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What Is Information Technology (IT) and Is It a Good Major?

Information technology is a broad discipline that uses hardware, software and networks to support business goals and strategies. It's a good major because it prepares you for a rapidly growing field and careers that include: Computer Support, Network Administration, Information Security and Project Management.

Three IT professionals working at a computer terminal.

If technology excites you and you’d like to work in a fast-paced environment, information technology (IT) is probably a good major for you.

IT contributes to so many aspects of daily life – from the network of printers you tap into at work to a nearby river controlled by a dam.

“Everything that you touch, everything that you wear, everything that you interact with, anything that you order online, it’s all IT,” Ben Steinbach, a career outreach specialist at Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) said. 

What is Information Technology and What Does it Do?

Information technology is a broad discipline that uses hardware, software and networks to help organizations succeed in the digital era. 

Ann Marie Moynihan and the text Ann Marie MoynihanDr. Ann Marie Moynihan, an associate dean at SNHU, likes to think of IT as a vehicle for completing tasks – from simple to complex. 

"Going from point A to point B may be as simple as using a technological device to create a single document containing information to be shared with others," she said. "... Supporting the informational needs of an entire organization may involve complexity and ultimately require the utilization of many different systems to provide information in support of desired outcomes."

Not only do IT professionals serve a crucial role in an organization's operations, but, according to Moynihan, they can also be a helpful resource for decision-making.

With a future-forward focus, IT is fast-moving. When you’re working in the field, you might find it difficult to imagine what’s possible, said Dr. Sharon Kibbe, an associate dean at SNHU.

“The technology has advanced to be a lot more capable than it once was, so we have the capacity to do more with … a smaller amount of space,” she said. 

For example, your smartphone likely has more than 240,000 times the memory of an early spacecraft, according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).   

What you may not expect about IT is that it branches out beyond that and into most other fields. If you want to create a marketing strategy or run a small business, an IT background will be useful.

Types of Information Technology

Sharon Kibbe and text Sharon KibbeSteinbach likes to break information technology down into four general types, or “layers,” that all interact with each other. These are some of the different focuses IT professionals have, including back-end, front-end, user interface and networking.

Front-End

The front-end refers to the technology you can see at surface level, such as a website. If you work on the front-end, you’re focused on creating a good user experience.

Back-End

The back-end of software or a website is crucial, although users will never see it. Back-end IT professionals connect the front-end of a site to databases and servers, and they monitor performance.

User Interface

When you interact with the front-end, you are exploring the user interface. If you’re using a program on a phone or computer, for example, the user interface includes buttons you can press and menus to help you navigate the software. IT professionals aim to create an intuitive, user-friendly experience.

Networking

While this layer doesn’t apply to all IT products, networking happens when you connect two or more devices. Networking is an area that's seen tremendous growth in the past few years, especially in the realm of cloud computing. If you have a smart home device such as an Amazon Alexa, you can control your lights or lock your door from wherever you are – by voice, smartphone or smartwatch.  

Is Information Technology a Good Major?

It sets you up for success in your choice of  specialization, and as a student pursuing a bachelor's degree in IT, you’ll learn the foundations of the field, and hone in on a specific area by selecting a concentration.

Ben Steinbach and the text Ben SteinbachIT isn’t a field that’s going away, either. Another 557,100 new IT jobs are projected to be added by 2026, growing by 13% in just 10 years, according to BLS.

“It’s going to be with us every step of the way until the end of human civilization, pretty much,” Steinbach said. 

Most IT careers require at least a bachelor’s degree because it shows employers you know the subject, according to Steinbach. But, he’ll also tell you that employers seek out enthusiastic candidates who have gone above and beyond.

“It’s not only the classes,” he said. Employers also want to see that you've done professional networking, built skills, and put a portfolio of work together. 

If you major in IT, you may have class projects you can include in your portfolio. For example, if you’re instructed to create a complete system installation proposal for a company, that will make a great portfolio piece if you’re pursuing a career in systems design.

Some careers may only require an associate degree in IT, but earning a bachelor’s degree can lead to more opportunities, and a master’s degree can help you advance. 

IT Careers and Salary

As technology is ever-changing, new IT jobs are constantly coming into fruition. While on the job, you’ll continue to learn and acquire new skills, opening yourself up to opportunities that may not have existed a few years ago. Certifications are another way to explore new areas or expand your knowledge on a particular specialization.

Here are some IT career paths you can explore with a degree in IT and their median salary as reported by BLS.

Computer Support Specialists

Median Salary: $53,470

Projected Job Growth: 11%

If you’ve ever encountered a problem with your computer, you probably visited or called an IT Help Desk. Computer support specialists troubleshoot issues people experience with their devices. 

Working at a Help Desk is an excellent entry-level job for IT professionals looking to break into the industry, according to Steinbach. “It’s typically in areas like that that someone will take you under their wing or you’ll be learning new stuff and developing skills as you grow,” he said. 

Network Administrators

Median Salary: $82,050

Projected Job Growth: 6%

Networks essentially allow for computers to communicate with one another, and as a network administrator, you are responsible for a network’s upkeep and operation. You’ll work at the intersection between hardware and software, and continuously repair, optimize and upgrade networks so they are performing at their best.

Information Security Analysts

Median Salary: $98,350

Projected Job Growth: 28%

On average, cybercrime costs an organization $13 million, up 12% from 2017, according to Accenture Security's Ninth Annual Cost of Cybercrime Study. As the number of cyber attacks increases each year, information security (also known as cyber security) is a critical component for organizations.

Information security analysts protect an organization's sensitive information from cybercriminals. From investigating security breaches to looking for vulnerabilities through penetration testing, this is a field that’s growing fast.

IT Project Managers

Median Salary: $142,530

Projected Job Growth: 12%

If you have particularly strong communication and organizational skills, a career in information technology project management might be for you. IT project managers work with multiple teams across their department to oversee a project from start to finish.

They're responsible for enforcing the budget, schedule and scope, as well as clearly communicating with stakeholders, supervisors, co-workers and subordinates, according to O*NET OnLine.

The Future of Information Technology

David Numme and the text David Numme.Since information technology is ever-changing, you are expected to stay up-to-date on industry news as a professional in the field, according to Dave Numme ’16MBA, an associate dean at SNHU. 

“I think another important characteristic for being in the field is to be curious,” Numme said. “... The field is changing so rapidly that in order to stay current, being curious is one way that will help you embrace the continuous learning that’s essential in order to remain relevant in the field.”

Rebecca LeBoeuf ’18 is a writer at Southern New Hampshire University. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

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