A degree in information technology can lead to a wide range of lucrative career paths. As the field of computer technology advances, and information security grows more challenging, the number of jobs available in information technology continues to grow—and so do the possible salaries associated with IT careers. A bachelor’s or master’s degree in information technology will qualify you for many of these careers. Whether you want to be a software developer, a database administrator, a computer systems analyst, or a computer maintenance technician, an information technology degree can help you on your way.
A degree in information technology gives you an education in computer systems, software development, networking, and database administration, with a focus on problem–solving and critical thinking. As you progress in your education, you’ll likely be encouraged to pick a specialization in the field of information technology. Options include information security, health information technology, and digital forensics, to name just a few.
The field of information technology is broad and constantly expanding. If you like thinking on your feet and working in different spaces every day, you might want to become a computer maintenance technician who travels to different buildings or cities to maintain office equipment or train others on how to use it. Or if you enjoy looking at the big picture and managing numerous moving parts, you might prefer to be a computer and information systems manager who works for a company to plan, coordinate, and oversee its computer–related activities. If you’re the creative type, perhaps a career in software development might suit you. For that role, you’ll need to be well–versed in computer programming and capable of working in computer languages to create new programs and applications. Whatever you choose to do, you could be opening the door to a lucrative career in information technology.
What Kind of Accreditation Should My Degree Program Have?
Accreditation is the process by which colleges and universities are evaluated and validated. Colleges and universities that have earned accreditation have met the standards set by accrediting organizations. These organizations are comprised of faculty from various accredited colleges and universities. Legitimate regional and national accrediting organizations are recognized by the U.S. Department of Education (ED). Typically, the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) recognizes the same institutions, although CHEA recognition isn’t mandatory. A college or university must be accredited by a Department of Education-recognized accreditor in order for its students to receive federal financial aid.
For a detailed look at the differences between regional and national accreditation, check out What Do I Need to Know About College Accreditation?
- What is Regional Accreditation?
- Regional accreditation is the signifier of quality education; this includes the currency of curriculum, credentials of educators, and credibility of degrees. Regional accrediting agencies only accredit institutions in their geographical area.
- The Six Regional Accrediting Agencies
- Middle States Commission of Higher Education (MSCHE)
- New England Commission on Higher Education (NECHE)
- The Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
- Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
- WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)
To find out if a college or university on your list is regionally accredited, check the Department of Education’s Database of Postsecondary Institutions and Programs.
- What Is National Accreditation?
- National accreditation is often perceived as a less rigorous standard than regional accreditation and is governed by educational accreditors agencies that are not restricted by region or geography. This means that one such agency can provide accreditation to any college or university in the U.S. that meets its criteria. National accreditation is commonplace among trade schools, religious schools, and for–profit colleges.
Most regionally–accredited colleges do not accept or recognize credits or degrees earned from colleges that lack regional accreditation. However, national accreditation may be a useful indicator of quality for students pursuing vocational training, competency-based education, or other education models that operate under a for-profit model.
To learn more about National Accreditation, check out Understanding National Accreditation.
For help safely navigating the For–Profit Sector, check out our Guide to For–Profit Colleges: What You Need to Know.
- What is Programmatic Accreditation?
- Programmatic accreditation certifies that an institution’s program, department, or college has met the standards of the programmatic accrediting agency. While programmatic accreditation agencies often have national jurisdiction, programmatic accreditation is not institutional national accreditation. In fact, programmatic accreditation often coexists with regional accreditation. In some disciplines, a degree with programmatic accreditation may even be required to earn a license or enter professional practice.
When it comes to information technology degrees, the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) provides the most pertinent programmatic accreditation. ABET accreditation denotes that relevant degree programs are meeting certain standards of quality and credibility in the field of information technology. If your program does not have this accreditation, it may be harder to transfer schools or find a job in your field. Be sure your school’s IT program is ABET–accredited before you enroll. To find out if your preferred school is accredited by ABET, check out their list of ABET–accredited programs.
The easiest way to determine accreditation status is to contact your school of choice, or visit the website for any of the above accreditation agencies. Each provides a searchable database of accredited institutions and degree programs. You can also look at the Department of Education’s database of all recognized accreditors within its purview.
Or, to learn a little more about navigating the tricky accreditation landscape, check out Accreditation of Colleges and Universities: Who’s Accrediting the Accreditors?
What Kinds of Information Technology Degrees Are There?
Associate Degree in Information Technology
An associate degree in information technology is a 60 credit program that takes about two years to complete. With an associate in IT, you’ll study foundational subjects including programming, computer networks, database management, and web development. You’ll also work on your analytical and problem–solving skills. Most programs will also give you an education in basic subjects such as English, math, and the sciences. An associate degree in information technology can prepare you for entry–level jobs such as computer systems support technician or network administrator. This is also a good starting point if you plan to eventually work toward a bachelor’s degree in information technology. Just make sure that your program is properly accredited so that your credits and diploma will transfer.
What Information Technology Courses Will I Take in an Associate Program?
- Computer Programming Design
- Desktop Administration
- Introduction to Networking
- Introduction to Programming Logic
- Networking Security Fundamentals
- Systems Analysis and Development
Bachelor’s degree in Information Technology
A bachelor’s degree in information technology is typically a 120 credit program that requires a minimum of four years to complete. A bachelor’s degree in IT will deepen your understanding of networking, computer maintenance, cybersecurity, database administration, software development, and project management. You’ll also have an opportunity to choose an area of specialization. Concentrations for a bachelor’s degree in information technology include information security, web and applications development, database administration, digital forensics, and network administration. A bachelor’s degree in information technology will qualify you to enter the workforce as an information security analyst, a network administrator, a computer systems analyst, or a software developer, to name just a few of many possible career paths. This degree will also be required if you plan to enter a master’s degree in information technology program.
What Information Technology Courses Will I Take in a Bachelor’s Program?
- Business Systems Analysis/Design
- Computer Platform Technologies
- Computer Systems Architecture
- Cyberlaw and Ethics
- Cybersecurity/Information Assurance
- Website Design
What’s the Difference Between a Bachelor of Information Technology and a Bachelor of Science in Information Technology?
If you plan to enter the field of information technology, either a bachelor of information technology (BIT) or a bachelor of science (BS) in information technology will help you along your way. Generally, a BIT degree will take three to five years and will focus entirely on computers and technology. A BS in information technology will include core subjects such as mathematics, life sciences, and liberal arts alongside your IT focus. Both degrees are acceptable when looking for a job in information technology, but the BS in information technology will offer a more well–rounded education.
Master’s in Information Technology
A master’s in information technology is a graduate degree that generally takes about two years to complete. For this degree, you will study advanced coursework in information systems, deepening your knowledge of information technology and honing your problem–solving skills. If you’re interested in managing information technology, particularly the information systems development process, this might be the IT degree for you. With a master’s in information technology, you can work in a leadership role such as IT manager, computer systems analyst, or senior database administrator. The master’s in IT is also the basic threshold for teaching information technology.
What Information Technology Courses Will I Take in a Master’s Program?
- Data Communications
- Database Design
- Project Management
- Systems Analysis
- Systems Design
Ph.D. in Information Technology
A Ph.D. in information technology is a terminal degree. With a Ph.D. in information technology, you’ll be able to compete for the top leadership jobs in your field—and simultaneously, the highest–paying positions. Most Ph.D. programs in information technology cover foundational topics such as principles of programming, enterprise database design, and advanced software development as well as specializations such as cloud computing, technology for mobile devices, and healthcare information technology. Completion of your doctorate in information technology will require a research–based dissertation. During this process, you will work closely with a faculty advisor to choose, research, and write about a topic of relevance to your concentration. You will also be expected to defend your dissertation in front of a committee. With a Ph.D. in information technology, you will qualify to work as a postsecondary computer science teacher, an information research scientist, or an information systems manager, among other prospects.
What Information Technology Courses Will I Take in a Doctoral Program?
- Applied Research Methods
- Computer Networking and Operating Systems
- Fundamentals of Information Systems
- Principles of Programming
- Systems Analysis and Design
- Technology in the Global Community
What Kind of Licensing or Certification Do I Need?
When it comes to information technology, there are several certifications that you can obtain. Because the field of information technology is so broad, it’s hard to name one single certification that will apply to you. Your certifications will depend on the focus of your information technology degree—information security, networking, teaching, maintenance, etc. Below are some of your options.
As noted in the master’s degree section above, if you plan on becoming an information technology teacher in a public school setting, you must earn a bachelor’s and master’s degree, as well as complete a teaching certification program. In many cases, your undergraduate program will include the courses required to earn your teaching certification. If that is not the case — or if you’ve earned a bachelor’s degree in an alternate field — you can enter a standalone teaching certification program. This will provide you with the coursework and experience needed to earn licensure in your state. (Bear in mind that some states require you to have a master’s degree in education before you can enter your certification program. Contact the Department of Education in your state to learn more). Depending on the amount of coursework you’ve completed up to this point, your certification program could take between one and two years to complete.
Once this is complete, you will qualify to sit for the licensing exam in your state. Some states use a national exam like PRAXIS, while others employ their own licensing examination.
Once again, we would advise visiting the Department of Education for your state to find out more.
Information Technology Certifications
- The Cisco Certified Network Associate
- CCNA certifies your ability to install, operate, and configure switches and routers, as well as solve common network problems. This certification also allows you to specialize in security, voice, or wireless networking. To achieve this certification, you must pass a 90–minute written exam. The fee for the exam is around $295.
- CompTIA’s A+ Technician certification
- A foundational certification for a career in information technology. This credential certifies that you can handle the maintenance of PCs, printers, operating systems, mobile devices, and laptops. This certification requires that you pass two exams—one multiple–choice and one performance–based. Exams will cost roughly $200.
- Comp TIA’s Network + certification
- This program is designed for professionals focused on wired and wireless networks. This credential requires that you pass a 90–question exam on the configuration of network devices and other emerging technology. This exam costs about $285.
- The Certified Information Systems Security Profession
- CISSP is designed for information security professionals. To achieve this certification, you must pass an exam covering eight subjects: security and risk management, asset security, security engineering, communications and network security, identity and access management, security assessment and testing, security operations, and software development security. This exam is involved and will require about six hours to complete. The cost is $600, so be sure that this is the field you want to enter before considering this certification.
- The Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer
- This program is a mid–level credential that certifies your ability to work across multiple technologies. This certification allows you to specialize in server infrastructure, desktop infrastructure, private cloud, enterprise devices and apps, data platform, business intelligence, messaging, communication, and SharePoint. The exam is a five–step process that includes multiple choice and simulation problems. The exam is generally $150 regardless of the specialization you choose.
What Can You Do With an Information Technology Degree?
If you are wondering, “What can I do with an information technology degree?” there are plenty of options. Your information technology degree can be the key to a challenging and exciting job in Computer and Information Technology. For more details, check out a few of these top information technology degree jobs:
- Computer, ATM, and Office Machine Repairers
- Computer and Information Research Scientists
- Computer and Information Systems Managers
- Computer Hardware Engineers
- Computer Programmers
- Computer Support Specialists
- Computer Systems Administrator
- Computer Systems Analysts
- Database Administrators
- Information Security Analysts, Web Developers, and Computer Network Architects
- Network Systems Administrator
- Software Developers
What Kind of Salary Can You Earn With an Information Technology Degree?
Your information technology degree could open the door to a career in computer and information technology. The Bureau of Labor Statistics provides median annual salary information as of 2018 for these top information technology degree jobs:
|Computer Support Specialists||$53,470|
|Network and Computer Systems Administrators||$82,050|
|Computer Systems Analysts||$88,740|
|Information Security Analysts||$98,350|
|Computer Network Architects||$109,020|
|Computer and Information Research Scientists||$118,370|
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
Are There Professional Information Technology Associations or Societies You Should Join?
Professional associations are a fantastic way to make connections in your field, learn about valuable seminars or certifications, and improve your own credentials. The association or associations you choose to join will depend to an extent on the career path you take. Look for information technology associations that correspond with your academic or professional concentration.