Online IT Degree
Are you looking for an online IT degree program that can help you break into or get ahead in the information technology industry?
You may have heard that IT is booming and can offer great pay and job security…and that’s true! We’ve got everything you need to know about certification and degree programs, top colleges that offer online IT programs, and what your job prospects and earning potential might be.
What is an IT degree?
An information technology (IT) degree combines the theoretical and practical concepts of using computers to collect, store, share and protect information. The best online IT degree programs will cover concepts such as programming, system analysis and design, database management, network administration and cyber security. They will also teach some business principles to prepare you for leadership roles in the IT field.
At some colleges, IT students are able to choose an area of specialization. These will vary from school to school, but may include:
- Application Development
- Cyber Security
- Cloud System Administration
- Infrastructure and Security
- Web and Mobile Programming
- Gaming Design
Having an IT degree with a specialization will provide you with an area of expertise right out of school, which can make you even more marketable to potential employers.
What is the difference between information technology and computer science?
While information technology and computer science are quite similar, and the terms are often used interchangeably, there are important differences between the two.
If you are interested in installing computer systems, using software, and maintaining networks and databases, IT would likely be the best choice for you. Examples of career prospects include information security, database administration, and computer support, and you can expect to work in a business setting. Your exact qualifications, and what jobs are a good fit, will depend largely on your specialization or the elective courses you take.
Computer Science, on the other hand, is a more niche degree, appropriate for those who are interested in mathematics, software design and programming. In this major, you will become proficient in programming languages such as C++, Java and Python. You may work in a corporate setting, but could also work in a university, software or video design company, for example.
With some additional courses and/or certifications, your IT degree could land you a position designed for a Computer Science graduate, and vice versa. But if you know your career goals ahead of time you can choose the program most suited for that position and save yourself some time and money.
How long does it take to get an IT degree?
Earning a bachelor’s degree in IT, as with other bachelor’s programs, generally takes about four years of full-time study. You can earn your degree faster by enrolling in an online program. Many online programs offer accelerated courses, which may make it possible to graduate in as little as two to three years.
Are IT jobs in demand?
For the past 20 years, the information technology field has been booming and that is expected to continue. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of computer and information technology occupations is projected to grow 12% from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations. Altogether, these occupations are projected to add about 546,200 new jobs.
The BLS cites cloud computing, data storage and cyber security as the biggest contributors to growth in the IT industry, but also notes increased demand for professionals in healthcare IT, mobile networking and data management. If you are looking for the most in-demand jobs, these are the areas of IT you should be considering.
What can I do with an IT degree?
Most IT graduates are prepared to enter the workforce immediately, and have little trouble securing jobs. Nearly every area of IT is showing faster than average growth, and the reported median salaries are impressive across the board.
IT graduates with a specialization, area of expertise or certifications to add to their resumes will stand out from other applicants and be especially marketable.
Which IT jobs pay the most? Which IT jobs are the most in demand?
An online IT degree can open to doors to a long list of in-demand, high paying occupations. Which jobs are a good fit will depend on your specialization, courses, certifications and prior experience, as well as what interests you. Here are a few examples:
|Occupation||Entry Level Education||2018 Median Salary||Growth Outlook, 2018-2028|
|Web Developer||Associate||$69,430||13% (much faster than average)|
|Computer Network Architect||Bachelor’s||$109,020||5% (as fast as average)|
|Computer Programmer||Bachelor’s||$84,280||-7% (decline)|
|Computer Systems Analyst||Bachelor’s||$88,740||9% (faster than average)|
|Database Administrator||Bachelor’s||$90,070||9% (faster than average)|
|Information Security Analyst||Bachelor’s||$98,350||32% (much faster than average)|
|Network and Computer Systems Administrator||Bachelor’s||$82,050||5% (as fast as average)|
|Software Developers||Bachelor’s||$105,590||21% (much faster than average)|
|Computer and Information Research Scientist||Master’s||$118,370||15% (much faster than average)|
|Computer Support Specialist||varies||$53,470||10% (faster than average)|
Data obtained from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)
As you can see, nearly all occupations are expected to see tremendous growth over the next decade and offer competitive median salaries.
Do I need an IT degree or is a certificate enough?
There is a lot of debate around the level or type of education necessary to succeed in the IT field. “Do I really need a degree, or is a certificate enough?” In short, it depends on a few things.
- How much experience do you already have?
- What type of IT are you interested in?
- Are you looking for a job or a long-term career?
Generally speaking, a certificate can provide you with the technical know-how to land a well-paying job in the IT field. A degree, on the other hand, will give you a more rounded education, including the soft skills needed for a long-term career in IT.
Many argue that both are necessary. A degree will give you a solid foundation and get you started in the field, and adding certifications later on will ensure you are up-to-date on changing technologies.
Online Information Technology Certificate Programs – With an online IT certificate program, you can develop advanced, marketable skills in a particular area. For example, Microsoft and Cisco certifications are popular options that can demonstrate to employers that you are an expert on these specific platforms.
Bachelors in Information Technology – A bachelor’s degree is the most common degree choice for IT professionals. Most employers who are looking to hire for in-demand, well-paying positions are looking for candidates with a bachelor’s degree or equivalent experience.
Masters in Information Technology – A master’s level program will prepare you for management positions as well as advanced roles in business and technology. You will likely be eligible to earn higher salaries than those with just an undergraduate education.
How do I choose an IT degree program?
As you compare IT schools online, it’s important to select a program that is accredited. This means that the online IT courses are recognized by the U.S. Department of Education, and that the program has undergone an extensive review to ensure its validity. You can find out if a school is accredited by visiting the Council for Higher Education Accreditation website.
If you choose to enroll in an unaccredited program, you will not be eligible for federal financial aid, you could have trouble transferring your credits, and ultimately, your degree may not be of much value in the eyes of potential employers.
In addition to accreditation, you will want to look for an IT program that:
- Offer the specialization or concentration you are interested in
- Includes certification opportunities during degree study (if that interests you)
- Offers internships, practicums, field experience or research opportunities (if those interest you)
- Is within your budget
Don’t just choose the first accredited IT program you come across. Do some research and comparison to find the one that offers the best opportunities and seems most in line with your goals!
What is the best online college for IT?
The best online IT degree program is one that is accredited, works with your schedule, is within your budget, and provides the education you need to achieve your career goals.
Here are the top 5 online schools that offer well-respected, highly rated online IT degree programs:
These are excellent programs at top schools, but this is just a starting point. Be sure to do your research to find the online IT degree program that is best for you and your future!