How to Choose an IT Specialization: 4 Questions to Consider
Technology changes rapidly, especially when it comes to new developments shaping the business landscape. This is just one of the reasons AIU offers specialization tracks within the information technology degree program to help ensure the courses you take while completing your degree can help you prepare for the various challenges and possibilities of the job market.
Understanding how to choose an IT specialization can help you narrow your focus of study to the job skills and educational opportunities (projects, resume experience, internships, etc.) that will be most relevant to your ultimate career goals.
Available IT Specializations at AIU
At AIU, we offer four specialization paths within the Bachelor of Science in Information Technology degree program, each of which is tailored to a particular segment of the field and designed to help students prepare for a specific range of positions:
- Digital Investigations
- Information Assurance and Security
- Network Administration
- Software Analysis and Development
If you have a clear career path in mind, you may already know which IT specialization is right for you. However, if you're still unsure what exactly you hope to do with your IT degree, below are some things to consider when choosing a specialization.
Establish Clear Goals and Interests
Spend some time thinking through your interests in the IT field. What drew you to this type of work initially, and what does your ideal IT job look like post-graduation? Understanding where you hope to end up may help you narrow your focus of study to the specific skills and IT experience you need to cover for your degree. Try asking yourself some of the following questions.
Do you want to work on developing new applications and technology?
There are significant differences between IT and computer science degrees, specifically when it comes to the amount of coding and development involved. However, that doesn't mean you have to give up on coding and development entirely if you opt for an IT degree.
Our software analysis and development specialization teaches students how to create new applications as well as test and debug existing programs in order to ensure the ongoing operations of computer networks. This is a great option for those thinking about how to choose an IT specialization that incorporates their more creative side.
If you answered "yes," consider a software analysis and development specialization.
Are you interested in hacking and cyber-security?
Network security continues to be of utmost importance for today's businesses, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimating that information security positions will increase by 18% between 2014 and 2024.1
If you're interested in working with either law enforcement or a company's security team, there are several specializations you may consider. A digital investigations specialization prepares students to conduct investigations into cybercrimes, hacking, and other digital attacks. Courses focus heavily on digital laws and enforcement practices, as well as how to find and compile evidence of digital crimes, trace unauthorized activity through a company's network, and work with law enforcement to prepare evidence for prosecution.
If you answered "yes," consider a digital investigations specialization.
Do you like testing systems and troubleshooting?
While a digital investigations specialization helps students prepare for responding to cyberattacks, AIU's information security and assurance specialization focuses more on preparing for and preventing security breaches.
If you're interested in cyber security but are less interested in the legal aspects of the field, this could be a good choice for you. This specialization helps students develop the problem-solving and analytical skills they can use to find potential weaknesses in IT networks, while also emphasizing ways to fix these holes and strengthen a company's overall digital security.
If you answered "yes," consider an information security and assurance specialization.
Is your goal to work with growing corporations?
If you want to combine your interest in business management with an IT degree, the network administration specialization may be a good fit. This specialization helps students prepare to manage network operations for a company, and can involve anything from updating and maintaining specific hardware and functions to overseeing the entire IT team. If you enjoy finding solutions to challenges posed by business growth and changing demand, as well as staying up-to-date on the latest market trends and technology, you may consider specializing in network administration.
If you answered "yes," consider a network administration specialization.
Look into Job Potential by Specialization
While you should follow your interests and career goals primarily when choosing an IT specialization, it may also be helpful to be aware of current industry demands. If you're torn between two options, check into whether one focuses on more of the skills employers are looking for in new hires.
According to labor market analytics company Burning Glass, some of skills in high demand for jobs requiring a bachelor’s degree in IT degree include:2
- Technical Support
- System and Network Configuration
- Software Engineering
- Information Security
- Business Analysis
- Data Management
- System Administration and Analysis
Additionally, the same Burning Glass report lists the top five IT occupations as:3
- Software and Applications Developers
- Computer Systems Analysts
- Network and Computer Systems Administrators
- Information Security Analysts
- Business Intelligence Analysts
Keep in mind that you also have a network of instructors and advisors at your disposal—if you still aren't sure what exactly you hope to do with your IT degree post-graduation, don't hesitate to ask for advice. You may even have strengths and interests you don't yet realize align with one of the four specializations above.
Ready to learn more? Explore IT degrees at AIU
1. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Information Security Analysts, on the Internet at:
http://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/information-security-analysts.htm (visited October 26, 2016).
2. Burning Glass Technologies Labor InsightTM Real-Time Market Data, 1/1/15-12/31/15
3. Burning Glass Technologies Labor InsightTM Real-Time Market Data, 1/1/15-12/31/15
AIU cannot guarantee employment or salary. Find employment rates, financial obligations and other disclosures at www.aiuniv.edu/student-disclosures.