According to research done by the International Data Corporation (IDC), by 2020, the global information technology industry is expected to surpass $5 trillion in value. What's more, the U.S. itself is the largest IT market in the world, accounting for nearly a third of that global economic activity.
If you've been thinking about studying tech to help further your career, it's important to know the difference between two most common degree types. Here's a quick primer:
On this page, we'll address some general questions about information technology degrees and careers, give a general overview of IT college programs and provide a list of top institutions to help you find a good IT school online. We'll also give you a rundown of some positions in the field and a quick introduction to information technology certifications.
The answer to this question depends on the distance education options at your chosen college, but fully and partially online information technology degree programs are available from a wide range of institutions. Check with an advisor at each school you're considering for more details.
Different information technology schools tend to vary somewhat in the specific curriculum they offer, but there are some core concepts that many IT programs have in common. Here's a short list of subjects that you can expect to study on your way to an information technology degree:
Continue reading for more about what you can learn in an online Information Technology program on the associate and bachelor's level.
How Long Does an Online Associate Program in Information Technology Take?
Full-time students can typically finish their associate degree plan in four or five semesters.
What Are the Requirements to Start an Online Associate Program in IT?
Each online information technology college has specific requirements for admission, but generally you are expected to have a high school diploma or its equivalent and at least a 2.0 grade point average. Also, you may be required to earn a high score on the SAT or ACT.
Why Earn an Online Associate in Information Technology?
Earning an associate degree can be a way for to enter the IT field quickly or to prepare you for a higher-level degree program.
The first year of an information technology degree program lays the framework for future courses. You take classes that familiarize you with IT fundamentals, scripting and pre-calculus.
You can also expect to take general education classes to round out your criminal justice studies, such as coursework in English composition, mathematics, psychology and sociology.
As you learn more about IT, you can explore your specific interests by taking electives offered in your program. You can also learn about computer networks, computer systems security, and project management.
How Long Does an Online Bachelor's in Information Technology Take?
These four-year university degrees provide the broadest and deepest IT education of the three types. At this level, information technology schools may allow students to specialize in a specific area within the discipline.
What Are the Requirements to Start a Bachelor's in Information Technology?
Applicants are generally expected to have a high school diploma or GED, a 2.0 grade point average and a certain score on the SAT or ACT. You may also be able to transfer credits into a four-year program if you've already earned an associate degree in information technology.
Why Earn an Online Bachelor's in Information Technology?
An online bachelor's in information technology can help you if you're new to the field and learning the fundamentals as well as the skills needed to land a job. A bachelor's program can also provide the opportunity to choose a specialization in order to study a specific subsection of the field. It offers more advanced information that can help current information technology professionals who are looking for career advancement.
Years One and Two
Introductory Information Technology Coursework:
When you begin this program, you can expect to learn the basics of information technology, including data analytics, cross-platform technology, computing as a service, IT operations, and scripting.
General education classes:
You can expect to take general education classes in areas such as mathematics, art, psychology, sociology and English.
Years Three and Four
Exploring a Specialization:
Once you have a basic understanding of information technology principles, you may select a specialization that can help you meet your education and career goals. Examples of these specializations are cybersecurity, digital systems technology and embedded systems, project management, software development, and IT management.
You can have the opportunity to apply what you've learned in the classroom to a real-world IT setting. Internship experience can to better prepare you for a career in IT and help you decide what specialization is right for you.
Capstone course or project:
Some schools can require a capstone course or project that allows you to demonstrate your understanding of the course material throughout the program. In other programs, you may be required to take a comprehensive examination covering the department's curriculum.
Paying for college can be tough, but the right financial aid programs can help you keep your costs down. Take a look at the information below, and check out our guide to scholarships for more tips.
Applicant must be a high school senior or college freshman, sophomore, or junior who will graduate or have graduated from high school in Middle Tennessee and will be enrolling in a four-year not-for-profit college or university. Applicant must be a business major or STEM major and be able to demonstrate financial need. Minimum 2.5 GPA required.
Applicant must be a full-time student in an undergraduate or graduate degree-granting program in a field directly related to the support of United States intelligence or homeland security enterprises, and/or foreign languages. Applicant must be currently enrolled at a two- or four-year accredited college or university in the United States.
Applicant must be a currently enrolled full-time veteran or active duty undergraduate or graduate student pursuing a degree in computer engineering or computer science. Resume, copy of current transcripts, two letters of reference, three essays, and DD 214 or Active Duty orders and Memorandum of Understanding from commanding officer required.
Applicant must be a female college freshman, re-entry, or transfer student who is a North Carolina resident enrolled at an accredited institution in North Carolina. Must be a STEM major with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Essay, transcripts, proof of acceptance, and letter of recommendation required.
Selection is based upon academic excellence.
Applicant must have a minimum 3.5 GPA and a minimum SAT reading and math combined score of 1200 (composite ACT score of 26). Three recommendations and a 1,000-word essay describing the applicant's professional and personal long-range goals are required.
Applicant must be a senior who has a minimum 3.0 GPA and who has demonstrated the finest qualities of leadership through participation in campus organizations and has rendered service of significant benefit to the campus community.
Applicant must be a full-time female student pursuing a technical degree such as computer science, mathematics, information technology, etc. Software project developed outside of applicant's school or paid work is required.
Applicant must be currently enrolled or intending to enroll at an accredited undergraduate or post-graduate program, majoring in computer science, engineering, or information technology. A minimum 2.0 GPA and short 300-word original essay on the Future of Cryptocurrencies are required to be submitted.
Applicant must demonstrate community leadership and have met the award criteria established by the Alumni Association's Scholarship Committee. Applicant must have completed 12 credits last semester and 24 credits at Bridgewater State College as of December 31. Applicants who have transferred from Massachusetts Community Colleges, Dean College, or Quincy College are eligible to apply.
Applicant must be a woman majoring in biology, mathematics, or information technology (computer science specialty). Applicant must have a record of high academic achievement and an interest in teaching or research in math or science.
Applicant must be a U.S. citizen who is enrolled as a full-time student at an accredited college, university, or post-secondary vocational/technical program in the United States. Applicant must have completed half of their total curriculum requirements/classroom hours by the application deadline in a field leading to a career in the automotive aftermarket or related field. Minimum 2.5 GPA required. Recipient must remain a full-time student for their first full semester, quarter, or term following receipt of the award.
Applicants must be an undergraduate enrolled in a 2-year or 4-year college or university studying or planning to study criminal justice or information technology. Students must be enrolled full time in the fall semester. A minimum 3.0 GPA is required. Applicants will submit via email a 1,000-word-essay on one of the given prompts: How do you envision video surveillance playing a role in your professional and personal life in the next 10 years? What impact do you think your generation will have on video and electronic monitoring in 10 years?
Applicant must be pursuing an associate's degree in Computer Technology and Information Systems. Selection is based on academic history, extracurricular activities, and employment history.
Applicant must be a graduating high school senior or graduate of Paw Paw High School who is enrolled or planning to enroll in a technical school trade school or community college in a course of study that will lead to a career in the field of technology (e.g. auto technician, graphic design, information or manufacturing technology). Minimum 2.0 GPA, extracurricular or community volunteer activities, and work experience are required.
Applicant must be a full-time undergraduate student in good academic standing at an accredited college or university in the U.S. Must be majoring in computer science, engineering, engineering technology, information technology, political science, pre-law, or telecommunications. Biography, essay, copy of transcripts, and references required.
Applicant must be a graduating senior from Bay City Central High School who will attend a public college or university in Michigan as a full-time student majoring in business, education, information technology or social sciences.
Applicants must be enrolled in or accepted to a two or four-year college or university within the U.S. Students must be pursuing a career in computer science, information technology, management information systems, computer engineering or another related field. A minimum 3.0 GPA is required. The application requires an essay on the stated topic. Students must also actively participate in community service and/or extracurricular activities.
Applicant must be a graduating high school senior from Oregon or Washington state who is attending an Oregon or Washington state university or college with a major in an information technology-related curriculum. Selection based upon academic performance, information technology-related career goals, recommendations, previous experience/interest in information technology, and financial need.
Applicant must be a graduate student pursuing a master's degree in Cybersecurity OR Information Technology with a concentration in Computer Security. Required two-year work commitment in the cybersecurity field with a federal, state, or local government agency or a federally funded research and development company upon graduation.
Once you've finished your degree and you're ready to get hit the workforce, you'll find a diverse array of information technology careers on the job boards. The sheer size of the IT market in the U.S. suggests that the career outlook for well-trained candidates should be generally positive.
In this section, we'll take a close look at a few information technology careers to provide some perspective on the diversity of the IT job market and help students understand their options.
Students in search of a quick route to the workforce may be wondering: "What can you do with an information technology diploma?" IT consultants work to help people and organizations design, develop and integrate computing systems that meet their needs and goals. Here's a list of common responsibilities in this career:
Entry-level jobs for IT consultants may be available to recent graduates without prior work experience, including those who have earned a certificate or diploma rather than a full-fledged degree. Further education is often required to move up the ladder in the field — many employers prefer candidates with at least a bachelor's degree when hiring for more advanced positions.
Earning certain information technology certifications to supplement your education can also give you a leg up in the hiring process. Here's a short list of some of the more helpful professional credentials on the market:
Active listening and good written communication are also important parts of an IT consultant's skill set. Adding some courses in business communications or technical writing to your degree plan can help you develop these "soft skills."
More and more of our data is moving into cloud-based systems, and the use of virtual computing environments is on the rise in both organizational and private settings. Cloud architects focus their attention on managing cloud-based system architectures from end to end, including servers, storage, front-end platforms and local networks that interact with data from the cloud.
As a cloud architect, you'll often work closely with IT security personnel. Depending on the nature of an organization's business, you may need to be available at irregular hours to address emergent technical issues.
Cloud architect jobs tend to come with significant responsibility for an organization's computer and data systems, so employers tend to prefer candidates with substantial formal training and experience. A bachelor's degree in information technology is typically the minimum education required for these positions, as well as a few years of experience working with cloud-focused solutions in a professional IT setting.
In order to get the experience you need to qualify for a job as a cloud architect, focus your entry-level career search on organizations that make extensive use of the cloud and learn everything you can about working with it. A range of information technology certifications can also add value to an aspiring cloud architect's resume. Here are a few to consider:
Web developers are the people responsible for creating and maintaining the technical elements of online sites. Web developers may also act as designers, constructing the user-facing graphical layout of a site as well as building the parts at work behind the scenes.
Here's a quick list of web developer duties:
Educational requirements for web developer careers tend to vary from one work setting to another. Developers for high-usage sites and applications may need a bachelor's degree or higher, for example, while freelance web developers can attempt to pitch their services to potential clients before they've taken any formal training in the field.
As with many information technology careers, the right professional certifications can go a long way toward landing you the job you want. These are a few helpful certifications for aspiring web developers:
A solid portfolio is also a big part of the job search for aspiring web developers. Earning your web development degree at the right IT school can help you build that portfolio and demonstrate your expertise to clients and employers.
This certification focuses on key networking concepts like security, infrastructure and troubleshooting. It shows that you're capable of designing and implementing functional hardware networks and virtualized systems.
VMware's CMA credential demonstrates to employers that you're capable of using VMware vRealize environments to automate, simplify and streamline data center activities.
This credential assures that you know how to create robust web-based assets and help you work with the back end of the web in a range of employment settings.
Joining a professional organization can bring several benefits to a young IT career, such as exclusive job boards and opportunities for mentorship. Check out this short list of organizations you might consider joining: