With a wide range of positions available in cyber security, data analytics and information security, there are many career possibilities in government, private and public sectors for IT specialists. Find out what you’ll learn in an online master’s in IT program and what specializations are available. Plus, search the best online master’s programs to find the information technology program that fits your needs, schedule and professional goals.
Selecting the right online master’s in information technology program is easy with this year’s rankings below. The rankings take into consideration the published materials from each university combined with data from the U.S. Department of Education and the Integrated Postsecondary Data System (IPEDS). Additionally, these schools are accredited so you can be assured they offer a high-quality education.
An online masters in IT degree program allows students to earn a combination of leadership skills and advanced knowledge of technology, all necessary to successfully tackle a management role or become a consultant. Many programs also provide courses to earn industry certifications such as Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) or CompTIA Project+. By graduation, students will have developed:
Both an MBA in information technology and a master’s program in information technology will provide students with skills they need to take a career in information technology to the next level. The primary difference between the two degree paths are how the degrees are used in a career. Individuals who wish to manage and oversee IT departments and organizations in a business should explore the MBA degree path. Individuals who want to become an expert in a specific area of IT should explore the master’s in information technology path.
While course titles vary according to the college or university, here are some examples of IT masters-level classes:
Provides a foundation for conceptual understanding and building of database management systems. Teaches students to assess design applications to solve business problems and develop abstract ideas into concrete models.
Learn about attacks on computer systems, networks and the internet including how attacks work, how to prevent attacks and how to detect them. Topics also include security principles, software vulnerabilities, security mechanisms, crypto-analysis, malicious code, network threats and security management requirements.
Explore fundamental concepts of the software development process including the software development lifecycle. Practice designing, implementing, testing and debugging large software programs. Topics include programming best practices, database programming, development tools and basic techniques of requirements elicitation and modeling.
Develop skills needed to plan and control projects as an IT project manager while understanding interpersonal issues that drive successful outcomes. Topics include project management life cycle, project management tools, management challenges risk assessment methods and the Waterfall Model as applied to information technology.
Fundamental concepts in programming languages and the major tools to implement them. Provide skills to give students understanding of elements of style and aesthetics of programming and controlling complexity in programming.
Introduction to the fundamentals of enterprise architecture and frameworks. Explores the role of EA in business and IT alignment as well as the planning, design, assessment and management of enterprise architectures.
A capstone IT project is typically part of the master’s degree curriculum. Students must review and combine the knowledge and skills they’ve earned throughout the program to complete a project which is then used to assess their growth. Usually, IT capstone projects find solutions to issues companies face in the real world. For example, one project may develop a security strategy for a medium-sized company while another may create an intranet for a charitable startup organization.
Within the vast field of information technology, there are plenty of specializations to choose from when earning an online master’s degree in IT. The section below identifies just a few popular specializations offered at colleges and universities.
The focus of data analytics is to provide exposure to data processing, analysis and visualization techniques using real-world data sets. Students investigate concepts and techniques for data mining, text mining and web mining. Data analytics also examines the background and theory of practice of information technology as well as statistical analysis methods and tools.Project Management (IT)
IT project management applies to those engaged in the administration of large technical projects. The curriculum for this specialization covers project management process groups (initiating, planning, executing, monitoring and controlling, closing) and agile software development practices. Students learn virtual project management to manage geographically distributed software development.Information Security
Privacy and information security are a serious concern for companies and organizations with modern computer systems. With 24-7 accessibility from virtually anywhere, it’s important to safeguard all systems from domestic and national threats. The information security specialization curriculum trains students in information security areas such as database organization, cryptography and computer and network security.Software Engineering
This specialization focuses on advanced software methodology, design and coding techniques to prepare students to lead a successful software development team properly. Instructors teach how to design software using UML models, develop and test software, manage complex projects and create and modify effective control mechanisms.
Graduates with an advanced IT degree can follow a variety of career pathways. Job opportunities are available in the public and private sectors with just about any company you can think of as long as they have technology. The following careers may be open to master’s in IT degree holders:
The role of a senior systems analyst is to analyze computer systems and procedures to keep them operating smoothly. Responsibilities include planning, development, testing and deployment as well as writing reports tracking their progress. Not only do computer analysts need to understand a large number of programming languages, but they also must be strong project managers. A specialization in data analytics may be necessary for this position.Enterprise Architect IT
Maintaining an organization’s networks and services and coordinating the design and integration of a proposed system’s architecture are the primary responsibility of an enterprise architect in Information Technology. In addition, enterprise architects identify business needs to develop solutions, manage developer teams, and prioritize technical needs (hardware and software).Software Engineering Manager
Any organization that works with software, either generating its own or personalizing third-party software needs a software engineering manager. As a manager, this individual oversees a team of software engineers as they write, edit and test programs, making sure they work successfully. While a software engineering manager may have some hands-on role with software, it is primarily a supervisory position. Responsibilities include oversight, making sure standards are met and software is fully functional.Information Security Analyst
By protecting assets against cyber-attacks, an information security analyst has an essential role in any organization with computer networks and systems. Primarily, an information security analyst must provide security solutions, including the development of a disaster recovery plan so that the IT department can continue to function in case of an emergency. Other responsibilities include conducting penetration testing, developing security standards and preparing reports documenting security breaches.Operations Research Analyst
An operations research analyst relies on strong technical skills and a deep understanding of their customers as they extract and translate raw data into information necessary to increase business efficiencies. An analytics manager measures performance, assesses financial risk and motivates a team of specialists within an organization. Other duties include communicating analytics via user reports and presenting findings to senior management.Senior IT Project Manager
As the head of IT projects within an organization, a senior IT project manager must effectively plan, organize, lead and control all essential aspects. In addition to being proficient with a wide range of technologies, a senior IT project manager must be capable of supervising many employees while ensuring all technological functions stay on track. Other responsibilities include conducting meetings with stakeholders, measuring performance, creating a project plan and recording customer requirements in the process of establishing project deliverables.
Professional IT organizations provide valuable support and networking opportunities. Members receive discounts, are invited to annual conferences and have access to job boards. Review the following list of professional IT organizations to find useful resources:
Professional networking opportunities, mentoring and continuing education for women in computing professionals, established in 1978.
Professional trade association for software authors and developers offering articles and book reviews as well as member software discounts.
Members can earn CompTIA certifications and attend a CompTIA Plus annual conference for IT professionals. In addition to a job board, IT career advice and IT skills training, CompTIA AITP has local chapters for professionals. The Student Program connects students to mentors and provides career advice and resources to build a strong foundation as an IT professional.
Founded in 1995, NAP offers certification for IT professionals and publishing opportunities for its members.
A certified network professional credential is available from NPA for IT employees. NPA also publishes a Network Professional Journal for the benefit of members.
Resources for women in technology-related careers including programs such as the Mentor-Protégé program, events like the annual job fair and other support.
Since information technology is a large field, there are a wide variety of jobs that someone with a master’s degree in IT could be eligible for. Here are few possible careers with their salary potential, but job seekers should keep in mind that these careers may require certain undergrad degrees, additional certification or experience.
|Career||Lowest 10% Earned Annually||Median Annual Salary||Highest 10% Earned Annually||Job Growth 2016-2026|
|Computer Systems Analyst||Less than $53,750||$88,270||More than $139,850||+9%|
|Computer Network Architect||Less than $58,160||$104,650||More than $162,390||+6%|
|Software Developer||Less than $59,870||$101,790||More than $160,100||+24%|
|Information Security Analyst||Less than $55,560||$95,510||More than $153,090||+28%|
|Operations Research Analyst||Less than $45,270||$81,390||More than $134,470||+27%|
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018
The rapidly growing field of Information Technology means there are plenty of advanced-level careers for those with a master’s degree. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics, opportunities for software engineering managers, information security analysts and analytics managers are expected to grow 27% – 31% because of demands for software and privacy issues due to threats on computer systems. In fact, the BLS finds job growth is expected to be as high as 56% for employment of information security analysts in positions related to computer systems design through 2026.
For those who already hold a bachelor’s degree in Information Technology, the question may be whether earning an online master’s degree in IT is necessary. The answer is that it depends on the position they want to work in. For example, high-level careers in management often require the management skills earned in a graduate degree program. For example, a project manager with a graduate specialization in data analysis or software engineering may find more prospects in the field.
When it comes to salary, education also makes a difference. According to the Center on Education and the Workforce, the median salary for a computer and information systems professional with a bachelor’s degree is $69,000 a year compared to $85,000 with a master’s degree.
Accreditation is an important criterion when selecting a graduate school degree in IT program. There are three types of accrediting bodies: institutional, regional/national and specialized. Institutional accreditation is bestowed to the actual college or university while regional and national accrediting boards award accreditation through the U.S. Department of Education. Specialized accreditation is based on a particular program or department of an accredited institution. For instance, Information Technology programs can be accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET), which is a globally recognized and covers applied and natural science, computing, and engineering and engineering technology.
With tuition costs as high as $40,000 a year, according to Peterson’s, many students need as much financial assistance as possible. Fortunately, there are several ways to take the sting out of the yearly cost of tuition for a master’s degree in IT student.
The first step is to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid online, for access to Federal Aid including loans, grants and institutional assistance.
By working as a research assistant in an IT master’s degree program, students can receive discounted tuition or travel stipends to attend industry events and conferences. For instance, students in the master’s degree IT program at Penn State University can apply for research assistant positions on an annual basis.
Many schools offer scholarships to graduate students from the IT department. Check with each school individually to determine eligibility and requirements for school-funded scholarships. Many organization also offer regional and national scholarships, such as the Exede Internet Scholarship or the Educational Advancement Foundation scholarships for graduate students.
Online degree programs, like the IT degree program at Walden University, offer credits to qualified students who have relevant work experience. This reduces the number of credits a student must take to graduate, reducing the cost of earning a degree.