Online Information Technology (IT) Degrees

Information technology (IT) impacts nearly every aspect of modern life—it is also the largest of any computer-related industry. As an IT professional, you ensure the success of businesses by upgrading and maintaining their computer systems, networks, and software. And if you’re interested in becoming an entrepreneur, the rise of smartphones opens doors for IT professionals; there are a growing number of opportunities for information technology degree graduates to create apps and programs that run on mobile devices.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the job pool in the computer and IT industry is projected to grow by 12% from 2014 to 2024. Cloud computing is expected to heavily contribute to this growth. Additionally, due to the rise in cyber attacks, more businesses are employing professionals with information technology degrees to install antivirus software and other intrusion detection systems.

Online information technology programs and online information systems programs teach you how to evaluate and solve complex, real-world problems using technical tools and methodologies. As an IT expert, you will need to be detail-oriented, analytical, and comfortable communicating with clients and team members about complex technical subjects. If you want to build onto these skills, read on to learn more about IT degree options, certifications, and career opportunities in the field.

Online Information Technology Degree Overview

Degree Avg Degree Cost Avg Loan Default Rate Time Commitment Early Career Pay Mid-Career Pay Unemployment Rate
Associate $14,987 15.2% 2 years N/A $54,000 8.3%
Bachelor's $17,543 10.9% 4 years $47,000 $75,000 4.3%
Master's $20,496 8.1% 2 years $66,000 $92,000 3.2%
Whether you are new to the field, or looking to advance in your current career, you should weigh the costs and time of getting a new degree against its benefits. There is no one-size-fits-all degree. The best choice for you will depend on your current educational background, financial standing, employment history, and area of interest. For instance, those with no experience may want to consider an associate degree, due to its shorter time commitment and lower cost. If finances are tight for you, then you should prioritize the student loan debt and default categories, as you will want to choose a degree that offers you the best chance of improving your financial standing with minimal risk. If your employer or someone else is paying for your education, then you might want to consider the degree that will offer you the highest salary. All salary information is sourced from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and/or PayScale

Earning an online IT degree can lead to a variety of job opportunities within the technology sector. Students with an associate degree from an online information technology program or an online information systems program will be prepared to work in entry-level IT positions. However, most IT jobs require students to earn at least their bachelor’s degree in the field. Students who graduate with a bachelor’s in information technology online will be prepared to work as network and computer systems administrators, computer support specialists, or computer software designers.

Online IT degree graduate programs provide students with specialized training within a specific area of information technology, such as systems and security, planning and management, or innovation and leadership. Professionals with a master’s degree are more likely to work in managerial and supervisory roles.

Choosing Your Information Technology Careers

Average Information Technology Salaries

$77,810
$64,970
$90,120
$100,240
$131,600

Computer and Network Systems Administrator

Salary: $77,810
Growth Rate 2014-2024 Number of Jobs: 2014 Degree Certifications
8% 30,200 Bachelor's N/A

Computer and network systems administrators install, upgrade, and repair a company’s computer network. They are responsible for ensuring that their organization’s networks operate smoothly, efficiently, and without errors. Computer and network systems administrators fix problems and optimize a network’s performance. It is important for computer network systems administrators to be comfortable multitasking, as they are often confronted with multiple problems at the same time. In addition, they should have strong problem-solving skills, communication skills, and computer skills in order to respond to and describe network errors.

Web Developer

Salary: $64,970
Growth Rate 2014-2024 Number of Jobs: 2014 Degree Certifications
27% 148,500 Associates N/A

Web developers design and build websites. They are responsible for a site’s appearance and technical aspects. Web developers write code for websites using computer languages like HTML or XML. They also prepare a website’s layout and graphics, and integrate any audio or video components. Web developers require an understanding of both computer programming and graphic design. It is important for web developers to be creative in order to design websites that are innovative, modern, and unique. In addition, web developers should be extremely detail-oriented, as they must write computer code without any errors. They should also have strong customer-service skills.

Information Security Analyst

Salary: $90,120
Growth Rate 2014-2024 Number of Jobs: 2014 Degree Certifications
18% 18 Certificate N/A

Information security analysts protect an organization’s computer networks and systems. They are responsible for installing software to protect against cyber attacks. They are also responsible for monitoring their organization’s networks, investigating possible security breaches, and recommending security enhancements. It is important for information security analysts to be extremely detail-oriented and analytical in order to carefully study computer networks for hard-to-detect security breaches. Information security analysts must also have strong problem solving skills in order to respond to and fix security flaws.

Computer Network Architect

Salary: $100,240
Growth Rate 2014-2024 Number of Jobs: 2014 Degree Certifications
9% 146,200 Bachelor's CCAr; Recommended

Computer network architects are also sometimes referred to as network engineers. They are responsible for designing and building communication networks. These networks may include connections between offices or cloud computing infrastructures. It is important for computer network architects to have strong analytical skills in order to examine, evaluate, and best serve their clients’ communication needs. Computer network architects must also be extremely detail-oriented. They must be able to create clear and comprehensive plans, which highlight how network parts work together.

IT Manager

Salary: $131,600
Growth Rate 2014-2024 Number of Jobs: 2014 Degree Certifications
15% 348,500 Bachelor's N/A

IT managers are responsible for planning, coordinating, and directing all of their company’s computer-related activities. They also help determine their organization’s short-term and long-term technology goals. Most IT manager positions require several years of experience. Often, those in this role begin in lower-level management positions and work their way up. It is important for IT managers to have strong communication and leadership skills. IT managers must be able to give clear instructions to their team, and communicate with top-level executives. Additionally, strong decision making and organizational skills are key to doing the job well. IT managers are responsible for making important decisions and must be able to coordinate with a number of different departments.

Online Information Technology Degrees

Associate

Most IT professionals hold at least a bachelor’s degree. However, an online associate degree in information technology may still be very useful. Students who graduate with an associate IT degree will develop the foundational skills required for entry-level positions, including basic network setups, general network protocols, and industry-standard software tools. Associate degree programs typically take around two years to complete. However, the majority of online degree programs allow students to work at their own pace. Most associate degree programs require students to complete between 60-90 credit hours of work, with each credit hour costing between $300-$400.

Sample Courses
Algebra, Composition, and Statistics. In addition, students may be required to take introductory information technology courses, such as Website Design, Foundations in Application Development, and Introduction to Programming.
Common Majors
There are no traditional information technology majors at the associate level. However, students pursuing an associate IT degree may choose to concentrate in a number of different areas, such as network administration or software development.
Potential Jobs
Computer support specialists or web developers
Average Income
$51,470 for computer support specialists and $64,970 for web developers
Employment Prospects
From 2014-2024, 12% increase for computer support specialists and 27% increase for web developers

Bachelor’s

Students who earn their bachelor’s in information technology online will be qualified for a wide range of entry-level jobs. This degree is also sometimes referred to as an online bachelor’s in information systems. Online bachelor’s in information technology and online bachelor’s in information systems cover both the fundamentals and advanced principles of web design, network architecture, information security, and computer programming. Earning a bachelor’s in information technology online typically takes around four years to complete, and students are usually required to fulfill between 120 and 180 credit hours of work.

Sample Courses
Students enrolled in an online bachelor’s in information technology or a bachelor’s in information systems online are typically required to take the same entry-level courses as associate degree students. In addition, bachelor’s degree students may take classes in Database Design and Management, Web Development, Network Security, and Project Management.
Common Majors
Network administration, information security and assurance, and multi-platform software development
Potential Jobs
Computer network architect, computer programmer, computer systems analyst, software developer, and information security analyst
Average Income
$100,240 for computer network architects, $79,530 for computer programmers, $85,800 for computer systems analysts, $100,690 for software developers, and $90,120 for Information security analyst
Employment Prospects
From 2014-2024, 9% increase for computer network architects, 21% for computer systems analysts, 18% for information security analysts, and 17% for software developers. However, because computer programming can be done from anywhere in the world, the employment rate for computer programmers is expected to decline by 8%.

Master’s

A master’s in information technology, or a master’s in information systems, helps students develop specialized training and knowledge. Students who earn their master’s in information systems will be prepared to work as managers, supervisors, and leaders within the field of information technology. Students can also choose to enroll in master’s in management information systems programs. A master’s in management information systems teaches students how to use technology to improve their business. Ultimately, a master’s-level education provides students with the leadership, management and web development training needed to assume high-level positions. A master’s in information systems typically takes around two years to complete. Degree requirements vary by program, however students are typically required to fulfill between 35-50 credit hours of work. Some schools also require students to complete a master’s thesis.

Sample Courses
Data Analytics in Cybersecurity, Advanced Structured Systems Design, Disaster Recovery and Continuity, and Big Data Management and Analytics.
Common Majors
Network security, game design and development, software application development, and web design
Potential Jobs
Computer and information systems manager, computer hardware engineers, software developer, and information security analysts
Average Income
$131,600 for computer and information systems managers, $111,730 for computer hardware engineers, $100,690 for software developers, and $90,120 for information security analysts
Employment Prospects
From 2014-2024, 15% increase for computer and information systems managers, 3% for computer hardware engineers, 17% for software developers, and 18% for information security analysts

Doctorate

Although the majority of information technology positions do not require a doctoral degree, students should pursue their doctorate if they are interested in teaching at the university level, conducting IT research, or becoming IT consultants. Doctoral degree programs teach students how to perform quantitative and qualitative research in order to analyze, develop, and support new IT innovations. Although requirements vary by school, doctoral programs typically take between three to four years to complete. However, students who already have a master’s degree may be able to earn their PhD in a shorter amount of time.

Sample Courses
Although doctoral courses vary by school, students will typically be required to take courses in strategic analysis, quantitative and qualitative research methods, and IT strategy and policy. Most doctoral programs also require students to complete a thesis or capstone project.
Common Majors
Most doctoral programs do not offer majors, although students can choose to perform their doctoral research in the sub-specialization of their choice.
Potential Jobs
Teachers at the university level and conductors of IT research as computer and information research scientists
Average Income
$72,470 for teachers at the university level and $110,620 for computer and information research scientists
Employment Prospects
From 2014-2024, 13% increase for teachers at the university level and 11% increase for computer and information research scientists

Professional Requirements

Certificate in Risk and Information Systems Control (CRISC)

The Certificate in Risk and Information Systems Control focuses on information security. Professionals who earn this license have demonstrated their ability to manage and safeguard against IT risks. In order to earn this certification, individuals must successfully complete the CRISC exam and have at least three years of relevant work experience in the field of risk management. This certification is not required. However, earning the CRISC license provides IT professionals with enhanced credibility. It also creates more opportunities for career and salary advancement.

Is it required?

No

How long will it take?

4 hours

Certified Information Security Manager (CISM)

Similar to the CRISC, becoming a Certified Information Security Manager demonstrates your expertise in the field of risk management. However, the Certified Information Security Manager license also validates your understanding of broader business goals and leadership skills. IT professionals interested in designing and building company-wide security programs and IT professionals interested in working as security managers or IT consultants should consider earning their CISM license. In order to earn the CISM license, individuals must pass the CISM exam, and have at least five years of work experience, including three years in information security management. The CISM certification is not required, however it enhances your credibility, job prospects, and future earning potential.

Is it required?

No

How long will it take?

4 hours

Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)

The Certified Information Systems Security Professional license ensures that individuals working in information security have a strong knowledge of security regulations, standards, and practices. If you are a network architect, or security consultant, manager, or analyst you should consider earning your CISSP credential. Candidates must have at least five years of full-time work experience and pass the CISSP exam. Once the CISSP has been successfully completed, candidates must also have an endorsement form completed and signed by a certified professional. The CISSP exam covers the following eight areas: Security and Risk Management, Asset Security, Security Engineering, Communications and Network Security, Identity and Access Management, Security Assessment and Testing, Security Operations, and Software Development Security. While the CISSP isn’t required to work as a security professional, it is highly recommended. The CISSP demonstrates your technical knowledge and increases your marketability. Individuals must be recertified every three years.

Is it required?

No

How long will it take?

6 hours

Cisco Certified Networking Professional (CCNP)

The Cisco Certified Networking Professional certification program is intended specifically for individuals working as Cisco Network Security Engineers. In order to earn the credential, individuals must pass the CCNP exam. To prepare for the exam, Cisco recommends enrolling in its Cisco-approved training program, which includes four 5-day courses that cover: Cisco Secure Access Solutions, Cisco Edge Network Security Solutions, Cisco Secure Mobility Solutions, and Cisco Threat Control Solutions. Candidates must pass one exam per course in order to earn their certification. It is required for Cisco Network Security Engineers, and must be renewed every 3 years. Candidates must take 4 separate exams in order to earn their CCNP credential. Each exam is 90 minutes long, and contains between 65 to 75 questions.

Is it required?

Yes

How long will it take?

90 minutes

AWS Certified Solutions Architect

The AWS Certified Solutions Architect license affirms your ability to design, deploy, and operate applications on Amazon Web Services. IT professionals can earn an associate certificate or a professional certificate. To earn an AWS associate certificate, individuals must have at least one year of experience designing systems on AWS, and pass an AWS associate exam. The AWS associate exam covers topics like: identifying use of AWS architectural best practices, estimating AWS costs, and selecting the most appropriate AWS service. To earn an AWS professional certificate, individuals must have already earned their AWS associate certificate, have at least two years of experience designing cloud architecture on AWS, and pass an AWS professional exam. The AWS professional exam covers topics like: designing enterprise-wide operations on AWS, designing reliable and scalable applications on AWS, and applying cost control techniques. The AWS is not required, but it is a recognized credential that demonstrates your expertise and can help advance your career. The AWS associate exam takes 80 minutes to complete. The AWS professional exam takes 170 minutes to complete.

Is it required?

No

How long will it take?

80 minutes