Do you want a career in a growing field?
Computer and information technology careers are growing at a rate that’s faster than average (source).
Do you want a career with significant earning potential?
On a national level, the median average wage for information technology occupations was $81,430 in 2015, which was considerably higher than the median annual wage for all occupations of $36,200 (source).
Do you want a career that will give you options?
In addition to above average growth and earning potential, skilled tech professionals are needed in every industry? Think about it. Can you name an industry that isn’t supported by technology? Whether you want to work in Hollywood, healthcare, finance or the automotive industry, skilled programmers, developers, network admins and security specialists are needed in every industry.
What level of education do I need?
Employers value skill and professionalism, and it’s possible to get a tech job without a degree, but the reality is that if you don’t have a degree, you won’t be considered for the vast majority of tech positions.
You can get started in most IT career fields with an associate degree. Many people assume you need a Bachelor’s degree to land a tech job, but the data show otherwise. Check out this article to gain a better understanding of the education data: You Don’t Need a 4-Year Degree to get a Great IT Job
How important are industry certifications?
Depending on what industry you’re in, tech certifications can be very important. Certifications from Cisco, CompTIA, Microsoft and others, are one way for employers to verify you have specific skills and the specialized knowledge they need.
RITA programs were developed with input from industry partners who made it clear that they value certifications, especially for entry-level positions and recent graduates. As a result of this input from our industry partners, many RITA courses and programs were designed to align with certification tests. This is a great topic to discuss with instructors and advisors.
What about non-degree training?
There are a lot of options for non-degree IT training and some are better than others. If you’re highly disciplined, can handle the time commitment and can afford the training, then you could potentially learn a specific skill in a short time period. If you’re considering an option like this, here are some important questions to ask: How will employers view this type of training? Will I thrive in this type of learning environment? Can I afford the training? What type of support will I get? Can I handle the intense time commitment? Will this training help me develop the skills I need to be successful? This article offers a helpful comparison of education options: Learning to Code: Finding the Right fit in the Education Marketplace
How do I find a convenient and affordable option?
RITA partner colleges are all state community colleges, which are among the most affordable options for technical career training. Community colleges tend to be less expensive than four-year state colleges, which is why so many people start at community colleges and transfer to a four-year college.
When looking for a convenient option, consider whether you would thrive in an online learning environment, or if you would benefit from learning in a traditional classroom environment. Within RITA’s colleges you will find online, on-campus and blended learning options.
Do I need a background in computers or tech to be successful in an IT program?
Interest and a desire to be successful are the most important factors. Many students have been successful in RITA programs despite starting with no background in computers or IT. In fact, students who started with very little computer skills often mention that they surprised themselves with their ability to understand the content and gain new skills.
In addition to students who are new to tech, many current and former IT professionals enroll in RITA programs to expand or update their professional skill-set.
What’s it like being an IT student?
Every student has a unique experience, but there are some commonalities. It’s very common for students to balance work and family responsibilities with their education. Depending on a student’s prior experience, they may be able to get credit for prior learning experience and reduce the number of classes they have to take to earn their degree. When getting started, many students take developmental courses to build on their previous education.
One of the main commonalities for students in RITA programs is they gain hands-on experience, rather than just conceptual understanding. Students taking courses developed through RITA also benefit from curriculum that’s based on industry input partners and the skills employers are currently looking for. Through RITA, classroom technology was significantly updated, which means students can expect to learn using the same state-of-the-industry-technology they will encounter professionally. Many students gain valuable experience through internships, which resulted from partnerships formed between RITA colleges and employers. It’s not uncommon for students to get hired directly from their internship.
What’s it like getting a job after graduation?
Some RITA students land tech jobs before they graduate, some shortly after graduation and some take a few months to land a new tech job. Your experience will depend on a variety of factors, including, the field you’re in, the type and location of the positions you’re applying for, whether you had an internship, your previous work and education experience, etc.
Do your research
Researching your education and career decisions could have a huge impact on your future. Choosing one area to focus on over another could result in a $20,000 difference in your starting salary! It could also be the difference in loving what you do, or just having a job.
The best research comes from asking questions of professionals in the field you want to enter. If that’s not an option, instructors teaching in the field you want to enter will have a wealth of information they can share with you. Find out who your instructor would be and reach out to them with questions. Lastly, search for earning optional, career growth rates, the number of job postings and information on a day in the life of the career you’re considering. Then you can make a decision that aligns with your interests and maximizes the value of your education.
Have a plan (for success)
The best way to approach education is with a plan. That doesn’t mean your plan won’t change, but if you’ve done your research, then you should have a pretty good idea of the path you will take to achieving your career goals and how your education will help you get there. Once you're in a new program, a great way to get clear on your plan is to ask questions of program graduates, or students who are close to graduation. They will often be able to make recommendations that will help you.
Another part of your plan is how you will arrange your life in a manner that will allow you to be successful in your education. Create a plan for how you will schedule and protect the time you need to devote to your course work. Tell you family about your plan and ask for their support. Education is like anything else, you get out of it what you put in to it. Determine how you will get the most out of your education and plan your path to making your goals reality.
Choose a location
If you’re interested in finding our more about the IT programs that were developed and enhanced through the RITA grant, the first step is to identify the location that works best for you.
Central Lakes College:
Brainerd and Staples, MN
North Central Texas College:
Corinth, Gainesville, Flower Mound and Bowie, TX (Multiple programs online)
Pine Technical & Community College:
Pine City, MN (Cyber Security program online)
Willmar and Hutchinson, MN (Multiple programs online)
Once you’ve identified the options you’re considering, review the web pages of the programs you’re interested in. Write down your questions, then contact admissions or the instructor directly to get your questions answered. Be persistent in getting the information you need to be successful in your education and career!