Guide to Online Bachelor's in Information Technology Degrees

Usmaan Farooqui

Written By: Usmaan Farooqui

Published: 4/26/2022

Individuals interested in a bachelor of information technology (IT) program can gain a balanced education with particular emphasis on the fundamentals of business computing. Students largely focus on how networking technology and computers can be used to accomplish various goals in an organizational setting. They can also choose to specialize in a particular area of IT, such as cybersecurity, software engineering, or game development.

IT is a massive, $5.2 trillion global industry, and IT professionals can be found working in nearly every economic sector. They take on a variety of positions, helping ensure people and organizations can safely and securely interact with computing and network systems.

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What Will I Learn in an Information Technology Degree Program?

An IT bachelor's degree includes classes in humanities and social science subjects, as well as core and elective coursework in computing and STEM areas. Individuals typically learn about different programming languages, and may take courses on machine learning, web development, ethical hacking, database system administration, and cloud technologies, to name a few. Most information technology programs expect students to complete a capstone project in their final year in which they must apply their knowledge of IT. Depending on the program, they may need to complete a project, pass an exam, or write a research paper to meet this requirement.

The technical nature of the IT field can give students the opportunity to pick up skills in project management, data analysis, critical thinking, and problem solving. Furthermore, given that their chosen field is primarily concerned with business computing, students may also spend time learning about various management theories.

Information Technology Concentrations

A vast discipline, IT has various areas of concentration. Many programs therefore offer students the chance to focus their core and elective coursework in one or more of these areas so that they can develop specialized knowledge. IT degree concentrations are generally useful for graduates who aim to land a job in a particular area or industry. Below is a list of common concentrations students can choose from at the bachelor's level.

Cybersecurity

The cybersecurity track trains students to respond to various online threats, such as data breaches, misinformation, and viruses. They learn how to use anti-virus software and other network security measures to shore up a business's network, as well as how to identify and preemptively respond to potential cybersecurity attacks. Students may also take classes in ethical hacking and learn about the kind of laws that regulate access to online information. This concentration is a suitable option for individuals primarily interested in designing information networks, as well as those who wish to explore the overlap between security and computing.

Database Management

Students enrolled in the database management concentration gain an understanding of the technologies used to store, protect, and share business information. They learn how to maintain various kinds of hardware, such as servers, and spend time familiarizing themselves with different network administration methods. Given the increasing importance of big data, this track may be ideal for students who want to explore different kinds of career paths once they graduate.

Game Development

The game development track is likely a suitable choice for individuals who wish to gain IT skills that are relevant in the entertainment industry. For instance, aside from learning how to build interactive gaming experiences, students also learn about role-playing, character design, and storytelling. Given this, they can graduate with a solid understanding of user experience, and may be particularly well-qualified for IT positions that are focused on increasing user engagement.

Health Informatics

In the health informatics concentration, students focus on the unique informational needs of the healthcare industry. This is a multidisciplinary track in which individuals learn about various legal and medical topics pertaining to the informational rights of patients, while also gaining a foundational understanding of IT concepts in cybersecurity, network architecture, and database management. While students who earn an IT degree in this concentration are well-prepared for a technology-focused career in healthcare, they may also qualify for positions in other organizational settings.

Software Development

Software development is a fundamental IT area that deals with how to design, maintain, and improve computer programs. This track therefore entails a heavy focus on programming languages such as such as C#, Java, or CSS, with students typically gaining experience in machine learning, artificial intelligence, and automation. This concentration often includes a capstone project in which students must design and test their own software. Graduates of the software development track can gain a widely applicable IT skill set, and may qualify for many different entry-level positions in the field.

What Can I Do With an Information Technology Degree?

A bachelor's degree in IT can prepare students for career paths in a constantly changing technology field and may help them secure tech jobs in growing industries such as entertainment, transport, and power generation. Furthermore, with a majority of businesses moving at least some operations online — particularly in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic — IT professionals are taking on a wider range of responsibilities. From daily maintenance, testing, and diagnosing applications, to designing sophisticated computing hardware and network technologies, an IT degree can equip students with the knowledge and hands-on experience necessary to meet modern business computing needs. Below are a few common roles for IT graduates.

Computer and Information Systems Managers
Median Annual Salary: $151,150
Job Outlook: 11%

Computer and information systems managers are primarily responsible for identifying and overseeing a business's IT requirements. Their day-to-day tasks may involve supervising IT professionals, assessing new kinds of hardware and software, and ensuring networks meet informational security requirements. In some cases, they may also be involved in developing strategic IT goals.

Software Developers, Quality Assurance Analysts, and Testers
Median Annual Salary: $110,140
Job Outlook: 22%

Software developers create, test, and work to improve computer applications. This typically involves taking responsibility for the entire product design process, from conducting user research and recommending specific digital solutions, to building and testing applications and documenting potential defects.

Special Effects Artists and Animators
Median Annual Salary: $77,700
Job Outlook: 16%

Typically employed in the entertainment industry, special effects artists and animators use computer programs to create visual effects for various kinds of media. They may be involved in building video games, producing animated films, or designing graphics for televisions shows and movies. These professionals are often employed on a project basis and usually work in a larger team of animators.

Is an Online Information Technology Degree Worth It?

An online IT degree can be a valuable asset for students who hope to enter a technology-driven business world. Aside from giving them the chance to gain in-depth knowledge of computing, this degree may also help graduates develop highly specialized skills in data analytics, cloud computing, and artificial intelligence — abilities which employers are likely to value in the future. As with all higher education credentials, however, an IT degree does not guarantee future employment or increased earning potential. It is therefore important to consider the pros and cons of an IT education at the bachelor's level before deciding to enroll.

Potential Advantages

The job outlook for IT professionals is favorable. For instance, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts computer and IT occupations will increase by 13% through 2030 — which is faster than the national average. An IT degree can therefore prepare graduates for employment in a growing field.

IT professionals report high levels of job satisfaction. According to CompTIA, 74% of workers in this field report being happy with their jobs, with 28% claiming they are extremely satisfied.

Potential Drawbacks

Advancing in this field may require certification. While a bachelor's degree can provide students with the knowledge necessary to embark on a computing career, the evolving nature of this field means graduates will have to commit time and financial resources in continuing education to remain competitive.

There are faster ways to get a job in IT. For example, bootcamps take considerably less time to complete than a four-year degree and are specifically designed to develop in-demand computing skills. Many also provide students career placement support. An IT degree may therefore not be a suitable option for individuals interested in quickly securing employment in tech.

Information Technology Certifications

IT certifications allow students to develop substantive knowledge and foster in-depth skills in disciplines such as information science, web design, IT management, and software development. These credentials allow IT professionals to continue advancing their careers by showing employers they have the most up-to-date training in specific computing areas or software. While they are voluntary, some employers may prefer applicants with advanced certifications for higher level positions.

Microsoft, Cisco, and CompTIA are among those that offer certifications in commonly used software.

Azure Administrator Associate

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 various Azure functions. Individuals need at least six months of prior experience with Azure to apply for this certification.

Azure Data Engineer Associate

Students gain this certification with the intention of developing critical skills in data management; gaining expertise with data processing, storage, and security, as well as learning how to optimize these functions in a work environment. Candidates must have knowledge of data processing languages to attain this certification.

CCNP Security Certification

This credential is designed to train students in how to become effective security professionals in an online environment using Cisco security technologies. It covers basic concepts related to digital security while allowing students to develop their skills in a particular area of security technology.

CCNP Service Provider Certification

Receiving this certification demonstrates 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.

CompTIA A+ Certification

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.

Scholarships for an Information Technology Degree

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 funding their higher education. Both online and in-person learners can apply for federal, state, and private aid, including scholarships, fellowships, and grants. Although it is possible to pay for an IT degree using loans, students are advised to first exhaust free forms of financial assistance. Those that are unable to secure funding this way — but are still interested in pursuing an IT degree — may consider federal student loans, as these offer the most favorable repayment rates.

Students should contact the financial aid departments of their prospective schools to determine which funding programs they're eligible for. They may also consider applying for the following scholarship opportunities specifically meant for IT students.

The AFCEA awards scholarships to students pursuing a degree in a range of STEM fields, including IT. The cybersecurity scholarship is open to U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents who are enrolled in at least their second year of college.

  • Award amount: $5,000

This scholarship is designed to support students pursuing a degree in technology. To be eligible, applicants must be CompTIA student members and demonstrate the ability to make a positive impact through IT.

  • Award amount: $2,000

This award is for postsecondary students pursuing a degree in a computing field. Applicants must demonstrate leadership skills, as well as financial need and the ability to exhibit leadership in the field of technology. 

  • Award amount: $10,000

(ISC)2 offers 20 awards annually 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.

  • Award amount: $1,000-$5,000

Students enrolled in an accredited college for an IT degree can apply for this award administered in partnership with Scholarship America. Applicants must be enrolled in, or planning to enroll in a computing, IT, or related undergraduate program.

  • Award amount: $5,000

Students interested in applying for financial assistance can explore our guide to financial aid and our more comprehensive list of computer science scholarships.

Can I Get an Information Technology Degree Online?

Many schools offer online IT degrees. These programs allow individuals to complete courses based on their own schedule, and may therefore be suitable for prospective students who work full-time, have family commitments, or other obligations. In most cases, distance learners also pay lower tuition fees and save on campus living costs, making online programs more affordable than traditional ones.

Our list of best online bachelor's in IT degrees ranks schools based on the return of investment they offer for IT graduates. Students may consider these programs as they present the chance to earn high mid-career level salaries, and hence pay off student loans or recoup the initial costs of a bachelor's in IT.

Interested in learning more about online education? Explore our Online College Toolkit.

FAQs About an Information Technology Degree

How Long Does it Take to Earn an Information Technology Bachelor's Degree?

It takes roughly four years of full-time study to earn an IT bachelor's degree. During this time, students complete 120-124 credit hours of core, general, and elective coursework. Depending on the number of classes they take each semester, part-time learners can take 5-6 years.

What is Information Technology?

IT is a broad field which focuses on the creation, storage, transfer, and protection of electronic data. It encompasses the physical design and operation of computing networks and operating systems, as well as the development of networking software, communication systems, and e-commerce features that meet a range of business needs.

What is the Difference Between Information Technology and Computer Science?

Despite the many overlaps between these two disciplines, there are some key distinctions between IT and computer science. While students in an IT program largely learn to design, build, and ensure the smooth operation of various computing systems, those pursuing a computer science bachelor's strive to understand the fundamental principles and theories that make various computing activities possible. These latter individuals therefore study the mathematical formulas, algorithms, and statistical models that computers run on.

Is an Information Technology Degree a Good Fit for Me?

Individuals with an aptitude for technology who have a general interest in learning about how computers function may find that an IT degree suits them well. As this field involves innovating with hardware and software, solving complex problems, and keeping pace with constant technological developments, an IT bachelor's can also appeal to students who enjoy being creatively challenged.

Are Online Information Technology Degrees Accredited?

Online IT bachelor's programs can receive accreditation from the Accrediting Board of Engineering and Technology (ABET). ABET accreditation ensures that the faculty and coursework of a specific IT program meet established standards for educational excellence within the discipline. Students should also check the U.S. Department of Education's database to ensure their IT program is offered at a regionally accredited online school.

Want to learn more about different types of accreditation? Visit our list of online colleges by accreditation for information.

How Much Can I Make With a Bachelor's in Information Technology?

According to the BLS, individuals employed in computer and information technology occupations earn a median annual salary of $91,250, which is more than double the national average of $41,950. Those working in high-demand areas such as informational security can make over $163,000 annually.

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