Is a Master’s in IT Worth it? [8 Key Points to Consider]

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For aspiring professionals looking to advance their careers, a master’s degree program may seem like an attractive option. Some jobs require a master’s degree just to apply, and the prestige of the degree can be a big asset in advancing to a higher-level position. However, they can also be a significant investment of time, effort and money. Is it worth it?

The answer largely depends on the field that you’re interested in pursuing. For example, Information Technology continues to play an increasingly important role within modern business. The most recent statistics by the Dice Tech Salary Report showed that tech salaries rose by 3.6% from 2019–2020. That continued growth during a time of downsizing, coupled with a relatively low unemployment rate of 3.5%, highlights how tech-related jobs are highly competitive and that every advantage matters.

Could a master’s in information technology be the advantage that will help you stand out? Or would you be better off pursuing a technology degree focused on connectivity and entrepreneurship?  Let’s take a detailed look at the MSIT degree and how it compares to other advanced degree programs in the tech field.

What is an MSIT?

The Master of Science in Information Technology is a postgraduate degree that is usually offered by colleges of Business or Information Science & Technology. It is a focused one- to two-year program sought by those looking to get into management-related positions in tech; or to further develop their skills in a particular area of study such as data analytics or machine learning they can then use in business-related applications.

Most MSIT programs do not have undergraduate prerequisites beyond a general degree, but are more ideal for those with backgrounds in software engineering, computer engineering or computer science. Course requirements and electives will vary by program, but the main curriculum can include subjects like programming concepts for IT, business data communications, systems analysis, information resource management, e-commerce and data warehousing.

How Much Does an MSIT Cost?

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average annual tuition cost for a master’s degree in the U.S. is $19,314. The total cost for a master’s in information technology is largely dependent upon a college’s profile, its location and any associated costs. For example, in-state residents will often pay a reduced cost compared to out-of-state residents, with higher-profile schools often ranging from a tuition total of $50k–$70k.

Furthermore, full-time programs held on campus include fees for boarding and other associated costs. Attending an online degree program can avoid the additional costs of on-campus boarding and travel, lowering the overall expense. For example, the total cost for the University of San Diego’s Master of Science in Innovation, Technology and Entrepreneurship is $30,525.

Master’s in Information Technology –​​ Possible Careers

Graduates of MSIT programs can generally expect to have positions with good pay. Higher end positions are comfortably over six figures, ranging from $103,590 for Information Security Analysts, $151,150 for Computers and Information Systems Managers to over $185,000 for top executive positions.

MSIT graduates can look forward to careers in a variety of technology-related fields, including data analysis, information systems, cybersecurity and network security. According to Payscale, here are some of the more popular positions for MSIT graduates:

  • Systems Software Manager – average base salary $104k
    Responsibilities include defining a business’ software requirements and design needs through coding, testing and debugging. Is in charge of developing product specifications, network architecture, project schedules and status reports. Reviews product design to determine compliance with requirements and regulations. Can also be involved in recruiting, hiring and training IT personnel.
  • IT Architect and Systems Manager – average base salary $154k
    Responsible for designing an organization’s IT architecture to best fit its needs and goals. Ultimately defines the essential design features that provide a framework for other developers. Assesses hardware requirements, including server types, load balancing and clustering solutions, and works with the IT team to ensure that all requirements are understood and appropriate technical solutions are employed.
  • Information Security Manager – average base salary $152k
    Responsible for creating and maintaining an organization’s security policies and procedures. Acts as the first line of defense for infrastructure, systems and data security against malicious hacks and data breaches. Regularly audits the computer system to find risks and determine operational needs. Stays up to date on the latest security protocols and updates the organization’s systems accordingly.
  • Chief Information Officer – average base salary $167k
    Executive position that is mainly focused around internal IT needs. Guides the organization’s strategic planning and provides leadership to the IT department. Ultimately responsible for the success of all aspects of IT, including the security of the information system, the procurement of new hardware and software, approving vendors and ensuring that the system can successfully fulfill organizational needs.
  • Chief Technology Officer – average base salary $163k
    Executive position that is mainly outwardly focused in how the organization’s IT involves vendors and clients. Plans on how to best utilize IT in the promotion of business growth by improving customer service and facilitating purchases. Oversees research and development of new systems and securing investments into new technology. Engages and consults with customers about services or products that the company provides.

5 Reasons Why an MSIT is Worth It

Can earning an MSIT put you in line for one of those careers?  Every advantage matters when you’re starting out or advancing your career, and while there are many general benefits in attending a degree program – such as building a knowledge base and developing a network of connections – here are the specific benefits an MSIT degree can offer:

  1. You can enjoy a higher salary. Across all disciplines, it has been shown that as education levels rise, median wages increase and unemployment decreases. Similar to other careers in the tech industry, a master’s in IT salary will trend higher than the general average. Even entry-level positions pay well, as Payscale lists an average salary for MSIT related careers at about $87,869. Eventually landing a higher-level position – such as IT Director or CTO – is all but guaranteed to earn you over $100k and likely closer to $200k.
  2. You’re more likely to land a job. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows strong growth for computer network and database administrators over coming years, stating that, “Employment in computer and information technology occupations is projected to grow 11 percent from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations. These occupations are projected to add about 531,200 new jobs.” Demand will be across all industries, from healthcare and retail to education and government, and will stem largely from IT areas relating to cloud computing, big data and information security. More job growth, especially across such a wide variety of industries, means a higher likelihood of finding an open position.
  3. You’re more likely to be in the position you want. An increase in job openings coupled with higher demand gets you in the door quicker, allowing you more time to advance within your career. A specialized degree also means a head start in getting into more specialized fields like data analysis, information systems, cybersecurity and network security. Additionally, an MSIT degree can make it more likely that you’ll earn a leadership level position in your field, whether it’s telecom, defense, healthcare, financial services or other areas.
  4. You can more easily move from a business background to IT. Fitting for a degree that can be offered by either business schools or computer science programs, the MSIT is a good fit if your background is in less technical areas like finance or accounting and you’d like to learn more about IT concepts. It’s far more accessible over similar master of science degrees by offering an overview of fundamentals like software engineering and programming. This can allow you to be more flexible in choosing industries or positions.
  5. You can more easily apply your IT skills in management. In the same vein, the MSIT is a good fit for IT professionals who are interested in developing more business acumen, management and problem solving skills. Whether your ambition is in climbing the corporate ladder or in leading a new division within your IT department, this degree carries the clout and teaches you the relevant leadership skills you’ll need to achieve your goals.

3 Reasons Why an MSIT May Not Be Worth It

While all advantages matter, some matter more than others. Whether you’ll get everything you can out of an MSIT degree will depend on your skillset, background, career ambitions and job prospects. Here are the major reasons why you might consider not pursuing a Master in Information Technology.

  1. It’s not as focused on management practices as an MBA in IT. While an MSIT does include some theory and practice regarding organizational management, it’s not nearly as focused on general management principles as an MBA in information technology. If your sights are set on top-level positions like V.P., Director or CEO then you may want to consider specializing more in your management skills than technical ones. Similarly, if you’re interested in launching your own tech startup, it’d be worth exploring which other degrees offer more relevant experiences in financing and management.
  2. It’s less technically focused than other MS degrees. At the same time, the MSIT is also less focused on pure technical skills regarding high-level concepts such as advanced engineering and computational theory. If you’re a person who loves coding and building, or are interested in highly technical specializations in fields like cybersecurity, network architecture or robotics, then you’re likely better off pursuing a master’s degree in computer science or a more specialized field.
  3. It’s a big investment with no guarantees of success. While a master’s degree does a lot to boost your profile and build your resume, it’s not a guarantee of anything. Any master’s degree, even the less expensive options, require a LOT of potential investment with no promises of jobs or career advancement. This factor is not to be taken lightly, as according to the Pew Research Center, the median student debt for post-graduates is about $45,000. That may be small change if you’re able to land a lucrative position, but it’s a much heavier burden if you’re trying to start your own company or have trouble landing the right position. Finding a way to build a network of contacts might be a more secure resource for starting a tech business or getting your foot in the door at a company.

In most cases an MSIT degree is mostly suited for IT professionals who are seeking to develop their business, management and targeted problem-solving skills. It is also of interest to people who have a strong business background and want or need to learn more about information technology concepts.

Alternatives to an MSIT

So, what if you’re not in either of those situations? There are other advanced degree options that have different focuses and can offer their own advantages:

  • MBA in Information Technology – this degree is more focused on administration and oriented around management best practices. While this degree tends to offer less technical training than the other alternatives, it’s main value is in helping tech professionals develop management skills and high-level business acumen.
  • Master of Science in Computer Science – the MSCS is a highly technical science degree, geared toward those who have well-developed programming skills and professional experience in tech fields like application development. These programs will dive deep into high-level concepts such as data structures, information science, software theory and computational practice.
  • Master’s of Innovation, Technology and EntrepreneurshipThis one-of-a-kind degree, jointly awarded by the University of San Diego’s schools of engineering and business, teaches cross-functional leadership and entrepreneurial training in the tech industry. The MITE degree teaches an understanding of business models and finance with an overview of innovation and developments in the tech industry. This degree is designed for startup entrepreneurs, C-suite intrapreneurs and innovative tech professionals looking for high-level positions within the tech industry or are interested in starting their own company.

 

MSIT Comparisons to Other Degrees

Time to complete Salary Range Most relevant skills required Areas of study
MSIT 1-2 Years $89k – $153k
  • Technical Competency
  • Effective Management
  • Organizational Skills
  • Information Security Management
  • Global Information Technology Management
  • Corporate Finance
  • Organizational Behavior
  • Financial Accounting
  • E-commerce
  • Data Warehousing
MBA in IT 1-2 Years $95k – $171k
  • Critical Thinking
  • Interpersonal Communication
  • Adaptability
  • Systems Analysis
  • Data Communications
  • Security Systems
  • Networking
  • Business Applications
  • Systems Management and Risk Management
  • Database Management Technology
MSCS 1.5-2 Years $97k – $124k
  • Programming Ability
  • Data Analysis
  • Knowledge of Design Ethics
  • Advanced Algorithms
  • Computer Architecture
  • Computer Graphics
  • Database Organization
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Operating System Principles
  • Computer Information Systems
  • Machine Learning
MITE 20 Months $97k – $200k
  • Innovation
  • Effective Management
  • Critical Thinking
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Introduction to Communication and Networking
  • Principles of Computing
  • Principles of Connectivity
  • Entrepreneurship and Intrapreneurship
  • Sustainability
  • Technology Business Exits
  • Technology Management and Leadership

 

Is a Master’s Degree in Information Technology Worth It?

The MSIT is worth the investment if it’s the degree that best fits your needs. Before making your decision, you’ll need to have a clear idea of what career path you want to follow. The MSIT is worth your consideration if you are:

  • Making a career change or starting your career into the IT field and need high-level technical knowledge.
  • Interested in increasing your chances of advancing to the executive level within the IT field or in the technical services of a particular industry.
  • Looking to improve your job prospects and salary expectations vs. the competition but don’t yet have any existing “real-world” accomplishments that you can showcase.

If you have a strong list of technical accomplishments, you may not need a master’s degree to secure a new job. Alternatively, other degrees might be more suitable if you are looking for more – or less – high-level technical knowledge. For those more interested in breaking into the tech industry on their own terms, or are driven to innovate within a corporation as a product developer or head of development, then the MITE degree may be your best option. 

What USD MITE Offers

The University of San Diego’s online MITE degree has been developed especially for those professionals interested in joining tech startups or starting a career as an intrapreneur or entrepreneur in a technology-related field. It is perhaps the only degree crafted from the ground up to capitalize on the connectivity ecosystem of tech innovation and developing enterprises – all to better optimize your understanding of current and future innovations, developments and industry growth.

Consider using this post as a starting guide to direct your own research into master’s programs and potential career paths that interest you. Contact us directly if you’d like to learn more about the Master of Science, Innovation, Technology and Entrepreneurship program.

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