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.
Over 3,400 programs at 700 colleges and universities have received ABET accreditation since 1932.
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.
- Accessible: 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.
- Flexible: 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.
- Computer Based: 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.
Types of Information Technology Bachelor's Degrees
Bachelor of Arts (BA)
BA programs typically combine general education courses in the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences with the major's core requirements. Many programs incorporate English, communication, history, political science, and biology courses into their general studies courses to provide students with a well-rounded education. However, information technology BA programs are less common than some other bachelor's-level degrees.
Bachelor of Science (BS)
BS programs also include general education coursework from the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. However, BS curricula typically includes fewer humanities requirements and more math and science classes. A BS in information technology may incorporate applied math and science courses to build critical thinking and logical reasoning skills.
Bachelor of Applied Science (BAS)
BAS degrees offer fewer general education courses with a mix of humanities, social science, and natural science courses. Most BAS curricula consist of a mix of major-related, lower- and upper-division coursework. An applied degree, a BAS emphasizes technical abilities.
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. Typical information technology concentrations include network administration, software development, and network security. Some programs may also provide less common options like gaming development. While researching schools, prospective students should explore concentration options and select a program that aligns with their interests and career goals.
Typical information technology concentrations include network administration, software development, and network security.
- Network Administration: Students pursuing a network administration concentration learn to create and maintain networks for different types of organizations. In addition to network design and construction, learners gain valuable troubleshooting skills and competencies needed to take on network administrator roles after graduation.
- Software Development: A software development concentration trains students to design, test, and troubleshoot software. Prospective IT professionals also use coding languages to develop new software and applications, building management skills used in collaborative projects.
- Information Systems Management: In an information systems management concentration, degree seekers learn to design and create efficient information systems. Students explore systems management technologies and techniques as they study the relationship between systems management and organizational goals.
- Network Security: Introducing the concepts and skills required to protect data and create secure networks, this concentration trains students in computer security, data transmission, and cybersecurity. Graduates often go on to work in information assurance positions.
- Gaming Design: Students pursuing a gaming design concentration learn to create interactive games and program applications as they explore the theories behind game development. Candidates gain both theoretical and practical knowledge by completing hands-on activities and assignments.
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.
- Information Technology Concepts: IT majors build fundamental knowledge in core areas, including hardware, software, and networks. They examine the ways in which computer hardware interacts with operating systems, learn to configure personal computers, and install software. Course contents may also cover device- and network-specific troubleshooting skills.
- Systems Analysis: Lectures explore the system development life cycle, with a focus on system modification, design, and maintenance. Candidates examine various system development methodologies, learn to align systems plans with an organization's strategic goals, and effectively communicate with executives and team members.
- Network Administration: In a network administration class, students learn to manage networks for external organizations. Coursework often addresses strategies for network operating system installation, system configuration, and overseeing administrative tasks. Students may also learn about server management, storage backup, and network security.
- Website Development: Website development classes emphasize the skills and knowledge needed to create and design websites. Students master HTML, HTML5, CSS, and other common tools for creating websites. Assignments often require candidates to design a website using their acquired skills.
- Project Management: This course presents the major principles behind project management, emphasizing their utility in information technology settings. Learners examine the steps involved in project selection and plan design, implementation, and execution. Students often learn to create project schedules, manage budgets, and write project scope statements. These broadly applicable business skills remain in high demand, both in the IT field and beyond.
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.
Over the course of an undergraduate IT program, candidates gain valuable new skills and strengthen basic competencies.
- Network Operations: Students master fundamental network operations skills, including network design and security improvement. Candidates also learn to troubleshoot network problems.
- Coding: 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.
- 4 Years
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.
Candidates who hold IT certifications demonstrate to prospective employers that they possess valuable competencies and skills.
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 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.
- 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.
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.
- Association for Computing Machinery ACM represents nearly 100,000 computer professionals around the world. The association grants awards, organizes special interest groups, publishes research, and hosts conferences.
- Association of Information Technology Professionals One of the world's first IT professional organizations, AITP boasts a 60-year history of serving the global IT community. AITP sponsors several awards and regional chapters that unite professionals on a local level.
- CompTIA CompTIA membership benefits include access to webinars, professional development tools, and certification opportunities — along with cutting-edge research and marketing intelligence in the field.
- Network Professional Association In addition to publishing research, NPA provides a variety of resources for college students, including an exclusive job board and information on career strategies and development.
- Association of Software Professionals IT professionals with a background in computer programming or software development can benefit from participating in ASP's discussion groups. Members receive a regular newsletter.
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