As human labor is replaced by automation, who will keep the robots running? People who can build, maintain and troubleshoot their way through computer systems. For those with no significant experience in this world, don’t worry! You’re not alone. Most people depend on computer systems daily, yet have no idea how they work. Fortunately, beginning a career in information technology can start for you tomorrow, from the comfort of your home. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts the average employment in nearly all computer information systems occupations will grow faster than any other occupation, and it isn’t even close. Salaries are higher, too. The average salary in IT is almost twice as high as in the general economy, and people in the upper fourth generally make six-figure annual salaries. With that in mind, here are the top ten IT associates programs that can help you change your earning potential in two years or less.
- Specializations (1/4): the number of emphases, specializations, or customizable tracks in a program.
- Program length (1/4): the minimum number of months required to complete the program.
- Affordability (1/4): the estimated out-of-state cost per credit hour.
- Academic Prestige (1/4): the placement and rank of the program in other prestigious rankings.
Founded in 1911, this private, not-for-profit career college focuses on degree programs that will prepare students to enter the workforce in their desired position upon completion. Baker College has expanded rapidly since its establishment, by opening new campuses and purchasing existing campuses then converting them to part of the Baker system. Baker offers certificates, associate, bachelor, master and doctoral degree programs. Baker has a right-to-try admissions policy, which means that anyone with a high school diploma or GED can attend. In 1996, Baker College began offering online education. By 2001, they had 4,000 students enrolled online. Baker’s online classrooms and library resources are always accessible to its students.
Baker’s IT program promises to give its students the latest, specialized skills to break into the information technology industry. Baker reflects just how diverse this world is by offering 5 associates programs in IT: Computer Networking Technology – CISCO, Computer Networking Technology – Microsoft, Cyber Security, IT Support Specialist and Linux/Unix Systems Technology. Pick the specialization that best suits your interests, then learn to build, install, analyze, troubleshoot, and maintain the hardware and software that keeps computer networks functioning. Baker Online was ranked highly on this list because of its breadth and depth of specialties.
- Tuition per credit hour: $250
SNHU is a private, nonprofit, coeducational, and nonsectarian university. Established in 1932, SNHU now has over 3,000 on campus students, and approximately 60,000 continuing education students. SNHU has won many honors, including being named by Fast Company as the 12th most innovative organization in the world. SNHU ranked among companies like Apple, Google, and HBO, and in front of NFL, Starbucks, and LinkedIn. Their accelerated classes ensure you can complete your degree at a pace you have influence over. For those looking to make a shift into IT quickly, this is one of the better options to do so. SNHU also promises some of the most affordable tuition rates in the country.
Graduates of the IT Associates program will learn to solve fundamental technology-related problems, develop verbal and written communication skills to present findings, strategize, maintain and secure existing IT systems. SNHU makes it easy for you to parlay your associates degree with them into the core curriculum requirements for their BS in IT as well, if you choose to continue your education. You’ll develop skills in software development, website design and data management that you can apply to a career immediately. Some of the jobs you’ll be immediately qualified for at the entry-level include systems administrator, IT specialist, security engineer, computer operator and technical support specialist.
- Tuition per credit hour: $320
BCTC was established through the consolidation of two schools in 2005, but is rooted in an educational past that has been serving the Lexington, KY area for over 75 years. It’s one of sixteen two-year open admissions colleges that make up the Kentucky Community and Technical College System. KCTCS was created in 1997 by the state legislature through House Bill 1 that combined the technical colleges of the Workforce Development Cabinet and the community colleges previously with the University of Kentucky. BCTC is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). Students from all over the world (Europe, Jordan, Turkey) choose Bluegrass. In 2009 the school had 11,500 students attending.
The only BCTC’s IT Associates program offered online is the Applications track, which deals with productivity software and applications such as word processing, spreadsheets, database management, presentation, geographic information systems, website development/maintenance, and help desk tracking systems. Within the Applications track there are several subsections that students can hone in on including:
Business Software Specialist, created to train students on a variety of software packages and help businesses to developand maintain databases, produce financial statements, and develop applications with those software packages. Computer Application Support, which will give students a meticulous look at application software, computer system configurations, Help Desk Tools/Software, end-user documentation, user training, and other user support skills. Geographic Information Systems which gives students a basis for geographical manipulation through building and deploying GIS Applications. Finally, Software Support, which will teach students in-depth about application software, computer system configurations, and data driven websites.
- Tuition per credit hour: $156
Rasmussen is a for-profit college originally creating as a business school in 1900. Since then it has grown to include 24 campuses across the country, and a thriving online division. It now offers over 70 programs broken into seven schools including Health Sciences, Design, Business, Justice Studies, Education, Nursing, and Technology. Rasmussen is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). Over 13,500 students attend the school. Its online campus opened in 2002. It has graduated over 100,000 students since then. Rasmussen made this list because of its flex choice system allows synchronous or asynchronous courses, so students can seamlessly build a schedule that fits their needs. You’ll be able to combine coursework with self-directed assignments as part of this program.
Rasmussen’s IT associates come in three specializations: Network Administration (learn how to keep complex networks functioning and navigate them), Network Security (keep networks secure, decrease risks, recover after disasters and administer networks), or Computer Information Technology (troubleshoot and repair desktop/mobile, deploy software with the end user in mind, and work as an IT with an understanding/philosophy that embraces the diversity of devices). Rasmussen’s graduates have gone on to work at Best Buy, Microsoft, Target, Wells Fargo, Ikea, State Farm, Verizon and many other luminaries within the technology sector. An associates degree from Rasmussen can be earned in as little as 21 months.
- Tuition per credit hour: $281
Established in 1998, Penn State World Campus is the famous state school’s online arm. Over 6,000 people attend the school. The World Campus offers 120 online undergraduate and graduate degree and certificate programs in partnership with Penn State academic programming. Penn State’s distance learning legacy is built on decades of experience before the Internet’s existence. In 1892 Penn State began offering farmers access to its classes through correspondence. Upon graduation from the World Campus, students can attend the Penn State graduation ceremony, and receive the exact same degree as on campus students. Penn State’s IT associates program made this list in part due to its four distinct tracks.
Penn State World Campus’ IT associates was designed in conjunction with their College of Information Sciences and Technology to give working professionals that have little to zero experience in information technology an entrance into a career in tech management. You’ll have the option to convert this degree into a bachelors, focus in on the business side of IT, develop an individualized concentration based on your own interests or focus on network administration. This associates program also requires an internship, in which you’ll gain tangible, real-life experience to help you segue into a new career. This dedication to hands-on experience will be paired with an in-depth virtual classroom inspection of information systems and practice with cutting edge tech in the creation, organization, storage, analysis, evaluation, communication, and transmission of information.
- Tuition per credit hour: $542
Indiana Wesleyan University is a private, evangelical Christian university affiliated with the Wesleyan Church. It is also the largest private university in Indiana. Founded in 1920 IWU now has over 16,000 students. Over 10,000 of them attend classes at education centers in Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio, and online. IWU has been paying close attention to the needs of professional adults who are looking to achieve new degrees since 1983. It’s grown by 200% since 1990 as well. IWU has received many awards and ranks highly by many esteemed ranking sources. It notably placed 17th out of 150 universities in the midwest in 2013 on the U.S. News and World Report rankings.
IWU’s IT associates program promises to blend the ethical decision-making of Christianity with the thrill of Information Technology expertise in approximately 24 months. This program is very flexible with transfer credits, and depending on what you have, you may be able to quickly parlay your previous schooling into a bachelors in IT. No one describes the focus/overlap of IT and biblical foundations quite like IWU. The program promises to help students create Computer Information Technology analysis skills within a Biblical framework. “You’re able to go from zero to being able to get a job in IT, develop your career, and then move on to higher education if you want to,” says Joe Snider, an assistant professor at IWU.
- Tuition per credit hour: $283
Grantham is a for-profit school based out of Lenaxa, Kansas. Established in 1951, the school has over 17,000 students, many of which attend online. In total, Grantham offers over 40 accredited online certificates and degrees. Its College of Engineering and Computer Science is a pride of the school, offering associate degrees, bachelor’s degrees and courses in project management, digital systems, physics, calculus, differential equations, and programming. Just this fall, Grantham received specialized accreditation for its Bachelor of Science in electronics engineering technology program. It’s now been recognized by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) as an excellent purveyor of this degree. In 2006, eLearning World University Rankings ranked Grantham University 13th out of 27 American online colleges. Grantham has also been ranked highly as a military friendly school.
Grantham’s IT program focuses on the physical, electric engineering side of IT. They call it an associates in Electronics and Computer Engineering Technology. The program promises to give students in depth knowledge through specific courses in DC/AC circuit principles and design, digital electronics and analog electronics, and computer programming. It takes 63 credit hours and approximately 24 months to complete the program, and it can immediately be used towards a bachelors from Grantham in Electronics Engineering Technology. The program costs $265 per credit hour, and can be started at students’ discretion.
- Tuition per credit hour: $250
Abraham Lincoln is the product of one man’s dream to create his very own college. The school was founded in 1996 by Hyung J. Park, a tax attorney. The first class had 12 students, including Park’s wife. Now there are over 100 students each year. Tuition is $8,000 annually. ALU is accredited by the Accrediting Commission of the Distance Education Accrediting Commission, which the U.S. Department of Education lists as a recognized accrediting agency, and a member of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. It’s motto is “Care, Connect, Conquer.” ALU was one of the first online law schools to exist in the country.
ALU’s IT associates vows to give students the bedrock upon which they can begin a career in computer science. The curriculum is driven by the following components. Students will be educated on what technologies need to be understood in order to effectively use information technology. They’ll be taught to evaluate computer systems, preemptively maintain them, implement basic networking, installation, and troubleshooting. They’ll focus on managing, operating, and configuring network infrastructure. Develop IT skills within cryptography, IT assessments and IT audits.
Students will then compare and contrast IT issues through problem solving and creative thinking. And eventually, students will be prepared to pass certification exams offered by CompTIA* in A+, Security+, and Network+, and begin a career in IT.
- Tuition per credit hour: $250
This state school was founded in 1965 as a junior college, eventually upgrading to a community college, and eventually being converted by the Florida Legislature into a state school. Florida State College at Jacksonville has gone from 2,610 students in Fall 1966 to over 80,000 students currently. During that time it’s offerings have exploded to 13 bachelor’s degrees, 45 associate degrees and over 100 technical certificates and workforce certifications. It ranks among the top 25 most affordable four-year schools in the nation, and its students hail from over 146 countries, ranging in age from 15 to 77. It was ranked 11th in the nation out of 4,548, and in all disciplines granted among public, four-year colleges and universities granting associate degrees by Community College Week.
Florida State College at Jacksonville’s associates in Computer Information Technology degree program gets students ready to begin careers as developers, programmers, programmer-analysts, database developers or web developers. In order to accomplish this, students will be inundated in courses on program and systems design, computer communications, database development, web development, customer support and programming in specific languages. A 50-hour internship is part of the degree to translate what’s discovered in the classroom to real world experience. Students may also choose from three tracks, including: Programming, in which students will learn modern languages like C language, C++, C#, Java, J2EE or Visual basic.NET. Web, in which students will focus on web design by learning web management, UNIX/Linux development or server development. Finally, Database, in which Oracle SQL, PL/SQL, database administration, M.S. SQL Server database or M.S. Access database are used to learn database development/maintenance.
- Tuition per credit hour: $466
The University of Massachusetts Lowell is a public research university with just under 18,000 students. It’s the second largest public university behind UMass Amherst. It’s a prestigious public school in a state known for its higher education, and offers 122 bachelor’s, 43 master’s and 36 doctoral degree programs, with esteemed courses in engineering, criminal justice, education, music, science and technology. UMass Lowell has been ranked extremely highly on a number of criteria, especially in recent years. U.S. News & World Report ranks UMass Lowell at 152 among top-tier National Universities list in 2016. UMass Lowell is one of only six schools to rank higher on that list each year since 2010. It gained 27-spots in the past five years, second-fastest in the nation. They also ranked it 78th among top public universities and second in the state. Forbes rated UMass Lowell the 10th best value among all universities and colleges nationwide in 2013, and fourth in value among non-military academies.
UMass Lowell’s IT associate’s program is geared towards giving students the skills they need to enter rapidly growing, lucrative occupations like network systems and datacom analysts, database administrators, software engineers, computer and infosystems managers, network and system administrators, computer specialists, and more. All of these jobs have been ranked in Fortune’s top 20 fastest growing occupations. If you visit their website, they offer prospective students the ability to sample a course to determine its worth for themselves. The cost per course is approximately $1155. For a full list of courses and descriptions in this program, look no further.
- Tuition per credit hour: $375