If you are considering pursuing or advancing your career in information technology (IT), you likely have many questions about the educational requirements.
For example, do you need to earn a bachelor’s degree in IT to get ahead in the field, or can you pick up the necessary skills on your own without formal training? Should you think about pursuing a master’s degree as well, or is an undergraduate degree enough? And, what is the return on investment for earning an IT degree?
Regardless of how you frame the question, what you really want to know is: Is earning a degree in information technology worth it?
To answer that question, we spoke with Lynda Hodgson, assistant teaching professor in Northeastern’s Bachelor of Science in Information Technology program. With her insights, below are four reasons that earning your bachelor’s degree in information technology can be a smart and rewarding decision.
Benefits of Earning a Bachelor’s Degree in IT
1. Increased Career Opportunities
One of the primary reasons people choose to earn their bachelor’s degree in information technology (or a related degree) is because they want to pursue a career in the field.
In the past, it was not uncommon for an employer to hire an individual who demonstrated proficiency in the skills required, regardless of whether or not they held a degree. This meant that it was possible to break into the field even if you were self-taught.
While this is still possible today, it is decidedly less so. Most employers hiring for an IT role, especially in larger companies, will only consider applicants who have earned at least a bachelor’s degree in the field.
“Employers are looking to see the tools you know and can use right now, but they’re also looking to see if you are a person who can learn new tools in the future and who can communicate well, work on a team, think analytically, and come up with ideas,” Hodgson says. “Those are the things that an undergraduate degree helps you demonstrate to potential employers.”
2. Increased Earning Potential
When it comes to working in information technology, there are a wide variety of job titles and careers to choose from. Earning your bachelor’s degree in IT will prepare you for these roles. Because there is so much demand for IT professionals and currently not enough people skilled in the field, most roles command a salary far above the national average.
Here is a list of some of the most common job titles for those with a bachelor’s degree in IT, along with their respective salaries:
- Network Administrator: $60,292 per year
- Network Engineer: $74,768 per year
- Database Administrator: $73,696 per year
- Cybersecurity Analyst: $76,626 per year
- Programmer: $64,190 per year
- Mobile App Developer: $73,570 per year
Of course, it is also worth noting that the careers listed above are relatively entry-level. As you progress through your career and move into more senior positions, your salary will likely increase.
3. Hands-On Experience
In addition to the monetary benefits that come with earning a degree, other degree benefits can be difficult to achieve independently. For example, Northeastern offers students the opportunity to gain hands-on experience applying IT to real-life business problems and challenges as a part of earning your degree. This type of low-risk, hands-on experience is not always easy to find.
As in many other computer science fields, success in information technology requires more than rote memorization of principles and information. It requires the ability to think critically about a challenge to identify a path forward and implement a solution. That is why the most effective degree programs will be those that incorporate experiential learning in the form of case studies, projects, internships, and co-ops that allow you to gain experience applying your education to the challenges you’ll face in the field.
At Northeastern, students in the Bachelor of Science in Information Technology program have the opportunity to participate in experiential learning with employers who have joined the University’s experiential network.
“Students are able to work with actual employers on real business issues, not just the out-of-the-book cases,” Hodgson says.
In addition to providing students with experience, this also allows students to begin building professional relationships that can be leveraged post-graduation and potentially help advance their careers.
4. Preparation for Advanced Education
While most entry-level roles require a bachelor’s degree in information technology, many mid- and senior-level positions require applicants to hold an advanced degree. Even if an advanced degree is not a requirement, having earned your master’s degree or PhD can help you stand out among applicants without one.
While the exact degree you’ll need will vary depending on the specific career trajectory, some examples include:
- Master of Science in Computer Science
- Master of Science in Cybersecurity
- Master of Science in Data Science
- Master of Science in Analytics
- Master of Science in Geospatial Services
- Master of Science in Informatics
- Master of Science in Project Management (with a concentration in software development)
Regardless of which degree you may choose to pursue, a common thread is that these degrees all require you to have earned a bachelor’s degree before you can enroll. While this undergraduate degree does not always need to be in information technology or computer science, earning your undergraduate degree in a related field can make it easier to complete your master’s degree later on.
Some undergraduate programs even serve as an accelerated program to empower students to earn both their undergraduate and graduate degrees in a condensed manner.
For example, students who enroll in Northeastern’s Bachelor of Science in Information Technology program have the opportunity to earn a related master’s degree at the same time. Interested students can enroll in a “plus one” program designed to be completed in one year instead of the standard two. This means that students can earn both an undergraduate and graduate degree in five years to better prepare for an IT career. The PlusOne program’s current options include Informatics, Analytics, Geospatial Services, Computer Science, and Project Management.
Taking the First Step Toward Your Dream Career
As demonstrated above, earning your Bachelor of Science in Information Technology can bring many benefits, from increased career opportunities to higher salary to hands-on experience that employers are looking for in job applicants, and more. If you are interested in pursuing a career in information technology, earning your undergraduate degree is the first logical step toward achieving that goal.
Learn more about Northeastern’s Bachelor of Science in Information Technology program by clicking here.