Computer Technology Degrees: Associate, Bachelor & Online Training Info

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Associate and bachelor's degrees in computer technology can lead to careers in computer systems. Get the truth about the requirements, courses and online options, and find out what you can do with your training.
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Studying Computer Technology: Degrees at a Glance

Computer technology is a broad field that prepares graduates for a variety of careers relating to the use of computer systems. Because the field is so broad, there are many careers available in a variety of specialization areas. Degree programs may also be under similar titles, such as computing and security technology, computer information technology or computer networking technology.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) in 2011, many computer-related fields offered better than average salaries. The BLS predicted that all computer occupations would see a 22% growth in employment from 2010 to 2020. Computer analysts are expected to see the same growth throughout that decade, while computer support specialists will see a slightly slower growth, at 18%.

Associate Bachelor's
Who is this degree for? Individuals who want an entry-level computer position or prepare for a 4-year program Individuals who want to work in computer technology or a closely related field
Common Career Paths (with approximate mean annual salary) - Computer support specialist ($52,000)* - Computer systems analyst ($82,000)**
- Network and computer systems administrator ($74,000)*
- Computer programmer ($76,000)*
- Information security analyst ($82,000)*
Time to Completion Two years (approximate) Four years
Common Graduation Requirements - Roughly 60-64 credits - Roughly 120 credits
- Project/research
Prerequisites - High school diploma or GED High school diploma or GED
Online Availability Yes Yes

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).

Associate Degrees in Computer Technology

Associate degrees in computer technology are designed to offer students a broad computer-based education that will help them gain employment in a number of careers involving computers or computer systems. Because there are so many options, programs may offer tracks, concentrations or specializations within the degree, including networking, application development, programming and web design. Many programs may be designed to help you transfer into a bachelor's degree program in a related field, such as computer science.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Some potential careers have above-average salaries*
  • Computer occupations will see faster-than-average employment growth from 2010-2020*
  • May be able to telecommute

Cons

  • You may be competing against applicants who have a bachelor's or master's degree
  • Some positions may require night or weekend work
  • May have to compete against outsourced labor from other countries*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Common Courses and Requirements

An associate degree in computer technology typically takes about 60 to 65 credit hours to complete. Because computer technology is such a diverse field, courses vary from program to program and from concentration to concentration. Many are designed to help you transfer to a bachelor's degree program. In addition to general education courses, you can expect courses that cover topics similar to the following:

  • Basic operation systems
  • Computer service techniques
  • Physics
  • Problem solving
  • Basic programming

Online Degree Options

Because computer technology can often be done anywhere as long as there is computer access, some associate degree programs may be offered through distance learning. You can find programs that are available 100% online, as well as those in a hybrid format. For some programs, you may be able to complete your general education or core studies online. Programs that are fully or partially online typically cover the same topics as campus-based associate degree programs in computer technology.

Stand Out With This Degree

Earning voluntary professional certification can show potential employers that you have the level of skill and knowledge necessary to perform job requirements. CompTIA offers a wide variety of certifications, including their A+ certification, which validates a candidate has the knowledge necessary to enter the computer technology field. The certification requires applicants to pass two separate examinations. Each exam has one hundred questions and takes an hour and a half. Coupling this with experience can help you stand out against applicants with only a bachelor's degree.

Bachelor's Degrees in Computer Technology

A bachelor's degree in computer technology can be used to enter a number of computer-related fields, such as information technology, computer security, networking or programming. Typically, these are 4-year programs. Some bachelor's degree programs may accept credits earned from an associate degree program, especially one that is offered at the same or a partnered institution. Some programs may offer tracks or concentrations, or may be geared towards a specific specialty. Computer technology degrees are less common at the bachelor's level, though several related degrees, such as computer science or information technology, are available.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Many employers prefer to hire applicants with a bachelor's degree for computer occupations
  • Wide variety of computer careers available with degree
  • Demands for computer-based systems expected to increase from 2010 to 2020*

Cons

  • Some careers may require continuing education to stay current on the latest technological advances*
  • Some positions growing slower than others (12% employment growth computer programmers between 2010 and 2020)*
  • Computer technology programs aren't as common at this level

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Common Courses and Requirements

Bachelor's degrees in computer technology typically require around 120 credit hours to complete. Some may include an additional requirement, such as a senior project, research paper or co-op education. Courses will vary depending on the program and whether or not there are specializations available. Many courses are hands-on. Bachelor's degree programs also require some general education courses.

Classes you may take include:

  • Web systems
  • Networking technologies
  • Programming fundamentals
  • System administration
  • Security engineering
  • Computer hardware

Online Degree Options

Online programs are available for those looking to earn a bachelor's in computer technology or a closely related field. These programs may be specially designed for individuals who are already in the work place and cannot complete a traditional full-time degree program where classes are often held during the day. Some programs may also be hybrid, where classes are taken online or on-campus. For degree completion programs with all or some of the courses online, you will generally need an associate degree or a certain number of prerequisite courses prior to admission.

Stand Out With This Degree

Many employers prefer to hire certified applicants. CompTIA offers both a basic A+ certification as well as several other certifications for varying specialties, including voice and data networks, networking, system security and storage management. They also offer an Advanced Security Practitioner designation for those who can prove mastery in the area of system security. Apart from CompTIA, you can also be certified in the use of a certain product. Companies such as Microsoft, Red Hat and Cisco offer certifications in their products.

Other Degrees to Consider

If you like computers but think you'd prefer to build and design them instead, you might consider a bachelor's degree in computer or electrical engineering. Studying these fields will prepare you to become a computer hardware engineer and develop new technology that helps computers increase in speed, efficiency and other attributes. Computer hardware engineers earned an average salary of around $101,000, according to the BLS in 2011. Job prospects are only expected to grow nine percent between 2010 and 2020.

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