Many people assume that working in information technology means becoming part of the IT crowd. You know, those basement-dwelling troubleshooters whose first question is always, "Did you try turning it off and then on again?" The reality, however, is that the information technology field encompasses a wide range of interesting and lucrative career pathways, from database administrator to digital forensic investigator to data modeler.
With a bachelor's degree in information technology, you might have to spend a few years working the help desk, racking up the IT experience necessary to advance into more interesting roles. Alternately, with a master's degree in information technology, you can jump right into higher-level IT careers that pay well and offer a degree of job stability that's relatively unusual these days.
An IT masters is a versatile diploma. With it, you can become an information research scientist or work as an IT manager. Some people become senior systems analysts or systems architects after earning advanced information technology degrees. Average salaries with this degree are close to $90,000, and many positions in IT pay well over six figures.
The only downside to pursuing an information technology master's degree may be that the very versatility of this academic pathway can make it tough to choose the right program. The best master's degree in information technology might not be a Master of Science in IT—especially if your goal is to work in healthcare or information systems management. There are a lot of information technology-specific specializations and nearly as degrees specific to each. The programs at various colleges and universities reflect that.
In this article about how to find the best master's degree in information technology, we cover:
A master's in information technology is a technology-focused degree designed to confer advanced IT-related knowledge and skills. Students pursue this degree with various goals in mind. Some want to become managers and oversee other IT personnel. Others are preparing to go into IT project management, IT security, or information systems design and architecture.
Given the wide variety of career aspirations among information technology students, it should be no surprise that there's no one information technology master's degree. While it's possible to earn a Master of Information Technology, Master of Science in Information Technology, or Master of Science in Information Technology Management, there are other types of information technology degrees, including:
In some cases, students pursuing these degrees can choose to focus on such specific IT issues as:
Some degree programs combine technical concepts with business and management fundamentals. There are even degrees that don't, at first glance, look like information technology degrees. The Master's in Health Informatics and Analytics program at Tufts University, for instance, is focused on information technology and its applications in healthcare. It is arguably an IT degree.
Colleges and universities approach the above degrees differently. The best master's degree in information technology programs tend to take a multidisciplinary approach to tech and its applications in a real-world context. Students learn about the technological processes that guide information systems, the role of information management in different fields, and IT strategy. Core courses in these programs cover topics like:
From there, the courses students in information technology master's degree programs take may be determined by the concentrations they choose. Many of the best master's degree in information technology programs allow students to narrow their focus by choosing from among degree specializations like:
Unfortunately, there is no programmatic accrediting organization that oversees information technology degree programs exclusively. That makes finding the best programs a bit more challenging.
There are broader accrediting organizations that oversee schools that offer IT degrees among other degrees. Look for programs that are accredited by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). Some information technology programs are also accredited by the Association of Technology, Management, and Applied Engineering (ATMAE).
Still, accreditation for IT master's degrees doesn't necessarily tell you much about the faculty or whether the technologies covered in the program are up-to-date. Accreditation is still essential because it can impact credit transferability and eligibility for federal financial aid, but don't rely on accreditation status alone when judging whether a program is the right one for you.
The following schools offer excellent information technology master's programs:
According to US News & World Report, the top online graduate degree programs in information technology can be found at the following colleges and universities:
Highly ranked information technology master's programs tend to have expert faculty, a curriculum that dives deep into modern information technology challenges, robust career and financial support, and high post-graduation employment rates. The best programs also have relationships with IT and technology firms that make it easier for students to gain real-world, hands-on experience in information technology.
And finally, these programs can be found at colleges and universities that have active alumni and professional networks. As is the case in many fields, who you know is often as important as what you know in IT. Sometimes it's more important. One LinkedIn study looking at networking found that 80 percent of respondents identified their professional networks as a vital element in their career success. Hiring stats prove it. The majority of those surveyed already had some connection to the company they worked for when they were hired.
'Best' is a highly subjective descriptor. You should take your interests, circumstances, financial situation, and professional goals into account when researching master's degrees for information technology careers. The right program might just be the most affordable one or the one that offers the most flexibility.
The good news is that lots of colleges and universities have master's in information technology programs. You should be able to find one that is an excellent fit to your goals and your circumstances. It will probably take quite a bit of research, given how many different kinds of information technology degrees there are at the graduate level, but that research will pay off in the end.
You might wonder whether you really need a master's degree in information technology. If you want to get away from the help desk, the answer is an unequivocal yes. IT is becoming an increasingly competitive field, and a growing number of employers now expect managers and executives in information technology to have graduate degrees.
The bottom line is that a Master's in Information Technology can be the key to career advancement in IT or a way to transition into a career in information technology, even if you previously worked in an entirely different field. Getting that degree from one of the best information technology schools can make it easier to meet either of those goals.
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