IT degrees: definition, types and career opportunities

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 25 May 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Information technology (IT) refers to a field that's continually expanding, with IT employees working in a variety of businesses. Obtaining a degree in IT provides new professional opportunities in a range of technological sectors. Understanding the many IT degrees that are available can help you to pursue a career in the IT specialisation of your choice. In this article, we explore what IT degrees are, list the types of qualifications, outline the roles you can perform with a degree and show how you can decide which degree is right for you.

What are IT degrees?

IT degrees are higher learning degrees in subjects focused on the technology that enables you to store, preserve and change digital information. Pursuing an information technology degree enables you to gain roles in a range of IT disciplines. Most of these degree programmes provide you with practical education and hands-on experience that helps you develop the skills necessary to succeed in tech roles.

Due to their popularity and demand, many higher education institutions, such as universities, offer degrees in IT. There are often multiple degree options in the IT field available to choose from in the same institution. Knowing the different types of degrees in IT on offer is invaluable as it helps you to make an informed decision.

Related: Jobs with a computer science degree (plus salary info)

Types of qualifications in IT

Choosing what topic to study while preparing for a profession in IT is the first step in your IT career. Decide on the level of degree or type of degree you want to pursue. These can range from short-term programmes that last a few months to advanced degrees that require several years of study. The following are common qualifications in IT:

Certifications

Certifications are brief courses that often last just a few weeks. Certifications are more focused than higher education degrees, which means that you receive certification in a specific IT skill which you can then display on your CV. This is useful when applying for roles that require specific aptitudes. Many IT professionals get one or more certifications in addition to a university degree to demonstrate their expertise.

Related: What are the benefits of making a career change to IT?

Bachelor's degree

A bachelor's degree programme provides you with the fundamental knowledge necessary for the majority of entry-level IT roles. Obtaining your bachelor's degree over three years is the most common path to a career in IT. Bachelor's degrees typically involve a combination of both classroom teaching and hands-on job experience, such as an internship. This allows you to put what you learn into practice within a professional context.

Master's degree

Some senior or specialist roles in IT require the completion of a master's degree. Some professionals choose to finish their master's degree before joining the job market, but many begin working after receiving a bachelor's degree and then go back to school at a later date. Some companies provide financial assistance to an employee who's seeking a higher degree, subject to them accepting their conditions in a contractual agreement.

Doctorate

A PhD isn't a requirement for the majority of IT roles, even at the most senior levels. If you wish to pursue a job as an IT lecturer at a university, they may require that you have a PhD. A doctorate also provides you with a competitive advantage when applying for roles at private companies, particularly in comparison to other candidates who only hold a bachelor's or master's degree. Due to the additional expertise you gain in obtaining a doctorate, you may also notice an increase in earnings.

Related: Deductive reasoning in the workplace

What jobs can you do with an IT degree?

When you graduate from university, you can begin looking for roles in the IT industry. A vast range of IT occupations is available, ranging from data security to managing IT-related projects. Positions available to those with an IT degree include the following:

1. Software engineer

National average salary: £46,547 per year

Primary duties: An operating system, database system and embedded system make up just a few examples of the system-level software that a software engineer is responsible for creating and implementing. Software engineers are familiar with the operation of both software and hardware. They work in a variety of industries, including electronics and telecommunications. A bachelor's degree in computer science, software engineering or another closely related field are generally the best options for these professionals.

2. Business analyst

National average salary: £42,309 per year

Primary duties: The role of business analysts includes finding potential for improvement in company processes and operations via the use of IT. A project-based position starts with an analysis of the requirements of a client, the collecting and documentation of requirements and the creation of a project plan for the design of the resultant technological solution. Business analysts require a basic grasp of technology but don't require a degree in technical fields.

3. Web developer

National average salary: £35,578 per year

Primary duties: Web development encompasses anything related to the creation of websites and the infrastructure that supports them. For example, these positions include projects like developing internal employee intranets and developing payment mechanisms for an online business. The majority of web developers possess IT skills and experience. Junior web developers can begin working after getting a bachelor's degree and can gain promotions by working their way up professionally.

4. IT project manager

National average salary: £43,795 per year

Primary duties: IT project leaders plan and coordinate the resources and people to ensure projects remain completed on schedule, within budget and in compliance with business objectives. They lead a project from concept to execution. They're responsible for a portion of a bigger programme. This is more of an intermediate or advanced position, meaning it requires years of experience and a strong foundation in technical and soft skills. These skills remain crucial for working with technology development teams and senior business executives. Advanced degrees are beneficial during the application stage.

5. Software developer

National average salary: £45,382 per year

Primary duties: Software developers or programmers are key to IT initiatives. Front-end developers are experts that specialise in developing software that's intended for users. Back-end developers are specialists who design software that communicates with a network of servers rather than with individual users. Individuals in these positions possess extensive knowledge and expertise in programming languages.

How to determine which IT degree to pursue

For those considering a career in IT, choosing the most appropriate IT degree programme helps them to be competitive for the roles they desire. Different degrees are better suited for specific job routes, so make sure you research professions thoroughly before committing to qualifications. Determine which degree to pursue with the following steps:

1. Pursue your interests

The wide availability of degrees in IT means that they provide you with a lot of flexibility in which sort of career you want to pursue. Consider what it is about dealing with technology that you find appealing. Ask yourself how you aspire to use your knowledge and abilities in a professional environment. The more interested you are in a field of IT, the more likely you are to enjoy your career.

2. Test your skills

Practical experience is the most effective approach to mastering various IT skills and assessing how much you love practising them. With the help of online tools, you can quickly develop technological skills, such as programming, hardware configuration and network building. By practising, you improve your technical comprehension and also gain a deeper understanding of the skills and careers in IT that are interesting to you.

Related: What is information technology? (With skills and careers)

3. Investigate your alternatives

Different degrees have various requirements and provide different postgraduate options, so take these into consideration when picking an academic route. This includes the cost and accessibility of the degrees and what other degrees become available upon their completion. If there are two degrees that both help you secure a place in your desired career, select the option that best meets your requirements.

Salary figures reflect data listed on the quoted websites at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.

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  • How to choose a fulfilling IT career path step-by-step


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