Information technology (IT) does not fare well in popular culture; there aren't a lot of movies or television shows in which IT professionals save the day. When we do see them, it's usually as comic relief: they're sequestered from other employees in basements and server closets, wearing Star Trek t-shirts and sporting five-o-clock shadows. Reputable publications post articles like 'Why Everyone Hates the IT Department,' and bloggers write about why information technology jobs are literally the worst.
These depictions are anything but accurate. Perhaps there was a time when a company's entire IT department would be a couple of nerdy guys who found their way into corporate America because they knew their way around a computer. Today, however, with vast amounts of data being generated and collected across industries, there's a new generation of information technology professionals whose responsibilities extend well beyond asking people if they've tried turning their computers off and then on again.
The information technology field encompasses a wide range of fascinating and well-paying career pathways, from digital forensic investigator to information research scientist to database administrator. There are information technology degree programs designed to prepare students for all of them, some of them at top colleges and universities for computer science. A few are even offered through schools of engineering.
In this article about the best schools for information technology degrees, we cover:
Information technology is an extraordinarily broad discipline that encompasses everything from information systems design and architecture to network security, and there are a number of diplomas that fall under the IT umbrella. At the bachelor's degree level, most schools offer either a BS in Information Technology or a BA in Information Technology, but when you get to the master's degree level, there are options beyond the Master of Information Technology, Master of Science in Information Technology, and Master of Science in Information Technology Management. There are many other graduate-level information technology degrees, including the:
The similarities and differences among these degree pathways depend primarily on how colleges and universities treat each program. Some information technology programs are highly technical, with students learning advanced programming concepts and software engineering. Others (especially MBA programs and management information systems programs) focus more on specific technologies' business applications.
The takeaway is that you can't rely on degree names alone when looking for the best schools for information technology degrees; naming conventions can be wildly different from institution to institution. Students enrolled in Virginia Commonwealth University's Master of Science in Information Systems program, for instance, take courses that are very similar to those taken by students in Purdue University (Main Campus)'s Master of Science in Information Technology program. And yet, the Master of Science in Information Systems Technology programs at two other universities might be quite different.
The information technology program at one school might have a lot in common with the computer science program at another. However, these are two fundamentally different academic pathways prepare students for different careers. Information technology degree programs are designed for students who want to spend their careers building, maintaining, and protecting computer networks and databases and helping businesses identify the best software and hardware solutions. IT is a collaborative discipline that tends to attract people who like solving problems for others. Computer science degree programs, on the other hand, are designed for students who want to spend their careers creating original computer programs and software applications or enhancing those that already exist. The people most likely to thrive in computer science programs are those who like working independently and solving puzzles just because they're there.
That said, don't assume that you can't transition into a computer science career with an information technology degree, or vice versa—especially if you choose an information technology degree program that offers concentrations in programming, software design, or data science.
The following schools offer strong information technology bachelor's degree programs:
Students in the IT bachelor's degree programs at the schools listed above take core general education courses and courses in subjects like:
The very best schools for information technology degrees at the bachelor's level help students earn professional certifications before graduation like the:
Some of the top information technology master's programs can be found at:
In master's degree in information technology programs, students prepare to transition into higher-level IT careers that pay well, e.g., IT director or cyber security manager.
There are two types of doctoral information technology programs: the Doctor of Information Technology (DIT) and the PhD in Information Technology. The latter (a theory-oriented degree) has become much more common than the former (a practical professional degree), suggesting that investing your time and money into a doctorate program may only be worth it if you're preparing for a career in academia or research.
You should also be aware that this isn't a particularly common degree—especially in the United States. The top PhD in information technology programs can be found at:
Some of the schools listed above do offer online information technology degrees at the bachelor's and master's degree levels. However, the list of top online IT programs is somewhat different. Not because the schools with highly regarded on-campus programs don't have equally good online programs, but rather that they don't necessarily offer their information technology degrees online.
There are strong online bachelor's programs in information technology at:
According to US News & World Report, the top online graduate degree programs in information technology can be found at:
People with information technology degrees work in health informatics, enterprise computing, network security, data analytics, information management, and other fields. The focus of their work is typically on how computer tech and systems can be used to meet business objectives as effectively and as efficiently as possible. Positions related to information technology include:
Calculating the boost in earning potential provided by different degrees isn't easy because one degree can lead a person down many career pathways. That said, sites like PayScale do publish average salaries for information technology degrees. According to PayScale, the average salary associated with a bachelor's degree in information technology is about $71,000, which isn't too shabby for a four-year undergraduate degree. Earning a master's degree in IT will probably increase your salary, but not by a dramatic amount. The average salary associated with a master's degree in information technology is about $84,000. Whether a $13,000 increase is worth the cost of a master's degree is something only you can decide.
Of course, money isn't the only reason to pursue a master's degree or even a doctorate. Some people are just born to work in IT. They love the technology—and learning about each successive generation of technology. When something is broken or not performing at peak efficiency, they're obsessive about finding fixes. And they love coming up with innovative ways to make existing systems tackle new tasks.
If that sounds like you, and you didn't get your fill of the classroom after earning a bachelor's degree, or you think you might like to transition into IT, you should absolutely explore the various other information technology degrees out there.
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