Data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that the number of IT professionals has increased by tenfold in the last 50 years. These workers now represent nearly 3% of the American workforce, and positions are expected to continue expanding over the coming years.
Individuals with a passion for problem-solving, teamwork, and technical advancement can find much to keep them busy in the world of information technology. Pursuing a degree in this field can lead to well-paying jobs and plenty of room for advancement. Keep reading to learn what it takes to become an IT professional, how to find the best degree programs, and where to seek support while in school and beyond.
What Can I Do With a Degree in IT?
Information technology permeates every corner of our world these days, making professionals with the skills and training needed to solve complex information technology problems indispensable. Many jobs exist for professionals with credentials ranging from a two-year associate degree to an advanced master’s degree. Review the table below to learn about some potential career paths.
IT Jobs, Salaries and Career Outlook
As individuals, organizations, and governmental agencies become more dependent on information technology to carry out essential functions, jobs for these professionals will continue to grow and offer higher-than-average salaries. Many students decide to pursue an online degree in IT, knowing that it will boost their job prospects and wages.
|Career||Salary||Projected Job Growth (2019-2029)||About the Position|
|Software Developers||$110,140||22%||Whether working in-house or in a freelance capacity, software developers create the applications businesses, governments, schools, and individuals use every day to accomplish critical tasks. They develop apps based on client needs, build them out, test for bugs, and create updates.|
|Web Developers||$77,200||8%||Web developers spend their days creating and maintaining websites. They design the back-end mechanics that make the site perform properly and the front-end components that make it visually appealing and easy to navigate.|
|Computer Programmers||$89,190||-9%||These professionals are responsible for writing and testing the codes that allow software and applications to run. They typically need to be fluent in several coding languages, including Java and C++.|
|Computer and Information Systems Managers||$151,150||10%||These high-paid professionals use their experience and skills to oversee the IT needs of their organizations. Working with other senior-level staff, they identify improvement areas, oversee new tech installations, and manage budgets for IT upgrades.|
Earning an Online Degree in IT
Whether a learner plans to secure an associate, bachelor’s, or master’s degree in IT, plenty of online options exist to help them meet individual needs around academia, cost, and career outcomes. The following sections answer common questions about the process.
Pros and Cons of Online IT Degree Programs
|Students who want to try out the IT field to see if it’s a good fit can find many fulfilling jobs after completing a two-year associate degree rather than moving straight into a bachelor’s program.||Because information technology changes so rapidly and every few years new systems and tools enter the field, professionals who want to stay relevant must continue to learn throughout their careers.|
|Jobs for professionals with IT degrees are projected to continue growing across the coming decade, leading to many opportunities to find challenging and fulfilling work.||Jobs in IT can be stressful, especially when working in client-facing roles. When customers call with technical issues, they are often irritated by the issue and can be impatient with those trying to help them.|
|Myriad certification programs provide the opportunity to continue building skills and moving into more senior-level roles without pursuing a full degree.||Working in IT often means working with professionals spread across the world, especially if employed by a multinational company. This can lead to inhospitable working hours when trying to plan meetings and get work done with colleagues.|
|Completing a bachelor’s degree in IT provides the qualifications needed to pursue a master’s degree in information technology.|
IT Vs. Computer Science
As learners weigh their higher education options, some may wonder whether a computer science or information technology degree best serves their interests and career goals. While both of these programs focus on technology, differences exist.
At a rudimentary level, information technology focuses more on skills surrounding technology installation, maintenance, and improvement. Simply put, IT is more about keeping up with existing technology rather than designing and building new tools. Conversely, computer science concerns itself more with innovation. Professionals in this sphere take more math and programming language classes, giving them the skills needed to design and develop new hardware and software.
While many IT professionals work as part of larger teams, computer science graduates often have the choice of working with others or existing in a more solo capacity.
Courses in IT Degree Programs
Coursework offered in IT programs vary by individual school, but many have some overlap. As students look at prospective programs, some of the common classes they may encounter include:
- Introduction to Cybersecurity
- Computer and Network Security
- Ethical Hacking and Defense Networks
- Database Concepts
- Computer Systems
- Digital Forensics
- Systems Analysis and Design
- Project Management
Skills Learned in a Degree of IT Degree Program
IT degrees impart many important skills that today’s employers look for in potential recruits. The best programs hire faculty members with professional experience who understand what hiring managers want and design curricula to meet those needs.
Some of the hard skills commonly required of IT professionals include:
- Cloud computing and security
- Integration architecture (e.g., Salesforce and Cisco)
- Metadata design
- Web services security
- Information architecture
- Data analytics
In addition to skills focused on IT exclusively, many employers also look for new hires with a wide-ranging set of soft skills. Some of these can include:
- Effective communication
How Long Does it Take to Get an Online IT Degree?
The amount of time a degree seeker spends enrolled in an online IT degree will vary based on several factors. Those who previously completed some general education courses at a community college can often transfer these to their new school, leading to a quicker graduation date.
While full-time learners with no previous higher education experience can expect to graduate in approximately four years, their part-time counterparts will need more time. These students usually graduate within 5-6 years of enrolling.
Some schools also offer accelerated online IT degrees for motivated degree seekers who want to get their careers started quickly. Timelines will vary based on the individual school, but many institutions now offer programs that can be completed in 30-36 months.
Choosing the Best Online Degree in IT
With so many online IT degrees now available, students must remember that not all are created equally. Choosing the best program means researching several different options, comparing the pros and cons of each, and making an informed decision.
Online Bachelor’s Degree in Information Technology
An online bachelor’s degree in information technology provides the qualifications and skills needed to take up various engaging and important roles within the world of IT. Because every industry imaginable — in both public and private spheres — relies on information technology to function smoothly, graduates can find roles in countless interesting work settings.
Online vs. On Campus Degrees
Because an IT degree focuses mainly on topics that translate well to internet learning, many schools now offer partially and fully online programs in addition to traditional campus-based options.
For many students, especially those with busy schedules outside school, online programs provide the flexibility they need to succeed. Studying online also means avoiding the commute to campus multiple times per week. That said, some learners still prefer in-person learning since it offers a more consistent schedule and more opportunities to interact with peers and professors.
How Long Do Online Courses Take To Complete?
The amount of time students spend completing their online IT courses will depend on the school they choose to attend and how it offers classes. Many schools stick to the traditional semester-based schedule that covers 16 weeks of studies. While some classes stretch across this entire time frame, other schools may provide shorter classes that allow for multiple sessions within a semester.
Learners enrolled in an accelerated online IT program may frequently come across this model. Some institutions provide a learn-at-your-own-pace method that allows students to notify professors when they feel ready to take final exams and complete culminating assignments.
IT Certification and Licensure
While no IT positions currently require licensure, many employers favor job candidates who bring information technology certifications with them. Because the field of IT moves and changes so rapidly, earning industry certifications signals that professionals have continued interest and passion for the discipline. Many different providers offer IT certification, including CompTIA and Google.
When looking at prospective bachelor’s in IT programs, prospective students must select a school and degree that maintains proper accreditation. At the institutional level, accreditation comes in national and regional forms.
Regional accreditation, typically pursued by four-year institutions, is considered the more attractive option and signals that the school went through a rigorous process to become accredited.
Students should also look for programmatic accreditation, as this means that the individual IT degree meets industry standards and expectations. Within the world of information technology, the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology provides programmatic accreditation.
Applying to Online IT Degree Programs
Applying to an online IT program requires applicants to pull together required documentation, narrow down the schools they plan to apply to, and submit all information before the deadline. The following section goes into more detail.
Admission Requirements for Degree of IT Programs
Admission requirements for an online IT degree will vary based on the school a student decides to attend, but most set similar mandates for enrollment. Common components include:
- Essays: Most universities provide several essay questions for students to answer. These help admissions professionals get a better sense of applicants and what they hope to accomplish in college and beyond.
- Standardized Test Scores: Many universities require prospective learners to submit ACT/SAT scores. This provides an opportunity to see how prepared students are for the rigors of higher education.
- Letters of Recommendation: Typically gathered from individuals who can speak to academia and work ethic, these letters help admissions professionals determine a student’s suitability for postsecondary education.
- Official Transcripts: Schools require transcripts from any secondary and postsecondary institutions previously attended to ensure learners are prepared for the rigors of that institution.
Paying for an Online Degree in IT
The cost of degrees continues to rise each year, making it important for cost-conscious learners to understand how much they will spend earning an IT qualification. Many students decide to pursue financial support via scholarships, grants, fellowships, and federal student loans. Loans should be the last option, as other forms of financial aid do not require repayment.
IT Degree Costs
Several factors can influence how much students pay for their education, making it important to thoroughly research options before signing on for any program. Learners looking to reduce their costs often decide to attend a public college in their state. Some online IT programs also allow degree seekers to pay in-state tuition regardless of their location. Students can often bypass campus-based fees such as facility usage, meal plans, and parking passes by enrolling in a distance learning program. They will still need to purchase textbooks and supplies.
Scholarships for IT Students
- Alice L. Halton Scholarship: Applicants living in a southwestern state can apply for this award if pursuing a degree in information technology or management. They must possess a 3.0 or higher GPA.
- Betty Stevens Frecknall Scholarship: This award supports IT majors who possess a 3.0 or higher GPA and have completed at least 12 credits when they apply.
- Eli Lilly Scholarship: The BDPA Education and Technology Foundation provides this $4,000 award to high school graduates and current undergraduates working towards an IT degree and demonstrating academic excellence.
- Blacks at Microsoft Scholarship: Offering up to $20,000 over four years, this award supports Black students working towards an information technology degree with a 3.3 or higher GPA.
- Edison Scholarship: This award provides up to $40,000 for underrepresented students living in Southern California who want to pursue an information technology or related degree program. They must hold a 3.0 or higher GPA.
IT Career Resources
- Association of Computer Engineers/Association of Computer Engineers and Technicians: ACE-ACET serves professionals working in a variety of computer engineering positions by providing legal support, business referrals, insurance, accounting services, and many other benefits.
- CompTIA: CompTIA offers both professional and student memberships for individuals looking for access to scholarships, local chapters, events, workforce communities, awards, and discounted products.
- IEEE Computer Society: In existence for more than 75 years, this premier membership association provides access to skills training, industry news, networking, leadership training, and Computer Magazine.
- Information Systems Security Association International: ISSA supports members across the globe by providing career support, local chapters, certifications, industry research, and both in-person and online events.
- International Association of IT Asset Managers: Whether living in Arizona or Antarctica, IAITAM provides services of benefit. Members can take advantage of certifications, advanced training, and student resources.
IT Degree Program FAQs
Yes, you can easily earn an IT degree online from a wide variety of colleges and universities. Many schools now provide these degrees in formats that mean you never need to visit campus to graduate.
IT degrees lead to several fulfilling and well-paying positions in myriad industries. Whether your interests lean towards software development, network design and maintenance, data analysis, or information systems management, you can find these roles and more.
Which IT degree you should get depends on where you are in your career. If you’re just starting out, an associate degree allows you to test the waters. Bachelor’s degrees qualify graduates for many entry-level roles, while a master’s degree can help you take on an advanced position.
Earning an online IT degree is very similar to earning one in person; you simply don’t need to visit campus. You will still attend lectures, work on group projects, take exams, and submit assignments — all from the comfort of your home. Due to the online nature, you will need a trustworthy computer and a strong internet connection to succeed.