Do Information Technology Degrees Still Matter?

Written by  //  2013/04/26  //  College Major  //  Comments Off on Do Information Technology Degrees Still Matter?

Every now and again, this question will come up in employment and career planning discussions. We all seem to know a self-taught programmer or applications developer who is making the big bucks without the big student loans. And, of course, there’s the decades-old legend of Bill Gates who dropped out of Harvard to become one of the world’s richest IT guys. And let’s not forget the recent Silicon Valley billionaires who invented the social media and information sharing sites that we know all too well.

So what’s the answer? Can a degree in information technology still provide a rewarding career?

Information Technology Basics

Let’s back up a little and start at the beginning. Merriam-Webster defines information technology as Òthe technology involving the development, maintenance, and use of computer systems, software, and networks for the processing and distribution of data. Easy enough.

These days, in 2013, information technology is prevalent in all aspects of our lives. So don’t just think of IT as being stuck in a computer room or programming your life away in a cube. There is so much more to the opportunities that an IT degree, particularly an advanced degree, can offer. A degree in information technology can help you find employment in virtually any field healthcare, finance, manufacturing, e-commerce, defense, academia, tourism, government, and more. These opportunities are in addition to those in the software, hardware, systems and consulting companies specific to key IT disciplines.

Value Of An IT Degree

An average salary in this industry is in the range of $70,000. This is attractive enough to incentivize career-seeking individuals to consider getting the necessary degree that will enable them to go forward in this industry. However, salaries do depend on the degree of specialization, as the complexity in computer science continues to grow at a very rapid pace.

The traditional roles in project management, hardware and software engineering, systems programming, and technical support/help desk are still perfectly viable. However, there are many new and varied career paths which can broadly be classified as follows:

* Applications: User Interface Engineer, Mobile Apps/Web Developer, Systems Architect
* Business Intelligence: Analyst, Architect, Developer
* Database: Manager, Administrator
* Network: Manager, Administrator, Systems Engineer, Analyst, Architect
* Security: Information Security Analyst/Lead

If you already have a bachelor’s degree in IT, transferring into a different specialty may require a formal certification or advanced study. Some employers will pay for continuing education at specific local colleges and/or online universities, requiring minimal financial outlay on your part. Others have plans that will reimburse you if you achieve a certain GPA. And while it’s not entirely unheard of for an employer to allow time away from work for classes, online degree programs take that worry away.

Other Considerations

Every career has its pros and cons. Here are some important aspects of an IT career. Whether or not any of these factors is a deal-breaker is up to you.

  • Stress Level
    An IT career means pressure. Projects need to be completed on deadline, and fixes need to be made ASAP. It can be a 24/7 job, with on-call responsibilities. And if you are working in a field like healthcare, where the problems can literally be life or death, the pressure escalates.
  • Required Commitment
    As noted above, successful performance can require long hours. IT issues can go on for days. There may be times where commitment to your career is in conflict with promises made to your family.
  • Contract Work
    Many of today’s IT opportunities are offered as short-term assignments versus traditional full-time employment. Depending on your situation, contract work can equate to either freedom or instability. Contract work can ultimately turn into a permanent position if you do well. Conversely, you can move around the industry and experience different workplaces for years to come.
  • Constant Change
    The information technology industry moves at light speed. Being conversant in emerging trends and new solutions is essential for professional credibility, longevity and success.
  • Ongoing Education & Training
    If you are going to make a career out of IT, you need to dedicate yourself to constant learning. No matter where you work, the technology will advance. Being willing to train for the future is a must.

As with any job, you will need to consider if the positive aspects outweigh the negative. Should you decide that a career in IT is for you, a degree in IT can open doors to a variety of interesting and rewarding opportunities.

Author Byline:
Laura Mingo writes in the field of higher education. This article aims to offer career advice for university students in relation to IT and promotes the benefits of advanced study regarding an online CIS degree.

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