Information technology (IT) is an engineering discipline that uses computers and telecommunications equipment to transmit information, solve practical problems, and support computer-based information systems. IT professionals perform various tasks, such as supporting end users, solving computer problems, and teaching people how to navigate certain programs. While enrolled in an undergraduate information technology program, students learn the theoretical knowledge and practical skills needed to do several IT jobs. The associate degree provides a comprehensive introduction to the field and prepares students to enter the workforce upon graduation or continue their IT education at a higher level.

Why an Associate Degree?

One of the quickest and most affordable ways to break into the information technology field is to earn an associate degree. At this degree level, students will take a variety of basic courses in information technology and other related topics. Through specialized instruction and career-focused training, students will gain a wide range of skills, including maintaining computer and wireless networks, troubleshooting hardware and software issues, creating software applications, and developing web pages. Whether you’re transitioning to entry-level work or continuing your college education, you will utilize the basic concepts and skills learned in this lower degree.

Getting Into an Associate Degree Program

The first step toward an information technology career is earning the necessary postsecondary education and training. If you want to take the associate degree route, you need to first make sure you meet the educational requirements listed below:

  • High school diploma or its equivalent
  • Desired score on the SAT, ACT, and/or entrance exam
  • Minimum required GPA

Inside an Information Technology Associate Degree Program

The online information technology associate’s degree usually takes two years to complete, depending on your course load and pace. Some common courses students can expect to take include: computer service and support PC systems, principles of information security, managing server operating systems, essentials of networking, application support, and internetworking technologies. In addition to their major courses, information technology students also take electives and general education courses, such as writing and mathematics.

Most online courses have a learning management system, such as Blackboard or Moodle, in which students can access their courses, lectures, assignments, grades, and other class resources. Online students can also correspond with their instructors and classmates using the instant messaging, email, and discussion forums found on the course sites. Some keys to succeeding in online courses are maintaining good communication and taking advantage of the academic, financial, and career resources available through your school.

What’s Next for Information Technology Associate Degree Holders?

Graduates of the information technology associate’s degree program will be qualified to do a variety of entry-level jobs, such as computer support specialist, network and computer systems administrator, and computer systems analyst. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of all three occupations is expected to grow faster than average by 2020. Computer support specialists are expected to see an 18% increase in employment, while network and computer systems administrators are expected to have a 28% increase, and computer systems analysts are expected to grow 22%. In addition to having positive employment projections, these professionals also have good yearly salaries. According to the 2010 BLS report, computer support specialists made an average annual salary of $46,260. In 2012, network and computer systems administrators made an average of $76,320, and computer systems analysts made $83,800.

Although associate degree holders generally have good job prospects, there are some employers and positions that require additional education and experience. If you’re interested in furthering your information technology education, your next step is to earn a bachelor’s degree in information technology. Earning this undergraduate degree will not only expand your knowledge and skills in the field, but it also increases your job options and marketability.