Information Technology Degrees: Masters, PhD & Online Course Info

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What will you learn in a master's degree or Ph.D program in information technology? Read about educational and professional requirements, the pros and cons of a master's degree and Ph.D program and potential careers.
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Study Information Technology: Degrees at a Glance

A master's degree in information technology (IT) or in business administration with a concentration in information technology can lead to a career as a systems analyst, IT project manager, information systems manager or a consultant. With a Ph.D in this discipline, you can apply for jobs as an IT researcher or postsecondary professor.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimated that the number of jobs for network and computer systems administrators would grow by 28% from 2010-2020, which was above average. Growth for information security analysts, Web developers and computer network architects was estimated to be at 22%, while software developer positions were projected to grow 30%; careers for database administrators was estimated to be at 31%. At the same time, computer and information research scientist jobs were projected to increase by 19%, while the figure for university professors and researchers was 17%.

Master's Doctorate
Who is this degree for? People who are interested in working as an IT manager or consultant in the public or private sector Individuals who want to work as a university professor or as a computer research scientist
Common Career Paths (with approximate mean annual salary) - Network and computer systems administrator ($74,000)*
- System software developer ($100,000)*
- Application software developer ($92,000)*
-Information security analysts, Web developers and computer network architect ($82,000)*
- Database administrator ($77,000)*
- Community college professor ($78,000)
- University professor or researcher ($74,000)*
- Computer and information research scientist ($103,000)*
Time to Completion 1-2 years full-time 3-5 years after completion of a master's degree
Common Graduation Requirements - Roughly 50-70 credit hours
- Master's thesis/research paper
- Master's exams
- Laboratory requirement
Master's degree requirements, as well as:
- Roughly 4-6 more graduate level courses
- PhD qualifier exams
- Dissertation proposal
- Dissertation
- Laboratory requirement
- Internship requirement (in certain cases)
Prerequisites Bachelor's degree in informational technology or a related field Bachelor's or master's degree in informational technology or a related field
Online Availability Yes Yes

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

Master's Degree in Information Technology

In a master's degree program in information technology, you'll typically gain an understanding of the principles, theory, applications and programs involved in modern computing. You'll learn how to apply this knowledge to management situations and how to account for personal, business and technical aspects of managerial decision-making.

Typical graduates are employed as systems analysts, IT project managers and information systems managers. There are also positions with a primarily managerial focus such as IT consultant, management consultant, electronic commerce manager, business manager and more. Some of these positions don't require a master's degree, so it's best to be certain about what job you want before investing time and money into one of these programs.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • You may have the option to use your credits from a master's degree towards a Ph.D
  • Some IT employers prefer a job applicant with a master's degree
  • There are convenient online options available for this discipline
  • Some master's degree programs in the field are designed for you to be able to continue working professionally in IT

Cons

  • Many jobs in this field don't necessarily call for more than a bachelor's degree
  • To become a high-level researcher or enter academia, you'll most likely need to earn your Ph.D
  • Employers may prefer experience over education

Courses and Requirements

Many master's degree programs in information technology require that you choose a concentration or focus. There are also many classes that cover similar subjects from program to program. The following list of courses represents typical coursework that you might encounter:

  • Software programming administration and development
  • Data communications
  • Data mining SAS and business intelligence
  • Systems design and analysis
  • Web-based systems and e-commerce applications
  • Algorithms and data structures
  • Information security systems
  • E-commerce technology

In most programs, you'll also be required to compete a substantial amount of lab work and write a master's thesis on your chosen area of expertise. In certain cases, a written thesis can be replaced with another major project.

Online Degree Options

There are a number of options available if you want to complete your master's degree online. These can be useful if you're currently employed or can't attend an on-campus program. Before enrolling, you should make sure that any prospective program is accredited.

Getting Ahead With This Degree

If you want to get ahead while still earning your master's degree in information technology, there are steps that you can choose to take. For example, you could earn a certification or licensure in IT or a specialized area in which you seek employment. Post-master's Instructional Technology Licensure can often be earned online. You might also consider becoming a Certified Information Technology Professional (CITP) through an organization like the American Institution of CPAs.

Ph.D in Information Technology

The admittance requirements for Ph.D programs in information technology are more challenging than a bachelor's or master's degree program. However, once enrolled, you can expect small class sizes and a considerable amount of one-on-one time spent with your advisors and professors. You'll often need to choose a concentration such as software engineering, information systems or information security.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • The work in a Ph.D program in information technology is very hands-on and research-intensive
  • Your research could potentially affect the future of information technology
  • Many research and academic positions will pay for your job development through extensive travel to conferences and seminars

Cons

  • It can be enormously difficult to enroll into a Ph.D program in information technology
  • Earning your doctorate can be expensive and very time-consuming
  • Job searches in academia are often nationwide or even international, so there's a good chance that you'll be required to move once finding a job

Courses and Requirements

In most doctorate programs in information technology, you'll only complete a handful of classes as you enter an intense period of research based on your chosen specialization. A few courses that you could end up taking include:

  • Multimedia systems
  • Processes of system development
  • Machine learning
  • Managerial principles for cyber security
  • Advanced database systems

In addition to the coursework, you'll also be required to present a dissertation proposal before a board of advisors. After the board accepts your proposal, you'll then write, research and defend your dissertation.

Online Degree Options

Although they aren't quite as common as master's degree programs, online Ph.D programs in information technology do exist. However, because this discipline tends to require a lot of laboratory work and research, they aren't as common as online master's degree programs.

Stand Out With This Degree

There are a variety of ways in which you can stand out in the job market with a doctorate in information technology. Consider the following ideas:

  • If you and a professor share a common area of IT research, you could gain experience by becoming a research assistant.
  • Try to have the research from your dissertation and other writings published in a peer-reviewed academic or technology journal. This can be an excellent way to give your resume a boost and earn the respect of potential employers and colleagues.
  • Experience with tools like Smart Technologies, ADL Data Systems, SQL Server and NextGen can be useful.

Degree Alternatives

For a career involving computers and technology, earning a degree in informational technology isn't the only option to consider. For example, you could also consider earning a doctorate in computer science. In this Ph.D program, you'll typically learn to create software processes for companies and organizations, design and develop security systems, generate research and data about future computer trends and much more. There are also programs that may be more suited to specific interests you may have like e-commerce, digital media and video game programming.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Baker College Online

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Leadership Studies - MBA (Master's)
      • Cloud Security Risk Management - MBA (Master's)
      • Cloud Security Risk Management - MSIS (Master's)
      • Information Systems - MSIS (Master's)
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Northcentral University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA - Applied Computer Science
      • MSTIM - Computer Science
      • MSTIM - Cybersecurity
      • MSTIM - Data Science
      • MSTIM - Information Systems
      • Master of Science in Data Science
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Bridge to the M.S. in Information Technology Management
      • M.S. in Information Technology Management
      • M.S. in Instructional Technology
      • Master of Science in Cyber Security
      • Master of Science in Cyber Security (Bridge)
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MSM in Information Technology
      • Master: Information Technology
      • Master: Information Technology - Project Management
      • Master: IT/Information Security and Assurance
      • MS in Cybersecurity Management
      • MS in Information Technology - Business Intelligence and Analytics
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Herzing University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Technology Management
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Accounting and Technology Management
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Human Resources and Technology Management
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Public Safety Leadership and Technology Management
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Georgetown University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Masters of Professional Studies in Technology Management
  • Online Programs Available
    7. American InterContinental University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of IT: Project Management
      • Master of Science in Information Technology
      • Master of Information Technology - Information Assurance and Security
  • Online Programs Available
    8. Colorado State University Global

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Graduate Specialization - Information Technology
      • Master - Information Technology Management
  • Online Programs Available
    9. Utica College

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Professional Studies in Cyber Policy and Risk Analysis
      • MBA - Cyber Policy
      • MBA - Cybersecurity
      • MBA Economic Crime and Fraud Management
      • MS in Cybersecurity - Computer Forensics
      • MS in Cybersecurity - Cyber Operations
  • Campus and Online Programs
    10. Full Sail University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science - Business Intelligence

Featured Schools

Baker College Online

  • Leadership Studies - MBA (Master's)
  • Cloud Security Risk Management - MBA (Master's)
  • Cloud Security Risk Management - MSIS (Master's)

What is your highest level of education?

Northcentral University

  • MBA - Applied Computer Science
  • MSTIM - Computer Science
  • MSTIM - Cybersecurity

What is your highest level of education?

Grand Canyon University

  • Bridge to the M.S. in Information Technology Management
  • M.S. in Information Technology Management
  • M.S. in Instructional Technology

What is your highest level of education?

Kaplan University

  • MSM in Information Technology
  • Master: Information Technology
  • Master: Information Technology - Project Management

Which subject are you interested in?

Herzing University

  • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Technology Management
  • MBA Dual Concentration: Accounting and Technology Management
  • MBA Dual Concentration: Human Resources and Technology Management

What is your highest level of education?

Georgetown University

  • Masters of Professional Studies in Technology Management

What is your highest level of education completed?

American InterContinental University

  • Master of IT: Project Management
  • Master of Science in Information Technology
  • Master of Information Technology - Information Assurance and Security

Are you a US citizen?

Colorado State University Global

  • Graduate Specialization - Information Technology
  • Master - Information Technology Management

What is your highest level of education?