Master of Information Technology degrees

By Kelly Richardson

Information technology professionals may manage the hardware and software used to store, retrieve and manipulate computer-based information. Once confined to the technology realm specifically, IT specialists may have established careers in markets across the spectrum as more businesses and organizations rely on data to operate.

Online master of information technology degree programs may allow professionals to gain career credentials while continuing to accumulate on-the-job experience. Although a bachelor's degree is common as an entry point in this profession, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that employers often prefer a graduate degree for management positions.

Master of Information Technology overview

In IT, the master's designation is sometimes expressed as a Master of Science in Information Technology, or MSIT. Master's degrees may generally take two years to complete, with various factors influencing the date of completion--including program structure, full- or part-time status, and degree requirements, to name a few.

A master's degree program in information technology may feature a mix of technology and business principles. Because many of the technological systems in use are proprietary in nature, students may choose to augment their training with specific software and hardware certifications.

Specializations in information technology

Jobs in information technology tend to focus on specific areas of the process of data exchange and manipulation, and MSIT students may often be given the chance to focus on a particular area of information technology. Diverse career paths are available to graduates with an advanced IT degree, including the following:

  1. Computer and information research scientist
  2. Computer and information systems manager
  3. Computer programmer
  4. Database administrator
  5. Hardware engineer
  6. Network and computer systems administrator
  7. Network systems and data communications analyst
  8. Software engineer
  9. Systems analyst
  10. Technical support specialist

Network security is a particular area of focus and need in business technology. The Internet Crime Complaint Center, or IC3--a joint operation between the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center--recorded 336,655 complaints amounting to $559.7 million lost in 2009.

Master of information technology coursework

Master's programs in information technology are subject to the approval of the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, or ABET. While programs may vary by state and school, the following courses are considered the backbone of a degree program in IT:

  1. Computer networks
  2. Computer security
  3. Data communication
  4. Database management systems
  5. E-commerce
  6. Geographical information systems
  7. Multimedia technology
  8. Programming languages
  9. Software engineering
  10. Web development

The diversity of coursework reflects the growing level of responsibility with which graduates in the field are charged. Programs may touch on a wide range of lessons that encourage students to specialize in a certain area of expertise without limiting their career choices upon graduation.

Earning an online master of information technology

IT managers need to be familiar with a broad range of technology, including file servers and web servers, storage, workstations, and applications spanning customer relationship management tools, development environment software, enterprise resource planning programs and web platform development software.

The inherent digital component of the online format could help to establish professional competence for graduates, while demonstrating their ability to complete complex, self-directed projects. The distance learning environment may also help to build remote communication and collaboration skills, which are frequently used in the high-tech industry.

Careers and salaries for holders of IT master's degrees

With respect to employment demand and hiring, the outlook is positive. A range of occupations may be open to master's degree holders. When hiring network architects and database administrators, some employers may prefer applicants with advanced degrees, according to the BLS.

Management may be another career target for graduates of master's degree programs. The BLS projects that employment for computer and information systems managers should grow 18 percent from 2010 to 2020, which is faster than average. The mean annual wage for IT directors hit $123,280 in May 2010--or $59.27 per hour. Top paying industries for this occupation may include information services and financial investment activities.

For those with talents in logic and problem-solving, a master's degree in information technology could perhaps be a route to a new career role. Online master's degree programs may offer both challenge and flexibility--hallmarks of worthwhile academic and professional pursuit.

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