You have a bachelor's degree in information technology or computer science. Maybe you've landed your dream IT job. Even if you haven't been hired yet—your skills are very much in demand. IT careers are booming, and computer engineers, programmers, and technology developers are needed in nearly every industry.
They also pay very well -- computer and information systems managers bring in over $140,000 per year on average, according to Bureau of Labor (BLS) data.
So why, when tech jobs are plentiful and the IT industry is thriving, would you want to go back to school for a master's degree in IT? The answer depends less on where your career is now and more on where you want it to go. If you want to work as a software application developer your entire career, a graduate degree might not be for you. But if you ever want to take a management position or eventually rise to an executive-level job, now is the time to consider an MS in IT management.
What is an MS in IT?
A master of science degree in information technology management is a graduate degree for technology professionals who want to expand their jobs beyond the IT department and rise through the ranks of a company's IT organization to oversee technology operations. Although this degree builds on your existing understanding of technology, the degree isn't so much about technology as it is about business, leadership, and management.
A graduate with an MS in IT management may start in more focused areas, such as project management, systems administration, information security analysis, or technical services management. Roles in these areas involve a high level of leadership and team management: professionals regularly plan projects and supervise the teams that execute those plans. And because technology, cybersecurity, and data management are constantly evolving, professionals in these roles need to be quick and adaptable. An MS program can train you in how to stay on technology's bleeding edge.
Later in their IT careers, grads may leverage their MS degrees when they apply for director-level positions. Any position that requires a nuanced understanding of technology and business management—such as chief technology officer, chief information officer, or IT director—is likely to require an MS in IT.
What IT skills will you learn in an MS program?
The Association for Computing Machinery and the Association for Information Systems' guidelines for graduate programs in information systems identifies nine competency areas for graduate degrees, including technical studies (such as data management and enterprise architecture) and other, business-focused areas, such as ethics and guiding a company through the upheaval that comes with the adoption of new technology.
Strong programs will offer a broad course of study that will prepare you to be an IT expert and a successful business leader. Courses in leadership, technology operations, finance, solutions development, and project management will prepare students to solve business problems with emerging technologies. These programs also help enterprising students set themselves up for career success by providing networking opportunities with IT managers in the field.
Do you really need an MS in IT management?
Does an advanced degree in IT really matter? Can't you just work really hard and rise through the ranks by accruing job experience?
Maybe. You can advance this way in some organizations, but a master's degree could accelerate that process. And some companies require a graduate degree for director-level positions.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, most information systems management positions require several years of experience; directors are likely to need between five and 10 years of related work experience, and chief technology officers may need more than 15 years of experience in the IT field. By investing in a master's degree now, you're smoothing the road to a better job when you've got that experience under your belt.
You're also giving yourself an edge—employment of computer and information managers is projected to grow by 12 percent by 2026. An MS in IT will ensure that you're ready to step into the right job when it opens up.