Do I Need an Information Technology Degree? 4 Things to Consider

Written by Coursera • Updated on Nov 22, 2021

How much will you earn with an information technology degree? Are there other ways to break into IT? Here's what to consider when thinking about getting an IT degree.

Student deciding to look into IT degrees

The world of information technology (IT) has grown significantly in the last decade, and is slated to keep growing. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that computer and information technology occupations are expected to grow by 13 percent from 2020 to 2030, which is faster than the average for all jobs [1]. It’s an exciting time to consider a job in IT.

Information technology degree: Key facts

Information technology degrees, also called information systems or computer information systems degrees, teach students the fundamental concepts of IT and programming. IT degrees are available at the associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate levels.

Common IT topics of study might include:

  • Systems analysis

  • Web and mobile development

  • Database design

  • Cybersecurity principles

More advanced degrees may also cover project management and business decision-making in IT contexts.

What is an information technology degree good for? Here are four points to consider as you look into degree programs.

1. What can I do with an information technology degree?

A degree in information technology can open paths to a variety of IT-related jobs. This can mean anything from working in cloud computing and information security to system administration and database maintenance. Since most IT positions place preference on workers with at least a bachelor’s degree, getting an undergraduate degree in IT will likely be a large asset to your job search.

Here are some jobs you can position yourself to get with an IT degree:

Read more: 9 Entry-Level IT Jobs (and What You Need to Get Hired)

2. Is an information technology degree worth it?

Experience and skills can get you far in IT. In fact, prominent companies like Google and Apple have stopped requiring four-year degrees altogether, so long as employees have the skills to complete the work [2]. (Google has released several skill-building certificates to train people for entry-level roles.) So is getting a degree in IT still worth it? There are several benefits to think about:

  • Some employers might still prefer candidates with bachelor’s degrees. While many companies might be getting rid of their four-year degree requirements, the BLS shows that many computer-related, entry-level positions generally require at least a bachelor’s degree [1]. An IT degree can simply open up those doors and increase your job options. That said, if you’re trying to land an entry-level IT job, there can be less expensive and quicker ways to get the training you need, like certifications.

  • You’ll learn in a structured environment. Enrolling in a degree can create a structured environment where you’ll have a set schedule, and professors and peers to ask questions. 

  • Higher degrees are linked to higher incomes. High school graduates in the US earn a median weekly income of $817, while college graduates make a median of $1,474 a week, according to 2021 BLS data [3]. So while it’s possible to get your foot in the door in the IT world without a degree, you might find that having a degree can be more financially lucrative in the long run.

3. Are there other ways to break into the IT field?

There’s good news for people who don’t have the capacity to commit to earning a degree: getting a job in IT without a degree is very much possible. 

But you will need to have the skills IT employers are looking for. Entry-level IT jobs generally require an understanding of various operating systems, networks, and basic security features. You can look through several job descriptions of positions you’re interested in to get a sense of what kind of skills you’ll want to have.

There are several ways to break into IT without a degree, including self study. But if you’re starting from scratch, earning an entry-level IT certification can be a good first step. Working toward a certification can give you a clear roadmap of the skills you’ll have to learn. The certification itself can provide you with a credential to show employers you know enough to do the expected job. 

Want to learn more about IT? Check out the Google IT Support Professional Certificate. Build the skills you’ll need to be job-ready from the industry experts at Google. Work at your own pace, and earn a credential for your resume in less than six months.

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4. Computer science vs. information technology: Which degree is better?

In the computer science field, you’ll design and build computers and computer programs. In IT, you’ll work to maintain and improve those computers, as well as the systems, security structures, databases, and networks that help them run. There are also several fields that combine principles from both computer science and IT, like cloud computing, DevOps, and database administration.

So which should you choose? If you’re drawn more to the possibilities of what you can do with computers—building websites, designing software, creating machine learning algorithms—then computer science might be what you’re looking for. If you’re interested in the ways computers run, IT is probably more suited for you.

Don’t forget that there may be other related fields, like data science or computer engineering, that can be worth exploring.

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Master of Computer Science

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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Master of Computer Science

Arizona State University

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Bachelor of Science in Computer Science

University of London

Read more: Computer Science vs. Information Technology: Differences in Careers, Degrees, and More

Get started on Coursera

If you’re just getting started in IT, you can learn the essentials of the field with the Google IT Support Professional Certificate. If you’ve already received a bachelor’s degree but are still considering a career in IT, explore an online master’s program—the University of Pennsylvania’s Master of Computer Information and Technology program is open to those new and experienced in IT alike.

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Master of Computer and Information Technology

Penn Engineering

Article sources

1. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Computer and Information Technology Occupations, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/home.htm." Accessed November 19, 2021.

2. Business Insider. "Elon Musk said a college degree isn't required for a job at Tesla — and Apple, Google, and Netflix don't require employees to have 4-year degrees either, https://www.businessinsider.com/top-companies-are-hiring-more-candidates-without-a-4-year-degree-2019-4." Accessed November 19, 2021.

3. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Usual Weekly Earnings of Wage and Salary Workers First Quarter 2021, https://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/wkyeng.pdf." Accessed November 19, 2021.

Written by Coursera • Updated on Nov 22, 2021

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.

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