Why Information Technology Offers Great Entry-Level Jobs for Grads With Associate Degrees

Continuing education right after high school graduation is a choice many young adults make. The Bureau of Labor Statistics research shows that almost 63% of recent high school grads moved on to college.

This stat also reveals that other young Americans — some 16.5 million — don’t go to college. Their reasons for doing so are diverse, with some going into the workforce or joining the military and others sitting things out to consider what comes next.

If your high school experience is a recent memory or a distant one, you may find yourself thinking about the idea of going back to school. You know the first step in the journey is an associate degree. But with so many options available, you could be unsure which program of study to choose and which fields offer the best pay and benefits.

Many Entry-Level IT Jobs

One field that deserves your consideration is Information Technology. If you’re thinking, Hard stop — being a computer programmer’s not for me, you’re in good company. That’s a common misconception about working in IT. There are so many other career options available to you besides coding. And this is what makes the field so appealing and dynamic for people considering an associate degree in IT.

Today’s IT professionals work in well-paying jobs in various business settings. Large corporations, small businesses, nonprofits — IT expertise is valued by most every business or industry type.

Job titles for people who work in IT vary, too. You could be a systems analyst (rated #5 of all IT jobs by U.S. News & World Report), where your day consists of researching new technology, reworking computer processes so employees make better use of technology or preparing a cost-benefit analysis of a system upgrade. (Fun fact: There are almost 250 entry-level computer systems analyst jobs posted on LinkedIn and nearly 100 on Indeed.)

Other associate degree-level jobs in the field that may catch your attention include:
  • Technical support representative – Do you thrive in a fast-paced, never-a-dull-moment job? Then tech support (often called being a help desk rep) could be for you. Many businesses have a large team or several individuals dedicated to helping system users figure out whatever’s stumping them. And because so many online companies rely on a tech support group, you shouldn’t have any trouble finding a job where you can clock in and out from home if remote work appeals to you.
  • Software QA tester – IT pros who work in quality assurance (QA) are in demand because every computer application needs to be tested when it’s first developed or upgraded. QA testers get the chance to “break things,” meaning they test applications to see if they function correctly and are easy to use. Testers report what they find and turn that information over to programmers, so bugs or a lousy user experience get addressed before software rolls out.
  • Information security analyst – With the increased number of cyberattacks in the news, businesses are scrambling to staff up the security side of their business. Working as an IT security analyst, your focus is on preventing your company from experiencing, say, a hack of its customer data. (No business wants to be headline news for this!) In your crime-fighter role, you perform system testing, monitor applications or create presentations that help business leaders better understand the security or vulnerability of their information systems.

Salaries for New IT Hires With Minimal Experience

Because businesses heavily depend on IT talent, salaries for people who have (or are working toward) an associate degree are higher than you might imagine. And if you think entry-level means a minimum-wage (or only slightly higher) salary, you’re in for a nice surprise.

Here’s a stat from ZipRecruiter, who knows a thing or two about salaries, given it houses millions of job openings. It reports that the average salary for an entry-level IT specialist is $40,951. That’s about $20/hour, significantly higher than the federally mandated hourly minimum rate of $7.25.

According to software company Payscale, when you add in the differentiator of having an associate degree, the salaries for IT pros are much higher.

Consider these average salaries from Payscale’s research:
  • Cybersecurity analyst – $70,154 ($33.72/hour)
  • IT systems engineer – $61,974 ($29.79/hour)
  • Systems administrator – $57,484 ($27.63/hour)
  • Information assurance analyst – $54,599 ($26.25/hour)
  • Desktop support specialist – $51,373 ($24.70/hour)

Although these salaries are averages and are dependent on a company’s business type and its hiring practices, you can see how an associate degree in IT can earn you more money.

Why Online IT Associate Degrees Are Popular

Going to college right after high school or restarting your education after being in the workforce for years may seem daunting. You could be concerned about what happens to your family or work obligations and the free time for hobbies and other interests that you love.

Here’s some good news: Thanks to advancements in online education, it’s never been easier to get an associate degree in IT. Students get access to course material 24/7 and study 100% online, more educators now have deep experience teaching classes virtually, and connecting remotely with other students is easy and fun.

From an employer’s standpoint, long gone are the days of online programs being seen as subpar. Employers now value online degrees when they’re from an accredited college, like the University of Cincinnati (UC). And according to the National Center for Education Statistics, more than 3.4 million people are enrolled exclusively in online classes — and with the pandemic’s effects still reverberating, the need for online education will only grow.

UC’s rich, progressive 200-year history of educational excellence extends to UC Online, an integral, growing part of the University. A respected leader in the online degree space for more than 20 years now, UC Online offers fully online programs ranked among the best in the U.S. (Something to note: When you graduate from UC Online, your associate degree and college transcripts show you earned it from University of Cincinnati.)

Our online-degree students come from all areas of the country, not just Ohio, and many study from outside the U.S. We offer several IT-focused programs, including the Associate of Applied Business in Information Technology (AAB in IT) — and it’s ideal if you’re ready to take the next step in your IT career.


Isaiah's Story

Meet Isaiah Dicristoforo, a graduate of the Applied Business in Information Technology program who is continuing his UC education by working toward his bachelor’s degree in IT.

Courses in the AAB in IT Degree

Here are three of the courses in our online AAB IT degree program that you may find particularly interesting:

  • In Fundamentals of Digital Media, you’re introduced to leading software tools and techniques for creating digital media (text, images, sound, video and interactive). The knowledge you gain equips you to use multimedia to communicate technical information effectively to technical and non-techy audiences.
    • IT jobs that value digital media skills: You could support a human resources department’s training and development team or work on the customer experience side of a business that relies on digital media to attract and retain customers.
  • Earlier, we mentioned IT pros who work in cybersecurity. In the Information Security and Assurance course, you explore critical cyber issues that include protecting information assets, determining protection levels, responding to security incidents, and designing a cyberattack-proof security system.
    • IT jobs that value information security expertise: You might work in a financial services firm or another business with regulatory oversight, like insurance or healthcare, which needs more IT pros focused on cybersecurity.
  • Fundamentals of Web Development covers modern web standards, well-formed, valid documents, semantic HTML, user-centered design of static web sites, styling and layout of web documents with CSS and tools for site development. You learn HTML5, CSS3, responsive and user-centric design, XML and SVG through hands-on activities.
    • IT jobs that need web developers: When you understand this core aspect of IT, it gives you a chance to apply for jobs in media, entertainment, consumer packaged goods and big brands like Google, Apple, IBM, General Dynamics and Verizon.

Explore More Associate Degree Advantages

Now that you know more about the almost unlimited career options working in IT, are you ready to take the next step? Message an Enrollment Services Advisor or call 833-556-4428 to speak them. They’re here to answer any questions you have about the associate degree in IT program and can fill you in on the application process, financial aid and program start dates.

Our AAB IT faculty and your Student Success Coordinator — your advocate from enrollment through graduation — look forward to meeting you!

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