Which Online IT Degree is Right for You?
Understanding the Numbers
When reviewing job growth and salary information, it’s important to remember that actual numbers can vary due to many different factors — like years of experience in the role, industry of employment, geographic location, worker skill and economic conditions. Cited projections do not guarantee actual salary or job growth.
If you have a knack for technology or are just tech-curious, an IT degree could help you unlock many kinds of career opportunities. There are comprehensive online IT degree programs suitable for varying levels of experience. You may be wondering which one is right for you. Consider the following as you think about your aspirations and potential career plan and see why others chose specific degree programs.
What's the Most Valuable IT Degree?
The field of IT is vast, and the variety of degree options cater to potential career paths and personal interests in different ways. So, the most valuable degree depends on your individual goals. Explore these IT degrees to see what aligns best with the direction you hope to head in.
Associate of Science (AS) in IT
Typically a two-year degree, the Associate of Science (AS) in IT provides a solid foundation in IT fundamentals. The program can equip you with the knowledge and skills to:
- Collaborate with stakeholders about IT projects.
- Replace augmented physical computers with virtualizing and cloud computing technology.
- Solve fundamental IT-related problems.
- Use industry-relevant tools and technology.
When Rick McQueen ’19 ’21 completed his associate and bachelor’s in IT, he took his classes online which allowed him to complete his degrees at his own pace.
"What attracted me to this program was the vast amount of technology it covers," McQueen said. “(from) simple coding projects to the implementation of systems in a business environment."
Earning an AS in IT can serve as a springboard into an IT career, providing you with the basic skills needed to break into the field quickly. If you’re looking to transition into a new IT career or want to gain the foundational knowledge required to pursue a higher-level IT education in the future, this degree could be well-suited for you.
McQueen is an example of how the credits you earn in an associate program can pave the way for you to achieve your bachelor’s too. If you secure an associate degree in IT, you could potentially have half the credits needed for your bachelor’s degree.
Bachelor of Arts (BA) in IT
Focusing on the intersection of technology and the humanities, the Bachelor of Arts (BA) in IT covers essential IT topics and more, such as:
- Analyzing cloud computing problems
- Designing and implementing innovative computing-based solutions
It’s well-suited if you want to use technological solutions in business or work on tech-driven creative projects. With this degree, you can gain an understanding of technology within a broader context, equipping you with a versatile skill set that applies to many different careers, such as IT consultant, software developer and system analyst.
For Benjamin Beato ’23, pursuing a BA in IT was driven by his deep interests in science and technology. Coming from the Dominican Republic, he found the technological advancements in the United States inspiring and saw the program as an opportunity to contribute to the evolving IT solutions demanded by society.
Beato found the program not only met but exceeded his expectations. He felt the course structure, the level of interactivity and the access to help when needed were all excellent.
“I will never forget the ability to practice skills using staged, real-world project simulations to help me understand the course material,” he said.
The hands-on experience combined with what he learned in his degree helped Benjamin advance his career. It enhanced his skillset and resume and improved his critical thinking and analytical proficiency. He believes his degree has opened new doors for career development.
“It was definitely worth every ounce of energy spent to accomplish this goal,” Beato said. “This is something that nobody can take away from me. It represents a lot of work and effort to become the professional I am today.”
Bachelor of Science (BS) in IT
Offering a deeper understanding of the technological aspects of IT, a Bachelor of Science (BS) in IT focuses on not only IT essentials but also hands-on skill development in:
- Advanced programming
- Network design
- Project management
If you’re looking to delve into the more technical aspects of IT, this degree might be your ideal choice. Unlike a BA, the BS in IT intensifies focus on the scientific principles and technological infrastructure of underlying IT systems.
The courses Beth Maldonado ’20 ’21G took were immediately applicable to the real world.
“They are taught by instructors who work in the field that they are teaching,” she said. “They bring real-world experience and scenarios to the classroom, which helps students to better understand topics.”
The impact of Maldonado’s education extended far beyond academic comprehension. For many years, she had been working in a field that failed to ignite her passion. Yearning for something more fulfilling, she took a leap of faith, pursuing a bachelor’s degree in IT and then a master’s in cybersecurity.
Her academic journey was not just about acquiring degrees but transforming her career path. And indeed, it opened new professional doors for her. Now, Maldonado enjoys her job and feels a strong sense of passion and commitment toward her work.
Master of Science (MS) in IT
As a graduate degree, the MS in IT delves deeper into the complexities of IT, with an emphasis on leadership and advanced technical skills. This program is excellent if you have already earned a bachelor’s degree in IT or a related field and wish to enhance your technical knowledge and leadership skills to advance your career.
You’ll engage with advanced topics, including:
- Collaborative problem-solving
- Computer-based solutions to business challenges
- Ethically sound, tech-informed compliance procedures
- Maintaining information security
- Risk assessment that informs change management processes
You don't need to be an expert, though, to consider a master's in IT. Sheelabanny Vunnam '23 said she was intimidated to pursue her master's at first because she didn't consider herself a "techie." But after finishing her program, her confidence grew.
"Now, after completing my master's, I feel like, yes, now I'm a 'techie' with a master's degree in my hand," she said.
With her degree in hand, Vunnam said she is ready to take the next step in her career and feels confident in handling any technical tasks or issues she may encounter.
"This isn't impossible to me," She said about getting a tech role. "I can feel it. I can get it. And I can do it."
Should You Consider a Concentration for Your Degree?
Adding a concentration to your IT degree can refine your expertise in a specific area and make you more competitive in the job market. For example, if you are interested in a BS in IT program, some possible concentrations you could consider are:
- Business management
- Data analytics
- Project management for IT
- Software development
If you’re interested in earning an MS in IT, the concentration options extend to:
- Data analytics
- Database design
- Enterprise technology management
- Healthcare informatics
- Information security
- Software application development
- Web design
Consider your career goals when looking at these concentrations. For instance, if you're interested in safeguarding digital assets and data, a concentration in cybersecurity would be beneficial. But, if you aim to oversee tech-based projects, a concentration in project management for IT might be more fitting.
Choosing a concentration is an opportunity to further tailor your education to your career aspirations, providing you with specialized knowledge that can set you apart in the job market.
Can You Get an IT Job With Just a Degree?
The short answer is yes, you can secure an IT job with just a degree. An IT degree equips you with the necessary skills and knowledge for the job and signals to employers your dedication to the field.
The outlook for IT professions is bright. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment in computer and IT occupations is projected to grow 15% from 2021 to 2031, faster than the average for all occupations. As a result, these occupations are expected to add about 682,800 new jobs. Additionally, hands-on experiences, such as internships or relevant projects, can significantly boost your employability.
In terms of salary, the median annual wage for computer and IT occupations was $97,430 in 2021, which is higher than the median annual salary for all occupations in the U.S. of $45,760. Hands-on experiences, such as internships or relevant projects, can also affect how much you may earn.
If you’re curious about the range of careers a degree in IT can lead to, explore these IT careers:
- Computer programmer
- Information security analyst
- Network and computer systems administrator
- Software developer
- Web developer and digital designer
The right IT degree for you depends on your career aspirations, areas of interest and the amount of time you can dedicate to your studies. But, regardless of your path, an online IT degree can be a stepping stone to a rewarding career in the tech industry.
A degree can change your life. Find the SNHU technology program that can best help you meet your goals.
Nicholas Patterson '22 is a writer at Southern New Hampshire University. Connect with him on LinkedIn.
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