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Should I Get a Degree in IT?

The Information Technology (IT) field is expected to be one of the fastest-growing industries in the next decade.  Computers have assumed and continue to assume an importance like never before, and this leads directly to an increased need for skilled professionals.

On the other hand, the dot-com bust of ten years ago and an ever-increasing trend for companies to outsource labor have other job seekers wondering if investing all that time and money in a college degree is worth it.  The question to ask yourself is not whether it might be worth it for someone else, in different circumstances and with different talents, should take a degree in IT, but whether you should.  To that end, we’ll examine the education options for IT professionals, a few of the most common jobs, and what the requirements are for management positions.  Finally, we’ll conclude with questions to consider whether an IT degree is right for you.

Types of Degrees and Certifications

Just as there are many job variations in the IT industry – six of which we will discuss in the following section – there are many ways to demonstrate that you have the necessary skills and knowledge.

  • Certificates can be obtained in just about any specific field, or as a very general overview.  They range from entry-level to advanced, and are a good way for people who have experience in IT but no degree to independently verify that they have skills relevant to the job.
  • Associate’s Degrees usually require two years of study.  They can cover a bit about many topics or focus on one special area, like networking.  These can be suitable for many entry-level jobs or for people who want to start their career quickly.  Of course, many colleges allow the credits to be applied towards a higher degree.
  • Bachelor’s Degrees require about four years of study.  For many careers in the IT field, this degree is required or strongly preferred.  The course of study is usually more in-depth than an associate’s degree or a certificate.
  • Master’s Degrees are completed in two years or more.  These degrees are suitable for more advanced jobs and management positions.

Jobs in the IT Industry

Not every job in the computer industry requires a college degree.  Of the six careers below, two are degree-oriented and four are more flexible.

  • Computer Repair Technicianis a hands-on job fixing and maintaining computers.  While experience is preferred, some companies offer on-the-job training.  No degree or certification is required, although it can be a bonus.
  • Computer Programing is another job where a degree is preferred, but not an absolute necessity.  Computer programmers write instructions to the computer using a special programming language and software.
  • Software Testing is part of the process of building new software.  It makes sure that the new program runs smoothly.  Knowledge of computers is required, but a degree is not.
  • Systems Analysts use various IT tools to help businesses achieve their goals.  Usually, a bachelor’s degree is the minimum education requirement for this job.
  • Network Architectsdesign computer networks for businesses, schools, or other places.  A bachelor’s degree is usually required.
  • Web Designersensure that a website is visually appealing and easy to navigate.  While some companies prefer a degree, others do not.

Advanced Jobs in IT and Management-Level Jobs

The more advanced IT jobs, especially those that require supervisory capacity or leadership, normally require more advanced degrees as well as years of experience.

Before you embark on an IT degree, ask yourself:  Am I good with computers?  Do I already have skills or experience in this field?  Do I want a high-level job, or would I prefer working at something less stressful, if lower-paying?  Knowing these answers will help you with your decision.