All around the world, markets have been radically reshaped by the innovations of computer technology. For the computer-savvy student who is deciding on a major, an Information Technology (IT) program can be the starting path to a long and lucrative career in a satisfying profession. One of the best things about this field is that IT skills are not difficult to learn, as long as you’re driven in your studies and fascinated by the power of computers.
The number of industries that utilize information technology is almost too large to list, but some of the most significant include healthcare and manufacturing. In the healthcare industry, demand for IT skills continues to increase as hospitals transition from paper to digital record-keeping. In the manufacturing realm, digital avenues of distribution have usurped what was once a sector that largely relied on manual labor. Even in colleges, IT skills are being utilized more than ever as increasing numbers of students opt to take courses online rather than on campus.
What Will You Learn in an Information Technology Program?
IT students gain expertise in business and computers, gaining skills that are lucrative in today’s marketplace. IT courses cover the role that technology plays in the conception, growth, and storage of information in the world’s most competitive industries.
Over the span of an IT training program, students learn how technology is applied in various ways, all of which are tailored to meet the unique needs of businesses in every sector. Throughout it all, the IT student learns how to analyze, troubleshoot, and implement the range of technologies that apply to the business world. Furthermore, students emerge from IT programs with a full understanding of information security.
The types of technology that students work with in a typical IT program include everything from computers and hard drives to networks and databases. Courses in an IT program will generally cover the following topics:
As a discipline, information technology is closely related to the fields of computer science and management information systems, both of which also consist of classes in technology and business. With a degree in any one of these majors, a graduate can find employment in various industries that rely on computer technology.
What Jobs Do IT Professionals Perform?
Companies hire people who work in the IT field to examine their computer systems to determine which hardware components and software programs are vital to that system. The IT professional will then administer any needed changes. He or she must also ensure that digital processes are implemented with maximum efficiency and security. As such, the individual is hired based on his or her technical and managerial skills, which are crucial considering how the line of work consists of communication between each party in a given company.
IT professionals have radically reshaped telemarketing over the past decade. Whereas call centers used to consist of seated staff that dialed numbers manually to connect with potential donors of assorted causes, today’s calls are generated via auto-dialers, which link to centralized computer systems. Through headphones, live calls are received by fundraisers or sales staff, who greet and read pitches to subjects that are identified on the computer screen. In adjacent departments, IT specialists are responsible for routing calls, rotating campaigns, and ensuring that vital information from each call is stored in the system.
What Are the Leading Career Fields for IT Graduates?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the fields of computer and information technology are expected to see a 12 percent job-growth rate between now and 2028. That figure — which surpasses projected growth rates in all other fields — accounts for an estimated 546,200 new jobs. As of May 2018, the median annual income of IT professionals was $ 86,320, which is more than twice the $ 38,640 median income of all other professions.
IT majors can rest assured that their chosen career path has consistently shown to be a lucrative field, regardless of the economy. The reasons for this unfettering demand for IT experts is simple: the world is growing more and more computerized. All of which leads to the pressing question that most students ask as they enroll in college to undertake this line of study: what kinds of jobs await once you enter into the job market with an IT degree? Here are some of the most popular fields:
1. Computer and information research science
Graduates who work in this field are among the movers and shakers in technological innovation. The work environments range from public to private sector institutions, where research often leads to advances in technology, production, and management systems.
The BLS compiles country-wide research to offer industry growth assessments, reports that the median wage of computer and information research scientists is $118,370 per year, $56.91 per hour. The industry is expected to have 5,200 new positions by 2028, up 16 percent from the 2018 figure of approximately 31,700 active positions.
2. Computer and information systems management
This role consists of technological leadership at a given company, where the IT professional is in charge of the computer staff, as well as all of the decisions made regarding hardware and software.
The BLS reports that the median wage of computer and information systems managers is $142,530 per year, $68.53 per hour. The industry is expected to have 46,800 new positions by 2028, up 11 percent from the 2018 figure of approximately 414,400 active positions.
3. Computer hardware engineering
In this line of work, the IT professional designs and implements new and improved computer devices, such as faster routers, fancier smartphones, and more expansive memory cards.
The BLS reports that the median wage of computer hardware engineers is $114,600 per year, $55.10 per hour. The industry is expected to have 4,000 new positions by 2028, up 6 percent from the 2018 figure of approximately 64,400 active positions.
4. Computer software engineering
Each facet of a given computer program, from spreadsheets to security information, is written and compiled by the IT professionals in this field.
The BLS reports that the median wage of computer software engineers is $105,590 per year, $50.77 per hour. The industry is expected to have 284,100 new positions by 2028, up 21 percent from the 2018 figure of approximately 1,365,500 active positions.
5. Database administration
The IT professional who works in this position is responsible for the security of data that a company gathers and utilizes throughout a given cycle of business. As such, the administrator ensures that only qualified people are granted access to such info.
The BLS reports that the median wage of database administrators is $90,070 per year, $43.31 per hour. The industry is expected to have 10,500 new positions by 2028, up 9 percent from the 2018 figure of approximately 116,900 active positions.
6. Network systems and data communications analysis
The communication and functionality between computers in any given company is overseen by an IT-qualified professional.
The BLS reports that the median wage of network systems and data communications analysists is $82,050 per year, $39.45 per hour. The industry is expected to have 18,200 new positions by 2028, up 5 percent from the 2018 figure of approximately 383,900 active positions.
7. Computer systems analysis
The analyst’s role is to determine the type of computer system that will most adequately fulfill the technological requirements of a given company.
The BLS reports that the median wage of computer systems analysts is $88,740 per year, $42.66 per hour. The industry is expected to have 56,000 new positions by 2028, up 9 percent from the 2018 figure of approximately 633,900 active positions.
8. Network and computer systems administration
A professional in this field will cover the responsibilities of overseeing a company’s computer system, from the installation of the network to the maintenance of connection lines and individual machines.
The BLS reports that the median wage of network and computer systems administrators is $82,050 per year, $39.45 per hour. The industry is expected to have 18,200 new positions by 2028, up 5 percent from the 2018 figure of approximately 383,900 active positions.
9. Computer support
In this role, IT skills are utilized to help people troubleshoot any sort of problem that might arise with computer hardware components and software programs.
The BLS reports that the median wage of computer supports is $53,470 per year, $25.70 per hour. The industry is expected to have 83,100 new positions by 2028, up 10 percent from the 2018 figure of approximately 863,100 active positions.
If you’re wondering whether you’d be a good fit for an IT program, the question is less about the relative difficulty of the major itself, and more about your interest and determination to master the skills needed.
Things to Look for in an IT Program
Information technology is an enormous field of study with numerous areas of focus. As such, students from various backgrounds are attracted to IT programs. Many students are attracted to the programming aspects of the major, and others are more interested in the administrative credentials that come with an IT degree. IT study programs vary, with some composed of courses that focus on the specifics of select topics and others that cover the field in a more generalized sense.
As an aspiring student, you should first decide on what exactly draws you to the major. Is web design or software development excite you? Or do you envision yourself as a hardware engineer or systems administrator? After you determine which aspect of the IT field is most suited to your own interests, select a study program that best focuses on that particular area. Also consider which type of learning environment and timetable would be most suited to your lifestyle and schedule. Do you wish to take lab courses by day, online classes at night, or vice versa?
Which Types of Students Do Best in an IT Program?
As with any field of study that involves technical knowledge and engineering skills, your potential for success in an IT program will largely rely on your personal aptitude for such disciplines. The field is centered on the programming and maintenance of computer systems, so some of the most apt students are those with long cultivated interests in the technical aspects of computers.
For example, if you’ve always had a knack for troubleshooting problems with software and program code on your personal computer, you could easily be a faster learner of IT curriculum than someone with little or no computer savvy. Likewise, if you’ve long been assembling your own computer towers — unscrewing the enclosures to install and replace motherboards, RAM, hard drives, fans, and PCI cards — you’ll likelier be a more natural fit for this field of study. Ultimately, success in an IT program demands a combination of hardware and software expertise. The most successful IT students are usually those who’ve naturally gravitated toward such topics in their everyday lives.
Are Degrees in Information Technology Difficult to Earn?
An IT course can be as difficult or trouble free as you make it out to be. It’s a matter of your own interest level in the topics at hand and your willingness to gain skills in this lucrative field. While it’s true that even some of the most gifted IT majors occasionally have rough patches, the same could be said for the best students in any major where the curriculum covers a broad set of topics. For instance, you might be highly skilled at handling hardware components, but less so when it comes to math. Consequently, the latter might require more effort and concentration on your part, but it’s no reason to disparage. Every student has a topic that he or she deems more challenging than the rest.
During the span of an IT program, you might encounter a few parts that are more difficult. It might be one or two assignments, or it might be a particular course as a whole. When challenges arise, simply give it your best and look forward to the career rewards that your hard work will reap once you’ve earned the degree.
According to some graduates with IT degrees, the most difficult parts of the program were calculus and the coding languages for C++ and binary scripts. Some students who can’t quite parse the more technical aspects of IT might be better suited to a related major that ties in with the field, such as Business Information Technology. You have to determine whether it’s a few courses that seem too challenging, or the majority of courses in an IT program. If you encounter the latter situation, but you’re still committed to mastering the skills, seek additional help through the following routes:
- Meet with a tutor one or more times each week
- Join a study group of fellow IT majors
- Meet with your professors to discuss challenging points in the curriculum
If there’s one topic in the program that proves to be a blemish on your GPA, try to find courses of equal credit that combine it with easier topics. The point of these extra measures is to overcome any barriers — such as misunderstandings of texts, or miscommunications with professors — that could impede your goal of attaining the credentials of an IT professional.
How Long Does It Take to Earn an IT Degree?
In most areas of study related to Information Technology, degrees are offered at the associate and bachelor’s levels. The one exception is the area of Computer and Information Science, which requires a postgraduate degree in order to qualify for the field. An IT degree generally takes between two and four years to earn, though it depends on the course load that a student is willing to take during a given quarter.
For an Associate of Science or Applied Science (AS/AAS) in IT, most schools require that students earn between 72 and 90 credit hours, which are typically divided into course categories, such as core, major, elective, and specialty. Some of the basic, lower-level courses cover topics like programming fundamentals, MS Office applications, and foundations in IT. Meanwhile, a student must also earn core credits in topics like college composition, professional presence, and at least one five-credit algebra course above the 200 level, which covers concepts such as radical equations, logarithmic functions, proportions, and graphing.
IT specialization courses in the 100- and 200-level range cover topics like website development, technical communication, database foundations, web graphics, and software design. Lastly, an IT associate degree will usually require 12 credits of networking courses at the 300 and 400 levels.
How to Earn an IT Degree from the Comfort of Home
If you’re fascinated by the technical aspects of computers — such as the design of hardware, the programming of software, and the administration of networks and systems — you could be a perfect fit for the often lucrative field of information technology. At Vista College, you could gain the knowledge and skills of an IT professional through our online program. Whether you wish to study during daytimes or evenings, our online classes are designed to give you the flexibility. You can complete your work when it’s best suited to your personal schedule.
In less than two years, you could master the skills of computer troubleshooting, network management, software administration, tech support, and more through our Information Technology Associate of Applied Science (AAS) program. To learn more about the programs and courses that we offer, or to begin your enrollment as an IT major, visit Vista College online today.