Remember Rosie, the robot housekeeper, from the Jetsons? The way tech is progressing, she might just become a reality sooner than you may think.
The fields of robotics, computers, and technology are changing the world as we know it. In fact, there's barely any aspect of our lives that are untouched by them. CompTIA reports that that the tech industry is expected to hit an incredible $5.2 trillion in 2020 and the United States is expected to have a 32 percent ($1.7 trillion) share of it.
While many popular majors can prepare students for job titles that would be familiar to all generations (teacher, engineer, physician's assistant, etc.), jobs like network administrator, software QA specialist, and database manager are products of our informatics age. And high demand in these new fields might explain why computer and technology majors top the list of degrees providing the biggest "bang for your buck" to students looking to maximize the value of their learning investment. Many of the occupations associated with them come with median wages at the higher end of the wages spectrum.
If you are familiar with terms like cloud computing, deep-learning, neural networking, then perhaps an online technology degree is the one for you. And it goes without saying; computer and technology degrees can be really compatible with online learning.
1. Information Technology
Have you ever seen people wonder why their computer isn't doing what it's supposed to do? IT professionals are the superheroes that can help them figure it out. Apart from helping people solve tech problems, individuals in IT often look for ways to make existing business processes more efficient. As nearly every industry needs IT guys, it's no wonder that it tops our list of the most employable tech degrees of 2020.
CompTIA reports that 86 percent of IT professionals are confident about their future job prospects. Information Technology, or IT, is a broad field that allows you to have a number of different careers in a number of different industries. So if any industry stirs your interest along with IT, like healthcare for example, you may be able to choose a specialization during the course of your online IT degree program which may help you align your interests and orient your career in that direction.
- Average Salary of Related Professions: $110,090
- Projected Job Growth (2018-2028): 16.57
- Projected Employment: 2,955,300
- Number of Online Schools Offering Programs in this Field: 108
2. Information Technology Project Management
Every booming industry needs competent managers and the IT industry is no different. With companies investing huge amounts in IT, projects need to be delivered on-time and within budget. The industry needs project managers who understand the entire process - right from how IT ideas are conceptualized to their delivery. Careers in this field combine management techniques along with technology. People management skills are definitely crucial.
The Project Management Institute (PMI) expects information services to be one of the largest sectors to create project-related job openings, needing individuals with the right mix of technical and leadership skills in the decade leading up to 2027. Project management jobs can be well-paying too with the PMI reporting that wages in this industry were far higher on average than non-project oriented jobs. Online IT project management degrees can help you gain the technical and business know-how to make a significant impact on the projects you may manage in the future.
- Average Salary of Related Professions: $109,658
- Projected Job Growth (2018-2028): 14.23
- Projected Employment: 1,921,000
- Number of Online Schools Offering Programs in this Field: 8
3. Computer and Information Sciences, General
Here we have one of those catch-all categories, this one encompassing many fields and positions having to do with both computer science and information management. Online computer and information science degrees typically focus on a wide range of computer and information related topics rather than specific majors. Students typically take a few classes in business as well. This field can act as a cross-over between computer science and information technology. You may be able to choose to specialize in an area that interests you the most as you explore the field.
This multidisciplinary approach can qualify you for a wide range of careers in tech and business including those in computer programming, software development, systems administration, and web development to name a few. An online computer and information sciences degree can be a great way to gain generalized knowledge of the field before deciding on a career path.
- Average Salary of Related Professions: $100,409
- Projected Job Growth (2018-2028): 10.11
- Projected Employment: 2,175,500
- Number of Online Schools Offering Programs in this Field: 67
4. Computer Science
Computers and IT are the most popular fields of study, after business, for students of online degree programs according to a 2019 Learning House survey of online students. Computer science can be broadly differentiated from IT as computer scientists focus mainly on the theoretical side of developing computer applications as opposed to IT professionals who look into making them user-friendly. It would be unfair to say however, that computer science professionals ignore the human aspects wholly, as the work they do can have a direct impact on peoples' lives. For example, a computer scientist may be behind a computer program that helps vision-impaired people.
Students of online computer science degrees study the theory behind the design of computers and computational processes. The College Board recommends that those interested in studying computer science have a mathematical yet creative mindset along with the ability to think logically. A degree in computer science can lead to careers in software development, systems analysis, programming, and research among others.
- Average Salary of Related Professions: $96,184
- Projected Job Growth (2018-2028): 13.14
- Projected Employment: 3,155,900
- Number of Online Schools Offering Programs in this Field: 35
5. Computer and Information Systems Security/Information Assurance
With more and more of our information (including details about our personal and financial lives) being stored on computer networks, the role of the information security specialist is more in demand than ever. This one has jumped up on our list as security becomes increasingly relevant due to malicious attacks and the number of devices connected to the internet increase. Everything from airplane navigation systems and government databases to financial services and mobile phones can be threatened, making cybersecurity a major area of concern.
With so much information under threat, it's no surprise that the industry is growing rapidly. PR Newswire reports that the global cybersecurity industry was valued at $ 118.78 billion in 2018, and is expected to reach $ 267.73 billion by 2024. The BLS projects job growth at a rapid 32 percent compared to 5 percent for all other occupations. All said and done, it can be a good time for individuals interested in a career that keeps them on their tiptoes, staying abreast of all the latest tech - one step ahead of malicious attackers at all times.
- Average Salary of Related Professions: $97,465
- Projected Job Growth (2018-2028): 12.07
- Projected Employment: 1,476,200
- Number of Online Schools Offering Programs in this Field: 66
6. Information Science/Studies
The role of the information scientist is to push forward our understanding of how computers and information work and interact, developing theories and practical applications that advance the technology and processes that underlie our information age. Businesses all over the world are generating huge amounts of data, making its systematic storage and ease of access a necessity. This is where information science majors can shine designing efficient, secure and user-friendly systems that guide us through to the information we need. Information science majors may also design systems that analyze massive amounts of data to find patterns that help businesses provide better services.
The College Board recommends that students of online information science degrees be organized, good with numbers, and have an interest in human behavior. Graduates of these degree programs may find employment as database administrators, systems analysts, and librarians among other occupations.
- Average Salary of Related Professions: $108,678
- Projected Job Growth (2018-2028): 11.78
- Projected Employment: 1,271,500
- Number of Online Schools Offering Programs in this Field: 54
7. Network and System Administration/Administrator
The multiple computer networks we log into each day are designed, built, and administered by people trained in network administration, one of the most vital (and in-demand) jobs in a world of continually expanding interlinked systems. Network and system administrators ensure that computer systems and networks remain functioning for businesses, and even find ways to improve their efficiency. In fact, the work they do is so important that the last Friday in July has been designated System Administrator Appreciation Day or Sysadmin Day!
A degree in computer networking is a popular springboard to these careers. Online network and system administration degree programs can give you not just technical know-how but also the practical skills necessary to put your knowledge to use in real-world situations. The College Board recommends that aspiring network and systems administrators should have strong communication skills and love analyzing and solving problems. Since nearly every industry needs network and system administrators, you may be able to find employment in industries you are interested in.
- Average Salary of Related Professions: $98,944
- Projected Job Growth (2018-2028): 12.18
- Projected Employment: 1,343,000
- Number of Online Schools Offering Programs in this Field: 24
8. Computer Programming, Specific Applications
The National Center for Education Statistics defines the computer programming, specific applications degree programs as programs that prepare "individuals to apply the knowledge and skills of general computer programming to the solution of specific operational problems and customization requirements presented by individual software users and organizational users". This field combines general computer-programming knowledge with the ability to plan, develop, and maintain software that end users will interact with, products that need to take into account the requirements of individual people and organizations.
After studying general programming topics, students enrolled in online computer programming, specific degree programs may choose an area of programming they want to build their proficiency in alignment with the career goals and interests. For example, those interested in entering the exciting world of video games may be able to choose video game programming as a specialization.
- Average Salary of Related Professions: $99,300
- Projected Job Growth (2018-2028): 11.23
- Projected Employment: 1,827,900
- Number of Online Schools Offering Programs in this Field: 5
9. Computer Programming/Programmer, General
Computers need instruction in specific languages. Programmers are tech wizzes that can speak (or in this case write) that language. They tell computers what to do by using computer code - the language that computers understand. Every software development project requires input from "code cutters," programming generalists able to write the code that will become part of a product or system used by individuals, companies, government agencies, or other organizations. Programmers usually work in teams writing parts of code for programs and applications that are then put together as a whole.
Computer programmers are typically proficient in computer languages like C++ or Java for example. The BLS reports that those with knowledge of more than one language are likely to have the best job prospects.
- Average Salary of Related Professions: $85,387
- Projected Job Growth (2018-2028): 10.48
- Projected Employment: 2,269,700
- Number of Online Schools Offering Programs in this Field: 23
10. Computer Systems Networking and Telecommunications
Network systems and data communications analysts are the behind-the-scenes wizards we rely on to build, maintain and protect computer networks. Like a number of majors in this study, this field overlaps with others that involve the management of computer networks, but also includes management and support of telecommunication networks such as telephonic switching systems. Those working computer systems networking and telecommunications often need to have cutting-edge knowledge of existing technology so that they can improve the systems they work with or develop new ones.
Students enrolled in online computer systems networking and telecommunications can gain an in-depth understanding of data communication and modern networking technology and develop the skills needed to deploy and manage a secure enterprise network. Do bear in mind that in some schools, computer networking is a concentration within broader IT program, such as computer information technology.
- Average Salary of Related Professions: $89,720
- Projected Job Growth (2018-2028): 12.93
- Projected Employment: 1,169,900
- Number of Online Schools Offering Programs in this Field: 15
11. Computer Systems Analysis/Analyst
In today's world of commercial applications and open-source software, many technology projects require skilled systems analysts who can help determine the right combination of new and existing technology needed to solve specific individual and organizational challenges. While computer programmers specialize in building applications for specific needs, computer systems analysts are the ones who recommend particular programs or processes to businesses and organizations. In order to do this, they need to have a working knowledge of both computer systems as well as the industries they work with. The BLS predicts that smaller firms are likely to outsource their system analysis needs to contractors. It also expects the healthcare sector to be a large contributing factor to job growth in computer systems analysis. They may also communicate business needs to computer program developers so that the end users get functioning, user-friendly programs. Analysts may also test systems they design to ensure they are bug-free. Many analysts need knowledge of programming to carry out their tasks.
The College Board has a word of advice for prospective computer systems analysts saying that choosing a minor in fields like math or business can boost career prospects.
- Average Salary of Related Professions: $85,688
- Projected Job Growth (2018-2028): 7.83
- Projected Employment: 1,084,200
- Number of Online Schools Offering Programs in this Field: 10
12. Web Page, Digital/Multimedia and Information Resources Design
Ever been on a webpage where the information you need is almost impossible to find? You end up clicking on every single link it can conceivably be on, only to find what you're looking for in a completely unrelated section. There are plenty of roles to be had with an online degree in page, digital/multimedia and information resources design.
Web designers need to think of more than how a website looks - they need to ensure that users can find what they need easily and that the website functions without any bugs. Additionally, content continually needs to be updated and the look changed periodically to keep it fresh and attractive. Webmasters make sure that websites are kept up-to-date and the servers are working. Some individuals wear both hats and play the roles of both web designer and webmaster.
The BLS expects a large part of the demand for web developers to stem from e-commerce and predicts that those with knowledge of multiple programming languages and digital multimedia tools to have the best job prospects.
- Average Salary of Related Professions: $64,107
- Projected Job Growth (2018-2028): 9.40
- Projected Employment: 544,300
- Number of Online Schools Offering Programs in this Field: 20
As you look over these rankings, keep in mind that dollar figures are averages, meaning some may earn than these figures while others may earn less. And remember that those at the start of their career are likely to make less than the average wages for those occupations, although salary advancement in the technology field can be quite rapid.
Remember also that the newness of many of these fields means the dividing line between them can be quite blurry. Many professionals in the industry obtain certifications to gain new knowledge and develop their expertise. The blurriness between roles can work to your advantage, as you may be able to move the focus of your career fairly smoothly once you have started work. That being said, it is important that you have a strong foundation in all things tech, so make sure to do your research before enrolling in any degree program to make sure it coincides with your specific career goals.
For this analysis, we ranked 30 online degrees in technology. To be included in the ranking, each major had to:
- Match to a corresponding code in the Classification of Instructional Programs
- Be offered online at the bachelor’s level at five or more institutions
We scored each major on the following data points, using a 10-point scale and the weights specified:
- Annual median wage of each occupation matched to the major, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018
- Annual 75th percentile wage of each occupation matched to the major, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018
- of schools offering this degree online at the bachelor’s level, National Center for Education Statistics, 2018-19
- Average projected growth rate of all jobs matched to each major, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018-2028
- Total number of jobs projected in 10 years of all occupations matched to the major, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018-28
- Percentage of industries employing the occupations matched to the major, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018-28
- 2018 Occupational Employment Statistics and 201-28 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov; 2018-28 State Occupational Projections, Projections Central, projectionscentral.com
- Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2018-19, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
- 2020 Technology Industry Outlook, Deloitte, 2019, https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/pages/technology-media-and-telecommunications/articles/technology-industry-outlook.html
- Career: Network and Computer Systems Administrators, Big Future, The College Board, https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/careers/computers-math-network-computer-systems-administrators, accessed February 2020
- Career: Network Systems and Data Communications Analysts, Big Future, The College Board, https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/careers/computers-math-network-systems-data-communications-analysts, accessed February 2020
- CIO Jury: 83% of CIOs struggle to find tech talent, Tech Republic, https://www.techrepublic.com/article/cio-jury-83-of-cios-struggle-to-find-tech-talent/, accessed February 2020
- Clinefelter, D. L., Aslanian, C. B., & Magda, A. J., Online college students 2019: Comprehensive data on demands and preferences. Louisville, KY: Wiley edu, LLC, 2019, https://www.learninghouse.com/knowledge-center/research-reports/ocs2019-research-report/
- Computer and Information Research Scientists, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/computer-and-information-research-scientists.htm, accessed February 2020
- Computer and Information Technology Occupation, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, modified September 2019, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/home.htm
- Computer Programmers, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/computer-programmers.htm , accessed February 2020
- Computer Programming, Specific Applications, IPEDS, NCES, https://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/cipcode/cipdetail.aspx?y=55&cipid=87246, accessed February 2020
- Computer Systems Analysts, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/computer-systems-analysts.htm, accessed February 2020
- CS vs CIS vs IT - Which Technology Degree is for You?, Gwynedd Mercy University, https://www.gmercyu.edu/academics/learn/cs-cis-it-difference, accessed February 2020
- Information Security Analysts, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/information-security-analysts.htm, accessed February 2020
- IT Industry Outlook 2020, CompTIA, 2019, https://www.comptia.org/content/research/it-industry-trends-analysis
- Job Growth and Talent Gap 2017 - 2027, The Project Management Institute, 2017, https://www.pmi.org/-/media/pmi/documents/public/pdf/learning/job-growth-report.pdf
- Major: Computer and Information Sciences, General, Big Future, The College Board, https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/majors/computer-information-sciences-computer-information-sciences-general, accessed February 2020
- Major: Computer Networking and Telecommunications, Big Future, The College Board, https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/majors/computer-information-sciences-computer-networking-telecommunications, accessed February 2020
- Major: Computer Science, Big Future, The College Board, https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/majors/computer-information-sciences-computer-science, accessed February 2020
- Major: Computer Systems Analysis, Big Future, The College Board, https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/majors/computer-information-sciences-computer-systems-analysis, accessed February 2020
- Major: Information Science, Big Future, The College Board, https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/majors/computer-information-sciences-information-science, accessed February 2020
- Major: Information Technology, Big Future, The College Board, https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/majors/computer-information-sciences-information-technology, accessed February 2020
- Network and Computer Systems Administrators, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/network-and-computer-systems-administrators.htm, accessed February 2020
- The global cybersecurity market was valued at USD 118.78 billion in 2018, and is expected to reach USD 267.73 billion by 2024, registering a CAGR of 14.5%, during the period of 2019, PR Newswire, 2019, https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/the-global-cybersecurity-market-was-valued-at-usd-118-78-billion-in-2018 -- and-is-expected-to-reach-usd-267-73-billion-by-2024 -- registering-a-cagr-of-14-5-during-the-period-of-2019 -- 300955378.html
- Web Developers, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/web-developers.htm, accessed February 2020
- What Is a Computer Systems Analyst? A Spotlight on These Behind-the-Scenes Tech Pros, Rasmussen College, 2019, https://www.rasmussen.edu/degrees/technology/blog/what-is-computer-systems-analyst/