Information technology, or IT, is a broad field involving computing and its various applications, particularly in the storage, retrieval, and transmission of information using computers. IT encompasses a wide range of content areas, although some may be emphasized more than others according to a student’s specialization, including: software engineering and development, network and computer systems administration, computer programming, information security, database administration, and computer network architecture. IT is a good fit for individuals who are analytical thinkers, detail-oriented, good at working as part of a team on complex projects, and capable of troubleshooting to find solutions to technological challenges. Online IT degree programs are available from the associate degree level to the doctoral level; however, the best online IT degree programs will be accredited by ABET, whose Computing Accreditation Commission accredits programs in computer science, information systems, and information technology.
Online Associate Degree Programs for IT
Online associate degrees in IT are generally two-year programs designed to lay a solid technical foundation for any individual looking to enter the computer field quickly. Even at this level, students have the opportunity to specialize; for instance, Kaplan University’s associate degree in IT allows students to focus their studies on application development, helpdesk administration, network administration, or web development–all viable careers in the IT field. Students generally take courses in computer fundamentals, data organization, networking and telecommunications, programming, technical writing, and management information systems. The best online degree programs at the associate level will incorporate an IT internship where students can apply their IT skills in real-world IT career settings.
Online Bachelor’s Degree Programs for IT
Online bachelor degree programs in IT are a solid choice for students who seek a long-term career in IT, as many positions in the field will require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree. Students take courses in database systems, programming, networking, project management, IT ethics, operating systems, and IT security, among others, for a well-rounded education in IT. Students are also offered the opportunity to specialize; for example, Capella University offers bachelor’s-level IT specializations in several areas, including health informatics, information assurance and security, project management, and more. Students who complete a bachelor’s degree in IT online should be prepared to communicate effectively as part of an organization’s IT team, troubleshoot common IT problems, manage databases and computer systems effectively, and more.
Online Master’s Degree Programs for IT
Online masters degree programs in IT are a good choice for IT professionals who want to position themselves for advancement to management at their organization. Since the IT field is constantly changing and evolving, earning a master’s degree in IT is also a good idea for those who want to be brought up to speed on the newest IT developments so that their skillset will remain relevant for the modern workplace. Students interested in accelerated online degree programs have the option to pursue a combined B.S./M.S. in Information Technology, which can allow students to earn both an undergraduate and graduate degree in as little as five years. Students take advanced courses in data analysis, telecommunications law and policy, mobile enterprise, usability evaluation, information security management, and project management. Such programs often conclude with a master’s thesis or capstone project.
Online Doctoral Degree Programs for IT
Students who pursue an online degree program in IT at the doctoral level are typically positioning themselves for careers in research, academia, and consulting. While a master’s degree and experience is sufficient for teaching positions at community and technical colleges, a Ph.D. is preferred and often required for positions teaching IT at four-year colleges and universities. Students take courses in IT leadership, research, and strategic planning. Doctoral programs in IT emphasize independent study, dissertation research, and may even include a research internship in the private or public sector. Course work typically concludes with a comprehensive examination, while the program itself concludes with the completion and oral defense of a dissertation that details a student’s original research into a relevant area of IT.
Online Degree Programs in IT in the Work Place
IT jobs are many and varied, and include data architects, computer analysts, helpdesk workers/support personnel, network administrators, IT managers, and more. One viable career path for graduates of online college degree programs in IT is a computer systems analyst. These IT professionals examine their organization’s current systems, software, and technical infrastructure, evaluate the need for improvements and upgrades, and make recommendations to an organization’s management team on the costs and benefits of making needed changes, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Analyst career titles might include project manager, systems designer or systems architect, software quality assurance analyst, and programmer analyst, the BLS explains.
Those who plan to pursue careers as computer systems analysts will be pleased to know such careers are projected to be in high demand well into the future, and that such positions garner high pay. Computer systems analysts can expect employment growth of 22% between 2010 and 2020, which is faster than the average employment growth of other occupations. The median yearly salary for computer systems analysts was $77,740 as of May 2010. Keep in mind, however, that BLS figures are averages and often do not reflect actual starting salaries. Salaries are dependent on factors such as your years of experience, your roles and responsibilities, where you live, and the size and type of organization you work for.