Online Ph.D. in Information Technology

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects tremendous growth in computer science and information technology. For example, they project employment for computer and information systems managers will grow by 12% through 2026, significantly faster than the economy as a whole. Computer and information research scientists should enjoy even better job prospects, with a projected growth rate of 19% during that same period.

These positions also offer exceptional salaries. In 2017, the median computer and information research scientists earned close to $115,000, while the median computer and information system manager earned just over $139,000.

Employment for computer and information systems managers will grow by 12% through 2026.

Leadership roles in this field often require an advanced degree and earning an online Ph.D. in information technology can give you an edge over candidates with just a master's. This page offers an overview of online doctoral programs in information technology, including admission requirements, courses of study, and potential career paths after graduation.

Why Get a Information Technology Doctoral Degree Online?

Online programs offer a great deal of accessibility and flexibility, making them ideal for working professionals looking to earn a promotion or change careers. Online programs also appeal to single parents and others who need to balance their studies with caregiving responsibilities. Additionally, information technology students will benefit by gaining experience with distance learning technologies.

  • Accessible: In asynchronous online programs, students can watch lectures, review course materials, and take exams at their convenience, from any location with an internet connection. In these programs, students typically submit assignments weekly.
  • Flexible: Many online programs allow students to begin their studies at one of several start dates throughout the academic year. Some programs also permit part-time students to take a semester off if needed.
  • Computer Based: Earning a doctorate online gives you the opportunity to develop practical experience with a variety of collaborative technologies. For instance, working with classmates in an online sandbox environment can prove helpful later in your career when you need to develop software with colleagues around the globe.

The Online Ph.D. in Information Technology: An Overview

Online doctorate in information technology programs vary. Some programs may feature formal concentrations in areas like cybersecurity or management information systems, while others may expect students to customize their learning through electives. Make sure to select a program that suits your goals.


Admission Requirements for a Ph.D. in Information Technology Online

Before earning a Ph.D. in information technology online, you must first hold an advanced degree in a related field. Some programs may allow you to earn a master's as you work towards your doctorate.

Most programs require applicants to maintain at least a 3.0 GPA during their graduate studies. Applicants without a master's degree may also need to submit scores from an entrance exam, such as the GRE or the GMAT. While usually not required, professional experience in information technology can improve your chances of earning admission into a doctoral program.

In addition to academic transcripts and a resume, you may also need to submit letters of recommendation from former professors and employers. Some schools may also ask prospective students to write a brief essay outlining their qualifications and professional goals. Finally, you may need to participate in an interview with admissions officers or faculty members.


Concentrations Offered in a Doctoral Program

Students seeking an online Ph.D. in information technology can often choose a formal concentration to help prepare them for specialized roles. For example, if you hope to protect an organization's data from hackers, you may choose a concentration in cybersecurity.

At some schools, information technology is a concentration within the field of computer science. In these programs, students can explore specialized topics through elective classes.

  • Cybersecurity: In this concentration, students take coursework in areas like cryptography, firewalls, authentication, digital signatures and certificates, and computer forensics. These subjects help prepare students for roles like director of network security or senior information assurance analyst.
  • Bioinformatics: A concentration in bioinformatics positions students for leadership and research roles in the healthcare and biotechnology industries. Courses usually cover specialized topics such as medical information systems, ethical issues related to working with bioinformation, and the fundamentals of biomedical engineering.
  • Management Information Systems: The management of information systems entails the use of databases, networks, and other information sharing tools to help improve a firm's effectiveness and efficiency. Along with developing technical expertise, students in this concentration also explore business-oriented subjects, such as organizational development.
  • Software Development Management: Many students seeking a doctorate in information technology hope to pursue a career in software development management, working to oversee the creation of new applications and programs. To prepare for these roles, students take coursework in development methodologies, user experience, and quality control approaches.
  • Information Technology Education: With a doctorate, you may qualify to teach information technology at a college or university. This concentration covers topics like instructional pedagogies, curriculum development, and best practices in supporting the research agendas of your students.

Sample Courses for an Online Ph.D. in Information Technology Program

Compared to master's programs, doctoral programs in information technology offer deeper instruction in areas like systems analysis, programming, and network architecture. They also typically incorporate coursework in business administration, covering topics such as project management and organizational leadership.

In addition, Ph.D. students must take research-based classes to prepare for work on their dissertation. In these courses, students examine subjects such as applied quantitative research methods, quantitative decision-making for strategic analysis, and advanced academic writing.

Below are five courses commonly offered in online information technology doctoral programs.

  • Cloud and Grid Computing: Cloud and grid computing involves the use of the internet to provide various computing services, such as data storage. This course explores the theoretical approaches and practices that define the discipline, including those associated with security, availability, and architecture. Students also examine the strategic and organizational implications of cloud computing structures.
  • Project Management: Leading teams of information technology professionals requires expertise in project management. This course introduces students to the latest technologies and techniques in this area, presented through an information technology framework. Students also explore topics like conflict resolution, employee motivation, and effective management practices.
  • Developing Proactive and Reactive Security Plans: In this course, students learn about subjects such as information technology governance, network security, and client and employee privacy. These courses feature problem-based learning scenarios in which a hypothetical organization has experienced a major security breach. Students must develop plans to respond to and prevent another such breach in the future.
  • Enterprise Systems Architecture: Enterprise systems support various business processes, including the flow of information, data analytics, and customer relationship management. In this course, students learn about the principal design strategies for constructing the architectural frameworks of these systems. Students also learn to integrate cloud-based applications and services into enterprise systems.
  • Qualitative and Case Study Research: In contrast to quantitative data, qualitative data comprises interviews, survey responses, case studies, and other non-numerical sources of information. This class introduces students to best practices in collecting and analyzing qualitative data, a skill set critical to both their doctoral research and future professional roles.

Skills and Competencies Gained in an Online in Information Technology Ph.D. Program

An online Ph.D. program in information technology helps you develop a variety of skills, though the exact competencies depend on the program you choose. A research-oriented program, for example, may focus on preparing you for jobs in academia, whereas a practice-oriented program may focus on leadership, communication, and organizational skill development.

  • Cloud and Grid Computing: Cloud and grid computing involves the use of the internet to provide various computing services, such as data storage. This course explores the theoretical approaches and practices that define the discipline, including those associated with security, availability, and architecture. Students also examine the strategic and organizational implications of cloud computing structures.
  • Project Management: Leading teams of information technology professionals requires expertise in project management. This course introduces students to the latest technologies and techniques in this area, presented through an information technology framework. Students also explore topics like conflict resolution, employee motivation, and effective management practices.
  • Developing Proactive and Reactive Security Plans: In this course, students learn about subjects such as information technology governance, network security, and client and employee privacy. These courses feature problem-based learning scenarios in which a hypothetical organization has experienced a major security breach. Students must develop plans to respond to and prevent another such breach in the future.
  • Enterprise Systems Architecture: Enterprise systems support various business processes, including the flow of information, data analytics, and customer relationship management. In this course, students learn about the principal design strategies for constructing the architectural frameworks of these systems. Students also learn to integrate cloud-based applications and services into enterprise systems.
  • Qualitative and Case Study Research: In contrast to quantitative data, qualitative data comprises interviews, survey responses, case studies, and other non-numerical sources of information. This class introduces students to best practices in collecting and analyzing qualitative data, a skill set critical to both their doctoral research and future professional roles.

Most full-time students earn their online Ph.D. in information technology in four to seven years. These programs usually consist of approximately 60-75 credits.

Completing your required coursework usually takes three years of full-time study, while conducting research and writing a dissertation may require an additional 1-4 years. Some schools limit the amount of time a student has to earn their degree, usually 10 years.

You can potentially graduate even faster if your program offers a self-paced course of study. On these accelerated tracks, students can advance through their course material as soon as they complete all required assignments and exams. While this approach may appeal to working professionals or those with significant prior experience in information technology, self-paced learning does not provide the same kind of structured support offered in cohort-based programs.

  • 4-7 Years
  • 60-75

Additional Requirements for an Online Doctorate in Information Technology

The majority of online Ph.D. in information technology programs require a dissertation. To begin, you must choose a topic in consultation with your faculty adviser. You must then conduct original research or collect existing research from multiple sources. Then you will use your findings to write a research paper, usually 100-200 pages in length. Finally, you must defend your dissertation before a committee of faculty members.

Some practice-based programs allow students to complete a capstone rather than write a dissertation. Capstone projects require you to apply your doctoral learning to a real-world problem in information technology.

You must then conduct original research or collect existing research from multiple sources.

Licenses and Certifications for Information Technology Students

An online Ph.D. in information technology signals deep expertise in research, computer systems, and administration. Still, some graduates may voluntary seek out professional certifications to demonstrate competency with a piece of software or technology. These credentials help give you a competitive edge over other candidates when applying for a job or allow you to negotiate a promotion or higher salary at your current organization. Some of the most valuable certifications in information technology are detailed below.

Certified Scrum Master

This certification demonstrates your professional competency with the Scrum agile framework for managing knowledge in a software development environment. To earn the credential, you must complete a two-day workshop and pass an exam. The first level of certification costs $150, with more advanced levels costing between $200 and $500.

AWS Certified Solutions Architect

This credential serves solutions architect professionals working on Amazon Web Services platforms. It signals your ability to define a solution based on customer requirements and provide ongoing implementation guidance. You must hold one year of professional experience before sitting for the 130-minute, multiple-choice exam. The exam costs $150.

Certified Ethical Hacker

An “ethical hacker” is an individual who looks for vulnerabilities and weaknesses in a system through legitimate and legal means. They often do so at the request of an organization assessing its own security protocols. This certification helps regulate the profession. To qualify, you must pass an exam consisting of 125 multiple-choice questions. The exam costs $500.

Certified Information Systems Security Professional

Administered by (ISC)², the CISSP credential can validate your position as a leader in the cybersecurity industry. To become certified, you must pass an exam covering topics such as risk management, asset security, security operations, and software development security. The exam lasts six hours and costs $699.

Cisco Certified Network Professional Cloud

This certification program trains and recognizes cloud computing engineers. Cisco recommends four online training courses for less experienced professionals, though certification only formally requires passing four exams on subjects like network infrastructure, cloud security policies, and lifecycle management. Each exam costs roughly $300, meaning full certification costs approximately $1,200.

Accreditation for Online Ph.D. in Information Technology Programs

When researching where to earn your online Ph.D. in information technology, make sure to choose an accredited program. The accreditation process ensures a school meets certain academic standards and adequately prepares its graduates for careers in their chosen field. If you attend an unaccredited program, you may not qualify for many forms of state or federal financial aid and prospective employers may not recognize your degree.

Colleges and universities may hold either regional or national accreditation. Seven agencies across the country, such as the Higher Learning Commission and the New England Commission on Higher Education, oversee the regional accreditation process. Most public and nonprofit colleges and universities hold regional accreditation, and it is generally considered to be the more prestigious of the two forms.

The U.S. Department of Education (ED) also recognizes ten national accrediting bodies, which primarily serve for-profit and vocational schools. For example, the Distance Education Accrediting Commission accredits private online programs. Due to different standards, regionally accredited schools may not accept transfer credits from nationally accredited schools.

Finally, some accrediting agencies work within a discipline or subject area. For example, ABET (formerly the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, Inc.) accredits programs in computing and engineering, such as online doctoral programs in information technology. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation, an organization of colleges and universities, maintains an online directory of accredited programs and institutions. Use this searchable database to confirm your school or program holds either regional, national, or ABET accreditation.

Career and Salary Outlook for Information Technology Ph.D. Graduates

Earning an online Ph.D. in information technology qualifies you for many career paths. A doctorate, for example, may qualify you to serve as the chief information or chief technology officer of a large organization. Or, you may want to focus on discovering new technologies and decide to pursue a career as a computer or information research scientist. Some Ph.D. graduates go on to teach at a college or university, training the next generation of information technology leaders.

Computer or Information System Manager

Computer and information systems managers oversee an organization or department's computer-related activities. They may plan the installation of new hardware, design network security policies, or provide technology counsel to senior leaders. Many of these managers hold an advanced degree and have taken graduate-level courses in business administration.

Median Annual Salary

$139,220

Computer or Information Research Scientist

Computer and information research scientists invent new technologies or find innovative uses for existing technologies. They often work for government agencies or in research and development for large corporations. They may specialize in areas like data science, robotics, or computer programming. Computer and information research scientists must have at least a master's degree.

Median Annual Salary

$114,520

Computer Hardware Engineer

Computer hardware engineers design and develop computer components, including processors and memory storage devices. Increasingly, hardware engineers must also possess expertise in software development and programming. While you can qualify for entry-level jobs with just a bachelor's, an advanced degree will help position you for leadership and more specialized roles.

Median Annual Salary

$115,120

Top Executive

Top executives lead organizations in the public and private sectors. Individuals with a background in computer science may take on roles such as chief technology officer or apply their expertise to a more general executive position, such as vice president of operations. Especially in larger firms, most top executives hold an advanced degree.

Median Annual Salary

$104,700

Postsecondary Teacher, Computer Science

Postsecondary teachers instruct students and conduct research at colleges and universities. They may also serve as advisers to doctoral candidates and perform certain administrative functions, like chairing a department or participating in the admissions process. Nearly all postsecondary teachers hold a doctorate in their field.

Median Annual Salary

$76,000

Working as a Freelancer

Freelance web designers enjoy more freedom than their peers, but they also maintain more responsibility. These self-employed professionals can often work from home with the right equipment. They can take on as many clients as their schedules allow, set their rates, and work the hours they prefer; however, freelancers must take care of the things employers traditionally would. For example, self-employed web designers must withhold their own taxes, provide their own health insurance, and pay for their own technology. As work-from-home opportunities expand, freelancers can find work on dedicated job sites like FlexJobs and Virtual Vocations.

Continuing Education for Web Designers

Although designers do not need continuing education to keep their credentials, they should consider continuing education courses to help them keep up with changing technology. Professional organizations and colleges offer these classes. Certifications in new software can be particularly helpful. For example, professionals can earn certifications in new Adobe software as it comes out. Such credentials demonstrate an applicant's dedication to remaining ahead of the curve. Continuing education may also include adding new skills to one's repertoire, like coding and web development.

How Do I Find a Job as a Web Designer?

One way for learners to find web design jobs after college is to pursue internships during school. These positions can help students make connections and build portfolios. Candidates can take their portfolios to job fairs as well. These recruitment events allow applicants to connect with several employers at once. Some job fairs hold interviews on site. New graduates can use their professional networks to find jobs as well. Even connections who do not work in web design may be able to help since most organizations need websites.

Professional Resources for Web Designers

Portfolio Resources

  • Volunteer Match This website matches organizations and volunteers based on the types of causes that matter to the volunteers. New graduates can design websites for charities, giving them material for their portfolios.
  • Domain One way to build a web design portfolio is to create websites for fake organizations. Designers can purchase website domains on this website to host their example websites. Candidates can also use this resource to purchase domains for their sites.
  • Catch a Fire This volunteer site pairs charities and volunteers based on the users' skills. Designers look for nonprofit organizations that need their talents and volunteer to help. They can then use these designs for their portfolio.
  • WordPress Another way for web designers to build portfolios before they gain paying clients is to design free WordPress themes. Doing so can demonstrate several of their skills, including design and technical talents.

Professional Organizations

  • International Web Association More than 300,000 professionals from 106 countries make up this organization. Members enjoy learning opportunities and career resources. Employers know that members must sustain high ethical and professional standards.
  • AIGA AIGA supports more than 25,000 members in 70 local chapters throughout the United States. Design professionals of all kinds join and enjoy career guides, professional development resources, and networking events.
  • American Marketing Association The AMA is open to marketing professionals of all kinds, including web designers. As the largest marketing professional organization, the AMA offers plenty of benefits, including newsletters, courses, conferences, and certifications.
  • Internet Marketing Association This organization offers both free and premium memberships for digital marketers. All members enjoy advocacy in legislative bodies, invitations to networking events, and certification opportunities. Premium members gain additional networking opportunities and chances to feature their work in the organization's newsletters.

Professional Development

  • Codecademy Even designers with no knowledge of coding learn through Codecademy. This free resource provides structured curricula, quizzes, and coaches to help learners develop coding skills quickly.
  • Lynda This resource is one of the best-known names in professional development. On Lynda, professionals take any of the site's thousands of courses for one monthly fee. Learners can take classes in coding, specific software, and general business.
  • Coursera Professionals take courses from some of the world's leading universities on Coursera, all at little to no cost. Students learn from professors at institutions like Johns Hopkins, Stanford, and Duke University. Courses cover many subjects and include flexible deadlines.
  • Skillcrush This online coding academy allows students to learn different types of coding. The website offers several three-month programs that turn designers into well-paid professionals like user experience experts and developers.

Finding a Job

  • Authentic Jobs This job board serves creative, design, and development professionals. Users find part-time, full-time, remote, in-office, and freelance jobs specific to their industries. Authentic Jobs also posts gigs from around the world.
  • Krop Employers, freelancers, and job seekers use Krop to find one another. This site caters to creative, technological, and design professionals. Users not only find job openings, but they can also post their portfolios on Krop.
  • Smashing Magazine Smashing is an online development and design magazine with a jobs board. Candidates filter results by full-time, part-time, and remote jobs. They can also choose between design and programming opportunities.
  • Working Nomads Designers who want to work remotely can use Working Nomads to find jobs. This board rounds up work-from-home jobs from more conventional career sites. Users can also set alerts for the types of jobs they want.