employers that may review the degree.
The school’s accreditation also determines important things for the student’s time in school such as financing the costs of tuition, fees, and expenses. Accreditation is essential for participation in federal student financial assistance, including student loans from the Department of Education.
There are two main types of accreditation; they are the regional accreditation and national accreditation. Regional accreditation is the more demanding level of independent review, and regional accreditation has the widest acceptance and respect in the educational and business communities. National accreditation has wide acceptance, particularly among schools that provide vocational and technical education.
Within the branch of regional accreditation, the review can cover the entire institution, or it can cover one program, such as an Information Technology program. The narrow focus of program accreditation is the best form of regional accreditation. The standards reflect the quality of education in the leading schools of a multi-state area.
Online vs. On-Campus vs. Hybrid
On-campus learning describes the traditional method of college learning that uses classrooms, lecture halls, and students gathering in one place at a scheduled time. On-campus learning has the advantage of face-to-face interaction between students and teachers. Students may also benefit from the school or college experience of living in a community of scholars.
Online education is asynchronous, which means that students do not need to gather in the same place or at the same time to participate in learning. Online education offers versatility in that students can access at any time and can use a number of mobile devices to retrieve lessons from anywhere with an internet connection.
For some students, the hybrid model is the best approach to getting an IT degree. They will thrive with a few on-campus courses and the balance completed online. The choices are clearly in the hands of the student, and University HQ urges students to consider the benefits of online and on-campus coursework carefully. Most schools permit a fluid situation when selecting among online or on-campus courses.
Does the College Have Post-Graduate Job Placement Help & Assistance?
At University HQ, we urge students to look at all the potential advantages of selecting a school or program. Post-graduate job assistance should rank high on the list of important things to consider when making the choice. Most students enter an Information Technology degree program with the hope of finding interesting jobs and rewarding career opportunities.
The time spent in school is a great time to prepare for your future career in Information Technology and that can begin with a great internship, business project, referral, mentorship, or hire. Schools that offer extensive job placement and career assistance can do all those things and more.
A school, college, or university is more than a collection of students, classes, and buildings. It is a vibrant community of alumni, business supporters, corporate partners, families of graduates, and the local, regional, or national educational community. The school can open-up a vast array of opportunities when bringing its considerable network and resources to help students get started in their careers.
Students should examine the school information about job placement and assistance. If it is not clear, then they should ask questions about job fairs and outreach to businesses and potential employers.
Why You Need to Consider the Overall National Rankings of the College and The Effects on Your Career or Salary
The overall ranking of a school or program can affect your career or salary. Getting off to a good start after graduation can determine the course of the initial phases of a career. Students get a competitive advantage with a degree from a well-ranked and highly regarded school or program. Ranking can apply to a specific program or department in a school, college, or university. The overall rank of the school is important and so too is the ranking and reputation of the specific Information Technology program.
Experience is an important advantage of education at certain schools. These institutions emphasize hands-on training and learning environments that put the student in real-world situations. Internships and cooperative education help students emerge from school with a degree and a measure of experience in the field.
At University HQ, we understand the impact of accreditation on a graduate’s career and salary. While education raises income, employers will tend to pay more for employees that bring solid academic credentials to their organizations. Accreditation is a guarantee that the graduate received a quality level of education and is prepared to assume the duties expected in the work environment. Accreditation also matters when using academic credits for further education. Students may have difficulty transferring semester credit hours from a non-accredited school to their graduate degree program Don’t let a lack of accreditation hold you back.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Computer and Information Technology Occupations
- Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Computer Network Architects
- Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Computer Systems Analyst
- US DOE, Accreditation Database
- LinkedIn, Here’s How Your Degree, And Your Skills, Can Impact Your Salary