The world of information technology (IT) is very broad, but no matter what sector of it you decide to branch into, chances are the job market for the industry is growing faster than average, according to the Bureau of Labor statistics. Although computers are in just about every home in the United States, only a small number of people know enough about them that they can design a network for a Fortune 500 company or manage storage needs for the data of the 30 computers for a small business. Within nearly all companies, computer specialists are hired to aid the technological woes that the average employee can’t solve.

Information Technology Job Opportunities

One of the entry-level positions in an information technology field is that of computer support specialist, also known as help desk support technician. While the demand for this position is growing, it is also one of the more commonly outsourced jobs within information technology.

As a computer support specialist, you might work for a software company or a hardware company, and you would be in charge of troubleshooting user and client technical issues.  These issues can include everything from losing internet connection, unable to send or receive email, unable to print, needing a software program installed to needing a brand new laptop set up.

The average help desk technician will earn somewhere between $42,000 and $54,000, according to Salary.com (Nov 2010).

Entry-level positions at smaller companies do not require degrees, but many job listings will prefer an Associate’s degree in a technical subject such as information technology or computer science.  Professional certifications such as those provided by Microsoft (e.g. MCSE, MCP) or vendor-neutral CompTIA (e.g. A+, Network+, Security+) can also give you an upper hand.  You will also be expected to be proficient in Microsoft Office applications such as Word and Excel.

Climbing up the ladder, a network systems administrator has more responsibilities. This role is in charge of troubleshooting for a company network, which may span three offices or 50 states. This administrator would also make recommendations on upgrades as needed, and oversee security.  Higher-level jobs, such as that of a senior network administrator or IT manager can require experience and a Bachelor’s degree.  They may also benefit from vendor-specific certifications such as those provided by Microsoft and Cisco.

Earning your degree in Information Technology

At Foothill College in Palo Alto, CA, there are more than five degrees that will lead you to a career in information technology including business technology, database management, and an internet technology degree that has four concentrations to choose from.

If you decide to go with a degree, your career can be kick-started. Instead of starting with an entry-level position you may be able to jump straight into a career more catered to what you want it to be. The pay will also be higher if you start at a higher level job, though, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the pay also depends greatly on where you work. According to their statistics, professionals who work for a local government might earn about $64,230, while those who work for a large communications carrier, say Comcast or IBM, might earn $75,930. Keep in mind however, that in addition to the degree many of those highest paying jobs will require years of experience. If you can get an internship before you graduate, you may be able to get started on earning that experience.

Many of the degrees around information technology are accelerated at different paces. At California College, you can get an Associates degree in 15 to 20 months, or a Bachelors Degree in 30 to 36 months. A Bachelors at Mt. Sierra College can be completed in three years by taking five classes each quarter of the year.

Often time the difference between a certification and an Associates degree might have nothing to do with what you will learn for the field of information technology, but rather the higher degree just adds general education classes such as math and English.

At California College, an Associates degree costs about $39,400, and a Bachelors degree costs  about $69,445, but these prices include books that are loaned to you while you need them, and other supplies.

Like other schools, the minimum requirements for admission include having your high school diploma or a General Equivalency Diploma, (GED). Also, if necessary, they may test you for your ability to handle college level course work, or for your proficiency in the English language.

View a list of schools in California offering degrees in Information Technology.