Technology careers offer professionals the opportunity to work in many industries, including healthcare and business. Careers in technology can be pursued in several work environments, including fast-paced startups, innovative tech firms, and small IT departments.
Read on to learn about popular career paths in technology and explore different postsecondary education options.
Career Paths in Technology
Careers with a technology degree offer many different specialties, including programming, data administration, and information security. Technology professionals typically work in an office environment and spend most of their time in front of a computer.
Below, you can explore some of the different career paths available in technology fields, as well as the level of education needed to qualify for them.
Computer programmers write code to make computers, software, and other applications run successfully. Programmers typically need a bachelor's degree to get started and often learn several different programming languages.
Computer science includes the design and implementation of computer software, applications, and hardware. Computer scientists create new approaches to computing through new technology and improved designs. These professionals need a bachelor's or master's degree.
Database managers and administrators work with large amounts of data. These professionals organize and store data for later use. Database managers must also create security measures to keep their clients' data safe. Entry-level careers in database management typically require a bachelor's degree.
Professionals in data science usually need a bachelor's or master's degree. Data science uses different scientific methods and algorithms to synthesize data and yield actionable insights. Data science includes specialties like data mining and machine learning.
Data visualization allows professionals to take raw data and create a graphical representation of their findings. This field helps organizations understand important trends in data and find the right takeaways. Data visualization professionals usually need a bachelor's degree.
Information systems professionals collect and distribute information to different branches of a company. These professionals also create and maintain digital storage systems for information. Entry-level positions in this industry require a bachelor's degree.
Network security professionals protect computer and network systems from different avenues of attack. These professionals must keep private data safe while maintaining and upgrading security methods. Professionals in network security need a bachelor's degree.
Software engineering requires knowledge of programming languages. These engineers recommend upgrades for existing software and design new applications to meet the changing needs of users. Software engineers need a bachelor's degree.
Web development focuses on the creation and design of websites. Web developers need at least an associate degree. These professionals write code to create websites and help with design and layout to meet their clients' specific needs.
Technology Career Outlook
Most careers in technology require at least a bachelor's degree. Earning a four-year degree allows professionals to enter a competitive field and find a job that suits their interests.
Job outlook for careers with a technology degree depends on the field. For example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that software developers will experience 22% job growth between 2019 and 2029. The BLS projects 31% job growth for information security analysts during the same period. For reference, the average projected growth rate for all occupations from 2019-2029 is 4%.
Although most technology careers pay well, salaries vary depending on a worker's location, education, and experience. In 2019, the BLS reported median annual salaries for technology workers ranging from $54,760 for computer support specialists to $122,840 for computer and information research scientists.
How to Start a Career in Technology
Most entry-level technology careers require at least a bachelor's degree. However, some jobs, such as web developer, only require an associate degree to get started. Pursuing a bachelor's degree in technology allows students to enter the workforce with the skills and knowledge needed to complete their jobs.
You should determine what area of technology interests you. From there, you can begin researching colleges and their respective technology programs. Most postsecondary institutions offer technology programs at different levels with several formats, including online and in-person classes.
You can always reach out to program advisors and admissions departments with questions about program specifics and admission requirements. You can also learn more about finding the right college by reading this guide.
In general, students can pursue four different degree types: associate, bachelor's, master's, and doctorate. Each degree offers a different level of difficulty and specialization. Students should choose the degree that best fits their career goals.
An associate degree in technology offers introductory classes in areas like scripting and operating systems. Students must usually complete 60 credits to graduate, which usually takes about two years. Most colleges provide associate programs online and in person.
Associate degrees do not allow for much specialization. Sample classes for an associate in information technology include the following:
- Computer operating systems
- Fundamentals of information technology
- Computer systems security
- Cross-platform technologies
- Project management
An associate degree in technology prepares graduates for two paths: continuing their education or entering the workforce.
Students who decide to continue their education can often transfer into a four-year program after completing their associate degree. Most colleges allow students to apply all 60 credits toward a bachelor's degree.
Graduates can also enter the workforce with an associate degree in technology, pursuing careers related to web development or computer and network technical support. In general, professionals with an associate degree earn lower salaries than their counterparts with a bachelor's degree in similar positions.
A bachelor's degree usually takes about four years to complete. However, students can graduate more quickly by enrolling in an accelerated program. Most bachelor's degrees require 120 credits.
Bachelor's degrees in technology build on the fundamentals of computer science and often allow students to choose a concentration, such as data analytics, software development, or project management. These concentrations help prepare students for specific careers after graduation.
Sample courses for a bachelor's in information technology include the following:
- Computing as a service
- IT operations and systems planning
- Web-oriented services
- Risk management and mitigation in systems design
- User-centered systems design and evaluation
After earning a bachelor's degree, some graduates opt to pursue a graduate degree. However, most careers in this field only require a bachelor's. As such, many students enter the workforce right after graduation.
Possible careers include the following:
Most colleges offer master's programs online, in person, or in a hybrid format. A master's degree in technology delves into advanced material. These programs accept students who already understand foundational material.
Students can complete a master's degree in 1-2 years, depending on the credit requirements and their enrollment status. Most master's programs require 36-54 credits.
Master's degrees in technology offer a high level of specialization, allowing students to pick a subject that applies directly to their career goals. Students can choose from concentrations like database design, software application development, information security, and healthcare informatics.
Master's programs focus exclusively on advanced, technical, and theoretical classes. Most master's programs also require a capstone project, which often involves original research and/or a thesis paper.
Sample courses include the following:
- Innovations in information technology
- Telecommunications and networking
- Object-oriented application development
- Technical communication
- Information technology projects and team management
This degree prepares students for management roles and careers such as computer and information research scientist. Workers who hold this degree also tend to earn higher salaries and qualify for career advancement sooner.
Doctoral degrees offer the highest level of complexity and depth of knowledge in a particular field. Most doctoral programs require 4-7 years and 60-120 credits to complete.
Doctoral programs require participants to complete in-depth, original research projects, culminating in a dissertation that students must defend before a panel of faculty members. Students typically work with a faculty advisor, who helps them with their research and guides them through their dissertation.
Sample courses for a doctoral degree in computer science include the following:
- Machine learning and data mining
- Artificial intelligence frontiers: technical, ethical, and societal
- Mathematical and computational biology
- Reasoning in probabilistic graphical models
- Neural networks and deep learning
This degree prepares students for advancement in any career that requires a bachelor's or master's degree. Graduates can use their doctorate to pursue managerial roles. They can also pursue careers as postsecondary teachers in their field.
Certifications and/or Licensure
Licensure and certification can help technology professionals advance their careers. Licensure is typically awarded by a governmental agency at the federal, state, or local level. However, few technology careers require licensure to practice.
Professionals usually earn certification through professional organizations. Many careers in technology encourage certification, which demonstrates expert knowledge and skills in a particular area. Certification often requires candidates to pass an initial exam, and credentials usually need to be renewed every few years.
For example, information security analysts should strongly consider earning certification. Information security professionals can pursue certification from the International Information System Security Certification Consortium. Workers can also pursue more specialized options, including the penetration testing certification offered by the Information Assurance Certification Review Board.
Be sure to research specific career expectations and/or speak with a career counselor to determine if earning certification or licensure can help you succeed in your target career.
Continuing education allows professionals to advance their careers or start a new career path. There are three main types of continuing education: earning a new degree, completing a certificate program, and taking continuing education units (CEUs).
Some professionals earn a second degree to advance their careers. For example, while most database administrators only need a bachelor's degree, earning a master's degree in this field can lead to promotions and higher salaries. Completing another degree can also help professionals change careers by providing new knowledge and skills.
Most colleges also offer subject-specific certificate programs, which usually take less than a year to complete. Professionals can also look into CEUs and online courses to stay current on new technologies and theories in their field. You can enroll in many of these classes online for free.
Professional organizations offer development opportunities for students and experienced workers alike. Technology professionals should consider joining groups like the Computing Technology Industry Association and the Information Systems Security Association.
Many professional organizations provide educational resources, online workshops, and additional tools for advancement. Professionals can also take advantage of networking opportunities like conferences to make connections with their peers and learn about new career opportunities.
Note that most professional organizations require membership for full access to their resources and events.
Frequently Asked Questions
- What are career options for technology students?
Technology graduates can pursue careers in many industries, including law enforcement, government, and healthcare. You can find more information about careers with a technology degree here.
- How do I start a career in technology?
Most technology careers require a bachelor's degree. You can begin by researching potential schools and technology programs through this guide.
- What are the highest-paying jobs in technology?
The BLS reported that computer and information research scientists earned a median annual salary of $122,840 in 2019. In the same year, computer network architects earned a median annual salary of $112,690. However, a professional's salary outlook can vary based on their location, experience, and education.
- Is a technology degree worth it?
Yes. In addition to being lucrative, technology careers are experiencing a high level of demand. For example, the BLS projects 15% job growth for computer and information research scientists and 31% job growth for information security analysts between 2019 and 2029.