Earning a Master's in Information Technology Online

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The information technology field offers a variety of job opportunities to graduates with a master's degree. Currently, enrollment numbers are on the rise for undergraduate information technology programs, so need increases for recent graduates with an advanced degree to stand out amongst applicants for information technology careers. Working professionals in the industry can benefit greatly from an online master's in information technology. The flexibility afforded by the program format enables professionals to not only continue working while they complete coursework, but also advance their career as a result of their master's degree.

Student Profile: Who Earns an Online Master's Degree in Information Technology?

Bachelor's level students pursuing their degree in information technology who desire to advance their career by continuing their education can pursue an online information technology master's. Many areas in the information technology field require professionals to have a master's degree, so master's in information technology programs often incorporate specializations in different sectors of the field. One of the biggest reasons why individuals enroll in online master's programs is to explore more advanced career opportunities.

Why Get a Master's Degree in Information Technology?

Pursuing Specialization

Students enjoy many different opportunities to pursue specializations within an online information technology program. Specializations allow students to graduate with a specific skill set geared toward their ideal career. Often, specializations help job candidates stand apart in the interview process, showing employers they have a unique, focused background suited for the job at hand.

Career Advancement Opportunities

Different opportunities open up to professionals with advanced degrees as opposed to those with undergraduate degrees. Graduates with an advanced degree also enjoy higher paying salaries and increased levels of responsibility within their chosen careers.

Online Learning Technology

Part of information technology requires understanding the latest technologies. Within an online master's program, students get to actively use the latest technology and experience for themselves how the technology they use relates to the professional development in information technology.

Prerequisites for Online Information Technology Programs

Before applying to a master's in information technology online, students need to make note of any prerequisite requirements, including coursework, work experience, and test scores.

    • Work Experience: Not all programs require students to have prior work experience before enrolling; however, students with prior work experience in information technology can often relate their coursework to real-world experiences they've faced, allowing them to learn in a more hands-on way.
    • Exams and Test Scores: Most online programs do not require GRE scores.
    • Coursework: Most online master's in information technology programs require students to have an undergraduate degree in information technology or a related field. Some program request that students without IT degrees complete prerequisite courses before beginning the coursework for their program.
    • Recommendations: Some programs require students to submit letters of recommendation or references with their application. Letters should come from professional and educational contacts, not family members or friends. Most applications request two or three letters of recommendation.
    • Essays: Some programs require applicants to write and submit essays with their application. If a program has an essay requirement, the guidelines for the essay including subject matter, length, and formatting, are outlined in the program's admissions requirements.
    • Interviews: Interview requirements vary depending on the college or university. Some admissions departments interview applicants as a part of their admissions process to determine whether they are a good fit for the program and ask more in-depth questions.
    • International Students: International students are often required to submit scores from the Test of English as a Foreign Language. Each program has their own standards for minimum test scores that international students must meet in order to prove their english-speaking abilities. In addition to their test scores, international students must meet the same requirements as other incoming students.

How Much Can I Make with a Master's Degree in Information Technology?

The information technology field presents a variety of career opportunities to graduates. The median salary for the field is an impressive $84,580 each year. Earnings are not only determined by the experience and education of the employee, but also impacted by the cost of living in the area. Differing industries also feature varying salary opportunities; for instance, IT professionals working in healthcare often earn higher salaries than IT professionals working for smaller organizations.

Traditional Careers for Information Technology Master's Graduates

Career Stats Description

Computer Programmer

Median Pay: $82,240

Job Growth: -7%

Computer programmers test and write code that allows software programs and computer applications to function smoothly.

Ideal for: Individuals well-versed in computer code and various computer applications.

Computer Systems Analyst

Median Pay: $88,270

Job Growth: 9%

Computer systems analysts work with managers to determine how IT systems should function within an organization. They also research different technologies and decide if installing them would increase the effectiveness and and efficiency of the organization.

Ideal for: Individuals with business experience as well as skills in computer programming and information technology.

Database Administrator

Median Pay: $87,020

Job Growth: 11%

Responsible for ensuring that organizational data is secure, database administrators also backup and restore data to prevent data loss.

Ideal for: Individuals who can understand database languages with strong analytical, communication, and problem-solving skills.

Network and Computer Systems Administrator

Median Pay: $81,100

Job Growth: 6%

Network and computer systems administrators oversee the daily operation of computer networks within organizations. They determine the organization's system needs and install software and hardware accordingly.

Ideal for: The ability to multitask and problem solve are some of the key attributes needed in the network and computer systems administrator position.

Non-Traditional Careers for Information Technology Master's Graduates

Career Stats Description

Computer and Information Research Scientist

Median Pay: $114,520

Job Growth: 19%

Computer and information research scientists design and invent new approaches to computing technology and they discover innovative uses for existing technology.

Ideal for: Individuals with strong math, communication, and analytical skills who have the ability to think logically.

Information Security Analyst

Median Pay: $95,510

Job Growth: 28%

Information security analysts plan and execute security measures to protect the computer networks and systems within an organization.

Ideal for: Ideal candidates for information security analyst positions are individuals who are detail-oriented and have strong analytical and problem-solving skills.

Software Developer

Median Pay: $103,560

Job Growth: 24%

Software developers analyze the needs of users and organizations needs to design, test, and develop certain software. They recommend software upgrades, create different models and diagrams to show programmers the software code needed, and document every piece of a system or application for reference.

Ideal for: Individuals with solid interpersonal skills and exceptional creativity.

Postsecondary Teacher

Median Pay: $76,000

Job Growth: 15%

Postsecondary teachers instruct students in a variety of academic and career technical subjects. They also conduct research for publication in scholarly journals.

Ideal for: Successful postsecondary teachers possess strong writing and communication skills.

Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, PayScale, 2017-2018

Paying for an Online Master's in Information Technology

There are many different things to consider regarding the tuition of master's in information technology online programs. Each program differs in cost and may be affected by a student's residency status. Some online master's in information technology, however, charge a flat rate tuition for all online students. Additionally, students can choose between part-time and full-time enrollment, with some universities also offering an accelerated format, allowing students to take more credits in a semester to finish sooner.

Tuition Timelines

Online students not only enjoy the flexibility that comes with studying online, they also have the ability to choose what type of enrollment they would like to pursue, whether part-time or full-time. Below are timelines outlining the different program formats.

Part-Time Path

Many students choose to enroll part time if they have other obligations. Part-time students take the minimum required credits per semester and take a little longer to graduate.

Real-Life Example:

School Name: University of Alabama
Total Credits Required: 30
Summary: The online master's in information technology at the University of Alabama takes students about two and a half to three years to finish if they enroll part time.

Full-Time Path

Full-time enrollment is what most programs estimate total time by, wherein students complete an online master's in two years.

Real-Life Example:

School Name: Florida State University
Total Credits Required: 32
Summary: The online master's in information technology at Florida State University typically takes students two years to complete, with reduced tuition available to qualifying out-of-state students.

Accelerated Path

Accelerated paths allow students to take more credits per semester than full-time students. These programs enable students to earn their degree sooner.

Real-Life Example:

School Name: Northwestern University
Total Credits Required: 9 units
Summary: An exclusive program available only to graduates of Northwestern's Information Systems undergraduate program, this accelerated online master's degree in information technology requires students to complete just nine total units of coursework.

Subject-Specific Financial Aid, Grants & Scholarships

Students interested in earning their online master's degree in information technology can access many scholarships specific to graduate students in their field.

What to Expect from a Master's Level Online Information Technology Program

Earning a master in information technology online is a flexible, convenient way for students to gain the skills and knowledge needed to thrive in the industry. Typically, programs last about two years for full-time students. Some schools also feature accelerated formats, allowing students to finish in as little as one year. In most programs, students either complete a thesis or a capstone project, compiling what they learn throughout the course of the program.

Major Milestones

  1. Capstone

    Capstone projects require students to work with a faculty member in their area of interest to identify and solve an IT issue.

  2. Thesis

    Students who write a thesis before graduation work closely with university faculty to derive a solution to an information technology related issue and compose a written paper for presentation and sometimes publication.

  3. Internship

    Some online master's in information technology programs require or allow students to complete an information technology internship. If internships are required, there is usually a course with a couple of requirements for papers that students complete alongside their actual fieldwork.

  4. Licensure Exam

    Graduates can pursue many forms of licensure after earning their online master's degree in information technology. Programs dedicated to licensure require students to complete a licensing exam to demonstrate their competency before graduation.

  5. Intent to Graduate

    At the end of senior year, students must apply for graduation and ensure they do not have any outstanding tuition balances and meet all credit and graduation requirements.

Coursework

Students enrolled in a program to earn their master's in information technology online take a variety of important courses to prepare them for successful careers in the field.

Telecommunications and Networking

A telecommunications course explores the technical aspects and application of technology to solve certain business problems and improve the strategic position of business enterprises.

Technical Communication

Technical communications focuses on the necessary written and oral technical communication skills students need to produce technical documentation and presentations in a variety of forms for different business situations.

Principles of Database Design

Students study the design, implementation, and development of database management systems in the principles of database design course.

Operating Systems

Focused on computer architecture and the operating systems of digital computers, the operating systems course teaches students about the operational methods of hardware and the services that the operating systems' software provides. Course topics cover widely used operating systems including UNIX, DOS, and Windows.

Innovations in Information Technology

In the innovations in information technology course, students improve their understanding of leadership theory and their ethical frameworks through the context of a technology enterprise.

Requirements to Practice

Graduates with their online information technology master's encounter different requirements depending on their career choice. A variety of certification programs for professionals in the field also exist. Some employers require specific certifications, work experience, hour commitments, and exams that prove competency and skill level.

    • Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA): A lower-level certification, the CCNA certifies that the individual can install, configure, and operate enterprise level switches and routers. Individuals with their CCNA certification can specialize in wireless networking, security, or voice. CCNA-certified professionals are prepared for careers as network engineers or systems administrators.
    • CompTIA A+ Technician: The CompTIA A+ Technician program is an entry-level certification that serves as a launching point for an IT career. Individuals must pass two different exams to receive their certification, costing around $200.
    • Certified Information Systems Security Professional: Globally recognized, the Certified Information Systems Security Professional program recognizes information security competencies to protect organizations from cyber attacks. Individuals must pass the CISSP exam, covering eight subjects and costing about $600.
    • Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer: The Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer program prepares individuals for careers as field systems technicians and systems engineers. The program features specializations in desktop infrastructure, enterprise devices and apps, messaging, SharePoint, communication, data platform, business intelligence, private cloud, and server infrastructure. The preferred specialization determines the certification process, but all individuals complete an exam that typically costs about $150.

Professional Organizations & Resources

Students pursuing their online master's in information technology can access different resources while they are in college to help them develop skills and cultivate their career before graduation. Professional organizations offer a number of online resources, as well as networking opportunities, to keep students up-to-date on the latest news with the technology industry.

  • Association of Information Technology Professionals: The Association of Information Technology Professionals is a nonprofit organization with 32 local chapters organized by geography. There are more than 100 student chapters at colleges and universities.
  • Network Professional Association: Since 1991, the Network Professional Association has served computer network professionals. The NPA also offers a Certified Network Professional credential.
  • Independent Computer Consultants Association: Now in its second generation, the Independent Computer Consultants Association provides opportunities for professional development and business support programs.
  • Association for Women in Computing: AWC promotes the advancement of women in computing professions by providing growth and networking opportunities.
  • IEEE Computer Society: The world's leading membership organization for computer science and technology professionals, the IEEE Computer Society serves over 50,000 members and sponsors over 200 technical events and conferences each year.
  • Software Development Forum: Graduates looking to expand their business opportunities can use the Software Development Forum to participate in general discussions about design, architecture, maintenance, and implementation of software.
  • CompTIA: CompTIA is a leading technology association and features certification programs to cultivate skills development and knowledge creation in students.
  • The Wirecutter: Made for individuals focusing on business information technology, the Wirecutter provides thorough reviews and recommendations for electronics of all categories.
  • MIT Technology Review: The MIT Technology Review is an online publication that focuses on the most current knowledge and insights in technology. The publication also discusses the job market, focusing on careers in technology.
  • Anandtech: Providing detailed technology reviews, Anandtech aims to teach users about the markets of specific products on a deeper scale. The site features a section for guides, outlining the best laptops, best CPUs, and other products.