A PhD in information technology prepares professionals to work in infotech, including customer success, analysis, project management, sales and marketing, operations, and statistical analysis.
The most common reason people pursue a PhD in infotech is that they are passionate about technology and would like to have a career that involves software engineering, DevOps, UX/UI, information management, and technical implementation.
Information technology PhD programs allow students to get an in-depth knowledge of research methods and topics they will use throughout their careers. Like other research-oriented doctoral degrees, a PhD in information technology is most often pursued by people interested in academic careers.
However, information technology PhDs are also employed by technology companies to help develop software, security systems, data management systems, and business infrastructure.
Applications of a PhD in Information Technology
Information technology research interests are further divided into topics such as artificial intelligence, biometrics, cloud computing, and virtualization, complex systems, computational science, conformance testing, cyber-physical systems, cybersecurity, data and informatics, federal information standards (FIPS), health IT, internet of things (IOT), interoperability testing, mobile, networking, privacy, software research, usability and human factors, video analytics, virtual and augmented reality, and voting systems.
We can explore a handful of these in greater detail.
Artificial Intelligence in IT PhD Research
The contribution to the topic of artificial intelligence by information technology Ph.D. research focuses on lessons learned, framework/methods, advice/implication, guidelines, tooling, and models. Lessons learned and methods are typically the most famous contribution of artificial intelligence studies within information technology research.
A limitation to these contributions is that they are often context-specific. AI encompasses a broad array of uses and designs, which means less repetition of contributions and lessons learned. Therefore, the cumulative building of knowledge in this context may take longer to accumulate. In other words, a study that suggests a new AI framework for improving drug innovation may not necessarily be relevant to an AI framework for enhancing the radiology supply chain.
Biometrics in IT PhD Research
Another common information technology Ph.D. research area involves biometrics or the implementation of body measurements and calculations related to human characteristics. Biometric authentication is used as a form of identification and access control. It is also used to identify individuals in groups that are under surveillance.
The most well-known techniques include fingerprints, face recognition, iris, palm, and DNA-based recognition. Information technology plays a role in storing this information securely and increasing the accuracy of the identification software. There are still research opportunities available to understand human factors, underlying phenomena, modality-related technical challenges, opportunities to advance testing and evaluation, statistical engineering aspects, and scale issues.
Cloud Computing and Virtualization in IT PhD Research
Virtualization is the fundamental technology that powers cloud computing. It allows a provider to virtualize servers, storage, or other physical hardware or data center resources, permitting these providers to provide infrastructure, software, and platforms.
Within cloud computing, informational technology PhD research can publish articles improving systems and processes used in big data, DevOps, cloud cryptography, cloud load balancing, mobile cloud computing, green cloud computing, edge computing, and containerization.
Complex Systems in IT PhD Research
Complexity science is used as a framework for understanding social and economic systems. Information technology plays a role in understanding tourism, and an IT framework can offer tools and techniques for better theoretical understanding and improved practical guidance in specific situations. For example, travel agencies can analyze PageRank and other statistics to determine which tourism destinations are most attractive to consumers.
Computational Science in IT PhD Research
Effective computational science research requires advanced knowledge in mathematical modeling, numerical analysis, software engineering, high-performance computing, and statistics. It is strongly interdisciplinary, requiring the combined efforts of informational technology researchers, mathematicians, and application scientists. One example of computational science is predicting properties of atomic, chemical, biological, and material systems from first principles.
The second example of computation is studying how fires and their contaminants spread within buildings at the wildland-urban interface. Informational technology PhD researchers can develop tools to map such computations onto modern parallel and distributed computing systems, allowing professionals to visualize the complex data that emerges. As the project matures, IT PhD researchers can distribute well-engineered software, enabling members of the broader scientific community to create their simulations.
PhD in Information Technology Curriculum and Requirements
A Ph.D. in information technology is a research-intensive academic workload, generally completed between three and five years. Ph.D. programs prepare individuals for careers in academia, government, and industry.
Researchers can concentrate on interdisciplinary areas like information systems, cybersecurity, data analytics, and artificial intelligence. A high level of education can provide a return on investment by opening up a new set of career opportunities within the field, most of them in management or leadership positions.
Here is a general overview of the requirements that are needed to complete this degree program:
Every PhD program has requirements to complete a certain amount of credits. Depending on the school, the degree may require 55 to 65 credits. Both part-time and full-time admission is available for Ph.D. students.
The course curriculum is similar to the master’s-level program with few additions of research-related classes. Students will have the opportunity to collaborate with faculty on research projects, research colloquia, and departmental seminars.
Pre-Candidacy Research Projects
The first one or two years in the program prepare you for admission to candidacy by working on research projects. These research projects also help you develop the skills necessary to frame questions and solve real-world IT problems.
Preliminary or Qualifying Examination
Every Ph.D. program requires its students to go through a qualifying exam. These exams test their skills to meet candidacy requirements. These pre-candidacy exams help fulfill the theoretical and practical knowledge needed to work on the research project.
Almost all PhD programs require the students to teach undergraduate-level courses or assist the professor in their teaching classes. These opportunities and experiences prepare you for an academic career.
The dissertation proposal contains the hypothesis of your research that should meet the standards of publications in information technology. The proposal needs to be approved by the committee of faculty members before any proceedings to work on it.
Successful Dissertation Defense
Students are expected to present their original work on the dissertation proposal. They are expected to be experts in their IT-related dissertation topic and defend their analysis.
This is an important aspect of a Ph.D. in information technology. It signifies that the student has successfully grasped the necessary skills to conduct independent research projects after completing the degree.
A PhD is not just about fulfilling credits and completing qualifying exams. During this program, there are many opportunities that a student is likely to benefit from—attending information technology conferences and getting relevant internships to help students exchange research knowledge and form the social networks that will prove invaluable in the job search.
Since the IT field develops fast, students must remain aware of the latest trends in information technology. Conferences are likely to provide enrolled students with discounted academic prices for admission.
Online PhD Programs in Information Technology
Many online educational opportunities are available for students seeking to complete a PhD in information technology. Online degrees offer a wide range of flexibility in timing, workflow, and geographic location.
Leading universities offer programs that can bring the best of their faculty research to qualified students. Many reputable, accredited information technology degree programs are now entirely online. Some online schools offering IT PhD programs include Indiana State University, Northcentral University, and the University of the Cumberlands. By providing in-person and online formats, colleges and universities adapt to student needs.
The advantage of completing an internet technology Ph. program online is the flexibility in time commitment and studying location. However, teaching and networking opportunities may be limited in this format compared to an in-person environment.
How Much Does an Information Technology PhD Cost?
Online programs are typically cheaper than in-person programs. Per-credit costs for an online information technology PhD typically range from $500 to $1,000. Since many PhD programs are between 55 and 65 credits, students can expect to pay between $28,000 and $65,000 in total tuition for an online program.
At all levels of education, the total cost can increase with the time it takes to complete the degree program. Students who choose to delay their professional careers to complete a PhD program should also consider the opportunity cost of not working during their student years.
Finally, students who take longer than five years to complete a PhD program may find themselves in a difficult financial situation with significant student debt.
PhD in Information Technology Careers and Salary
As we mentioned initially, there are many potential career pathways for information technology PhDs. This kind of degree often has a home in academia, but businesses and government organizations are increasingly looking for researchers and practitioners of information technology.
Some example careers include:
Postdoctoral Researcher/Research Fellow
Postdoctoral fellows and postdoctoral associates are appointed to the research staff, where primary goals are to extend their education and experience. Although they hold a doctoral degree, they are not considered independent researchers and cannot serve as principal investigators. Some teaching duties may also be required. Positions are often for a fixed term ranging from six months to three years.
Average Salary: $89,514
An assistant professorship is typically the first step to tenure and conducting independent research. Once they complete tenure, they may be given the title of a professor. Tenure track is often a long journey of evaluating an associate professor’s publications, research, and teaching. The tenure track lasts somewhere between five to seven years.
Average Salary: $61,119
Computer and Information Research Scientist
Research scientists design innovative uses for new and existing computer technology. Research scientists explore problems in computing and develop models to address these problems. They collaborate with scientists and engineers to determine computing needs and system requirements. Research scientists develop new computing languages, software systems, and other tools to improve how people work with computers. They test the operation of software systems, frequently borrowing techniques from data science and machine learning professionals. Finally, they analyze the results of their experiments, publish papers, and present research findings at conferences.
Average Salary: $131,490
Chief Information Officer
A chief information officer leads an organization’s information technology strategy, driving innovation through technical and compliance changes. The company’s chief information officer is responsible for project management, vendor management, and strategic planning.
Average Salary: $153,679
FAQs About Information Technology PhD Programs
Many top-tier universities require professors, researchers, and principal investigators to have a doctoral degree. A PhD is relevant if you are looking for a career in academia. However, it is not necessary to have a PhD to gain entry into information technology unless you look into specific industry research roles. There is a minimal difference in the salary outcome of an individual getting a PhD versus someone who has a master’s degree in information technology.
Applicants must hold a master’s degree to qualify for admission. Students may also need to submit GMAT or GRE scores and may be required to show a few years of relevant work experience before applying to an IT PhD program. Strong research interest is recommended to gain admission.
Since PhD degree programs are research-oriented, an applicant’s GPA does play an essential role in the admissions process. Some universities have a minimum GPA cutoff, while others request that applicants complete undergraduate-level mathematics and statistics courses with a minimum grade. A GPA of 3.5 or higher in a qualifying master’s degree may be required.