In the information technology field, career advancement generally means promotion from an administrative position into a technical management role. Online technology degree programs in technical management help administrators develop the business perspective they need to function effectively as a manager.
Technical management careers unite information systems and business expertise. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), "Computer and information systems managers generally have technical expertise from working in a computer occupation as well as an understanding of business and management principles."
Technical management programs offer a combined curriculum encompassing business fundamentals and information systems training. Online degrees in technical management cover:
- Business: Finance, marketing, accounting and management
- Information technology: Systems management and design, networking, database management, systems security and project management
Some courses span both fields, offering training in business information systems, enterprise architecture and electronic business. Aspiring technical managers can also target a particular industry, with elective courses in health services technical management, hospitality technical management, human resources IT management and operations management.
Choosing the Right Technical Management Degree
Aspiring technical managers can choose from several degree types, including:
- Bachelor of Science in management information systems (MIS) or information systems: The four-year B.S. degree is generally the minimum qualification for a management-level job. A management information systems program offers a balanced business-technical curriculum specifically designed for technical management careers. Typical course topics include statistics, systems analysis, information systems, and management principles.
- Master of Business Administration in IT management: The MBA with a technical concentration is the preferred qualification for technical management. Online MBA degrees in technical management may be completed in as little as eighteen months. The graduate degree typically requires both advanced coursework and an independent capstone project.
- Master of Science in IT management: The M.S. in technical management generally takes a more focused approach to technical leadership training, with an emphasis on technology research and development management. The two-year program culminates with a research thesis project.
In addition, many colleges and universities offer a graduate certificate for mid-career IT professionals who want to develop their expertise in a specific area. These targeted programs may be customized to a student's interests and allow close mentorship by an expert instructor.
An online associate's degree in information technology management offers a combination of general college education, business management courses, and technical career training. Courses cover business topics such as management, marketing, human resources, and managerial accounting, as well as technical training in systems analysis and design, database management, networking, programming, computer hardware and software, and more.
Online technical management degrees are often the preferred program format for working professionals due to the flexibility and accessibility of the online medium. The digital format suits the technical content of the course, which covers information networks and communications technology. In addition, students already working in IT have the benefit of a practical context for their management education. Online instructors may encourage students to develop projects applying their new expertise on the job or to find an internship that allows for such project work.
Careers in Technical Management
Formal training in technical management allows information technology administrators and technical specialists to climb the IT career ladder. Technical managers are in high demand, reports the BLS, with "faster than average" job growth of 17 percent over the 2008-2018 period. Employment prospects should be excellent in the coming years, as businesses expand and optimize their data infrastructure. Information systems are not only becoming more complex, but also are increasingly a basis for an organization's competitive advantage.
The best opportunities in technical management should go to managers with strong training in security and specialized technical knowledge. Graduates with an MBA degree in information systems should see the best employment prospects, according to the BLS.
Technical management at a glance
- Salary: Computer and information systems managers earned a mean annual salary of $123,280 in 2010.
- Specialty areas: Key technical management specialties include security management, health information management and operations management.
- Education: Technical management degrees at the master's level should lead to the best employment opportunities.
Online Doctoral Degrees in Technical Management
A Ph.D. in information technology management blends technical and business skills to help students advance to leadership positions in the technology industry or to start a career in research and teaching.
Most technical management doctoral degrees are offered by business schools, and students can choose from two main degree types: a Ph.D. in technical management or a Doctor of Business Administration in technical management. While both degrees emphasize practical skills, a DBA is generally considered a professional degree while a Ph.D. offers a more traditional, academic approach for aspiring professors and researchers.
What Does a Doctoral Degree Program in Technical Management Entail?
At the doctoral level, students typically choose an area of specialization within the broader field of information technology management. Students pursue specialized coursework and research within the area of focus, which is generally tightly linked to career goals. Your area of expertise may be a particular industry such as construction or health care or it may be a theoretical or research problem within the field such as supply chain management, organizational learning or process improvement.
In addition, all students should expect to take general core courses, which vary by school. Topics can include general technology, research design, statistical analysis, economics and marketing.
Online technology management doctoral degree programs provide a more flexible format for students. In most online doctorate programs, students can move through coursework and dissertation writing at their own pace. Many schools, however, require students to attend short, intensive on-campus seminars throughout the program. These residencies may last anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of weeks, allowing students the opportunity for face-to-face advising with faculty and collaboration with fellow classmates.
In addition, many programs require at least one internship. In some cases, this requirement can be met with full-time or part-time employment in a position that makes regular use of the skills and knowledge you are learning through the doctoral program.
Admissions and Program Requirements
Most programs require a master's degree for admission, but some accept a bachelor's degree in a technology-related field as well as significant work experience. Most schools have specific admissions criteria, which can include work experience, GRE scores, statement of purpose and recommendation letters. Check with prospective schools to confirm respective requirements.
A doctoral degree in technical management typically requires between four to six years to complete. The first two years focus on core courses and specialization. Some programs require a comprehensive exam after coursework to ensure that students are prepared to move into the next phase of the degree program. The final two to four years are reserved for dissertation research and writing.
The decision to earn a doctoral degree is a big one. You can start your search for the right program by requesting information from the schools below.