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Featuring above-average job growth rates and high salaries, the information technology field offers a variety of engaging and lucrative career opportunities. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that computer and information technology professionals earn an average salary of nearly $85,000 a year; it also projects more than 550,000 new jobs in the field by 2026.
Professionals who earn an information technology degree online design networks for organizations, develop new software programs and applications, and protect information security. Undergraduate information technology programs introduce and strengthen core software, hardware, and networking skills. Many graduates work as software developers, computer systems analysts, and database administrators, increasing their job prospects by earning IT certifications and joining professional organizations.
In this article, we explore everything you need to know about earning a bachelor's degree in information technology online, from choosing a concentration to common course offerings and certification programs.
Why Get a Information Technology Bachelor's Degree Online?
Pursuing an information technology degree online proves a flexible, accessible alternative to on-campus programs. Online students can complete coursework while fulfilling professional and personal obligations, and many programs offer support services like career counseling and tutoring for distance learners.
- Many students find it more convenient to attend an online information technology program than to enroll in on-campus courses. Online learners can explore universities across the country and select a program that best fits their schedules and professional goals. Web-based courses also let students access lectures and course materials from any location, providing more flexibility than traditional, on-campus programs.
- Distance learners often continue to work while they study, since they can arrange coursework around their existing responsibilities. Many online programs also offer multiple start dates throughout the year, allowing students to begin their studies within a few weeks of applying to the program.
- Web-based programs use the latest communications technologies to connect students with their professors and peers. In addition, technical programs like an online IT degree incorporate valuable professional development tools and build students' familiarity with a broad variety of industry-standard software programs.
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Types of Information Technology Bachelor's Degrees
Bachelor of Arts (BA)
Bachelor of Science (BS)
Bachelor of Applied Science (BAS)
An Overview of Online IT Bachelor's Degrees
While specific details vary according to school and program, many candidates earning an information technology degree online can choose a concentration. Concentrations prepare IT majors for in-demand careers and specialized positions. The data information below includes a few commonly offered concentrations, along with classes that build core skills and competencies.
Concentrations Offered in an Online Bachelor's in Information Technology Program
At many IT schools, online students can develop specialized skills by selecting a concentration. Most programs offer multiple specialization options in which students complete elective requirements in their concentration as part of their degree.
While researching schools, prospective students should explore concentration options and select a program that aligns with their interests and career goals.
Information Systems Management
Sample Courses for an Online Bachelor's in Information Technology Program
A bachelor's program in information technology helps IT majors build basic skills and competencies in the field. After completing introductory courses, candidates take advanced classes in systems analysis, network administration, and website development. In addition, many programs incorporate project management or business classes to provide future IT professionals with marketable, broadly applicable skills. Students may also choose a concentration in a field like cybersecurity, IT management, or network administration to prepare for a specialized career. Bachelor's degrees also incorporate general education requirements, such as English, communications, and social science classes. While curricula vary from program to program, many IT degrees include one or more of the following classes.
Skills and Competencies Gained With an Online IT Degree
Over the course of an undergraduate IT program, candidates gain valuable new skills and strengthen basic competencies. Along with foundational tech knowledge, such as software installation, network operations, and technical support, students explore advanced concepts in software development, coding, and system configuration related to their focus area.
- Network Operations
- Students master fundamental network operations skills, including network design and security improvement. Candidates also learn to troubleshoot network problems.
- IT majors build proficiency in coding languages related to their specialization and prospective career path. Commonly taught languages include Java, SQL, C++, and Python.
- Software Development
- Students build a variety of software development skills as they learn to design applications, test new software, and fix bugs in programs. Some courses may incorporate code writing, original research, and quality control techniques into lesson plans.
- Project Management
- Many IT programs include project management classes to provide students with foundational business skills. IT professionals often need to collaborate on network designs and create development plans that align with an organization's goals and parameters.
- System Configuration
- Candidates learn to facilitate smooth interactions between computer hardware and software, troubleshoot systems, and configure enterprise-level networks for organizations.
How Long Does It Take to Get an Information Technology Degree Online?
Students who earn an information technology degree online typically complete 120 credits, including major-related, general education, and elective coursework. Most full-time students complete their degree in four years. However, some programs offer accelerated degree options, and students with transfer credits or an associate degree may be able to graduate in as little as two years. Part-time students may take somewhat longer to complete their degree.
An IT program's structure may also influence completion time. For example, individually paced programs allow students to complete course material at their convenience. This system offers additional flexibility for students who may need to take a term off or who want to enroll in extra classes. Other programs use the cohort learning model in which students enter and finish the program as a group, completing the coursework together. Less flexible than self-paced options, cohort-based programs usually take longer to complete.
Licenses and Certifications for Information Technology Students
Candidates who hold IT certifications demonstrate to prospective employers that they possess valuable competencies and skills. Many professional organizations offer information technology certifications and credentials, including CompTIA, Cisco, Microsoft, and the Project Management Institute. Most certification programs require candidates to pay an examination fee, earn a passing score on a knowledge exam, and meet continuing education requirements to maintain the certification. To apply for some credentials, candidates must demonstrate a certain level of educational or professional attainment.
CompTIA IT Fundamentals+
CompTIA's IT Fundamentals+ certificate is intended for entry-level IT professionals and individuals changing careers. Candidates must sit for a 60-minute examination, which consists of 75 multiple choice questions related to common software applications, operating systems, and best security practices.
Awarded to individuals who demonstrate competence in nine fundamental IT skill areas, CompTIA's A+ certification designates professionals adept at hardware and network troubleshooting, mobile devices, security, and operational procedures. CompTIA recommends that applicants complete nine to 12 months of work experience before pursuing certification.
The CompTIA Security+ credential distinguishes IT professionals with strong network security skills. Candidates must pass a 90-minute examination which tests their knowledge of security threats, access management, risk management, and architecture and design. CompTIA suggests that applicants earn the Network+ certificate and hold two years of security-focused IT experience before sitting for the exam.
Microsoft Technology Associate
IT professionals who specialize in Microsoft products can earn the Microsoft technology associate credential. The certification exam covers infrastructure, development, and database management. An entry-level certification, the credential helps IT professionals establish their careers, and Microsoft does not require that candidates hold a certain amount of work experience before applying for certification.
Certified Associate in Project Management
Offered by the Project Management Institute, this entry-level certification does not necessitate any project management work experience, and applicants may pursue the credential at any point in their career. However, candidates must complete 23 credit hours of project management education before taking the exam.
Accreditation for Online Bachelor's in Information Technology Degrees
Students should receive their online IT degree from an accredited college or university. Accredited schools undergo a voluntary, rigorous evaluation process that ensures that they meet the highest educational standards. Independent accrediting agencies review colleges and universities and assess their student learning outcomes, graduation requirements, and faculty qualifications. Schools maintain accreditation through periodic reviews. Colleges and universities may hold either regional or national accreditation.
Typically, regional accreditation evaluates liberal arts and research institutions, while national accreditation reviews vocational and technical colleges. Regional accreditation is generally viewed as the more prestigious designation. Individual programs and departments may also receive subject-specific programmatic accreditation. The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology also confers accreditation to IT bachelor's programs that meet high standards.
Accreditation benefits students in several ways. An accredited degree fulfills professional certification and licensure requirements, and credits earned from accredited programs are more likely transfer to other institutions. Most graduate schools only accept applicants with accredited degrees.
Two organizations, the Department of Education (ED) and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), oversee the accreditation process to ensure that accrediting agencies act independently. These organizations certify accrediting agencies and monitor their assessment methods. Accrediting agencies, ED, and CHEA work together to help students and employers ensure that college degrees confer valuable skills and knowledge. Both ED and CHEA maintain lists of accredited programs, which prospective students may explore by visiting the ED website and the CHEA website. Our rankings only include accredited IT degrees.
Career and Salary Outlook for Bachelor's in Information Technology Graduates
Graduates who hold a bachelor's degree in information technology take on a variety of lucrative careers. They work as computer network architects, computer systems analysts, and software developers. Bachelor's degree holders with professional experience also meet the qualifications for many computer and information systems manager positions, which frequently offer high salaries and demonstrate strong growth potential. The BLS projects that computer and information systems management positions will grow 12% by 2026, while software developers may see a 24% increase in job openings.
Database administrators store and organize digital information, including financial data, customer information, and medical records. They ensure that data is secure and protected from unauthorized access while remaining available for users. Database administrators may work directly for companies that handle large amounts of data, or within computer design firms.
Median Annual Salary
Computer and Information Systems Manager
Computer and information systems managers, also known as IT managers, plan and maintain an organization's computer-related activities. They analyze their organization's needs, recommend upgrades to executives, and oversee hardware and software installation and maintenance. Computer and information systems managers also supervise other IT professionals, such as software developers, computer systems analysts, and information security analysts.
Median Annual Salary
Computer Network Architect
Computer network architects design data communication networks that improve their clients' technical efficiency. They research and develop network plans according to company needs, upgrade hardware and software to support new networks, and research emerging networking technologies. Computer network architects also collaborate with managers to create plans that meet organizational needs and budgets.
Median Annual Salary
Computer Systems Analyst
Also known as systems architects, computer systems analysts develop solutions to address system and procedural problems. They help organizations operate efficiently by blending IT and business knowledge. Computer systems analysts may design new systems, configure hardware and software, and oversee customized system installation and configuration.
Median Annual Salary
Software developers create computer programs and develop systems to run programs. They design, test, and develop software according to users' needs; they also ensure that new programs run smoothly and recommend software updates. Many software developers hold a background in computer science.
Median Annual Salary
Advancing Your Education With a Master's Degree
For many students, a bachelor's degree in information technology represents the first step in landing high-demand positions as information systems managers, software developers, and computer network architects. However, some employers prefer to hire candidates with a master's degree. A master's degree demonstrates advanced abilities and makes professionals more competitive on the job market. After completing a bachelor's in IT, many graduates choose to enroll in graduate-level programs in information technology, information systems, computer science, and related disciplines.
Master's degree holders qualify for high-level positions and tend to draw higher salaries. According to a 2015 Georgetown University study, professionals with a bachelor's degree in information sciences earn $73,000 on average, while average earnings for those with a graduate degree in information sciences approach $88,000. This salary advantage tends to increase further with time and experience, making a master's degree a smart investment for IT professionals.
Master's in Information Technology
A graduate program allows students to deepen their prior IT knowledge and explore specialized topics in greater detail. They may study network design, database design, or IT solutions application.
Master's in Computer Science
Often requiring advanced mathematical skills, master's in computer science curriculum emphasizes theories involved with developing software, operating systems, and information transmission.
Master's in Information Systems
Combining IT knowledge with business competencies, information systems master's programs provide operations and project management training with an IT focus. Graduates learn to apply their IT experience to organizational problems.
Master's in Information Security Management
Information security management programs explore advanced concepts in online and internet security. Students learn to create secure online systems, implement cybersecurity solutions, and manage information systems.
Master's in Computer Engineering
Graduate students pursuing a master's in computer engineering research and design computer hardware and equipment. This degree may require an academic background in engineering.
Whether a recent graduate or currently earning an information technology degree online, joining a professional organization can help you succeed. These organizations provide networking opportunities like annual conferences and local events, offer certifications and continuing education programs, and keep members up to date on new research in the field. IT professional organizations also allow members to connect with potential employers through exclusive job boards, and many offer career counseling programs to help new professionals highlight their skills.
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