Master of technology degree: leading innovation

By Clare Kaufman

Technology drives our knowledge-based economy, creating new value and improving existing processes. Technology innovation impacts nearly every sector of the economy, including retail products, business operations, manufacturing, communications and entertainment, scientific research, and health care. Online Master of Technology programs create a new generation of tech leaders through advanced technical and management training.

Online Master of Technology programs

Online graduate schools may offer either the Master of Technology, also known as MTech, or the Master of Science degree in Technology. Generally, the Master of Technology is designed for mid-career professionals, while the M.S. follows the blueprint of an academic science degree. While the MTech focuses on real-world applications of knowledge, the M.S. emphasizes theoretical foundations and research.

Both these master's degrees offer a comprehensive curriculum covering various technological specialties and leadership training. A closely related degree is the MBA in technology management, which follows the business school curriculum but adds electives in technology.

Most online master's degree programs in technology are self-paced, designed to accommodate a working professional's schedule. The degree may take anywhere from 18 months to several years to complete, depending on the student's time and level of commitment. A bachelor's degree in a related field is required, preferably with a background in mathematics and computer science or information systems. Some professional master's degrees require or give applicants credit for work experience.

The online Master of Technology curriculum

The curriculum for an online master's program may be specialized or comprehensive, but generally includes both technical and management training. Online graduate schools may offer specialties in a computing field, such as information systems, computer graphics and computer-aided design, automation and robotics, or software engineering. Programs may also organize specialties by industry, offering concentrations in construction engineering technology, electrical engineering, industrial engineering, mechatronics technology, pharmaceutical technology and biotechnology. Some online master's schools emphasize management skills, with a concentration in organizational leadership or industrial management.

Courses depend on the specialty focus, but may include:

  1. Applied reliability engineering
  2. Computer-controlled systems
  3. Computer-integrated manufacturing
  4. Enterprise resource planning
  5. Global technology
  6. Information systems
  7. Operations management
  8. Quality systems
  9. Technology research and innovation

In addition to advanced coursework, most online master's degrees in technology require an independent project. Working professionals often complete the capstone project in the context of their jobs, developing a special project that applies their new expertise.

Career paths for master of technology graduates

The online master's degree in technology can serve as a stepping stone into technology leadership roles. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employers hiring computer and information systems managers often prefer a graduate degree. Common career paths include the following:

  • Engineering manager
  • IT manager or director
  • Lead software engineer
  • Systems architect

The BLS expects these technology leadership careers to be among the fastest growing occupations in the U.S., as companies continue to adopt new technology and expand their websites and intranets. Projections for the 2008-2018 period anticipate 17 percent growth for computer and information systems managers. Software engineers can look forward to projected growth of 32 percent. For engineering in general, job growth will likely be slower, with the best opportunities for professionals with strong technical knowledge.

Technology managers generally command six-figure salaries, according to both BLS salary data for May 2010 and Salary.com estimates. The BLS shows that engineering managers earned a mean salary of $125,900 in 2010, and IT managers reported $123,280.

Notable alumni

The master of technology degree is relatively new in the United States, but boasts an illustrious history internationally. Notable alumni with related degrees include computing pioneer and software engineer Larry Constantine, who earned an MBA with a specialization in information systems. Mitch Kapor, inventor of Lotus 1-2-3, also got his start in a MBA program with a technical focus.

Many CTOs hold master's degrees in technology; Kanwal Rekhi, former CTO of Novell, is one example. Other well-known figures with an international master's degree in technology include N.R. Narayana Murthy, founder of Infosys Technologies, and the author and academic V.C. Kulandaiswamy, who holds a Master of Technology from Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur.

As outsourcing has an impact on entry-level IT employment, many mid-career technology professionals are seeking job security in leadership roles. The online master's degree in technology offers exposure to management and advanced training, grooming technical professionals for lead engineer and manager careers.

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