Technology has changed the way we do nearly everything during the last few decades, and that is especially true when it comes to the proliferation of computers and computer systems -- not only at home and in the workplace, but seemingly everywhere. Where offices of decades past were filled with filing cabinets and typewriters, today's offices are filled with complex networks of computers and various computer software programs that help everything run smoothly.
Due to the boom in the use of computer and information technology -- one that shows no signs of slowing down -- careers in this field have become increasingly popular goals for students. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment in all computer and information technology occupations is expected to increase 12 percent during the decade leading up to 2024. That means plenty of opportunity for existing computer professionals and plenty of new opportunity for students who choose to pursue on-campus and online IT degrees.
Online Information Technology Degree Programs
Before a student selects an online IT program, it is important to research the educational requirements for careers in the field. In some cases, you may need far more education than you realize, while in others, the educational requirements may take far less time than you imagined.
A good example of a career with flexible educational requirements is network and computer systems administrators. According to the BLS, some network and computer systems administrators may be able to gain entry-level employment with only a postsecondary certificate. Meanwhile, almost all information security analysts need a bachelor's degree in computer science or a related field to get started.
Fortunately, online IT programs offer the right combination of education and hands-on experience to prepare you for a number of careers in this field. The following table includes the most common online IT degrees available, as well as how long they take to complete and some of the related careers options.
|Degree||Timeline for Completion||Applicable Careers|
|Certificate||Typically six months to two years||Network and computer systems administrators, computer support specialists|
|Associate degree||Typically two years of full-time study||Computer support specialists, web developers|
|Bachelor's degree||Typically four years of full-time study||Network and computer systems administrators, information security analysts, computer support specialists, computer and information systems managers, database administrators, computer network architects|
|Master's degree||Typically two years of full-time study after earning a bachelor's degree||Computer and information systems managers|
Career Outlook for Information Technology Graduates
According to the BLS, jobs in computer and information science are expected to increase in tandem with the increased use of technology across almost every industry. Students who have taken advantage of on-campus and online IT programs should be in a good position to take advantage of both high pay and excellent job prospects. The following table uses BLS data to illustrate some of the most popular career options for those who earn online IT degrees along with the average salary and potential growth for each during the next decade.
|Career||National Annual Median Wage, May 2015||Projected National Growth 2014-2024|
|Computer and Information Systems Managers||$131,600||15%|
|Computer Network Architects||$100,240||9%|
|Computer Support Specialists||$51,470||12%|
|Information Security Analysts||$90,120||18%|
|Computer Systems Analysts||$85,800||21%|
As you can see, a wide range of information technology jobs are expected to boom in the coming decade. Meanwhile, workers in this field enjoy higher than average pay in exchange for their knowledge and expertise.
Choosing the Right Information Technology School
When it comes to wading through the many different types of online IT schools, you will find that there is no one-size-fits-all option. The truth is that different schools offer various types of curriculum and resources and different levels of support to their students. And while some online IT programs include the option to attend a campus for on-campus instruction, others operate entirely online.
Before you choose an online IT program, take some time to research the differences between comparable programs. Find out what each program has to offer and how it stacks up to the rest. It's also important to compare the average financial investment it will take to earn every degree you are considering. Beyond those factors, make sure you get answers to these questions:
- Does the program I'm considering offer any online support to students?
- Will I be able to collaborate and communicate with my peers and instructors?
- What kinds of resources will be at my disposal?
- Does my school offer any on-campus instruction?
- Which of the online IT schools I'm considering are accredited?
Once you begin digging through all of these details, you will hopefully find a school and program that matches your style and temperament. After that, you'll be on the fast track toward an information technology degree that can help you get the career you've always wanted.
- Computer and Information Systems Managers, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/computer-and-information-systems-managers.htm#tab-1
- Computer Support Specialists, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/computer-support-specialists.htm
- Information Security Analysts, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/information-security-analysts.htm#tab-1
- May 2015 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nat.htm
- Network and Computer Systems Administrators, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/network-and-computer-systems-administrators.htm#tab-1
- Web Developers, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/web-developers.htm#tab-1