Information Technology Degrees

Most careers in IT call for an information technology degree of some kind.[i]  After all, you may already have a strong interest in computers and technology, but that doesn’t mean you know how to install network cabling, resolve a security threat, or design and build a website! If you are planning to go to school to earn an IT degree, it’s a good idea to learn about some of your options in this diverse field of study.  To help you on  your journey, we have gathered some typical questions students may have when considering IT degrees.

What information technology degree should I earn?

That depends on the career path you are interested in pursuing. For example, a web developer may earn an associate’s degree in web design or a related area, while a computer and information research scientist usually needs to earn a PhD in computer science, computer engineering, or a similar field.[i] In addition to the level of information technology degree you hope to pursue (associate’s degree, bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, or doctorate degree), you may also need to choose an area of focus. If you’re not sure what area of IT you hope to enter, here are several possible disciplines you could major in:

  • Computer Engineering – a degree in computer engineering typically covers the design of computer hardware, software, and even devices that include computers, like cell phones and medical equipment. You’ll usually explore both computer science theories and engineering principles.[ii]
  • Computer Science – a computer science degree could offer a broad overview of this field, including both the theory and practice of software development, information science, robotics, and much more. This degree could offer good preparation for a variety of IT career paths.[iii]
  • Information Systems – an information systems degree typically explores the use of computers systems to process and store information for businesses and other organizations. Programs in this area are often offered by business schools and could include both computing and business courses.[iv]
  • Information Technology – while IT may refer to the entire field of computing, information technology degrees are usually designed to help prepare students for a specific branch of this science. IT describes both the practical and theoretical knowledge necessary to meet the technology needs of organizations. You’ll typically explore network administration, programming, cybersecurity, and other knowledge areas.[v]
  • Software Engineering – if you’re interested in designing software, this degree could help you explore both the computer science and engineering principles necessary to pursue the role of a software engineer. SE programs often use group collaboration to give students the experience of working on a team to complete software-building projects.[vi]

Where can I earn an IT degree?

Today’s students can often find IT programs at community colleges, four-year colleges, or universities close to home. However, geographic location is not the only factors students should look for when selecting a program to help them pursue new career goals. Earning an IT degree online may also be an option worth considering if you want flexible class schedules and the ability to study and take classes anywhere, anytime. Once you have decided on the type of information technology or computer science degree you wish to pursue, evaluate your options to find the program that best suits your needs and lifestyle.

How long does an information technology degree take to earn?[vii]

The duration of your program depends on the degree level and your personal time commitment, among other factors. Part-time students obviously take longer to earn a degree than full-time students, so it’s important to take your own schedule into consideration. However, here are some rough estimates for the most common degree options:

Associate’s Degree in IT– this degree typically takes around 2 years of full-time study for the average student.

Bachelor’s Degree in IT – on average, a bachelor’s degree takes 4-5 years of full-time study to earn.

Master’s Degree in IT – a master’s program, such as an M.S. in Computer Science, usually takes about 2 years of full-time study.

Doctorate Degree in IT – a doctorate-level degree, such as a PhD in Computer Engineering, could take 4 years or more of full-time study.

How do I choose the IT degree program that’s perfect for me?

Once you have settled on a career goal and area of study, you’ll need to evaluate IT degree programs based on what each school has to offer. Some factors to consider include the school’s accreditation, availability of support services like career-planning assistance, and whether or not the program suits your lifestyle – for example, some schools may offer evening and weekend classes. You may also want to ask about student retention rate, graduation rate, and other stats that could be a good gauge of the program’s quality. Don’t hesitate to talk to representatives from the programs you are considering.

If you’re interested in an IT degree, your next step should be to explore some programs that may meet your criteria. Check out these related degree programs. 


Sources:  bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/home.htm  |  computingcareers.acm.org

[i] bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/home.htm|[ii] computingcareers.acm.org/?page_id=11 | [iii] http://computingcareers.acm.org/?page_id=8|[iv] computingcareers.acm.org/?page_id=8|[v] computingcareers.acm.org/?page_id=7|[vi] onetonline.org/link/summary/15-1141.00 | [vi] computingcareers.acm.org/?page_id=12 | [vii] bigfuture.collegeboard.org/find-colleges/college-101/quick-guide-your-college-degree-options

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