What is an Online Information Technology Associate Degree?
An online information technology associate degree is a two year degree which will prepare you for an entry-level job in the IT field. If you live near the university you attend, you may have the option to take some in-person classes; otherwise, the program is most likely going to be 100% online.
Although an online associate degree may be your initial goal, many universities offer a bachelor's degree in IT which piggybacks off of an associate's degree. Once you complete your associate's, you have the option of completing your bachelor's in only two additional years. If a bachelor's degree is your ultimate goal, this type of associate-to-bachelor program may be right for you, as you will be qualified to work in the field once you complete your associate degree. This allows you to start your IT career after just two years and work in the field while you complete your bachelor-level coursework, which you may do on a part-time enrollment.
An online associate degree in IT will open many doors for you and prepare you for a myriad of rewarding jobs opportunities, such as a Computer Support Specialist, a Network Systems Administrator, or a Computer Systems Analyst.
What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages of an Online Information Technology Associate Degree Program?
A lot of students worry that their online degree will be perceived as a disadvantage in the eyes of employers and other professionals, but this shouldn't discourage you from pursuing your online associate degree in information technology. As online degrees become more and more common, and educational technology becomes more advanced, it's clear to many that this type of online education isn't going anywhere. And in the technology field, the ability to maintain productivity while working purely online from a remote location can actually be an advantage in itself, especially if you are planning to apply for remote positions upon graduating.
Lots of technology employers care more about your skill set than your degree. And just because you are pursuing an online degree doesn't mean you can't complete an in-person internship or obtain other real-world experience while you work your way through your online program. Be diligent in researching all the available programs and picking one which will equip you with the most relevant skill set for your desired position, but don't rule out an online degree simply because you think it's not as good as a traditional in-person degree.
Who Should Pursue an Online Information Technology Associate Degree?
An online information technology associate degree (which is sometimes mistakenly confused for an information systems degree) is worth considering for a number of reasons, but two very appealing aspects are: one, the fact that it is 100% online; and two, and the fact that it only takes about two years to complete. This is a very flexible degree to work towards and should be considered by anybody with a busy schedule whose goal is a stable job in an ever-expanding field.
The online nature of the classwork offers daily flexibility and means that full-time or part-time workers or parents can schedule their coursework around their already busy daily lives. Although associate degrees are becoming less common as more and more people are pursuing bachelor's and master's degrees, IT is a field which still accepts associate degrees. And of course, being able to complete a degree in half the amount of time as a bachelor's is a huge advantage to someone looking to enter the field quickly.
Application, Admissions, and Enrollment for Online Information Technology Associate Degree Programs
To apply for an associate program, you need to have a high school diploma. You will need to meet the GPA requirement for the university you are applying to and provide them with your high school transcript.
Recommendations from your high school teachers may not be required to apply for an online associate degree in information technology, but it may help the admissions office to make a decision on your application-- especially if you get a recommendation from a teacher of computer science or another related course. Likewise, an SAT score may not be required to apply, but a good score could help your chances of getting into the school of your choice.
One of the first things that you should look into when choosing universities to apply to are admission deadlines. If you can't make that deadline, you cannot apply for that academic year, which could end up setting you back a semester. Some universities have set deadlines for early admissions and regular admissions, and some may even offer rolling admissions.
If a university offers rolling admissions that means they offer a larger window of time in which you can apply. It also means that they will send you their decision as soon as they make it, rather than waiting until after the official deadline to send out their acceptance letters. Often a university with a rolling deadline will let you apply much closer to the term start-date than a college with a traditional application deadline, the latter of which would most likely require you to apply many months in advance.
How Long Does It Take to Get an Online Information Technology Associate Degree?
An online associate degree in IT generally takes two years to complete if you are attending full-time. Part-time students could take anywhere from half a year to two years longer to complete, depending on the amount of credits they are taking.
The number of credits needed to graduate with your associate degree may differ slightly depending on the specific program you choose, but you must take at least 60 credits in order to qualify for an associate degree.
If you already have a different degree in a different field, or if you've started a different computer science degree and now wish to change majors or transfer to a new school, it may be worth comparing the credit transfer guidelines for each university to see which one has the most lenient policy - the more credits you can transfer, the faster you can graduate with your online associate's in information technology.
How Much Does an Online Associate Degree in Information Technology Cost?
The tuition for different online associate degree programs in IT can differ greatly from university to university. They can range from less than $5,000 a year to $20,000 a year, so it's smart to see what exactly each one offers, and the skills and certificates they will equip you with before graduation. A more costly degree may be worth it if they offer opportunities to complete internships or help you to prepare for supplementary certificates, but this is a personal decision and depends on your individual goals and budget.
It may be helpful to note that some colleges offer discounted tuition rates for U.S. service members as well as military spouses of members on active duty. Southern New Hampshire University is well-known for this, offering rates discounted by up to one-third off of normal tuition.
Online Information Technology Associate Degree Coursework
The classes that you take in order to complete your online associate degree will depend on whether you are following a general information technology track or if you choose pick a concentration within the IT department. But, no matter which individualized path you take, you will be presented with lots of interesting classes which will challenge and enhance your knowledge of the industry.
Below are some examples of real classes offered in various online associate IT degrees around the country:
- Operating Systems
- Secure Networking Environments
- Problem Solving with Computing
- Introduction to Web Page Construction
- Communication Ethics
What Can I Do With an Online Associate Degree in Information Technology?
Like most fields, a bachelors degree is the standard requirement for many positions, with higher-paid and specialized roles requiring more competitive educational backgrounds, such as a master's degree or doctoral degree.
However, that is not to say that those higher degrees are required to get a job in this field. There are plenty of things you can do with your online associate degree in IT, like becoming a network and computer systems administrator, a computer programmer, a computer user support specialist, or a computer systems analyst.
Something to also keep in mind if you are planning to pursue your bachelor's degree later on is that many of these positions are jobs in which you can grow once you achieve a bachelor's or master's degree. Choosing a company which values internal promotions and has a history of offering position advancement to its employees could pay off in the long run, especially if they offer tuition reimbursement which would allow you to continue onto your bachelor's, and possibly even master's, degree.
Begin a Career as a Computer Systems Analyst
A computer systems analyst is just one of many exciting job opportunities that may be available to you once you complete your online associate degree in information technology. Although some companies may prefer to hire applicants who hold a bachelor's degree, this is not necessarily a requirement and you may get hired with an associate's, especially if you are also working towards a bachelor's or plan to in the near future.
Like many jobs in IT and computer science, sometimes skills can be more valued than a traditional education, so if you already have a degree in liberal arts or an unrelated field, but have the skills required to do the job, you could also be hired for this type of role.
The average annual salary for a computer systems analyst is $93,730. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that this job will grow at a rate of 7% between 2019-29, which is 3% faster than the national average.
Begin a Career as a Computer Programmer
Another worthwhile career option to check out is that of a computer programmer. The average annual salary for a computer programmer is $89,190. A career in programming is a relatively high paying job which you can obtain with your online associate degree in information technology.
As mentioned in relation to becoming a computer systems analyst, employers hiring for programming roles may be likewise inclined to give the job to applicants who have at least a bachelor's degree, but this is not always the case. However, because of the competitive nature of these roles, it's important to build an impressive portfolio which showcases specific skills which would make you an asset to the company, such as mastering multiple programming languages. Demonstrated useful skills and knowledge may be seen as more valuable than a bachelor's degree in some cases.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the job growth for this position to fall -9% for 2019-29, which is 13% slower than the national average.
Accreditation for Online Information Technology Associate Degree Programs
Accreditation matters when choosing a university to complete your online associate degree in IT. Universities can be accredited either nationally or regionally, and the same goes for universities which are 100% online. With more and more online universities offering courses and degrees, it's especially important to make sure you are noting the accreditation status of your chosen university. The university should display their accreditation status prominently on their website, but if you cannot find it, you should reach out to somebody in admissions to inquire.
Although some employers may not mind if your degree is accredited or not, it's always best to be on the safe side. If you are going to pay for an associate degree, you want it to be a quality program in the eyes of the Department of Education.
Transfer Options After Completing an Online Information Technology Associate Degree
As mentioned above, if you want to enter the IT workforce as quick as possible, an online associates degree may be the best way to go. After only two years you can get a job in your chosen field, which is a huge accomplishment. But what if you don't want to end your education there? Fortunately, transferring your associate degree credits into a bachelor degree program is a very common track for information technology programs. And once you have a bachelor's degree, so many more job opportunities will open up to you, such as IT director positions or IT consultant positions.
Most schools want to make it as easy as possible for you to continue your education, and as a result, many of them have bachelor's degree programs which are designed to accepts credits from their own or other school's associate degree programs. Because it may be easiest to stay with the same university, it's important to research both the bachelor program as well as the associate program before you decide on a university to attend.
What Are Other Information Technology Degree Options?
An online associate degree in information technology is a great place to start your education, or to initiate a career change and start working in the IT field. However, there are many other options and paths which you could follow.
If you are looking to continue your education even further, you can go on to an online bachelor's, an online master's, or an online doctoral program. You could also look into online certificate programs, which could enhance your online associate degree in IT, or perhaps supplement your degree if you got a related degree, like an MBA, but now want to work in IT.
These alternative or supplemental IT degrees can expand the pool of jobs you'd be qualified for. For example, if you go on to pursue and online bachelor's in IT after you complete your associate degree, you could go on to become the Chief IT Officer for a company.
Online Bachelor's Programs in Information Technology
Another career path that an online bachelor's degree in IT could help you to pursue is in Information Technology Management. Although there are plenty of jobs which you can achieve with just an associate degree in IT, some jobs, such as management positions, are better suited to those with bachelor's degrees and employers will be looking for this educational requirement in anyone they hire.
A bachelor's degree will take on average four years to complete, or about two additional years if you have previously finished an associate program with transferable credits.
Online Master's Programs in Information Technology
Depending on the online master's program for information technology you choose to enroll in, this degree will take an additional year or two to complete once you have a bachelor's degree.
You may follow an MS or MBA track, depending on whether you want to pursue more technical advanced roles, or business and management roles. Some master's concentrations you may be able to specialize in include information systems design, data analytics, digital transformation, or user experience. Not only will an online master's in IT broaden your knowledge in the field, but you will have many more opportunities to specialize within your chosen field.
Online Doctoral Programs in Information Technology
An online doctoral program in IT, such as an Ph.D., is the highest level of education you can attain in the IT field. Many Ph.D. programs are very research heavy, so students will be able to focus their efforts and knowledge within a specific area of interest. Ph.D. holders can also expect a much higher pay rate upon graduation and may even qualify as an expert in their field, depending on their program and intensity of research.
Online Certificate Programs in Information Technology
Perhaps an online degree in IT isn't in the cards for you, and you're looking or alternative routes to break into the IT field. Then an online certificate program may be the right fit for you! These programs can take anywhere from five to eighteen months to complete, but tend to focus on a narrower aspect of information technology, such as data management of cybersecurity. A certificate could also help you to prepare for a less conventional job - for example, if you were interested in providing IT support specifically for libraries.
Scholarships & Financial Aid for Information Technology Online Associate Degrees
Deciding how to pay for a degree can be one of the main obstacles that many students face when trying to finance their goal of continuing their education.
However, applying for Federal Loans through FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is completely free and a relatively quick and easy process. Whether you think you will be eligible or not, it's a good idea to first apply for federal loans before turning to a private institution to finance your education.
You should also reach out to the Financial Aid office at your university to see if they have any scholarships or additional aid specific to your program which you can apply to. Sometimes, just by applying to a particular university, you are also considered for some other their scholarships without having to fill out separate scholarships applications, which could be an important factor to consider when choosing the right university for you.