Should I Be an IT Major? The Info You Need to Know to Decide
The world’s technological capabilities continue to surge forward, paving the way for much speculation. On one end of the spectrum, we’re questioning whether advancements in artificial intelligence could result in widespread job displacement. At the same time, we’re seeing tech jobs thrive amidst a burgeoning digital economy.
One thing is sure—navigating an up-and-coming career in the midst of what some are calling the “Fourth Industrial Revolution” includes a whole lot of uncharted territory. If you find yourself particularly drawn to the idea of working with technology, you’ll be happy to learn that employment of computer and information technology (IT) occupations is projected to grow 13 percent by 2026—that’s nearly double the average of all occupations nationwide, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).1
Even so, committing to a career path can mean committing to earning a degree—something you definitely want to be sure about before jumping in. As you weigh the pros and cons of pursuing a degree in IT, you’ll only benefit from learning more about the individual aspects of an IT career.
That’s why we rounded up all of the facts surrounding IT program courses, career paths, necessary skills, educational requirements and salary information. Read on to see if this technology career path is right for you.
What can you do with an Information Technology degree?
With industries across the board placing greater emphasis on things like cloud computing, the collection of big data and information security, computer and IT jobs will continue to see great demand. In fact, the BLS expects to see more than 557,000 new jobs within this sector by 2026.1
From the time spent building your foundational IT education to the end goal of working in a thriving tech career, here’s what you can expect along each phase of your journey.
What will Information Technology courses cover?
An Associate’s degree in IT helps tech career hopefuls develop the foundational skills needed to troubleshoot and resolve issues on multiple devices while also preparing them to provide quality technical assistance to users according to industry best practices. From communicating effectively and thinking critically to acting ethically in a variety of different contexts, there are a number of valuable elements of technology jobs that IT hopefuls will learn about in a degree program.
Through a career-focused curriculum and practical, hands-on opportunities, students at a program like the IT Associate’s degree program at Rasmussen College graduate well prepared for a successful technology career. This requires the completion of coursework in the following topics:
- Operating Systems
- Systems Analysis and Design
- Networking Security
- Hardware and Software
- Computer Technical Support
- Administering Windows Server
- Introduction to Networks
- Project Management and Team Leadership
- Principles of Management
If you do someday hope to advance your education, you also have the option to seamlessly transfer your Associate’s degree credits to a Bachelor’s-level IT Management program.
What are some potential IT careers and job titles associated with this degree?
Because just about every industry is looking for skilled IT professionals, the job paths that correspond with an Associate’s degree in IT may not be quite as clear-cut as a field like Accounting, for example.
That’s why we used real-time job analysis software to survey more than 8,100 job postings from the last year that called for candidates with an Associate’s degree in IT. The following positions topped the list:2
- Computer support specialist
- Network systems administrator
- Software applications developer
- Computer systems analyst
- Information security analyst
These roles are primarily focused in two areas—direct user support and network or systems administration. Experienced IT Associate’s degree-holders may also find opportunities in roles where they help design and plan larger-scale networks.
So, who’s hiring? To help you get an even clearer picture of what your future as an IT professional might look like, we analyzed those same job postings and categorized them by industry. According to the job openings from the last 12 months, IT Associate’s degree-holders are most likely to find work in the following industries:2
- Colleges, universities and professional schools
- General medical and surgical hospitals
- Executive, legislative and other support
- Insurance carriers
- Computer systems design and related services
- Management, scientific and technical consulting services
- Banking and financial services
- Architectural, engineering and related services
What are some important IT skills?
Possessing the desired educational qualifications can be indicator enough to some hiring managers that a job candidate is fit for a particular job, but many also want to be sure that candidates have the proper skill set needed to succeed in IT positions.
This is why, in addition to minimum required education, job postings will often include a list of required and preferred skills. We looked at the same job postings from the last 12 months and pulled the top skills employers were looking for from IT Associate’s degree-holders. You may be surprised to learn that not all of them are directly related to technology. The following skills showed up most frequently: 2
- Technical support
- Customer service
- Information systems
- Help desk support
- Project management
- Hardware and software installation
As you can see, employers are looking for candidates with not only the technical capabilities, but also the people skills to effectively administer and explain their solutions to others in a clear way. Even as IT professionals move up in their careers from direct-user support, their communication and problem-solving skills remain important and provide a foundation for success.
What can you expect for an IT major salary?
Because the positions an IT professional can obtain with an Associate’s degree in the field are so varied—both in title and in industry, it can be difficult to determine the salary potential tied to earning an IT Associate’s degree.
But you can get a good idea of what your future earning potential might be by researching average salary ranges for some of the top positions you could land with an IT Associate’s degree. Consider the following entry-level IT major salary ranges from 2017, as reported by the BLS:
- Computer support specialist: $30,550 – $50,2101
- Network systems administrator: $49,830 – $81,1001
- Software applications developer: $59,870 – $101,7901
- Computer systems analyst: $53,750 – $88,2701
- Information security analyst: $55,560 – $95,5101
The IT salary ranges listed above reflect the bottom half of the reported earnings for each position, according to the BLS. This means that the earning potential only grows from there. This information should be comforting to anyone pursuing an IT degree, considering the 2017 median annual salary for all occupations nationwide was $37,690.1
Is an IT degree worth it? You be the judge
If you’re looking for a technological career path that boasts strong job growth, solid earning potential and a versatility that could allow you to work within just about any industry, an Associate’s degree in IT could be the gateway to your vocational success. The next step in your journey is to determine what you want out of a degree program and find the right school for you.
If you’re looking for a program that can build up your foundational knowledge of technology, teach you how to troubleshoot and problem-solve like the best IT pros and qualify you to sit for a number of valued industry certification exams, you may consider looking into the technology offerings at Rasmussen College. Head over to Rasmussen’s Information Technology Associate’s degree page to learn more.
1Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, [information accessed September 25, 2018] www.bls.gov/ooh/. Salary data represents national, averaged earnings for the occupations listed and includes workers at all levels of education and experience. This data does not represent starting salaries and employment conditions in your area may vary.
2Burning-Glass.com (analysis of 8,174 job postings that require an Associate’s degree in Information Technology, Aug. 01, 2017 – Jul. 31, 2018).