Study IT Management: PhD, Masters Degree & Online Info

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What will you learn in an IT management degree program? Read about degree requirements, the pros and cons of a master's and PhD and potential careers.
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IT Management Master's and PhDs: Degrees at a Glance

Information technology (IT) management involves the effective planning and directing of an organization's computer activities. An IT management graduate degree program can teach you how to understand and utilize new technologies that help make your company more productive and run more efficiently. As a student, you'll learn how to deal with the many different issues that come up in modern businesses.

Job growth in the area of computer and information systems management is credited to companies expanding their IT systems and the increased need for information security. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), IT managers can expect to see an 18% increase in employment opportunities from 2010-2020, primarily in the healthcare industry. While a bachelor's degree may be the minimum education requirement, the BLS reported that many companies cannot find competent employees, so a graduate degree may give you an edge over other applicants.

Master's PhD
Who is this degree for? Individuals who intend to develop the organizational and technical abilities necessary for working in management Those who wish to work in research or academia
Common career paths (with approximate median salary)* - Computer and information systems manager ($118,000)*
- Top IT executive ($101,000)**
- Computer network architect ($78,000)*
- Database administrator ($75,000)*
A doctoral degree can also help you advance within any career that you can obtain with a master's degree.
- Postsecondary business teacher ($75,000)*
Time to completion 1-2 years after obtaining a bachelor's degree About 4-6 years in addition to completion of a bachelor's program and a master's program
Common graduation requirements - Core business courses
- Selected electives
- Core business courses
- Selected electives
- Dissertation
Prerequisites - Bachelor's degree
- GMAT or GRE scores
- Work experience
- Bachelor's degree in business of a related field
- GMAT or GRE scores
- Master's degree
Online availability Yes Yes

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2011 figures), ** figures (as of 2012).

Master's in IT Management

A master's degree program in IT management gives you the educational foundation necessary to work in multiple mid- and upper-level management positions. Admissions committees for these degree programs typically require up to 3 years of work experience in a related field. You're required to have taken the GRE or the GMAT before you can apply to a master's program in IT management. Depending on the amount of work experience you have, you may be eligible for an accelerated program, allowing you to graduate early and begin your career in management. Some schools may allow you to choose courses from multiple departments, so you can gain an advantage by being able to focus your studies in the subjects that you plan on using for your career.

Pros and Cons


  • A master's degree will give you a competitive edge over applicants with a bachelor's degree
  • Accelerated programs may only take a year to complete
  • Elective courses allow you to cater your education towards a subject of your choosing
  • Helps you qualify for promotions and upper-management positions


  • Most programs are strictly based on coursework, giving you few opportunities to apply your skills before you graduate
  • If you do not have considerable work experience, it may take longer to earn your degree
  • Does not usually qualify you to teach at a university

Courses and Requirements

You'll typically begin a master's program with core courses that all IT management graduate students must take. You have some freedom in choosing your electives, and you may even be able to choose a concentration area. Some of the courses offered in a master's program include:

  • Professional communication
  • Database management
  • Strategic information technology
  • Decision making
  • Management of global teams
  • Project management

You generally won't have to worry about much beyond passing your courses, as most master's programs in IT management don't have comprehensive exams or special project requirements.

Online Degree Options

Many programs are available entirely online, as this format is fairly common for pursuing an IT management degree. The coursework is typically the same, and you can even complete accelerated programs over the Internet. The online programs can be good for working professionals who may not have the time to travel to class each week. Since the online programs are usually identical to the on-campus programs, employers do not give preference to one or the other. Some programs may also be offered in hybrid formats, so if you want a combination of online instruction while not completely missing out on in-person interactions, then you might be interested in this type of program.

Stand out with this Degree

With the increase of information technology within companies, more and more businesses need to increase security to protect their data and important information. Any electives or concentrations in IT security can help you stand out above the competition. Work experience is also necessary to move up within a company, so keeping a job while you pursue a master's can give you a huge advantage after you get your degree.

Depending on your particular type of career, you may want to pursue a certification after you obtain a master's degree. For example, if you're hoping to work in information security management, you might be interested in the Certified Information Security Manager designation offered by ISACA. You can obtain this certification by passing an exam and meeting the education and experience requirements.

PhD in IT Management

The PhD program in IT management allows you to concentrate on a research area of your choosing. You'll be prepared to continue your research and writing after graduation, usually as a business leader or a consultant. Alternatively, you may choose to enter the field of higher education and teach IT management to undergraduate or graduate students. Unlike some PhD programs that will admit you if you only have a bachelor's degree, you're usually required to have a master's degree in business or a related field to qualify for admission.

Pros and Cons


  • A PhD can lead to some of the highest positions in the business field
  • You're able to focus on the specific areas of IT management more than you could in a master's program
  • Opens up career opportunities unavailable to master's degree holders (university professor, private researcher)


  • You may be competing for jobs that only require a master's degree
  • It can take a long time to obtain your degree (4 years for a bachelor's, 1-2 years for a master's, plus the time it takes you to complete the PhD program)
  • Schools may admit as few as 6 students to the PhD program each year, so you'll face strong competition to get in the program
  • Strict admissions requirements make it difficult to even qualify for admission

Courses and Requirements

Students are typically required to take a mix of core technology courses and courses tailor to you specific concentration. Some of your concentration options may include manufacturing and digital communications. You'll also be taking courses in research techniques to prepare you for your dissertation. Your dissertation may take up to 2 years to complete, and during that time you'll work closely with a faculty member. Here are some of the courses you may be able to choose from:

  • IT lifecycles
  • Global data management
  • Technology innovation
  • Legal aspects
  • International technology development

Online Degree Options

Some schools do offer online PhD programs in IT management, which are very similar to on-campus programs (although less common). However, you may have to go to campus on a few occasions, such as defending your dissertation or participating in a residency program (if you choose to). Since the PhD program in IT management involves a lot of intense coursework, you'll need to be extremely self-motivated if you decide to go with a distance learning option.

Stand out with this Degree

To advance within the IT department of a business or corporation, significant work experience is necessary. Keeping up with new and emerging technologies is important, because the IT field is always changing. You'll already stand out from many other applicants since you have a PhD, but you may give yourself an edge if you obtain a certification that is specific to your field. For example, if you're working in project management, the Project Management Professional (PMP) designation from the Project Management Institute might be a solid option. You'll need to pass the exam plus have experience in project management if you wish to pursue the PMP credential.

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