A cybersecurity concentration prepares master’s students to protect networks and systems from attacks. Graduate students learn how to design secure systems and prevent data attacks and losses. The concentration prepares graduates for careers as cybersecurity managers.
Graduate students in information technology train for careers as computer and information systems managers, information research scientists, and computer network architects. They also work as software development managers, directing teams of developers to create new programs. These career paths offer lucrative salaries and multiple job opportunities. For example, computer and information systems managers earn an average salary of nearly $140,000 a year.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 13% increase in computer and information technology positions by 2026, adding more than 550,000 new jobs in the field.
Candidates with a master’s degree qualify for more advanced positions, earn higher salaries, and stand out in the job market compared to professionals with just a bachelor’s.
During an IT master’s degree, graduate students expand their skills and competencies, pursuing specializations in software development management, cybersecurity, and information technology management. Graduates also qualify for in-demand certifications that enhance their skills. This article outlines important information for students interested in earning a master’s in information technology online.
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Why Get a Information Technology Master’s Degree Online?
Online programs provide greater accessibility and flexibility than on-campus programs, letting working professionals and students with family obligations arrange their coursework around other responsibilities. Students earning an MS in information technology online can enroll in the best programs in the country without relocating.
- Students can access lectures, discussion boards, assigned readings, and course material in online programs. Students do not need to relocate to attend the top master’s in information technology programs, creating an accessible pathway to a valuable degree.
- At many online schools, students can start their degree within a few weeks of applying to the program. Online students can arrange their coursework around their work schedule, continuing to work while earning their degree. The flexibility of an online degree also lets students choose the pace of their degree.
- Online students use the latest communications technology to engage with faculty members, advisers, and other students, building competencies in practical technology while completing the degree.
Types of Information Technology Master’s Degrees
Master of Arts
Humanities and social science programs, such as history, English, and sociology, are more likely to offer a master of arts. Some disciplines offer both degrees. MA programs often include 30-36 credits of coursework with a final project or master’s thesis. Information technology master’s programs typically do not offer an MA.
Master of Science
Programs that offer MS degrees typically come from the natural and medical sciences, engineering, and technical fields, like information technology. These programs may incorporate a final project, capstone course, or thesis at the conclusion of the 30-36-credit degree.
An Overview of Online Master’s in Information Technology Programs
Before applying to a master’s in information technology program, prospective students should consider a program’s admission requirements, curriculum, concentrations, and structure. Researching these topics helps applicants find the best program for their desired career path. This section offers an overview of information technology master’s programs.
Admission Requirements for an Online Master’s in Information Technology
Prospective students considering an IT master’s degree must meet the program’s admission requirements. These requirements vary by program, but typically include a bachelor’s degree in information technology or a closely related field. Applicants with limited information technology experience may need to complete prerequisite classes before enrolling in the master’s program. Some programs prefer or require candidates with a certain amount of work experience, particularly for applicants planning to major in an information technology management field.
Information technology programs may set a minimum GPA for full admission and require standardized test scores. Applicants may also need to submit letters of recommendation, a statement of purpose, or a portfolio demonstrating information technology experience. Because the requirements vary, prospective students should research the application process at potential schools.
Concentrations Offered in an Online Master’s in Information Technology Program
Information technology graduate students must choose a concentration area. Most programs offer multiple concentrations, allowing students to specialize their skills and prepare for a career path after graduation. Concentrations may include information assurance, IT management, and software development management. Some programs provide concentrations like gaming development or healthcare informatics.
Information Technology Management
The information technology management concentration combines business decision-making skills with technical knowledge, preparing graduates for management-level careers in information technology. The concentration may cover new technology implementation, security compliance, and economic analysis.
Software Development Management
Graduate students study how to act as leaders on software development teams, combining technical knowledge with business skills. The concentration includes courses on managing a software development team, designing software and applications, and testing software.
The data analytics concentration emphasizes business intelligence and data analysis. Graduate students learn how to apply analytics to make information technology decisions, use and create analytics applications, and apply data mining theories. Graduates may work as information research scientists.
With a concentration in project management, graduates take leadership positions in IT, including as computer and information systems managers. The concentration emphasizes project management skills, blending business knowledge with technical abilities. Students may take classes in project planning, project execution, and strategic planning.
Sample Courses for an Online Master’s in Information Technology Program
Graduate students pursuing a master’s degree in information technology gain advanced skills in the field. IT programs include classes such as network security, system analysis, and database design to provide valuable professional training. The following list offers common classes found in a master’s in information technology program; the specific course titles and content vary by program.
Skills and Competencies Gained in an Online Master’s in Information Technology Program
During a master’s program in IT, graduate students gain advanced technical skills. Many master’s programs offer concentrations in areas such as cybersecurity, information systems management, and data analytics, allowing students to specialize their skills.
- Enterprise Networks
- Students focused on network architecture or network security gain skills in enterprise-level network operation. Students gain competencies in cybersecurity, network design, and network management.
- Some programs offer focus areas in data analytics, where master’s students gain competencies in web analytics. These skills prepare graduates for careers as computer and information research scientists.
- Advanced Coding
- Most graduate students in IT enter with some coding experience. Students may expand their coding competencies by learning additional coding languages or inventing new coding languages.
- Master’s programs may include information technology management skills. These skills allow graduates to pursue positions, such as computer and information systems manager, where they oversee an IT department.
- Master’s students gain valuable research skills, which they apply during a capstone project or master’s thesis. These research skills can lead to a career as a computer and information research scientist.
How Long Does It Take to Get an Online IT Master’s Degree Online?
Earning an MS in information technology online typically requires two years of full-time study. Most programs include 30-36 credits of coursework, including specialized classes in the student’s focus area. Some programs offer accelerated options for students who want to earn their degree in one year. Students may also choose part-time enrollment to balance school with work or family responsibilities.
Program characteristics can affect the length of an online master’s degree in IT. For example, some programs may require an internship or a thesis, which can add time to the degree. Programs may also offer individually paced or cohort learning structures. In an individually paced model, students complete the coursework at their own pace. In a cohort learning model, students enter the program together and progress through the material as a group, graduating at the same time.
- 2 Years
Additional Requirements for an Online Master’s in Information Technology
Graduate students earning an online master’s degree in IT may need to complete an internship, capstone project, or master’s thesis, depending on the program. Some programs require or recommend an internship to gain professional experience and many end with a capstone course where students complete a project in their specialization. A few programs may require a master’s thesis to graduate.
Licenses and Certifications for Information Technology Students
By earning an IT certification, professionals demonstrate their competencies and specialized skills. Information technology offers multiple certification opportunities, often in specialized areas, such as project management, security, or enterprise IT. Professionals pursue certification from organizations such as CompTIA, the Project Management Institute, Microsoft, and Cisco. Most credentials require candidates to pass an examination on fundamental skills, pay an examination fee, and maintain the certification by completing continuing education hours.
Certified in the Governance of Enterprise IT
IT professionals demonstrate their ability to manage security threats and oversee enterprise-level IT with the certification. Candidates must pay an exam fee, demonstrate five years of IT management or governance experience, and renew the certification every three years by earning continuing education hours. Certified professionals must also pay an annual maintenance fee.
Project Management Professional
Offered by the Project Management Institute, the certification recognizes professionals with strong project management abilities. Candidates take an examination that covers key concepts, emerging practices, and adaptive environments. Professionals maintain the certification by meeting continuing education requirements every three years in addition to paying an annual membership renewal fee.
Certified Information Systems Security Professional
IT leaders and managers demonstrate their skills in information systems security with the certification. Applicants pay an exam fee and the certificate remains valid for three years.
One of the more versatile certifications offered by CompTIA, the A+ certification demonstrates IT skills. Candidates must pass an exam covering nine IT skills, including software troubleshooting, security, and operational procedures. At $219 to take the exam, the A+ certification remains one of the most affordable options for IT professionals.
CompTIA offers the Security+ certification for system administrators, security engineers, and security consultants. Candidates pay an exam fee and take an examination on risk management strategies, IT architecture, security threats, and system vulnerabilities. CompTIA recommends two years of experience in IT administration before taking the exam.
Accreditation for Online Master’s in Information Technology Degrees
Students should ensure that all of the online master’s in information technology programs they’re considering are accredited. Schools with accreditation meet the highest standards in education, undergoing periodic voluntary reviews from accrediting agencies. These agencies, which operate independently as nonprofit organizations, evaluate a school’s graduation requirements, fiscal solvency, student learning outcomes, and faculty requirements. Accreditation expands employment, education, and financial aid opportunities.
At the institutional level, schools may hold regional or national accreditation. In general, regional accreditation applies to liberal arts and research institutions, while national accreditation applies to vocational and technical colleges. For graduate programs, regional accreditation remains the premier standard. Information technology programs may also hold programmatic accreditation from a specialized agency that reviews degree requirements. The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology offers accreditation for IT programs.
While accrediting agencies act independently, two organizations monitor the accreditation process: the Department of Education (ED) and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). The ED and CHEA ensure that degree-granting institutions follow best practices when educating students; both maintain lists of accredited schools. Prospective students should use the lists on the ED and CHEA websites to identify accredited schools.
Career and Salary Outlook for Master’s in Information Technology Graduates
With a master’s degree in information technology, graduates qualify for advanced positions, including computer and information systems manager. According to the BLS, computer and information systems managers earn nearly $140,000 a year, on average.
The BLS projects 12% growth in these positions by 2026.
Graduates also pursue careers as computer and information research scientists, software developers, and computer network analysts.
Computer and Information Systems Manager
Also known as IT managers, computer and information systems managers oversee an organization’s computer networks and systems. They work with top executives to understand an organization’s computer needs and design plans to meet those needs. Computer and information systems managers direct the work of IT professionals, like computer systems analysts and software developers.
Median Annual Salary
Computer and Information Research Scientist
Computer and information research scientists create new approaches to computing technology. They research problems in computing for their organization and may specialize in business, medicine, or other sectors. Computer and information research scientists may also create new computing languages. Most positions require a master’s degree.
Median Annual Salary
Software developers create software, applications, and systems to run computer programs. They may also design systems that manage or control networks. Software developers research users’ needs and develop software to serve those needs. They also oversee the testing and maintenance of software programs.
Median Annual Salary
Computer Network Architect
Computer network architects create data communication networks for organizations, including local and cloud networks. Computer network architects work with managers to plan for an organization’s networking needs, presenting layouts for the best network for the organization. They also design networks to maximize security and efficiency.
Median Annual Salary
Computer Systems Analyst
Computer systems analysts blend business and IT skills to design computer systems solutions for organizations. They work with managers to determine IT needs, research new technologies to keep organizations operating efficiently, and design new systems to strengthen an organization. Computer systems analysts also conduct testing and oversee the configuration of new systems.
Median Annual Salary
Advancing Your Education With a Doctoral Degree
Professionals with a master’s degree in information technology pursue positions as software developers, computer systems managers, and other advanced titles in IT. After completing a master’s degree, some graduates may wish to earn a doctorate, the terminal degree in the field. Some of the top positions in IT require a doctorate, including college or university professor. The degree can also lead to leadership positions in IT research or management.
A doctorate allows professionals to specialize their skills and strengthen their research abilities. During a doctoral program, students complete coursework, conduct research, and write a dissertation. They become experts in their field, and some doctoral graduates publish their scholarship in academic journals. Candidates with a master’s in IT can apply to doctoral programs in informatics, information system security, or computer science.
Doctorate in Information Technology
Students focus on a subfield, such as networking, software, or infrastructure, expanding their knowledge of information technology. Doctoral students conduct dissertation research in their specialization.
Doctorate in Computer Science
During a computer science doctorate, students learn the theory behind designing and developing software. Doctoral students conduct high-level research in computer science.
Doctorate in Informatics
In informatics, doctoral students study the design and development of information technology. The degree combines technical knowledge with problem-solving skills.
Doctorate in Computer Systems Engineering
Computer systems engineering programs train students to design integrated hardware and software systems. A background in IT prepares graduates for the research-based program.
Doctorate in Information Systems Security
Doctoral programs in information systems security emphasize the theories and practices behind cybersecurity and creating secure online systems. Students conduct research on internet security.
Students earning a master’s in information technology benefit from the resources and tools offered by professional organizations, including current research, networking opportunities, and career services. Many professional organizations also offer certifications, continuing education programs, and other professional development resources. IT students rely on professional organizations to identify job opportunities and transition from school to the workforce.
- Association of Information Technology Professionals The AITP offers networking opportunities, educational opportunities, and awards to IT professionals.
- Association for Computing Machinery The ACM provides student resources, confers awards, and publishes research. The association also hosts conferences and student chapters that offer networking opportunities.
- Network Professional Association The NPA runs events through its regional chapters, publishes articles on technical and career skills, and runs a job board. Graduate students may find the association’s career strategies helpful.
- CompTIA Best known for offering IT certifications, CompTIA operates as a trade organization and offers professional development resources, such as webinars and trainings. CompTIA also publishes research and market intelligence.
- Association of Software Professionals Computer programmers and other software professionals connect through ASP’s discussion groups, newsletter, and blog. Members also receive discounts on developer tools and other software.
Looking to pursue a doctorate in computer science? Explore our 2021 ranking of computer science doctoral programs to find the best fit for you.
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