Studying IT

I’m interested in studying IT. What can you tell me?

IT stands for information technology, which is the use of computer networks and databases to store, share and analyze information. In an IT program, you will learn to design computer networks and maintain information databases for businesses and other organizations.

If you want to study information technology, you should be tech-savvy, logical and analytical. In addition, you will need to develop strong problem-solving skills in order to troubleshoot issues with networks and computer hardware and software.

Degrees in IT are offered in both graduate and undergraduate programs. However, IT is a good career choice if you only want to spend a few years in school because you can find a job with just an associates degree. But no matter what degree you pursue, you should expect to participate in continuing education in order to keep up to date with new technologies that emerge in this rapidly changing field.

Let’s hear some other perspectives

Jake Bollinger

Student, Bachelor of Science in Information Technology Administrative Management, Central Washington University

“Students who want to do well in online classrooms have to view themselves as achievers who complete their education 1 assignment at a time.”

Read the Full Interview >>

Angelo Nobles

Student, Bachelor of Science in Information Technology, Georgia Southern University

“Some personality traits that would help a student of information technology are adaptability and patience.”

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Bob Boiko

Professor of Information Science, University of Washington

“Students should study information science because it is a fascinating and practical topic. After all, this is the information age, so the study of phenomenon like Facebook and Google is highly relevant.”

Read the Full Interview >>

IT Professional Overview

What exactly is an IT professional?

IT professionals are computer specialists who apply technology to business and communications. They help organizations to run more efficiently by designing networks that connect computers so that users can share information securely. Nearly all businesses and corporations have an IT professional on staff to resolve technical problems, update computers and keep networks free of viruses.

Let’s hear some other perspectives

David Hickox

Sr. Business Systems Analyst, Based in Oregon

“As a business analyst, I have learned that the number 1 skill to have is asking the right questions.”

Read the Full Interview >>

Corwin Johnson

Enterprise Operations Analyst, Pacificorp/MidAmerican Energy

“If you are interested in becoming an enterprise operations analyst, I advise you to expose yourself to the IT field because first-hand experience will help you determine what kind of training you need. ”

Read the Full Interview >>

Personality Quiz

How do I know if IT would be a good fit for me?

Here is a quick quiz to help you decide if you have the personality it takes to succeed as an IT professional. Rate, on a scale from 1 to 5, how well each of the following statements describes you.

I enjoy using technology to accomplish tasks.

IT professionals use computers and mobile technology to increase business productivity. If you like to use the latest technology in your daily life, IT may appeal to you.

I am patient and I do not give up easily.

Sometimes IT professionals must try many different solutions to correct technical problems. Patience will help you to stay calm as you attempt to fix computer and connectivity issues.

I like to work with numbers.

In order to create and maintain databases, IT workers access large amounts of numerical data. You must understand relationships between numbers to create logical databases that are intuitive and easy to use.

I pay close attention to detail.

Duties like web and software development require IT professionals to be aware of details since coding errors can cause programs to function incorrectly. If you tend to dismiss details, you may not do well in the IT field.

I am organized and I can keep track of many things at the same time.

IT professionals are responsible for managing networks, updating software and responding to help requests. You will need to use your time well in order to efficiently handle all of these tasks.

I like to help people.

A major roll of IT professionals is to assist people with computer issues. This is a good career choice if you are service-oriented and like to help others.

I adjust well to change.

New technologies are invented constantly. If you enter the IT field, you must be willing to learn new ways of doing your job so that you can stay up to date.

I enjoy solving problems and puzzles.

IT professionals use technology to solve complicated technical issues with unclear solutions. IT may be a good career for you if you enjoy the challenge of problem solving.

I am interested in the way that machines work.

IT workers must understand the design and purpose of the physical parts of a computer to diagnose problems. If you are interested in the way that complex machines function, you may like working in information technology.

I am comfortable working unpredictable hours.

Because businesses and individuals rely on technology 24 hours a day, IT professionals are sometimes needed after regular business hours. If you are strictly interested in a 9-to-5 job, IT may not the best choice for you.

Get My Score

*Note that this is not a scientific quiz. The result is simply my rough estimate of how well I believe your personality matches that of a successful IT professional.

By my assessment, a career in IT is probably not a good fit for your personality. Please go to the Admission Advisor homepage for a listing of other careers you may want to consider.

By my assessment, although a career in IT may not be an ideal fit for your personality, if you are willing to adapt in a few areas, you can still find success in the field. Please see the list to the right for information on the areas that you may need to work on.

By my assessment, your personality is a good fit for a career in IT. Scroll through our site to gain valuable insight into what it will take you to earn the necessary credentials.

Making the Right Choice

Is there anything else I should consider in deciding if IT is the right choice for me?

Information Technology vs. Computer Science

If you are interested in a career that lets you work with computers, you should know the difference between information technology and computer science. These fields may seem similar because there is a lot of overlap in their coursework. However, these subjects lead to different careers.

IT professionals use existing technology to configure computer networks that make business easier to conduct. They use practical, hands-on computer skills every day. An associates degree is often sufficient for IT professionals to find jobs like network architects, computer systems administrators and web developers. On the other hand, computer science professionals engineer computer hardware and software to create new technologies. Their coursework is grounded in mathematics and computing theory, and they need at least a bachelors degree to be hired for positions like computer programmers, software engineers and research computer scientists.

IT Professions

What IT professions can I choose from?

You can choose from several different professions in the IT field. But different IT positions are closely related, so you may perform duties from any number of these positions, especially if you work for a small company. For example, network architects might work with computer systems administrators to engineer a computer network, while database administrators may perform some of the functions of a computer security specialist in order to keep data safe. You should also note that many IT professions do not require a specific level of education. In some cases, work experience and professional certification are acceptable substitutions for degrees.

Education Required:

Associates (2 years) or bachelors (4 years) recommended

Average Salary:

$76,000

Work Environment:

Corporate businesses, government agencies

Job Description:

Computer security specialists are responsible for planning and coordinating the information security in an organization. They monitor computer networks for breaches in security and teach users how to keep their information safe. Sometimes computer security specialists collect digital evidence that can be used in court to prosecute cyber criminals.

Education Required:

Associates (2 years) or bachelors (4 years)

Average Salary:

$43,500 (Lowest 10% earned less than $27,000; highest 10% earned more than $71,000)

Work Environment:

Corporate businesses, government agencies

Job Description:

Computer support specialists help people solve technical problems. They usually are divided into help-desk technicians and technical support specialists. Help-desk technicians are customer service workers who diagnose and troubleshoot computer problems step-by-step through e-mail or on the phone. They usually work for computer vendors or third party computer support firms. On the other hand, technical support specialists solve network issues and other technical problems in their own organizations.

Education Required:

Associates (2 years) or bachelors (4 years) recommended

Average Salary:

$82,000

Work Environment:

Corporate businesses, government agencies, private consulting

Job Description:

Web developers use HTML and programming languages like Perl, C++ and Java to create the technical aspects of websites. They identify the users of a website and decide what information should be included on the site and how it should appear. Some web developers also use web design software to create visually appealing websites that are tailored to the style and preferences of its users.

Education Required:

Bachelors (4 years)

Average Salary:

$91,000

Work Environment:

Corporate businesses, government agencies

Job Description:

Network architects, who are also called network engineers, design and test computer networks like wide area networks (WAN), local area networks (LAN) and intranets. They set up these communications systems by using computer hardware like routers and cables and installing software components like network drivers.

Education Required:

Bachelors (4 years) recommended

Average Salary:

$66,300 (Lowest 10% earned less than $41,000; highest 10% earned more than $104,000)

Work Environment:

Corporate businesses, government agencies

Job Description:

Computer systems administrators make sure that an organization’s computer system runs smoothly. They oversee all aspects of the system, from installing computer hardware and software to upgrading equipment and troubleshooting technical issues. Sometimes computer systems administrators are also in charge of network security.

Education Required:

Bachelors (4 years)

Average Salary:

$69,700 (Lowest 10% earned less than $40,000; highest 10% earned more than $112,000)

Work Environment:

Corporate businesses, government agencies

Job Description:

Database administrators identify the best ways to organize, analyze, store and present data. They use database management software to set up custom databases. In addition, database administrators work with computer security specialists to plan security measures that keep sensitive data safe.

Education Required:

Masters (2 to 3 years of graduate school)

Average Salary:

$101,000

Work Environment:

Corporate businesses, government agencies

Job Description:

Information technology managers are responsible for making sure that an organization’s IT department operates smoothly. They plan projects and coordinate the tasks of their employees so that assignments are completed on time and under budget. IT managers also define the policies of their department and handle staffing needs.

Job Outlook

What is the job outlook for IT professionals?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) writes that job prospects for IT professionals are excellent. In 2008, there were about 1,526,900 IT workers in the United States, including computer network, systems and database administrators, web developers and computer support specialists. Administrator positions in the IT field are expected to increase by 30% through 2018, which is must faster than the average for all occupations. Computer support specialists will see their job opportunities increase by 14%, which is also much faster than most professions. Finally, demand for web developers is also growing, although no exact statistics are available from the BLS.
Profession Employment 2010 Projected 2020 Average Growth
Computer Specialist 209700 222000 6%
Computer Or Information Systems Manager 307900 363700 18%
Computer Network Architect 302300 367900 22%
Computer Operator 86400 78900 -9%
Computer Systems Analyst 544400 664800 22%
Database Administrator 110800 144800 31%
Database Architect 209700 222000 6%
Information Security Analyst 302300 367900 22%
Information Technology Project Manager 209700 222000 6%
Business Intelligence Analyst 209700 222000 6%
Network Or Computer Systems Administrator 347200 443800 28%

Average Salary Growth 2006 - 2011

Profession 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011
Computer Specialist 69370 72310 76000 78010 79790 80500
Computer Or Information Systems Manager 107250 113880 118710 120640 123280 125660
Computer Network Architect 67460 70760 73830 76560 79370 81670
Computer Operator 35010 36080 37070 37540 38340 39280
Computer Systems Analyst 72230 75890 78830 80430 81250 82320
Database Administrator 67460 70260 72900 74290 75730 77350
Database Architect 69370 72310 76000 78010 79790 80500
Information Security Analyst 67460 70760 73830 76560 79370 81670
Information Technology Project Manager 69370 72310 76000 78010 79790 80500
Business Intelligence Analyst 69370 72310 76000 78010 79790 80500
Network Or Computer Systems Administrator 65260 67850 69570 70930 72200 74270

Salary By Percentile

Profession 10th 25th 50th 75th 90th
Computer Specialist $42150 $59870 $79930 $100900 $118710
Computer Or Information Systems Manager $73080 $92470 $118010 $148500 $185150
Computer Network Architect $42770 $58300 $77990 $101570 $124860
Computer Operator $22730 $28970 $37970 $48110 $57920
Computer Systems Analyst $49370 $62260 $78770 $98490 $120060
Database Administrator $42360 $55840 $75190 $96640 $116870
Database Architect $42150 $59870 $79930 $100900 $118710
Information Security Analyst $42770 $58300 $77990 $101570 $124860
Information Technology Project Manager $42150 $59870 $79930 $100900 $118710
Business Intelligence Analyst $42150 $59870 $79930 $100900 $118710
Network Or Computer Systems Administrator $43400 $55150 $70970 $90160 $112210

Education Requirements

How long would it take me to become an IT professional?

The amount of time that it will take you to become an IT professional depends on the specific career that you want to enter and the educational path that you choose to take. Some IT professions only require an associates degree, which takes 2 about years. However, if you have relevant work experience and strong computer skills, you may be able to enter the workforce without a degree. On the other hand, a 4-year bachelors degree will qualify you for any non-management job in the field. But if you want to become an IT manager, you may need to earn a masters degree, which takes 2 to 3 years of graduate school.

Areas of Study

What can I expect to learn while studying IT?

If you choose to study information technology, you can expect to grow in knowledge and skills.

KNOWLEDGE

Computer Networking

Computer networking explores ways to configure computers into connected web-based networks. Network configuration addresses hardware issues like cabling and routers as well as software considerations like client/server applications. It includes topics like the pros and cons of various network connectivity options, wireless and wired network set-up and cloud computing.

Information Assurance

Information assurance, or network security, teaches how to spot weaknesses in a network’s security system by addressing effective security measures that can repel hackers and viruses. It discusses ways to keep sensitive data safe through software and hardware design and secure coding. Finally, information assurance covers ethical issues like confidentiality and integrity in the IT profession.

Operating Systems

Operating systems are complex software programs that allow people to use computers. This subject discusses the installation, management and design concepts of different operating systems like Linux, Windows and Mac OS X. Discussion topics include the history, function and structure of these systems.

Database Design

Database design discusses how to model, create and implement large databases. IT databases use computers and the web to provide people with a place to store and easily access digital information. Databases design requires students to understand the relationship between pieces of data so that they can structure the database logically using common database structures like relational, hierarchical, network and object-oriented designs.

Discrete Mathematics

Discrete mathematics introduces mathematical concepts that are related to information technology processes such as designing, programming and troubleshooting computers. Some relevant mathematical topics that will be covered include logic, algorithms, encryption, graph theory and number systems.

SKILLS

Computer Programming

Computer programming is essential to your IT curriculum. Like spoken languages, computer programming languages follow certain rules. As an IT student, you will discover how to use programming languages like Java and JavaScript to write functional code that follows standard conventions. Your classes will teach you about the structure, organization and philosophy of these languages.

Web Development

As you study information technology, you will learn how to design and create interactive web pages. You will be trained to use fundamental web design tools like HTML and cascading style sheets (CSS) to develop appealing websites. You will also become aware of the ways that people use the web and how to create sites that are accessible for users with disabilities.

Technical Writing

As an IT student, you will learn how to write information clearly and concisely through technical writing classes. You will discover strategies that help you to logically organize your thoughts so that you can write documents that make sense to your readers. Some examples of documents that you may be expected to write include user manuals, project proposals and step-by-step problem solving instructions.

Project Management

Your IT program will teach you how to manage tasks so that your team can complete projects on time. You will learn how to realistically plan the scope, scale and budget of projects and to delegate tasks to people that utilize their strengths. You will also be trained to use tracking tools and management software that help you to schedule your project and assess your progress so that you can meet your deadlines.

Problem Solving

A significant portion of any IT job involves troubleshooting to help people with computer and networking issues. Your IT curriculum will help you develop problem solving skills that will allow you to look at technical problems from many different points of view. This will enable you to choose the best and most efficient way to solve complicated issues.

Academic Degrees

What academic levels are available in the field of IT?

Academic credentials in information technology are available at many levels. You can earn associates, bachelors, masters and doctoral degrees. If you prefer a shorter route, you can also earn undergraduate and graduate certificates in IT.

Select the degree level you are interested in:

  • Certificate
  • Associate’s
  • Bachelor’s
  • Master’s
  • Doctorate

Certificate

IT certificates are available at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Certificate programs typically do not require students to enroll in degree programs, so they are a good option if you study fields like business, where some formal IT knowledge is beneficial. Undergraduate certificates are meant for students who have not yet earned a degree, while graduate certificates are designed for students who have already completed a bachelors program in any subject.

What are the different types of certificates that I can earn in IT?

Undergraduate Certificates

You can earn an undergraduate certificate in information technology, which is the shortest educational route in the IT field. Note that some schools call this program by other names like IT management or IT fluency, but all of these programs teach fundamental IT theories and skills.

Graduate Certificates

IT graduate certificates teach more advanced IT skills than undergraduate certificates. They are designed to teach technical management skills and tools to working professionals so that they can manage their employees and projects better.

How long will I have to study to earn my certificate in IT?

Undergraduate Certificates

Undergraduate certificate programs in IT typically require students to complete 12 to 18 credit hours. Most students complete undergraduate certificates in 1 year or less.

Graduate Certificates

IT graduate certificates usually require students to complete 12 to 20 credit hours. Most students are able to complete IT graduate certificates in about 1 year.

What types of courses will I take while studying for my certificate in IT?

Undergraduate Certificates

There is no standard curriculum for undergraduate certificates in IT. Many undergraduate certificate programs offer flexible course designs so that students can tailor their educations to fit their career goals. Even so, undergraduate certificate programs typically offer introductory courses in information security, programming and IT management.

Graduate Certificates

Graduate certificates in IT focus on business management tools. The exact courses that you take will vary by program, but you are likely to take courses in information security, communication systems, database design and web application development.

What types of jobs can I hope to secure with a certificate in IT?

Undergraduate Certificates

An undergraduate certificate alone is usually not enough to qualify you to work in IT. These programs are intended to provide you with basic knowledge of the IT field, but you will not be an IT expert after completing an undergraduate certificate. However, if you also have a strong technical background and computer experience, you may be able to find an entry-level IT job like computer support specialist.

Graduate Certificates

A graduate certificate in IT is designed to enhance your technical business and management skills. A graduate certificate by itself will not qualify you for a job in IT. But if you have a background in business, the IT knowledge and skills that you gain through a graduate certificate program may qualify you for promotions or management positions.

What should I consider when deciding on a school to earn my certificate in IT?

Graduate Certificates

Some IT graduate certificate programs focus more on certain areas of IT like database management or supply chain logistics. You should research the courses that are available in different programs before you apply to make sure that you will be able to study the areas of IT that interest you.

What about getting an online certificate in IT?

Undergraduate Certificates

Many schools offer reputable online IT certificate programs. These programs are designed to teach you basic skills, but they are not meant to prepare you for an IT career. You will be able to learn the fundamentals of IT through an online IT certificate program without interacting with your professors and peers. Therefore, there are no significant drawbacks to earning an undergraduate IT certificate online.

Graduate Certificates

Earning graduate IT certificates online is appealing because you can enhance your business and management skills without taking time away from work. The skills that you will learn are all computer-based and can be easily learned in an online IT program. And because there is no research requirement for online IT certificate programs, there are no major drawbacks to earning a graduate IT certificate online.

Associates Degree

An associates degree in information technology is a good educational choice if you do not want to spend several years in college. An associates degree will provide you with important IT knowledge and skills that will qualify you to start a career in the field.

What are the different types of associates degrees that I can earn in IT?

Associate of Arts AA

An AA degree in IT includes courses in the humanities as well as the sciences. This is an uncommon degree in IT, but it is acceptable if you plan to transfer into a bachelors degree program.

Associate of Science AS

An AS degree in IT offers more math and science classes than the AA. This degree is a better choice than the AA if you want to transfer into a bachelors degree program.

Associate of Applied Science AAS

An AAS degree in IT teaches practical job skills that prepare students to enter the workforce immediately. This degree is best if you want to start working as soon as you graduate.

How long will I have to study to earn my associates degree in IT?

Associates degrees in information technology typically require students to complete 60 to 65 credit hours. Students are usually able to finish associates degree programs in about 2 years.

What types of courses will I take while studying for my associates degree in IT?

IT associates degree programs will teach you how to manage data and computer networks and to troubleshoot technical issues. You will take classes about information security, network administration and database management. Many IT associates degree programs also offer courses in web development and design.

What types of jobs can I hope to secure with an associates degree in IT?

An associates degree in IT will prepare you for many jobs in the field. For instance, you will be qualified to work as a computer security specialist or a computer support specialist. If you have a strong background in the principles of information technology, you may also be able to work as a web developer or computer systems administrator, although some employers prefer applicants who have bachelors degrees.

What about getting an online associates degree in IT?

Many schools offer online IT associates degrees, which appeal to busy students. But the drawback to earning an online IT degree is that it does not allow you to interact with faculty and peers. However, you can learn the theory of information technology online. Therefore, earning an IT associates degree online is not a bad choice if you are able to test your knowledge through an IT internship. Similarly, the theoretical knowledge that you gain in an online IT program will be useful if you plan to transfer into an IT bachelors degree program where you be able to get hands-on experience.

Bachelors Degree

A bachelors degree in IT will train you for a variety of jobs in the field. It provides you with a strong background in information technology that can be applied on the job or used as a prerequisite for a graduate program in IT or a related subject like computer science.

What are the different types of bachelors degrees that I can earn in IT?

Bachelor of Arts BA

A BA degree in IT offers technical IT courses in addition to electives that provide you with a broad education. The BA is a good option if you want to focus on IT communications.

Bachelor of Science BS

A BS degree in IT has more science and mathematics classes that give you strong technical training. This degree is a good choice if you want to go to graduate school in a technical field.

Bachelor of Applied Science BAS

A BAS degree in IT is designed to teach you practical skills that prepare you for a job. This degree is best if you want to start working as soon as you graduate.

How long will I have to study to earn my bachelors degree in IT?

IT bachelors degree programs require students to complete about 120 credit hours. Most students complete their bachelors degrees in approximately 4 years.

What types of courses will I take while studying for my bachelors degree in IT?

If you choose to earn a bachelors degree in IT, you will mainly take courses that are designed to give you a technical background. For example, you will take classes about information systems, data analysis, web development and software engineering. You will also take classes that teach you to communicate in the professional environment like technical writing, public speaking and introduction to business.

What types of jobs can I hope to secure with a bachelors degree in IT?

A bachelors degree in IT will prepare you for all entry-level jobs in this field. Some of the careers that a bachelors degree in IT will qualify you for are network architect, computer systems administrator, database administrator and web developer.

What about getting an online bachelors degree in IT?

Earning an IT bachelors degree online may be a smart option, depending on your level of IT experience. However, an online IT bachelors degree is not a good choice if you are not working in IT because it will not allow you to gain hands-on experience in the field. Therefore, you should not pursue an online IT bachelors degree unless it has a significant internship component that will give you the opportunity to apply your skills in the workplace.

If you are already working in the IT industry, earning an online IT bachelors degree is a good way to advance your career because you will be able to study without interrupting your work life. In this case, an internship is not as important because IT professionals should already have the real-world skills that they need to succeed in the field.

Masters Degree

Most jobs in IT do not require masters degrees, but they can be used to secure promotions or management positions. Masters degree programs in IT blend information technology with business and communication skills that can help you to stand out from your peers.

What are the different types of masters degrees that I can earn in IT?

Master of Arts MA

An MA in IT offers classes that discuss theories of IT management and communications. This option teaches you how to manage projects and people who hold IT positions.

Master of Science MS

An MS in IT has science and mathematics classes as well as management courses. It is usually intended to be a terminal degree, so it is a good choice if you want to hold an advanced technical position.

Master of Business Administration in IT MBA

An MBA in IT has a core business curriculum that offers business and IT classes. An MBA is a good choice if you want to increase your IT knowledge in order to enhance your business skills.

How long will I have to study to earn my masters degree in IT?

Masters degrees in IT typically require students to complete 36 to 48 credit hours. Most students finish masters degree programs in 2 to 3 years.

What types of courses will I take while studying for my masters degree in IT?

Masters degree programs in IT are designed to train IT managers, so your coursework will include business, communications and IT classes. The exact courses that you take will vary according to the focus of your program. For instance, if you are an MA or MBA student, you will take classes about project management, organizational behavior and computer systems analysis. But if you are an MS student, you will take more technical classes like telecommunications engineering, data mining and nanotechnology. And no matter what the focus of your IT masters program is, you will take advanced courses in financial management, computer networks and information security. Finally, some IT masters programs also require you to complete a thesis.

What types of jobs can I hope to secure with a masters degree in IT?

A masters degree in IT qualifies you for a variety of leadership positions in the field. For instance, you can manage corporate IT departments or work in a senior position as a web developer, network architect or computer systems administrator.

What should I consider when deciding on a school to earn my masters degree in IT?

If you are thinking about earning a masters degree in IT, you should research the type of masters degrees that are offered by the schools that you are considering. You need to decide whether you want to earn an MA or MBA so that you can manage people, or an MS so that you can work in an advanced technical position. Then you should choose a school that offers a degree program that fits your career goals.

What are the requirements for admission to a masters degree program in IT?

The admissions standards for IT masters degree programs vary by school. Some schools require that you have a bachelors degree in IT or a related field like information systems, electrical engineering or computer science to be admitted into an IT masters program. However, other schools accept students with bachelors degrees in any field if they can demonstrate knowledge of IT fundamentals through work experience or college credit. Finally, the strictest programs require students to have a related bachelors degree and more than 1 year of professional IT experience in order to be admitted.

What about getting an online masters degree in IT?

An online IT masters degree is a viable option if you are already working in the IT field. If you have professional experience, it is not as important for you to interact with your peers and professors in a classroom environment because you will already have hands-on IT skills. However, if you are entering a masters degree program without any work experience, earning your IT masters degree online is not a good idea. But some schools offer partially online IT masters degrees. These blended programs allow you to learn information technology theory online, but you have to attend several sessions on-campus per semester. These sessions are important because they will teach you the practical knowledge of hardware, troubleshooting and communication that you will not be able to learn through a completely online IT degree.

Doctorate

A doctorate is the highest level of education that you can pursue in information technology. It prepares you for research careers and to teach at the college level.

What are the different types of doctorates that I can earn in IT?

You can earn a PhD in general IT or in a specialized concentration like information systems, information security or software engineering. Either option will train you to conduct original research in IT.

How long will I have to study to earn my doctorate in IT?

Most PhD programs in IT require students to complete 72 to 90 credit hours. It usually takes students 4 to 7 years to earn a PhD.

What types of courses will I take while studying for my doctorate in IT?

The classes that you will take in your IT doctoral program depend on the particular program that you pursue. For instance, if you earn a degree in general information technology, you will take classes about IT management, IT literature and research methods so that you will be prepared to write a dissertation. But if you specialize in a specific area of IT, your classes will be different. For instance, if you study information security, you will take advanced classes in network security, assurance controls and risk management in addition to research methods. And if you study information systems, you will take classes about object-oriented database systems, software engineering and algorithms.

What types of jobs can I hope to secure with a doctorate in IT?

A doctorate in IT prepares you to teach and conduct scholarly research at a university. If you do not want a research career, you should not earn a PhD in IT.

What should I consider when deciding on a school to earn my doctorate in IT?

If you decide to pursue an IT doctorate, you should make sure that the schools you are considering offer programs in your area of interest. IT research facilities are expensive and many schools do not have the funding to offer specialized PhD programs in every IT concentration. You should research the general IT curriculum and the specialized options that different graduate schools offer before you decide where to apply.

What are the requirements for admission to a doctorate program in IT?

PhD admissions requirements differ by program. Some schools require PhD applicants to hold a masters degree in IT or a related field like engineering or computer science. However, many schools allow students to apply to their doctoral program with just a bachelors degree if they can demonstrate knowledge of fundamental mathematics and IT skills.

What about getting an online doctorate in IT?

It is not a good idea to get an online IT doctorate. The main drawback to an online IT PhD program is that you will not be able to collaborate with peers or faculty. In addition, IT doctoral programs are designed to prepare students for serious research and teaching careers, but you will not be able to develop these skills if you pursue your IT PhD online. However, a few schools offer blended PhD programs in IT. These partly online IT PhD degrees combine online theoretical coursework with on-campus sessions that students must attend. Blended programs are acceptable options for professionals who want to complete their educations while they work.

Licensing Information

What else should I keep in mind when considering studying IT?

Professional Certifications

If you decide to pursue a career in IT, you should consider becoming professionally certified. Dozens of professional IT certifications are offered by software vendors like Apple, Cisco and Microsoft and by third parties who certify specific skills. These certifications are not mandatory, and some IT professionals debate their value. However, they will enhance your resume by verifying your specific skills. Most of these IT certifications require you to pay a fee and pass an exam.

Some vendor-specific IT certifications are:

  • Apple Certified Support Professional (ACSP): Awarded to computer support specialists who can address Mac OS X support and troubleshooting needs
  • Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE): Issued to IT professionals who can manage mid-sized computer networks
  • Microsoft Certified IT Professional (MCITP): Awarded to IT professionals who are proficient with the Microsoft Windows operating system
  • Microsoft Certified Professional Developer (MCPD): Issued to programmers and software developers who can use Windows development tools to build software
  • Red Hat Certified Engineer (RHCE): Awarded to computer systems administrators who can manage Red Hat Enterprise Linux servers and systems

Some non-vendor IT certifications are:

  • Certified XML Expert (CXE): Issued to IT professionals who are proficient with XML markup language
  • Certified Web Professional Specialist (CWP): Awarded to Internet professionals who have at least 2 years of full-time work experience in the field
  • CompTIA’s A+: Issued to IT technicians who have demonstrated expertise in hardware and software troubleshooting and support
  • CompTIA’s Security+: Awarded to computer security specialists with at least 2 years of successful information security practice
  • CompTIA’s Linux+: Issued to IT professionals with at least 6 months of hands-on Linux experience
  • Project Management Professional (PMP): Awarded to IT professionals who are experts in managing projects on a large scale

Questions & Answers

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Resources

What are some other resources that can help me learn more about pursuing a degree or certificate in IT?

Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology

Association for Computing Machinery

Bureau of Labor Statistics

Center for Information Technology

Federal Networking and Information Technology Research and Development Program

IEEE Computer Society

Information Technology Association of America

Information Technology Industry Council

Information Technology Professionals

TechAmerica