When you have a degree in information technology, you have a degree that can open many doors for you. Not only are the job opportunities increasing daily, but the financial rewards are lucrative as well. You will be able to find I.T. careers in virtually any industry. Here is a guide on how to get this valuable degree.
Pre-College PreppingObviously, you will need to be graduated from high school before you attend college. If you do not have a high school diploma, a G.E.D. will get you into a state school. If you are still attending high school at this point in time, talk with your guidance counselor about taking elective courses that would prepare you for college-level I.T. courses. Whether you are still in high school or you have just recently graduated, it is a good idea to take certification classes. This could be for Microsoft, Cisco, or a multitude of other companies. These classes may be taken independently online or they may be offered at your local community college.
It may also benefit you to work at a job offering practical experience in the information technology field. This could be something like a virtual help desk or even interning at an organization that cannot afford to pay for employees. This will give you invaluable experience heading into college as well as the ability to develop a network you can tap in the future. Ask those you are working with if they can recommend any colleges. They will probably know people who attended universities for the same degree you are pursuing.
Entering a Program
You will need to decide what exactly you want to do with your degree. If you are uncertain, most advisers recommend obtaining a Bachelor of Science degree. You can also get an associate’s degree in I.T., but the jobs at that level of education are scarcer. It is always advisable to go as far as you can in any field you choose. In fact, many students feel that attaining a master’s degree or even as high as a doctorate’s degree will make them even more valuable to potential employers.
Almost all schools offer clubs that appeal to the specific interests of their students. Check which ones interest you and join as many as is feasible. Clubs and other campus organizations are great ways to network with those of similar interests and even professionals in certain areas. You may very well meet these people again in the working world, so it is in your best interest to foster great relationships that can benefit you in the future.
Start researching what schools have to offer and what one’s appeals most to you. Some students want to move far away from home to start their journey into the world, while others are more content staying closer to home. There is no wrong answer when it comes to this decision. Make sure you note exactly what classes you will have to take to obtain your degree and how many college credits it will take to get there. If you think you may have trouble making it to in-person classes, look at what each school offers as far as online classes. Also, remember that if you attend a college without first establishing residency, you will be charged more tuition.
When you have a list of colleges that interest you narrowed down to just a handful, take the time actually to visit their campuses. You can tell a lot about how the college treats its student body by visiting them. This is advised even if you plan on taking mostly online courses. If you are planning on living on campus, this will be your opportunity to see what amenities are offered, what condition the dorms are in, and things of that nature. Depending on the university, you may have the opportunity to meet some of the teachers you could have. If there are fraternity or sorority organizations, there will be a chance to meet with them as well, to see if you are interested in pledging with any of them.
Here is the part that everyone dreads: paying for college. It is best to first look for all of the free money available that you can. Talk to your high school guidance counselor about applying for grants and scholarships. Once you have decided on a specific college, you should also talk to their financial aid office. Never pay an internet site for information of financial assistance. This can be a scam and not beneficial to you, as legitimate sources will never charge for such information.
After your free money options are exhausted, you may want to look into work-study programs. These entail jobs offered by the school, usually on campus, that pay you just like any other job would. The benefit to these jobs is that they are tailored to fit your school schedule. This means they will not interfere with your classes and you can earn money to help pay for your schooling and other expenses.
After these options, if you still need money to pay for your college education, then loans will be your next step. You will have the choice of applying for government-backed student loans or private student loans. While most universities push government-backed loans simply because it is virtually impossible to be turned down for them, private loans are an excellent option if you have at least decent credit or if you can have a parent or other relative co-sign for you. The interest rates are generally very favorable to you, and by having a private loan in your name that you are regularly re-paying, you will be building your credit. A solid credit rating is indispensable in life and will open many doors for you versus having a fair to poor credit rating. Private student loans also allow you to pay for extra living expenses while attending school.
Closer to the start of the semester, you will begin to receive acceptance letters from the colleges to which you applied. It is at this point you will have to make the decision which one you will want to attend.
Once you are officially enrolled at the school, it is time to put together your class schedule. Make sure the classes you take are going towards your degree. Even if the class is an elective, it is rather pointless to take a class that is not getting you further to your desired destination. Some universities may require that you meet with an adviser before finalizing your schedule, but you will probably want to pursue this option even if they do not. This way you can be assured that all of your classes count towards your degree.
Ask about taking classes that allow you to specialize in a certain area of information technology. This will enhance your desirability to companies after you graduate. If you took certification classes before entering college, you can build on those. You can also branch out into other specialties if you so desire. This has the added benefit of enhancing your expertise. Once you find a specialty that appeals to you, take as many advanced classes in this area as possible.
Remember to keep close contact with your adviser. It is not uncommon for a student to have difficulty in one or more classes, but you do not want to let the situation get out of hand. Meet with your adviser as well as your professor and see what the best options are for you as a student. You can usually re-take a class if need be. Some schools allow for the second grade to completely replace the first grade.
Once you get closer to graduating, you will have another decision to make. You can continue your education and pursue a master’s degree or go even further to get a doctorate. You may also want to get out into the real world and start your career. Again, there is no wrong answer here; it is what is in your best interest that matters. If you decide to pursue your career, you can always go back to school later, if that is what you want to do.
If you are choosing to start your career, meet with your adviser to let them know this. They will have a list of companies that tend to hire graduates from your school as soon as they are finished. This is also where your previous networking will start to come into play. Talk with those you have met at various functions and see if they have any leads. Subscribing to any professional journals is also a great way to see what jobs are currently being offered. If you are graduating near the top of your class, you will have prospective companies courting you as well. Take your time analyzing what may be the best options for you and make sure to go over any contracts with a lawyer before signing anything.