Overview of Online Information Technology Programs
IT includes aspects of data collection and analysis, and it involves working with the physical and digital components that make multiple computing activities possible. Students enrolled in an online IT bachelor's program blend computer science theory with practical technology management so they can learn how to address the multiple technical challenges that arise in the workplace. This highly flexible credential qualifies graduates for many entry-level positions in private industry, non-profit, and public sectors. An online bachelor’s program also fosters transferable skills in problem-solving, critical thinking, and communication.
Students enrolled in an online IT bachelor's program blend computer science theory with practical technology management.
With many colleges and universities offering distance education programs, it's possible to pursue a bachelor’s degree exclusively online. These programs require 120-124 credits, with full-time students completing roughly 40-50 courses over four years. Part-time students, who take fewer courses per semester, tend to take 5-6 years to complete their degree. Applicants typically need a high school diploma or GED, letters of reference, and personal essays to gain admission into an IT bachelor's program. Furthermore, some IT departments expect students to have a minimum B grade in math and science subjects.
Online Information Technology Degree Levels
An online bachelor's in IT is just one example of the type of degrees students can pursue in this area. For instance, those unable to commit to a four-year program or hoping to gain job-ready skills may choose to complete an associate degree in IT. Furthermore, students interested in deepening their knowledge in this subject may enroll in IT graduate programs at the master's and doctorate levels. Below is a list of degree types available to prospective IT students:
Students pursuing an associate degree in IT gain a solid grounding in subject areas such as programming. Additionally, they may elect to study specific subjects, such as mobile device applications, software development, or database management. If they choose to become computer support specialists, they can earn roughly $55,510 annually. Associate graduates may also decide to transfer into a bachelor's program in IT.
A bachelor's degree introduces foundational concepts while allowing students to explore IT disciplines to specialize in — such as systems security or network management. Course content tends to vary by program, but graduates can typically qualify for entry-level positions. For instance, they may land jobs as software developers, quality assurance analysts, or testers, making an annual income of $110,140.
Students enrolled in a doctoral degree in IT gain in-depth industry knowledge and specialized research skills. They typically explore ways to improve IT operations and develop new theoretical frameworks. Ph.D. graduates in IT can find employment in a range of sectors, such as business or consultation. They are also often trained to work in education, where they may earn $85,540 as postsecondary teachers.
Common Courses for an Online Information Technology Degree
The curriculum for an IT bachelor’s includes elements of computer science, tech management, and business computing, covering topics in information security, telecommunications, information systems architecture, and IT project management. Students learn to develop faster processes, improve/update software, and create data networks.
During their studies, students complete design and project-based labs, which give them hands-on experience with distinct IT tasks. Programs typically include a capstone course, where seniors take on a large-scale project within their related interest area. Those enrolled in an IT bachelor's program may choose to specialize in a niche within the context of their degrees, such as systems administration, information security, web development, or infrastructure management.
While classes may vary by program, the following is a list of common courses students can expect to take while pursuing their IT degree.
- Hardware and Operating Systems: Students learn the fundamentals of hardware operation, particularly as it relates to peripherals, such as monitors, printers, external keyboards, and similar items. They also study how operating systems — such as Linux and Windows — are made to work with various kinds of hardware.
- IT Policy and Law: In this elective class, students learn about the laws and policies regulating IT functions. Covered topics include trademarks, patents, and copyrights. At the end of the course, students should have a grasp of computer ethics, particularly as decisions about professional and social conduct relate to data sharing.
- Programming Principles: IT professionals need a foundational understanding of programming. This course teaches students integral concepts in everyday programming activities. Most classes use a simple programming language in labs to convey concepts, which prepares students for more advanced coursework in this subdiscipline.
- Software Acquisition and Project Management: Students taking this class gain experience in two essential areas of IT. Specifically, they learn the skills to initiate and implement a software project, including those needed to negotiate with vendors, manage a team, and monitor a project's progress.
The Importance of Accreditation for Online Schools
Accredited schools have undergone a rigorous evaluation process to prove that they meet established academic standards. Attending an accredited school ensures that students receive a high quality education while enabling them to apply for different types of aid — which are typically only awarded to students who are enrolled at an accredited school or program — and transfer credits from schools accredited at a similar level.
Additionally, professional organizations may evaluate specific degree programs to determine whether they meet educational standards for a specific field. The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology is the main organization assessing IT degrees. Students should check the U.S. Department of Education or Council of Higher Education websites to check the accreditation status of their prospective schools and IT programs.
Funding an Online Information Technology Degree
Tuition for an online IT degree can vary based on many factors. For instance, in-state residents and online students qualify for discounted fees at public universities, while students enrolled in private colleges — in both distance and in-person programs — may pay more.
Although an online degree can be a more affordable higher education option, it is still a significant financial investment, and prospective IT students may be interested in financial aid resources to help fund their education. This brief list of scholarships is available to students pursuing an online bachelor's degree in IT.
- Generation Google Scholarship: This award is for postsecondary students who excel academically, demonstrate financial need, and exhibit leadership in the field of technology. Successful candidates receive $10,000 for the academic school year.
- Information Security Undergraduate Scholarship(ISC)2, a non-profit organization, offers 20 awards between $1,000-$5,000 to high school seniors or undergraduate students pursuing an online bachelor's degree related to cybersecurity or information assurance. Applicants must demonstrate financial need and have a minimum 3.3 GPA.
- STANLEY Technology Scholarship: Students enrolled in an accredited college for an IT degree can apply for this award administered in partnership with Scholarship America. Successful applicants receive a nonrenewable amount of $5,000 for the academic year.
Careers With a Degree in Information Technology
Since today's world is largely driven by technology and information, IT is a necessity for businesses and organizations of all sizes. As a result, IT professionals can be found working in nearly every sector of the economy, from business and services to government, healthcare, and education. A bachelor’s degree helps foster essential skills related to maintaining networks, managing databases, and using existing technologies to implement software solutions. Graduates are qualified to land entry-level positions in domains, such as cybersecurity, programming, and web development. After gaining some professional experience, bachelor’s graduates may even take on supervisory or managerial roles.
The following is a list of career options available to IT graduates along, with salary and job outlook data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Computer systems analysts
Median Annual Salary: $93,730
Job Growth Rate: 7%
Computer systems analysts, also known as systems architects, design efficient computer networks. They work with business technology and IT, studying existing computer systems and identifying opportunities to improve functionality. In some cases, these professionals also write training manuals for new systems.
Database administrators and architects
Median Annual Salary: $98,860
Job Growth Rate: 8%
Database administrators and architects are responsible for storing and cataloging types of data. They work for a range of organizations, troubleshooting, designing, building, and maintaining databases that hold massive amounts of information, from employee data to business operations. A large part of their job involves ensuring the security of these databases.
Information security analysts
Median Annual Salary: $103,590
Job Growth Rate: 33%
Information security analysts protect computer networks by detecting threats from viruses and hackers. They typically predict potential threats by using software to analyze considerable amounts of data. With cyberattacks on the rise, this profession continues to be in high demand while also evolving to become increasingly sophisticated.
Network and computer systems administrators
Median Annual Salary: $84,810
Job Growth Rate: 5%
Network and computer systems administrators oversee the daily operation of computer systems in organizations of all types. They are responsible for installing and maintaining local networks, information systems, and other computing systems. They also regularly provide support to professionals using these systems.
Web developers and digital designers
Median Annual Salary: $77,200
Job Growth Rate: 13%
Web developers and digital designers create and maintain websites. Typically possessing skills in programming and user experience, these developers are responsible for a website’s visual representation as well as its technical aspects, such as performance and capacity. Many of these professionals work as freelancers, serving individual client or organizational needs on short-term projects.
Certifications in Information Technology
IT certifications allow students to develop substantive knowledge and foster skills in disciplines, such as information science, web design, IT management, and software development. Given the fast-paced nature of the IT field, these credentials allow IT professionals to learn new skills and continue advancing their careers. They also help non-IT professionals or those with less experience develop new competencies. As such, certifications can also help demonstrate to employers that an individual has specific expertise and relevant training in IT.
Below is a list of common IT certifications available from Microsoft, Cisco, and CompTIA.
This certification is designed to prepare students to work with Azure, Microsoft's cloud computing service. They study how to manage virtual networks, develop storage capacities, and use Azure functions.
Students gain this certification with the intention of developing critical skills in data management; gaining expertise with data processing, storage, and security; and learning how to optimize these functions in a work environment.
This credential is designed to train students in how to become effective security professionals in an online environment. It covers basic concepts related to digital security while allowing students to develop their skills in a particular area of security technology.
Receiving this certification illustrates that professionals have a solid understanding of networking and software. Specifically, it shows that they have skills to help connect individuals through various kinds of digital infrastructure. It also provides the opportunity for students to gain in-depth knowledge of how such networks are built and maintained.
This flexible credential covers a range of IT work areas, from managing industry-standard technologies to supporting everyday security needs. Students learn how to work with diverse hardware, such as desktop computers and mobile phones, to carry out basic and complex IT tasks.
Is an Online Degree in Information Technology Worth It?
Given that postsecondary education can be a substantial undertaking, you may wonder whether an online IT degree will help you achieve your career goals. Hiring managers typically view an online credential as a legitimate qualification, which may be because distance learning programs have become increasingly common over the last few years. Furthermore, enrolling in an accredited school or program will help ensure you receive an education that meets rigorous academic standards. However, a degree’s worth is partly based on your personal situation and financial circumstances, so it's important to consider these factors before deciding to enroll.
Hiring managers typically view an online credential as a legitimate qualification, which may be because distance learning programs have become increasingly common.
Below are some potential benefits and drawbacks that may help you decide whether an online degree in IT is right for you:
- A bachelor's in IT can prepare you for several entry-level positions in computing. While certifications or bootcamps can help you land a job, some employers prefer degree holders for more demanding positions with varied responsibilities.
- An IT degree helps foster transferable skills. Working with computers may give you experience with problem-solving, communication, and critical thinking. These soft skills are valuable in professions outside of IT.
- The online format is suited to learning IT. Unlike humanities or social science students, who engage in debates and discussions, individuals enrolled in an IT program spend most of their time gaining hands-on experience with different kinds of hardware and software.
- An IT bachelor's degree does not provide in-depth training in computer science theory. While they help maintain computer systems in a variety of settings, IT professionals are inexperienced in certain areas, such as software design or coding. Therefore, you shouldn't pursue this degree if your goal is to find work in these areas.
- An online degree can be challenging to complete. While this format allows you to learn at your own pace, it requires self-motivation and discipline. You may find a distance education program difficult to complete if you prefer a structured learning environment.
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