Your Guide to the Master’s in Information Technology

Written by Coursera • Updated on

A master's degree in IT can be an excellent way to advance your career or pivot from another industry into tech. Learn more about what it takes to earn the degree and what you can do with it.

[Featured image] A young woman wearing a green long-sleeved top sits in front of several desktop computers. She smiles at the camera.

Earning your master’s degree in information technology (IT)—or the practice of supporting and troubleshooting computer systems and network systems—can be a lucrative way to advance your knowledge or pivot from another area and prepare for a career in the field. 

These degrees tend to be somewhat faster to earn than other types of master’s degrees in related subjects, such as a master’s in computer science. Many programs are also available online so you can learn around your other responsibilities. 

Openings for IT professions are slated to grow 15 percent between 2021 and 2031, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics [1]. Beyond job demand, you may also find that IT roles earn a higher-than-average salary, and that graduating with a master’s degree in the subject can add to your earning power [1, 2]. 

In this article, we’ll go over what it takes to earn a master’s degree in IT, what you can do with it, and alternatives to bolster your education in the subject.  

IT master’s degree: Time and cost

At the master’s level, you can find programs in information technology (IT), information systems, or information systems management. Despite the difference in names, these programs tend to cover a similar curriculum. 

The time it takes to earn your master’s in IT will depend on the school you attend. While a master’s degree traditionally takes around two years to earn when you’re able to go full-time, you may find more accelerated options for studying information technology. In fact, several online degree programs require 10 courses—or 30 credits total—which can take around 16 months to complete.

As of October 2021, the average cost of a master’s degree was $66,340, though each school is different [3]. The total cost will often be determined by whether you attend a public or private institution. 

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

Coursework 

Many master’s programs in IT combine theoretical and practical learning so you understand how to implement the concepts you study. While each school’s requirements will differ, you can expect to take several computer science courses that focus on: 

  • IT research methods

  • Managing technology

  • Database management with SQL

  • Information security 

  • Algorithms and computation

  • System administration 

  • Distributed computing

As part of Penn’s Master of Computer and Information Technology, you’ll take courses like Intro to Software Development and Intro to Computer Systems before choosing electives. Learn more about the course descriptions.

Placeholder

 

Capstone or thesis

Some IT master’s degrees also require a capstone or thesis. Either of these culminating projects is an opportunity to apply what you’ve learned and develop an original project or conduct original research. 

Skills

Thanks to the practical nature of an IT program’s curriculum, you may find that you get an opportunity to develop or strengthen many valuable technical and workplace skills. You can integrate both types of skills into your resume as you look for new roles or to advance in your current workplace. 

Technical skills

Technical skills are specific abilities related to your role, such as knowing how to use a particular software program or, in the case of IT, installing hardware and software. In an IT master’s program, you may find an opportunity to strengthen some of the following skills: 

  • DevOps

  • Systems and networks

  • Data analysis

  • Cloud computing

Workplace skills

Workplace skills are more general in that they tend to describe how you do your work. They involve key abilities, like communicating with others and critical thinking. In an IT master’s program, you may be able to refine some of the following skills: 

  • Leadership

  • Collaboration

  • Communication

  • Problem-solving 

Learn more: 7 In-Demand IT Skills to Boost Your Resume

What can you do with a master’s in IT?

Many IT professionals pursue a master’s because they’re interested in advancing their careers and want more specialized knowledge and credentials. With a master’s degree and additional experience, you may qualify for the following roles:  

Job titleAnnual US base salary*
Information security manager$119,853
IT director$127,317
Computer and information research scientist$131,490 (median salary)
Computer and information systems manager$159,010 (median salary)
Chief technology officer (CTO)$172,401
Chief information officer (CIO)$185,809

*Data from BLS and Glassdoor (November 2022). Beyond the base salary listed for the titles above, these jobs tend to include additional compensation, like bonuses and stocks.

Learn more: How to Get a Job in IT: 7 Steps

Placeholder

professional certificate

IBM DevOps and Software Engineering

Launch your DevOps and Software Engineering Career. Master DevOps, Agile, Scrum, CI/CD and Cloud Native with hands-on job-ready skills.

4.7

(1,433 ratings)

21,314 already enrolled

BEGINNER level

Average time: 3 month(s)

Learn at your own pace

Skills you'll build:

Cloud Native, Devops, CI/CD, Application development, Software Engineering, Test-Driven Development, Behavior-Driven Development, Iaas PaaS Saas, Hybrid Multicloud, Cloud Computing, Agile Software Development, Scrum Methodology, Zenhub, Kanban, Sprint Planning, Shell Script, Bash (Unix Shell), Linux, Distributed Version Control (DRCS), open source, Version Control Systems, Github, Git (Software), Data Science, Python Programming, Data Analysis, Pandas, Numpy, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Web Application, Flask, Kubernetes, Docker, Containers, Openshift, Serverless Computing, Microservices, Function As A Service, Cloud Applications, Test Case, Software Testing, Automated Testing, Continuous Integration, Continuous Development, Automation, Infrastructure As Code, Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP), Observability, security, Monitoring, logging, agile

Other ways to accelerate your IT career

If you want to advance your career in IT—or pivot from another career into IT—there are other ways to go about gaining specialized education:  

  • Professional certificate: Designed for learners who want to move into a different field or excel in their current role, professional certificates typically take around six months to earn and emphasize practical and technical skills development.

  • Graduate certificate: Many universities offer graduate certificates, which are similar to professional certificates in that they’re focused on skills development, but cost less and take less time to finish than a master’s degree.  

  • Individual courses: Strengthen your IT knowledge by taking individual courses meant to introduce or refine your understanding of various concepts, like data analytics or DevOps. You can find a wealth of options—many for free—on Coursera. 

  • Projects: Completing projects independently can be an excellent opportunity to apply what you’re learning and further develop your skills. You may find IT forums that offer project ideas or YouTube channels that post things to work on. Or complete a Guided Project on Coursera, like Introduction to Relational Database and SQL.

Learn more: Computer Science vs. Information Technology: Careers, Degrees, and More

Placeholder

professional certificate

Google IT Automation with Python

Learn in-demand skills like Python, Git, and IT automation to advance your career

4.8

(30,139 ratings)

527,412 already enrolled

BEGINNER level

Average time: 6 month(s)

Learn at your own pace

Skills you'll build:

Using Version Control, Troubleshooting & Debugging, Python Programming, Configuration Management, Automation, Basic Python Data Structures, Fundamental Programming Concepts, Basic Python Syntax, Object-Oriented Programming (OOP), Setting up your Development Environment, Regular Expression (REGEX), Testing in Python, Automating System Administration Tasks with Python, Bash Scripting, Using Git, Version Control Systems, Interacting with GitHub, Reverting Changes, Creating Pull Requests, Improving Software Performance, Managing Scarce Resources, Advanced Troubleshooting, Understanding Errors, Finding the Root Cause of a Problem, Automation at Scale, Basic Monitoring & Alerting, Cloud Computing, Using Puppet, Serialization, Building a Solution, Creating and Translating Media Files, Interacting with Web Services

Explore further 

The University of Pennsylvania’s Master of Computer and Information Technology delivers an Ivy League education for students with no prior computer science experience. The degree comprises 10 courses, and you can get a head start by completing the school’s Introduction to Programming with Python and Java specialization. 

Placeholder

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 24, 2022. 

Written by Coursera • Updated on

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.

Big savings for your big goals! Save $200 on Coursera Plus.

  • For a limited time, save like never before on a new Coursera Plus annual subscription (original price: $399 | after discount: $199 for one year).
  • Get unlimited access to 7,000+ courses from world-class universities and companies—for less than $20/month!
  • Gain the skills you need to succeed, anytime you need them—whether you’re starting your first job, switching to a new career, or advancing in your current role.