Is an Information Technology Degree Worth It?
Are you the type of person who likes to tinker with your computer when it’s having an issue? Do you like to work with computer-related problems and find solutions?
If you answered yes to both those questions, a career in information technology (IT) could be an area to consider.
While it’s true you can enter the IT field without a college degree, and that you can obtain knowledge over time about the field through job experience and certifications, your options for how you start your career without prior experience, and the salary you can demand, will be limited.
With a college degree, knowledge about the field, and even some hands-on experience, you’ll be able to start in a better position, demand a higher salary, and move up the corporate ladder faster.
Do You Need a Degree for an IT Job?
There are jobs out there in the world that may seem impossible to obtain because certain skills or background is needed. This belief is certainly true about jobs in the IT field. Those beliefs are that you need a four-year degree (preferably in a technical area to even get in the door); that to be successful in a technology job, the skills needed can only be learned in college; and that hiring managers are more interested in your educational background than job experience.
The reality is that 26% of people working in the IT field in the United States don’t have a bachelor’s degree, and many IT job listings don’t list a college degree as a requirement. Additionally, hiring managers are more interested in job experience, but also look for potential employees with a desire to learn, an ability to fix problems and find solutions, and a willingness to work with other people.
As far as the type of jobs available, roles like web development, cybersecurity, software development, mobile app development, and help desk support are all possibilities. Average salaries for these positions can reach $83,000 per year, but that is more likely for someone with skills or experience in their background, and maybe even some certifications. The truth is that while a good job in IT can be had without a college degree, it will take someone much longer to achieve career goals and to reach a higher pay grade.
That means an employee may start work as a Help Desk Technician (typically considered an entry-level position that doesn’t require prior knowledge or experience), receive less pay with a salary that tops out at $30,000 per year, and experience high levels of stress. With experience and certifications, a Help Desk Technician might be able to move to a different job and earn a higher salary. With a college degree, on the other hand, employees can start in a position more in line with their skills and education and earn a much higher salary with lots of growth potential during the course of their career.
Information Technology Degree Salaries
While it is possible to obtain an information technology position with basic job experience, a high school diploma, or even an associate’s degree, the type of job choices and increases in salary can happen slowly. An IT job candidate with a bachelor’s degree or higher, however, will find better jobs to choose from, higher pay, and an overall easier career path. Here are the two main degrees and their average salaries, based on information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Bachelor of Information Technology Salary
A Bachelor of Information Technology degree educates students through hands-on instruction, lecture, and preparation for industry-specific certifications. Students learn the concepts and practices related to technology and take courses in the following areas:
- Essential Computer Technology
- Basic Web Design
- Information Security
- Basic Networking
- IT Ethics and Law
These types of courses and the degree itself also prepare interested students to pursue a master’s degree in the field, perhaps in an even more specialized area.
The average salary scale for someone with a Bachelor of Information Technology (also sometimes called a Bachelor of Science) can start around $68,000 per year. From there, salaries can increase based on experience, skills, certifications, and the responsibilities of the position.
Master of Information Technology Salary
Once a student or current IT professional completes a bachelor’s degree in information technology, they may decide to continue their education for various reasons and pursue a master’s degree in the field. Continuing students or current IT professionals learn more about network management, database management, and even cybersecurity.
With these skills, students can manage IT projects or networks, develop and apply security measures, and design database systems. Typically, a master’s program lasts two years and may require the student to complete a project in their area of specialization. Coursework for graduate students can vary. It’s dependent on where a student chooses to focus their studies, but here’s a list of the typical courses a graduate student in information technology may encounter while in pursuit of their degree:
- Computer applications
- Technology management
- Systems analysis and design
- Security management
Of course, the reasons students or current IT professionals elect to pursue an advanced degree in information technology are to learn more about a specific area of IT, obtain a better position (a management position or even a teaching position at a college/university), and increase their potential for a higher salary. Just as salaries can fluctuate for professionals with a bachelor’s degree, average salaries for those with master’s degrees seem to do the same, but is around $84,000 per year. Depending on the position and who the IT professional is employed by, that salary can be much higher.
An IT professional or student who chooses to pursue either a bachelor’s degree or a master’s in information technology opens himself to a world of opportunity because of his education, skills, and experience. With a master’s degree, IT professionals may venture into management or other executive areas in the business world. There’s also the option to advance one’s education further with a Ph.D. in Information Technology. That said, here are just a few of the possible career avenues for someone with a bachelor’s degree in information technology:
- Computer Network Architect (CNA) – These professionals design and build computer networks. Average salary is $109,020 per year. A CNA needs to have five or more years of experience. As of 2018, 159,300 jobs were available.
- Database Administrator (DBA) – Store and organize data, and manage databases. Average salary is $90,070 per year. No prior work experience is required to become a DBA. As of 2018, there were 116,900 DBA jobs available.
- Computer Systems Analyst – Study and organize computer systems, and propose solutions to make them work better and more efficiently. No prior experience is required for this type of job. Average salary is $88,740 per year. As of 2018, there were 633,900 jobs available.
- Computer Support Specialist – Help and advise computer users within various organizations with hardware or software issues. This is usually considered an entry level position with no prior experience required. Average salary is $53,470 per year. As of 2018, 863,100 jobs were available.
Final Verdict: Is an Information Technology Degree Worth It?
The answer to that question is a definite yes. A bachelor’s degree in information technology will put you in a better place than those without a degree, with a chance for better positions, better starting pay, and more career options.
A bachelor’s degree in IT will also give you the option to pursue more educational options, such as certifications, a master’s degree, or even a Ph.D. If you’re interested in pursuing a bachelor’s degree in information technology, speak with a career advisor at the college or university you’re interested in attending, and check out CityU’s BS in Information Technology degree to see if it might be right for you.
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