Information Technology Degree refers to computing systems used to collect, record, organize and access data. Many career paths are available in this broad field.
Some professionals specialize in developing computerized databases, networks and other programs; these individuals are known as architects. Other IT professionals serve as the administrators for these programs. Additional job titles include software and web developers, computer programmers, systems analysts and computer support specialists.
High salaries, low unemployment rates and the possibility of working from home are some of the biggest draws for these careers.
Due to the widespread use of computer technology – and the growing complexity of data-storing systems – IT professionals are found in virtually every industry. According to the Cyberstates 2016 survey published by CompTia, there are roughly 6.7 million people employed in IT positions in the U.S. The industry is also expected to grow in the years to come, according to projections from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Students can land most information technology jobs with a bachelor’s degree in IT, computer science or other tech-related fields. The Bachelor of Science in information technology is one common degree pathway; B.S. programs emphasize technical knowledge, skills and applications – as well as strategies for applying them in order to solve real-world problems.
Many students are choosing to earn their bachelor’s in information technology degree online instead of in a classroom. Web-based students typically follow the same curricula as brick-and-mortar learners, and they tend to enjoy the same post-degree employment opportunities. The self-paced format of many online bachelor’s in IT programs is also suitable for students with jobs, child care duties and other commitments that can interfere with campus-based college attendance.
How long does it take to earn an online bachelor’s in IT?
Like online bachelor’s degree programs in other fields, IT degrees will typically require a four-year commitment for students enrolled full time. Most IT bachelor’s programs span 120 to 125 semester credits; the credit load is higher at schools that follow a quarterly calendar, but these programs usually also take four years to complete. Online students may be able to take more courses than their brick-and-mortar counterparts, allowing them to graduate in less time.
How much does an online IT degree cost?
The cost of earning an information technology degree online may depend on the student’s state residency, since in-state students often pay lower tuition than out-of-state students. In-state students generally pay $150 to $600 per credit, which adds up to an average program cost of $18,000 to $68,000. Out-of-state students should expect to pay at least $550 to $700 per credit, or $68,000 to $82,000 for the entire program.
However, many schools charge the same tuition for all students, regardless of their home state. These options tend to be cheaper for out-of-state learners but slightly more expensive for in-state students.
Online IT degree admissions requirements
Usually, students need no previous technical experience to enroll in an online information technology bachelor’s degree program. However, programs may suit those with an associate degree in IT. Application criteria will vary by institution; common requirements include a personal essay, SAT/ACT scores and at least one letter of recommendation.
Choosing an accredited online IT degree program
Accreditation status is one of the most important considerations for prospective students. Colleges and universities in the U.S. receive accreditation from agencies recognized by the U.S. Department of Education; the accreditation process involves an extensive review of a school’s educational programs and student services.
A school’s accreditation will impact course credit transfer-ability, as well as student eligibility for federal financial aid, so students should ensure the school offering the program has earned national or regional accreditation.
- Systems analysis and design
- Database management
- Information security
- Programming foundations
- Networking standards and protocols
An online information technology degree program will follow a curriculum that incorporates foundational studies in topics like computer programming, database and network administration, systems analysis and information security. Many programs allow students to earn degree concentrations in niche areas, such as business technology, project management or network architecture.
Some online degree programs in IT culminate in a capstone experience course, which may involve a research project, a comprehensive portfolio or an internship; capstone requirements will depend on the student’s specific major and concentration.
IT degree specializations
CybersecurityNetwork administrationWeb and applications developmentInformation systems management
One popular concentration choice for a bachelor’s in IT program is cybersecurity. Professionals in this field work to safeguard sensitive data and systems from cyberterrorists, information thieves and other criminal threats. They also design and install software that protects data in the event of power outages, surges, computer viruses and other technical issues.
A network administration specialization is aimed at students who are interested in computer networks, or centralized online hubs used to link multiple users. Coursework will teach students how to maintain working networks and assist users.
In a web and applications development specialization, students can learn how to create websites and mobile apps through classes covering topics such as implementing effective mobile user interfaces and website design.
Information systems management is another specialization geared toward students with leadership potential. This concentration prepares students to oversee the tech departments at private companies, nonprofit organizations or government agencies; these jobs include coordinating multiple activities, assigning personnel to tasks and meeting with organizational leaders to discuss long-term goals and strategies.
Sometimes coursework can prepare students for industry certification exams, such as those from CompTIA, Microsoft and Cisco. Industry certifications may help graduates stand out in the IT job market.
Professional Associations in IT
IT students and young professionals can greatly benefit from joining a professional association related to their career. These organizations offer a wealth of resources and opportunities, including networking events, professional development courses and certifications, job listings, and online publications like magazines and academic journals. Three of the most prominent organizations for IT are highlighted below.
Association of Information Technology Professionals: The AITP has served IT managers and personnel for more than 60 years and includes regional and collegiate chapters across the U.S. The association gives out the Distinguished Information Science Award every year and also offers scholarships for members attending college degree programs.Association of Software Professionals: The ASP is dedicated to computer programmers, software developers and other professionals behind the creation of computer programs, games and apps. Member benefits include invitations to online discussion groups, a complimentary subscription to the ASPects newsletter and discounts on various products and services.Network Professional Association: The NPA is home to the certified network professional, or CNP, certification, an internationally recognized credential aimed at network managers and personnel. Members are invited to join regional chapters, take part in professional development courses and attend industry events across the country.
Job Outlook and Salary for Graduates
The job outlook for professionals with a bachelor’s in IT is expected to remain strong in the years to come. The BLS projects the number of computer and information technology occupations will rise by 12 percent between 2014 and 2024; this growth should result in the creation of roughly 488,500 jobs during that period.
Salaries for IT graduates
Graduates of IT bachelor’s programs enjoy a much higher earning potential than those who complete their education with an associate degree. IT bachelor’s recipients outearn associate degree holders by 34.5 percent during the first five years of their careers and by 41.7 percent after 10 or more years on the job.
What can you do with a Information Technology Degree in IT?
Most students who graduate with a bachelor’s degree in IT will leave school prepared to enter the workforce directly – although job eligibility may depend on program specializations and industry certifications. They can work in a variety of industries, such as finance and insurance, education, manufacturing and telecommunications. Graduates could fill the following positions.
Computer and information systems managers: Better known as IT managers, CIS managers supervise the technology departments at their organizations and oversee day-to-day operations and activities. Their workday often consists of both technical and administrative duties.Computer support specialists: Computer support specialists are primarily found in organizations with personnel that use computers for work. Specialists assist co-workers with a wide range of tech issues and questions; some work in the same offices, while others work remotely and assist employees online.Software developers: Software developers are the engineering minds behind computer programs, games and applications. Developers compose the code that programmers use to build software programs from scratch; in many cases, developers also create the platforms and network controls that power software.Computer network architects: Architects design, develop, evaluate and modify different types of telecommunications networks. In most cases, they work with local area networks that accommodate a limited number of users or wide area networks with a large number of users, often in multiple locations. Architects also perform important installations and upgrades for functioning networks.