Online Degrees in Technology and IT

In a 2009 article titled "The Future of Jobs and Careers" published by the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE), author Edward E. Gordon writes, "The global economy will be more tech-driven with each passing year. This will continue to raise the U.S. talent ante for people seeking employment or for businesses that need to fill high-skill jobs." As business, government and individuals increasingly rely on technology, skilled workers in the field are expected to grow even more essential in the coming years.

Staying current with technology is an essential aspect of formal technology & IT training. Some employers may even fund workers to go back to school and update their knowledge. At the most basic level, high-tech degrees give students tools they can use to manipulate today's technologies in order to maintain existing systems and create new ones.

The tools students learn in technology & IT degree programs vary based on the subject or specialization. Computer science students use programming languages to manipulate data and create new systems. Information systems students take a broader view of the field, combining technology with business knowledge to help businesses stay organized, current and efficient. Both groups are likely to learn programming languages like C, C++, Java and COBOL.

Certification classes and two-year associate online degree programs in technology are more likely to give students a focused technical education, zeroing in on programming languages or end-user support. Four-year bachelor's degree programs offer a fuller picture, typically also including general education classes. Some workers go on to earn an MBA to strengthen their business skills for potential management work, while those who wish to teach or research often pursue a doctoral degree.

Students in technology and IT programs tend to choose either high-skill technical degrees or technical degrees that combine business skills. Popular high-tech programs include information technology and computer science, while technical degrees with a business focus include management information systems and technology management.

Students may find special benefits from earning online degrees in technology & IT. For those who hope to lead their own training sessions online, gaining a familiarity with a Web-based format is important. For those learning complex programming languages, collaboration online may be even simpler than in-person, as students can check each other's work from across the country. For those who hope to communicate with end-users via phone and Internet at help-desk or support jobs, online education can be an introduction to communicating across the digital medium.

A range of personality types come to technology & IT degree programs. In general, students need to have strong math skills and the ability to think spatially about equations. A facility with language is a surprising benefit, as programming languages have their own rules in the same way foreign languages do. Technology & IT students should be dedicated and patient, willing to work with a broken string of code or a printer that won't come online.

Career goals for technology & IT workers are as varied as the field itself. For those with business acumen, project management fuses business administration and technology. For those with a stronger technical interest, technology development paths such as systems software development give workers the chance to focus on adding to the world of existing technology.

In short, there is no one ideal personality type for technology & IT degrees. The sheer number of paths for trained workers is thanks, in part, to the growing role computers, the Internet and other technologies play in the daily lives of individuals as well as public and private business.

The increasing use of the Internet for things such as bank transactions, health records or personal information is leading to an increasing focus by both organizations and individuals on network and computer security. IT professionals with certification in network security are seeing increases in demand for their skills due to the threat of fraud, identity theft and damaging computer viruses, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports. IT security personnel may work for specialized security companies that do contract and consulting work, or they may be in-house security personnel at larger organizations.

An expertise in security can be gained either through specialized online degrees in IT security or short-term certifications in targeted skills.. A 2011 survey of the highest-paying IT certifications from Foote Partners--an IT benchmark research consultancy--found that 17 of the 42 highest-paying certifications were in security.

Occupations In-Demand for Technology It
Job Openings (2016-26)
Average Salary (2016)
Total Employment
Projected Job Growth (2016-26)
Software Developers, Applications85,500$106,710849,23031%
Computer User Support Specialists55,400$54,150613,78011%
Computer Systems Analysts44,800$92,740581,9609%
Software Developers, Systems Software32,700$111,780394,59011%
Network and Computer Systems Administrators27,000$86,340375,0406%
Computer Occupations, All Other22,300$91,080315,8309%
Computer Network Support Specialists16,500$67,510186,2308%
Computer-Controlled Machine Tool Operators, Metal and Plastic14,500$41,010144,6601%
Web Developers14,200$74,110125,89013%
Computer Network Architects11,700$107,870157,8306%
Source: 2017 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2016-26 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov; 2016-26 State Occupational Projections, Projections Central, projectionscentral.com

The same Foote Partners report also found a strong demand in IT hiring for individuals with a blend of IT and business skills. "Technology and business skills have in effect collapsed into each other, creating legions of what our firm refers to generically as hybrid IT/business professionals," David Foote, the CEO and Chief Research Office of Foote Partners said in a press release. Foote explains that jobs that combine these skills are being created at the same time that traditional IT jobs are being redefined to include these skills.

As technology plays an increasing role in business through e-commerce, marketing through online applications and social media, and health care through things such as electronic patient records, IT professionals who are able to blend specific technology skills with expertise in other fields should see increasing demand for their skills.

Outlook for IT & technology jobs

Technology jobs rank high on the list of the fastest-growing occupations, the BLS reports. Take a look at the number of employment opportunities projected to open up for key high-tech jobs between 2008 and 2018:

  • Network systems and data communications analysts: 155,800 new jobs (53 percent growth)
  • Computer applications software engineers: 175,100 new jobs (34 percent growth)
  • Computer systems software engineers: 120,200 new jobs (30 percent growth)

Each of these jobs typically requires a bachelor's degree. Computer software engineers generally earn a bachelor's degree in computer science, mathematics or software engineering, while network systems and data communications analysts are more likely to earn degrees in computer science, management information systems (MIS) and information science.

Technology & IT at a glance

  • Popular programs: Information technology, computer science, management information systems, technology management
  • Careers: Applications or systems software development, database management, end-user support, telecommunications, network systems analysts
  • Salary ranges: Computer applications software engineers ($69,230 - $107,710), database administrators ($53,470 - $93,260), computer programmers ($53,620 - $91,000), computer and information systems managers ($89,240 - $143,590) - BLS, 2010
  • High-paying tech certifications: PMI Project Management Professional (PMP), Cisco CCIE Routing and Switching, PMI Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM), Cisco Certified Voice Professional (CCVP)- Foote Partners, 2011
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