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 11 percent from 2019 to 2029, which is much faster than the average for all jobs . It’s an exciting time to consider a job in IT.
Information technology degrees teach students the fundamental concepts of IT and programming. This might include systems analysis, web and mobile development, database design, cybersecurity principles, and more. More advanced degrees may also cover project management and business decision-making in IT contexts. IT degrees are available at the associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate levels, and can also be called information systems or computer information systems degrees.
But what is an information technology degree good for? Here are a few points to consider as you look into degree programs.
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 . (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 . An IT degree can simply open up those doors that would’ve been closed to you otherwise, 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 $792 a week, while college graduates made a median of $1,426 a week, according to 2021 BLS data . 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.
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.
A degree in information technology can open paths to a variety of IT-related jobs. As wide as the world of IT is, 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 a few jobs you can position yourself to get with an IT degree:
Information security analyst
Help desk analyst
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.
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 eyeing a career in IT, consider 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.
1. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Computer and Information Technology Occupations, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/home.htm." Accessed June 4, 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 June 4, 2021.
3. US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Computer and Information Technology Occupations
4. 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 June 4, 2021.