A bachelor's degree in information technology can lead to an exciting career in cybersecurity, programming, software development, or another technology-focused field. As business and education become increasingly dependent on technology, IT professionals face increased demand and competitive salaries. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 28% job growth rate for information security analysts by 2026. Technology continues to evolve, making IT a fast-paced and constantly changing field.
If you're thinking about getting an IT degree, there are a number of things to consider. This guide will help you get started on choosing, applying to, and enrolling in the best information technology school for you.
Should I Get a Bachelor's in Information Technology?
An IT degree can lead to a high-demand, fast-paced, high-paying job in the STEM field. Unlike many professions, you could land a career in IT without a degree, but you will have a much more difficult time. Degrees and certifications speak volumes about the the abilities of a potential employee. Even with experience, it might be hard to rise through the ranks without a college education.
IT programs also help students network with future peers and employers. Colleges offer internships, job fairs, and other opportunities that can help build your resume and experience.
Both on-campus and online programs present unique benefits. On-campus programs allow students to experience college and focus on their education before entering the workforce. For students with families or careers, online courses offer more flexible scheduling options.
What Can I Do With a Bachelor's in Information Technology?
There are a variety of career paths available to someone with an IT degree. The best information technology programs prepare students for these careers by training the base skills and knowledges needed for all of them, as well as providing at least introductory knowledge of several subfields. Many programs allow students to specialize to some extent, better preparing them for the specific aspect of IT work in which they are most interested. The examples provided below show some of those paths, all of which require attention to detail, patience, and a deep understanding of computer technology.
- Network and Computer Systems Administrator
These professionals ensure that networks and the systems connected to them stay operational. They help others in the company access networks and troubleshoot issues. Network administrators also make sure that the network can keep up with the needs of its users.
Median Annual Salary: $81,100
Projected Growth Rate: 6%
- Computer Network Architect
These professionals design and develop the networks that companies use to manage their data and other processes. They set up LANs, WANs, and intranets. They may also develop and use new networking technology such as cloud servers. Network architects ensure that networks meet or exceed the demands of their customers.
Median Annual Salary: $104,650
Projected Growth Rate: 6%
- Information Security Analyst
These professionals work to protect data from outside tampering. They constantly monitor network security and develop new barriers to intrusion based on the information they gather. Security analysts also plan and implement new measures to reduce the likelihood of future breaches.
Median Annual Salary: $95,510
Projected Growth Rate: 28%
- Computer Systems Analyst
These professionals work to improve a company's existing network infrastructure. By analyzing both network-side and business-side software, systems analysts devise ways to improve the efficiency of both.
Median Annual Salary: $88,270
Projected Growth Rate: 9%
- Database Administrator
These professionals use software to organize, store, and retrieve data such as shipping manifests, specs, or customer information. They ensure that all members of an organization have access to the information they need in order to keep the business running.
Median Annual Salary: $87,020
Projected Growth Rate: 11%
How to Choose a Bachelor's in Information Technology Program
When deciding where to pursue your computer information technology degree, you may consider several factors, including school size, concentrations, classes, campus culture, tuition, location, proximity, and online options. Many of these factors come down to personal preference. Fortunately, hundreds of schools offer IT degrees, so students have plenty of options to choose from.
Search for schools that offer classes, specializations, or concentrations in your field of interest. Many students choose a concentration in cybersecurity. And some schools offer intensive courses, accelerated programs, and summer courses to help students graduate earlier.
On-campus courses give students hands-on experience and in-person networking opportunities. Online courses, by contrast, allow students to complete coursework whenever and wherever is most convenient. Working professionals, older students, and new parents often choose online courses for their flexibility.
Hands-on experience can make your bachelor's degree in information technology stand out. What kind of internships, practicums, and other field experiences does the school offer? Does the program give you opportunities to approach new problems while still studying? What about research opportunities?
Many students consider cost the most important factor in their college decision. Pay attention to what each school charges for tuition, fees, and other expenses. In-state public universities usually cost the least, while private universities usually cost the most. Online courses may also cost less than on-campus programs, depending on the school. Do you have to live on or near campus? How will that impact your finances? What is the cost of living in the area, and what kind of jobs are available?
Programmatic Accreditation for Bachelor's in Information Technology Programs
You should always attend an accredited school. Accredited schools have undergone review and received approval to award degrees. Accreditation boards may offer national, regional, or programmatic accreditation. At minimum, you should make sure your school holds national or regional accreditation, since employers and other schools do not recognize unaccredited degrees. Students can easily find out whether or not a school is accredited by visiting the Council for Higher Education Accreditation website.
In addition to regional and national accreditation, schools may receive accreditation for certain departments or programs. The Accreditation Board of Engineering and Technology (ABET) evaluates computer science degrees and other programs. Earning an information technology bachelor's degree from an ABET-accredited program can help you stand out and improve your chances of getting hired.
Bachelor's in Information Technology Program Admissions
Applying to a school is the first step in getting your IT degree. When applying to an undergraduate degree, most schools request a minimum GPA and standardized test scores. Students who don't meet these requirements can take courses at a community college to raise their chances of acceptance.
Applying to online programs can sometimes be more demanding, based on the program and its purpose. Some online IT degrees require you to already hold 60 low-level credits or an associate degree. For prestigious or small programs, you might face stiffer competition.
Choosing what schools to apply to, and how many, is a personal decision. Look for schools that offer the kind of courses you want to take. From there, consider campus culture, cost of tuition, and location.
- Minimum GPA: Many schools set a minimum GPA requirement for new applicants. This requirement varies, but schools generally ask for a 2.5 or 3.0. You can take courses at a community college to help offset a low high school GPA. Some schools accept applicants with a lower GPA on probationary status.
- Application: All schools require students to fill in an online application, though students may usually fill out a paper application if they prefer. This form usually asks for basic information about the applicant.
- Transcripts: Transcripts list the courses you took and the grades you received at a particular school. Sending official transcripts usually costs a small fee.
- Letters of Recommendation: Letters of recommendation attest to your academic ability and work ethic. Request letters from teachers and supervisors who have worked with you in the past. Try to request letters at least a month before the deadline.
- Test Scores: Freshman applicants usually must submit test scores from the ACT or SAT. It might be worth retaking these tests if you don't score in the top 30%.
- Application Fee: This fee varies by school. Some colleges charge no application fee. Harvard charges the most expensive fee in the nation, $90. Many colleges offer fee waivers to low-income and high-achieving students.
What Else Can I Expect From a Bachelor's in Information Technology Program?
The best information technology degrees allow students to tailor their courses to their unique interests. Many schools offer concentrations, specializations, and other ways to personalize your education. The table below describes five common concentrations and possible career options.
|Cybersecurity||This concentration focuses on the threats faced by networks and how to deal with them. Students learn how hacking works, how cybersecurity professionals can prevent hackers from harming a network, and how to manage and maintain network security in a rapidly changing field.||Information security analyst|
|Data Management and Analytics||In this concentration, students learn how to manage, store, retrieve, and protect data. These classes also cover how to adapt data management and network resources to suit the needs of each client.||Database administrator|
|Software Development||Students in this concentration learn how to design and create software. Courses explain how to tailor existing software to new uses, create entirely new programs, and ensure that programs work for individual clients. Such concentrations often teach multiple programming languages in order to help students in the job market.||Programmer|
|Health Information Management||The healthcare industry has unique, specific needs for its networks and software. IT professionals must learn certain terms and definitions unique to the field. In this concentration, students learn how to integrate health information with more common IT principles.||Developer, health information specialist|
|Cloud and Systems Administration||This concentration focuses on the administration of cloud-based systems and physical networks. Students learn about the challenges of cloud-based computing, traditional networks, and storage retrieval.||Network administrator|
Courses in a Bachelor's in Information Technology Program
Each IT degree features different concentrations, subjects, courses, and focus areas. However, the best information technology programs provide foundational knowledge in several different areas. Most programs feature similar core courses in topics such as networks and programming.
This section describes five common classes you might find in an IT program.
- Information Systems Fundamentals
Foundational courses introduce students to the basics of computers systems, networks, and the role of technology in modern life. Usually one of the first courses in a sequence, these classes provide a foundation for later learning. Some versions of the course include a focus on business, education, or another area.
- Project Planning and Implementation
In this class, students learn how to successfully plan, organize, and implement projects of various sizes. Some versions of this course focus on certain types of projects.
Cybersecurity courses examine how to protect networks, computers, and the data they contain. Students learn about threats to network security, emergency response, and prevention strategies.
- Fundamentals of Networking
This class explores what networks are, how they work, and what professionals need to build and maintain them. Students discuss different network models, as well as how networks have evolved over time. Common topics include analog, radio, and digital networks.
- Programming Languages
Programming courses introduce students to popular languages used in the development and design of databases and networks. Specific courses may focus on one language or narrow in on how to use a particular language for certain tasks and projects.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Bachelor's in Information Technology?
A bachelor's degree typically takes about four years of full-time study to complete. All students, regardless of major, must take at least 120 credits.
Several factors can influence how long it takes to finish a degree. Part-time students usually take several more semesters than full-time students. Course availability can also result in spending more time in college, if you have to wait for certain classes to become available. Taking the minimum 12 credits per semester can also lead to extra time in school.
Spending less time in school usually saves students money, especially for learners who have to live on campus or pay for expensive fees. You can generally finish a degree faster by taking more courses per term, summer courses, or accelerated courses. Online programs often offer accelerated courses to help students earn more credits in less time.
How Much Is a Bachelor's in Information Technology?
The total cost of an information technology degree can vary widely, depending on which school you choose to attend. Tuition makes up the largest percentage of college costs. Attending a public in-state school can make a big difference. Additionally, online programs often cost less than their on-campus counterparts. A number of financial aid options can make school easier to afford, including veteran discounts and merit scholarships.
Students should also research each school's fees. IT programs often charge fees for computer labs and other technologies. Having to buy software in addition to books can also increase your costs. Make sure to research whether each school requires students to live in on-campus housing. The location of the school can have a huge impact on what it costs to live on or near campus.
Certifications and Licenses a Bachelor's in Information Technology Prepares For
- CompTIA A+
Holders of this certificate demonstrate an aptitude for troubleshooting software, hardware, and networks across multiple systems and technologies. A foundational certificate, CompTIA A+ shows employers that candidates have basic knowledge and hands-on practice in IT.
- CompTIA Network+
The CompTIA Network+ certification proves that professionals can design and implement functional, secure networks; troubleshoot problems; and configure networks to deal with new challenges. CompTIA recommends that candidates have the CompTIA A+ credential or at least nine months of experience.
- CompTIA Security+
This certification assesses candidates' skills in network security, including knowledge of threats and vulnerabilities, architecture, risk management, and cryptography. CompTIA recommends that candidates hold the Network+ credential and have two years of IT administration and security experience.
- Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert
Through this credential, experienced IT professionals can validate the specialized skills they have developed over the course of their education and career. Candidates can choose from several specializations, including business applications, mobility, and productivity. Each specialization covers different technologies and must be taken separately.
- Microsoft Technology Associate
This entry-level certification demonstrates basic knowledge and skills necessary to work with technology.
Resources for Information Technology Students
SD Forum promotes discussion between software engineers, offers resources for startups, and provides networking opportunities. The forum helps to support and fund new software endeavors.
CompTIA offered the first vendor-neutral certification back in 1993. The association has since grown to become one of the leading tech organizations in the world. CompTIA is a major provider of certifications and continuing education.
TechRepublic provides a large library of information, including blogs, research, and white papers written by and for tech professionals. The site seeks to empower workers and streamline businesses.
Provided by Microsoft, TechNet offers tutorials, training, software downloads, articles, support, forums, and other resources. The site benefits information technology professionals and students working primarily with Windows-based systems and software.
ITPRC hosts information on net admin tools, trade shows, training, and design. The site added extensive networking content in 2018.
Professional Organizations in Information Technology
Professional organizations provide networking, educational, and professional development opportunities to their members. These organizations bring together like-minded professionals from around the country and the world. Individuals with an IT degree can access job boards, discounts, conferences, mentorships, and scholarships. These organizations also advocate for professional standards, beneficial policies, fair wages, and acceptable working conditions.