Degrees in IT: Is it for me?

NAU Independence College StudentHave you considered a degree in Information Technology? With the ever-changing technology industry, many are considering opportunities to break into this field—and perhaps at a great time for the industry. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, computer information technology occupations are expected to grow 22% by 2020, a much faster rate than the average of all other occupations. But choosing your area of study can be intimidating, particularly if you don’t know the industry too well. Here are some tips

How do I know if IT is right for me?

For many students, the technical lingo may not translate for those with a general interest in computers or information technology. Breaking down the lingo and your interests may help you find the program that’s right for you. At NAU we describe our different IT programs in three areas: database, networking and programming.

  • Database programs explore information and all the ways to store information. This type of program may be more appealing to people who want to work with data mining.* Career note: Database administrators are currently in high demand. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in this area is expected to grow by 31%.
  •  Networking entails all the elements that make it possible to share information. This is a more customer-service based area and more suitable to people looking to work with others and interested in setting up computers, networks and diagnosing network issues.
  • Programming is writing code  or “the written directions” for computers. This is for students that think logically and like to solve problems and puzzles or are interested in web and web application design.

Some programs concentrate on computer security, which encompasses all three of these IT areas, but focuses more on gatekeeping and policing. So which one is right for you? Start looking at your interests and natural talents to assess which area you might feel most comfortable. If you know others working in the industry start asking questions about what interests them about information technology

Do I need a degree?

Like most industries, not all positions in IT demand a four-year degree, but those positions that may have an above average IT salary usually come with an education requirement. Some job searchers are also finding that a degree definitely gives them the competitive edge in today’s industry. Joel earned his Information Technology degree because he wanted to expand his opportunities and value using skills that were more aligned with the information age. “The degree opened many new doors even though I was already quite successful and highly respected in my industry.” Joel is now a project leader for GE Healthcare Information Technologies. He is responsible for managing organizational readiness for new product introduction for the services business in all of North America. Some individuals in the field are pursuing an information technology career path while working and going to school. With the flexibility of an online degree in information technology or a combination of both classes online and on-campus, students like Joel are able to manage their family, career and their studies.

Are there many women who work in IT?

A common misconception about the IT field is that very few women play key roles in this industry. While men still make up the majority of the workforce in IT, the number of women taking these positions is increasing. According to a recent survey and analysis by Dice Media, the number of women taking IT positions is definitely on the rise this year. Even more promising for female job searchers is that the report found women are still able to obtain equal pay for the same positions. “The most recent Dice Salary Survey reaffirms a truth that has been constant in the analyses since 2009: With tech workers, the compensation gender gap has disappeared. Average salaries [in IT]are equal for male and female tech pros, provided we’re comparing equal levels of experience and education and parallel job titles.”

Lindsay is an IT student, mother and full-time employee in today’s technology field.  Her interests in technology gave her direction in her studies, but being a woman, Lindsay says, is what helped her bring a new perspective to the workplace.  “Computers have always interested me. I enjoy looking in all aspects on how they help to create projects from graphical to new networking structures,” she said. “Given that I am a woman I have many opinions and ideas that [my male co-workers] do not think of because I offer a different perspective on troubleshooting issues. I also enjoy helping others that are not technically savvy to learn everything a computer can do for them and how they can use it to make their life easier.”

Visit our Programs to learn out more about NAU’s opportunities for an education in Information Technology.

June 2013