This guide is all about getting an associate’s degree in information technology. It includes what the associate degree in IT curriculum looks like and what kinds of career opportunities are available for students completing IT associate’s degree programs.
Information technology addresses a broad spectrum of computer processes and systems, from networking to systems support. This would include data storage, retrieval, communications; database administration; software design; applications development, programming, and security management. These areas represent various employment opportunities, many at entry-level or even administrative levels that could, in some cases, require only a two-degree and little to no experience.
Is now the time to consider a degree and pursue a job in the information technology field? By some indications, yes. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects an employment growth rate of 13 percent for information technology occupations between 2020 and 2030.
In an October 2021 Computerworld article, Janco Associates, an IT management consulting firm, says IT employment will grow more in 2021 than any other year as jobs lost from the COVID pandemic become available. The article further reports that there are more open positions than qualified candidates, so obtaining an associate’s degree in information technology could prove beneficial at this time for aspiring IT professionals.
Two-year programs in information technology award mainly an Associate of/in Science, Associate of/in Arts, or Associate of/in Applied Science. These programs can be found at community or technical colleges, though some four-year universities also offer associate’s degree programs in information technology.
An associate’s degree program in information technology is designed to address fundamental and foundational skills in programming, security, operating systems, and network troubleshooting and configuration.
Some associate’s degree programs in information technology could offer concentration areas, such as cybersecurity, networking, or data analytics. Concentration studies allow for more advanced studies within a specific area of information technology; courses you might take in these areas might focus more intently on routing and switching, windows administration, website development, and spreadsheet applications.
Few programs tend to offer internships or may offer optional internships; however, some provide hands-on learning in on-site or virtual labs. Labs could present opportunities for students to perform such tasks as software and hardware testing, system configuration, and troubleshooting processes.
Several trends in global information technology undoubtedly play a role in the expected growth within this field.
- Artificial intelligence and machine learning lead to more rapid analysis of datasets and automation of workflow processes that would require a greater number of trained IT professionals to provide solutions, improve processes, and develop further technologies in this area.
- Blockchain information systems, which are seeing an explosion through the growth of cryptocurrencies, could see growth in other areas, such as banking and real estate. The use of digital health systems as patients are increasingly being given the option to select virtual appointments with healthcare providers, thus fueling the expansion of data administration and security applications in the healthcare field.
- Increases in cloud computing services, end-user spending are expected to grow more than 21 percent throughout 2021; and technological developments in cybersecurity, as systems and applications are constantly being upgraded and updated to combat emerging threats.
Online Associate’s Degree in Information Technology
If the traditional classroom learning format is not for you, you could consider earning your associate’s degree in information technology online. Some schools offer fully online programs, while others combine online and in-person classes in a hybrid format. Fully online associate’s degree programs in information technology tend to be found at four-year universities rather than two-year colleges.
Online studies afford you the flexibility you would not ordinarily find in a 100 percent on-campus program. When you enroll in online classes, you often have the luxury of accessing classes at times that work best for you; thus, you can continue to meet current obligations, such as work, child care, or other personal commitments.
The same types of introductory courses in programming, system administration, information security, cybersecurity, database concepts, and network security as found in the curriculum of fully on-campus programs are included in online studies. Many schools tend to use the same professors for online and on-campus classes.
As an online student, you might often need to meet minimum computer systems and software applications requirements to complete e-courses.
Tuition for an Associate’s Degree in Information Technology
How much it will cost to obtain an associate’s degree in information technology is based on several factors. Full or part-time status, residency or non-residency, and types of fees all impact tuition. Some community colleges might charge less per credit for in-district or in-county residents.
In terms of costs, IT associate’s programs can range from several hundreds of dollars per credit hour (again, depending on location and residency status to several thousands of dollars per course). Another thing to consider is whether the school is listing credit hours per semester or per academic quarter, which would ultimately affect the overall cost.
Most associate’s degree programs total between 60 and 63 credits. Additional fees that may not be reflected in these rates include general administrative fees, distance learning fees, instructional fees for the use of IT equipment, and non-resident surcharges (if applicable).
Many schools offer financial aid through grants, work-study programs, scholarships, and federal or private loans.
Employment with an Associate’s Degree in Information Technology
As stated earlier, with information technology being such a broad area of study, there are diverse career paths that graduates could pursue. Some common job titles filled by graduates of an associate’s degree program in information technology include computer support specialist, network security specialist, web developer, software engineer, computer programmer, systems administrator, or software tester.
With such employment diversity comes diverse salaries and employment growth predictions. Most recent statistics from the BLS regarding projected growth and lowest ten percent annual salaries as of May 2020 for some professionals in the field of information technology follow:
- Computer support specialist: 9 percent increase in employment, 2020-2030; less than $40,620
- Web developer: 13 percent increase in employment, 2020-2030; less than $40,750
- Computer systems administrator: 5 percent increase in employment, 2020-2030; less than $52,830
- Information security analyst: 33 percent increase in employment, 2020-2030; less than $60,060
- Computer systems analyst: 7 percent increase in employment, 2020-2030; less than $56,510
- Software developer: 22 percent increase in employment, 2020-2030; less than $65,210
- Computer programmer: 10 percent decline in employment*, 2020-2030; less than $51,440
*The decline in employment growth for computer programmers, the BLS reports, reflects the belief that the trend for hiring computer programmers for lower wages in other countries will continue over the next decade.
It should be noted that the job titles listed above often reflect other job titles within these categories. For instance, software developer information also includes software testers, and information security analyst is a blanket term used by the BLS that would include cybersecurity analyst.
By industry, the BLS shows that software publishers and computer systems design services have among the highest percentage of employers in the information technology field. Data processing services and telecommunications also employ large numbers of information technology professionals. These industries are also among those that pay the highest wages. Some industries tend to be more lucrative for some information technology professionals than others. For example, computer equipment manufacturing companies pay a median annual salary of $145,800 to software developers and $122,480 to computer systems administrators but are not listed for other job titles discussed here.
Salaries are also affected by geographical location. According to the BLS, California ranks first or second as a top-paying state for computer support specialists, web developers, information security analysts, computer systems analysts, and software developers. Still, another central area, New York, is ranked second as highest-paying for information security analysts and third for computer systems analysts and software developers. The District of Columbia ranks among the top five for wages for all listed information technology careers. Cities where information technology professionals earn the highest salaries, include San Jose, San Francisco, Houston, Baltimore, and Seattle.
After reviewing the information, you may still have some questions regarding an associate’s degree in information technology. The following section covers additional questions that this article may not address, such as alternate degree programs and professional certifications.
You might find a similar curriculum in an associate’s degree program in computer science. However, studies in an information technology program tend to focus more on the technological processes used in computer support or data management. In contrast, a computer science course might address the development of programs and applications more so than an IT program.
Many colleges and universities allow credits earned in a two-year degree program to be applied toward a four-year degree.
In some cases, yes, but academic requirements vary from one credential to another. Some certifications, such as the new entry-level cybersecurity certification from the International Information System Security Certification Consortium, do not have educational or experience requirements. In addition, no academic prerequisites apply for those seeking the Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) credential. The Certified Data Professional (CDP) certification from the Institute for the Certification of Computing Professionals (ICCP) is offered on four levels. The master and associate/practitioner levels recommend at least an associate’s degree and a specific number of years of experience to qualify.
Yes, an associate’s degree program in information technology is designated a STEM program.