Getting an IT degree or certification is the first step for most students looking to build on their passion for technology. Many traditional colleges and universities have courses designed for students seeking employment in the IT sector. However, there has been an increasing number of online colleges that offer many of the same courses as traditional scholastic institutions. Today, some of the biggest universities now offer online classes for their students.
Common majors for online information technology (IT) degrees are computer science, information science and management information systems. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), IT jobs seeking masters IT degree holders are projected to grow by 21.7 percent while doctoral IT degree holders can expect 19.9 percent job growth. Jobs searching for IT professionals with an associates degree are at 18 percent. In general, a bachelors IT degree is usually required for management positions. However, employers are increasingly searching for IT managers with a graduate degree.
Pros & Cons of Getting an IT Degree or Certification
Many prospective IT professionals love the idea that getting an IT degree or certification because it is a great start towards building on a long-term, high-paying career. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistic (BLS) stated that the IT industry has more opportunities than most other occupations. As technology continues to expand, more jobs will become available.
However, getting a degree or certification is not always cheap. Many colleges and universities have increased their tuition to reflect changes in the economy. In addition, a career in information technology requires constant learning, research, and education; an IT degree or certification is only the first step.
Different Levels of IT Educational Training
When researching online colleges and universities that offer IT degrees, check to make sure the school and the IT program are accredited by recognized, respected accrediting organizations. A school that is accredited is deemed as an institution that provides quality education to their students.
Keep in mind that many employers also look for IT professionals who have experience. It is wise to do internships or work part time while you are in school. Before choosing a school, find out if they provide assistance with internships or work-study opportunities in the IT field.
The lowest level of IT educational training is certifications. Many people who obtain certifications have strong computer and science skills. An IT certification can be obtained directly after high school and can be completed within two years. Certifications are usually based on products and are administered by software or hardware companies. Certifications are usually not required by most employers looking for IT positions to fill. However, students will learn about the fundamentals of IT including user interfaces, computer programming and computer design.
Many IT professionals use certifications to further enhance their job skills. Four popular choices for IT Certification are Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP), Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA), Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE) and Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator. Other choices include A+, Network+, Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP) and Oracle Certified Professional (OCP).
Associates IT Degrees
An associates IT degree takes 2 years to complete and can be completed directly after high school. However, you can also transfer college credits to accelerate the program. Many people choose to get an associates degree to help gain IT employment with hopes of eventually returning back to school to earn their bachelors or masters IT degrees. Although the salary is not as lucrative as bachelors IT degree holders enjoy, an associates degree is sufficient for gaining entry-level IT positions.
Depending on the school you are attending, there are different concentrations in IT training. According to University of Phoenix, an associate of arts degree with a concentration in information technology prepares you with simulated hands-on experience. This includes managing information systems components and security, configuring TCP/IP addresses and designing a website’s infrastructure. In addition, this degree prepares students to plan network security frameworks, building software applications and configuring Cisco routers and switches.
Bachelors IT Degrees
A bachelors IT degree usually takes 4 years to complete and requires a GED or high school diploma. Unlike certifications and associates degrees, bachelors IT degree programs focus on teaching students more rounded coursework. Some of the college courses students will take include computer programming, information security, computer engineering and computer science. However, general studies will include other courses such as math, communications and English.
Masters IT Degrees
A masters degree in IT is a specialized program for students who have already obtained a bachelors IT degree. It commonly takes 2 years to complete beyond getting a bachelors degree. Professors expect their students to know the fundamentals and how information technology affects the society. Students are required to complete courses such as computer architecture, principles of software engineering, systems and database managements.
Doctorate IT Degrees
Individuals who have a doctorate degree in IT are commonly seen as experts in their field. This degree takes about 5 to 7 years to complete and focuses heavily on research. It is extremely competitive to gain admittance into these programs. Students can expect to work at the university as a teacher or research assistant. In order to complete course work, a thesis must be written by the student.