PhD in Information Technology

Who Gets One & What to Expect

A Ph.D. in information technology online provides graduates the credentials and skills to compete for the field's most advanced and best-paying jobs. This degree is ideal for those who possess a firm foundation in information technology, including both education and experience. Given the continual rise of uses for information technology, graduates enjoy stable and promising careers. While a master's qualifies you for some advanced roles, a Ph.D. is needed for teaching and research positions.

Read on to learn about common careers, average salaries, typical courses, graduation requirements, and professional resources.

Reasons to Pursue an Online Ph.D. in Information Technology

Before beginning a Ph.D. in information technology online, prospective students should understand what makes this a valuable degree. Browse below for a few top reasons.

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    Career Advancement

    Students who want to work in research or academia almost always need a doctorate. This can also be true of some advanced administrative roles.

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    Higher Pay

    With a higher degree, students often experience greater earning potential.

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    Throughout the process of writing countless papers and researching a long-form dissertation, students hone their research skills. These skills serve them well throughout their careers.

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    Personal Interests

    Some individuals possess a deep and abiding passion for lifelong learning. If this sounds like you, a Ph.D. in information technology online can help you deepen your field understanding.

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    Only a select few IT professionals earn the discipline's highest degree. With this credential, you set yourself apart as a true expert.

What Can I Do With an Online Doctorate in Information Technology?

As degree-seekers research potential Ph.D. in information technology online programs, they may come across another degree: the doctor in information technology (DIT). The DIT prepares graduates for more professional, administrative roles, while the Ph.D. focuses on building academic and research skills. The DIT usually takes 3-4 years to complete, and the Ph.D. takes 5-7 years.

Job titles for professionals holding these degrees vary, so ensure you possess a clear sense of which degree you want to pursue and how it will help you reach your goals.

Common Career Paths and Salaries

Graduates of Ph.D. in information technology online degrees can pursue jobs in a variety of sectors. Some work in classrooms, while others work in computer labs. The table below explores a few of these career possibilities.

Information Technology Instructor

Working in college and university settings, these professionals prepare the next generation of IT leaders through lectures, assignments, group projects, advising, and mentorship.

Average Annual Salary: $64,026

Research Scientist

Research scientists work in computer labs and in the field to conduct research. They engage in independent research, conduct studies, and collect and analyze raw data.

Average Annual Salary: $78,757

Senior Network Engineer

These professionals oversee other engineers to ensure that company networks follow best practices and maintain the highest levels of security. They also manage budgets, set project timelines, and report to clients.

Average Annual Salary: $99,222

Academic Dean

Academic deans oversee information technology departments. In addition to teaching classes, they set course schedules, oversee curricula, interview prospective students, and consult on hiring decisions.

Average Annual Salary: $90,339

Information Technology Consultant

After gaining substantial experience and pursuing an advanced degree, IT consultants work with companies of all sizes to identify IT issues and suggest improvements.

Average Annual Salary: $78,275

Information Technology Ph.D. Program Requirements and Outcomes

Gaining entrance to a Ph.D. in information technology online takes focus and persistence. When completing the application, students must supply an application fee, official transcripts, recommendation letters, an updated resume, and a statement of purpose. If applying to a particularly competitive program, they may also need to participate in an interview.

Required program credits vary by department. Most mandate the completion of 60-90 credits that learners can complete in 5-7 years. Aside from meeting coursework requirements, students must also produce a dissertation.

While many Ph.D. in information technology online degrees exist, some require a few in-person components. Programs emphasizing experience may mandate a semester-long practicum that students can complete near their home. Others may hold campus-based weekend learning intensives that allow students to interact with peers and professors.

Common Courses

Courses in a Ph.D. in information technology online degree can vary significantly depending on the program. While the topics below provide a glimpse of potential courses, degree-seekers should check with their desired school for a more precise plan of study.

Information Governance

With an awareness of the continual expansion of digital information, this course examines some of the laws and legislation around information governance. Students consider how to develop and enforce IT policies and create protocol to help manage security risks.

Big Data Analytics

This course explores critical management techniques when working with big data. Students consider questions around distributed file systems, map-reduced parallel computing paradigms, no-SQL databases, and scalable systems to analyze big data.

Human-Computer Interactions

Students in this class consider some of the motivations of human-computer interactions, with specific focus on the history and evolution of the field over time. Coursework focuses on user-centered design methods, evaluation methods, and data analysis techniques.

Advanced Database Management

Designed for students who already possess some knowledge of and experience in database management, this course covers design theory, distributed database models, security issues, transaction processing, recovery models, and issues of concurrency.

Network Security

This class gives degree-seekers in-depth knowledge of theories and practices surrounding network security. Learners cover common security protocols, including Kerberos, LDAP, SSL, SSH, IKE, TLS, and IPSec before diving into countermeasures and the use of ethical hacking.

Other Requirements

While coursework comprises a significant portion of Ph.D. in information technology online graduation requirements, learners should prepare themselves to meet a few other mandates. Requirements vary by school, but the following includes a few common expectations.

Select a Specialization

Because information technology represents such a large and disparate field, many departments offer specializations to help learners further hone their expertise. By choosing a specialization, such as software engineering, information systems, information sciences and technology, or digital forensics, you can guide your coursework.

Complete Dissertation

To graduate, all students must research and write a long-form dissertation. These projects use primary and secondary research to take a unique look at a question or issue in the field. Learners may conduct interviews, develop case studies, or review data in the course of the project.

Pass Oral Defense

After submitting their dissertation, candidates must go before a panel comprised of dissertation supervisors and subject experts to defend the dissertation. They must answer questions, address any gaps in findings, and make any requested edits before graduating.

Skills and Competencies

Graduates of Ph.D. in information technology online degrees walk away with finely tuned skills and competencies that benefit them significantly in their career search. Some of the top skills include:


Aside from observing teachers as a student, many Ph.D. candidates take on teaching assistant roles that help provide hands-on experience in classroom management, grading, and lecturing.


Given how research-intensive Ph.D. programs tend to be, graduates build highly nuanced and advanced research skills that benefit them in a variety of professional settings.


During the course of their studies, degree-seekers interact with a diverse set of classmates and professors with vastly different life experiences. This helps them learn how to communicate well and build interpersonal skills.

Project Management

Learners develop skills in multi-tasking and managing sometimes unruly projects to ensure they stay on task and on time. Aside from managing project components, students also learn how to manage others.


Despite best-laid plans, sometimes problems arise when developing software, developing network security protocols, or managing databases. Doctoral students learn how to address these issues in methodical ways.

Time Management

Doctoral programs can be highly stressful. Trying to balance multiple projects and assignments teaches degree-seekers how to carefully manage their time to avoid penalties.

Information Technology Professional Organizations

Joining a professional IT organization offers several benefits. Many groups provide student memberships alongside access to scholarships, awards, and job postings. Even after graduating and beginning to build your career, associations work to provide local chapters, annual conferences, networking events, publications, mentorship, job postings, certification, and continuing education programs.

When exploring prospective organizations, speak with current members to get a sense of whether that particular group will best serve your needs. If you're currently a student, and the group offers no student initiatives, it may not be a great fit.

Once you find an organization to join, seek out ways to get involved and make the most of your membership. Some individuals may decide to volunteer on initiatives they find meaningful while others may apply to serve on a committee or act as a board member. Ask for a list of opportunities to find one that speaks to your interests.

Association of Information Technology Professionals

  • CompTIA AITP works to connect and grow IT professionals through local chapters, national events, continuing education programming, certification, and access to exclusive member benefits.

Information Technology Industry Council

  • Based in Washington D.C., this group advocates for the tech sector and provides members access to policy programs, education about legislative activities, and opportunities to engage with other IT professionals about industry changes.

Association for Computing Machinery

  • ACM serves student and professional members alike by providing awards, symposiums, in-house publications, conferences, regional chapters, continuing education programming, a learning center, and public policy initiatives.

Association for Women in Computing

  • In existence since 1978, AWC works to represent women professionals in computing by offering professional networking, continuing education, mentorship opportunities, state chapters, awards, and other useful resources.

Information Systems Security Association International

  • ISSA helps information security professionals grow their networks, enhance their field knowledge, stay current on industry best practices, and find helpful resources that benefit their careers.