College Degrees for IT Career Preparation

College-level curriculum in certain technical fields is useful preparation for an IT job. Several options exist for students, including associate and bachelor’s degrees. The major a student picks for their degree helps them either prepare for a specific IT job or get a broad background to prepare for many entry-level jobs.

Specialized IT Associate Degree (2-year)

A 2-year degree in a specific IT field, such as computer repair, system administration, web development or mobile development, is an ideal option for a student who already knows the area of IT in which they want to work. Detailed training in this field prepares them for a job soon after they graduate. 2-year degrees are less expensive than bachelor’s degrees and are typically available at a community college. While the starting pay a graduate receives at their first job is usually less than what someone with a 4-year degree would earn, the specific skills they learned about their field helps them advance fast and continue to learn.

Computer Science Associate Degree (2-year)

Many community colleges offer a general degree in computer science for students who want to prepare for a bachelor’s degree. This degree usually includes required math, introductory programming and general education requirements. After completing the degree, students can transfer many of these credits to a 4-year university program.

Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science (4-year)

A 4-year computer science degree from a reputable university can provide considerable general knowledge about math, programming, software design, algorithms and computer systems. Further specialization can tailor the degree to include areas like networking, databases, web development, artificial intelligence, mobile development and IT security.

Often, computer science students do a co-op or internship with a company to get real work experience on their resume. Many computer science programs also offer a capstone course where teams of students work together on a semester-long project for a company. All of this is useful preparation for real IT work upon graduation. With a both broad and specific knowledge of IT, in addition to practical work experience, students are well prepared for most entry-level IT jobs when they graduate.

Conclusion

Both associate and bachelor’s degrees in IT are great options for career preparation. Colleges offer many paths students can take at both levels. The path a student chooses can help them prepare for a specific career or give them general computing knowledge and project experience that prepares them for a variety of IT jobs.

Students – top off your educational experience by earning certification. Learn more about earning Business Computing Associate certification.

Opportunities in College-level IT Education

Many students today are interested in getting a college-level IT education, which makes perfect sense. Today’s college students are increasingly making practical career choices. They’re well aware of the fact that an IT education will give them job skills that they can use immediately, especially if they have the right education. Fortunately for them, an increasing number of schools do have information technology education programs.

IT Degrees

Many students will specifically work towards two-year associate degrees in information technology education programs. A two-year degree will prepare students for a career in computer programming, computer support or network administration. Some colleges will offer four-year degree programs in information technology as well. These will typically give students the opportunity to work in information systems technology and other particularly advanced fields.

Certificates

A number of people who are already working in the IT industry will pursue college-level IT education in order to enter credit certificate programs that will help them learn new skills. However, there are also students who will earn these vocational certificates while they are earning their associate degrees, so they will be adequately prepared for a high-level career in IT with a lot of available options.

IT Internships

It’s a good idea for students to get direct work experience in the field with IT internships. Some students will get the opportunity to earn course credit by participating in these internships. Other students will get small salaries, while other IT internships are unpaid. There are students who choose to complete IT internships after graduation, which might be allowed with some internships. The more experience, skills and qualifications that students can bring to the table, the better. Having educational qualifications, as well as industry experience through an internship, might be the ideal combination.

After completing your education, check out the COMMON Career Center for career opportunities.

IT Education – Preparing for a Career in Data Science

Data Science

Do you love mathematics? Do phrases like “data warehousing” and “v-lookups” bring out the inner nerd in you? If any of this sounds familiar, you might want to steer your direction toward a career in Data Science.

According to Patrick Circelli, a senior recruiter for the IT recruiting firm Mondo, “Data Science is all about mathematics, so having that type of degree — mathematics, information science, computer science, etc. — is especially key for these roles. Hiring managers really love that.” Circelli goes on to describe the must-haves for anyone preparing a resume for a career as a data scientist. His list includes:

  1. A degree in Information Science, Computer Science or Mathematics
  2. Microsoft Excel, specifically the use of pivot tables and v-lookups, and knowledge of SQL queries and stored procedures
  3. Programming skills in any of the following languages: C++, Java, Python, R, or SAS
  4. Concepts such as predictive analysis, visualization and pattern recognition, i.e. understanding how data operates, and skills that could come from data visualization tools like Tableau
  5. NoSQL database environments like MongoDB, CouchDB or HBase
  6. Data warehousing

Although there are many areas in IT that require data science skills, thanks to relentless cyber attacks, the growth rate in security data science specifically, is booming at 26%, with the security analytics market set to reach $8 billion by the year 2023. Anyone who can create a resume listing Circelli’s recommendations, along with a desire to focus pointedly on data security to combat hackers and cyber attacks, can probably write their own ticket in the tech world for decades to come.

2017 Fall Conference Call for Presentations

The Call for Presentations is now open for the COMMON 2017 Fall Conference & Expo, which takes place October 2-4, 2017 at the Hyatt Regency St. Louis at the Arch in St. Louis, Missouri.

This three-day Power Systems educational and networking event will be packed with educational sessions on a variety of topics, including vendor-led sessions, an Expo and numerous networking opportunities. The conference will consist of stand-alone sessions of 75 or 165 minutes in length, lecture and demos and preconference workshops.

The education team is looking for content in every Course of Study. But we are particularly interested in sessions on External Storage, Virtualization, Managing Source Code in the IFS using GIT and general Systems Management courses. We are also looking for intermediate to advanced sessions on Node.js, Python, and Ruby.

The deadline to submit a session for consideration is June 5, 2017. To submit a session, you must first log-on to your Cosmo account.

If this is your first time using COSMO, click on password in “I don’t know my username or password.” For your username, use the email address you have on file with COMMON. Follow the instructions to retrieve your password. (Issues signing on? Call us at 1.312.279.0192.)

Once you are in the system, hover on CALL FOR PRESENTATIONS on any page and then select Submit a New Session. See the screen shot below.

Call for Presentations

If you are a returning speaker as would like to resubmit a session you have previously submitted, go to My Sessions and click Select next to the session in your session list to edit the status.

You can view and edit any of your submissions up until the June 5, 2017 deadline by visiting My Sessions.

How Much Can You Get Ahead with a College-level IT Education?

Did you know that nearly 70 percent of everyone working in America is unhappy at their job? Deseret News reports that this statistic includes vast numbers of “uninspired” and “less engaged” workers, possibly like you. If you’re running on a hamster wheel that never goes anywhere, what do you do?

EducationCan You Really Get Ahead By Going Back To School?

In the long run, you can save more money to get ahead if you get the right college-level IT Education for a higher salary. Purchasing Power describes that:

“A recent study by the Pew Research Center found that among millennials ages 25 to 32, the average annual earnings for full-time working college-degree holders are $17,500 greater than for those with high-school diplomas only.”

On the other hand, you still face lots of tuition fees and possibly additional loans if you can’t get enough financial aid. Are you really willing to risk carrying extra debt on your shoulders if you still don’t get a great job with your new degree? For this very reason, consider which IT jobs really require a degree and which ones do not.

Job Requirements

Experience.com reports on what education employers require for the top IT jobs:

  • To become an IT consultant, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree in computer science.
  • To work as a cloud architect, a bachelor’s degree in computer science is often a prerequisite.
  • A job as a computer forensic investigator is great if you get a degree in computer forensics, cyber security or information security.

However, some high-paying IT jobs demand experience over education:

  • Working as a web developer only requires an outstanding portfolio of past work to land good freelance jobs. Some learn web design through accredited degree programs, but web development is still largely a self-taught skill.
  • Employment as an IT vendor manager has flexible education requirements. While computer-science degrees may be helpful, practical business knowledge and experience in the field is often more valuable to employers.

Remember that a new degree doesn’t necessarily put you on the fast track to get a better career. U.S. News investigated if it’s really worth the time and money to get your master’s degree. They found that:

“… having a master’s degree won’t necessarily be worth the investment, and that may be the case if you work in an industry that values experience over educational background. For example, an advanced degree doesn’t make a graphic designer more talented. Most companies would hire him or her based on a portfolio.”

Talk to other experienced professionals in the field you want to work in before jumping back into school. Both you, and your wallet, will be glad you did.

Tips from an Insider – Navigating the Annual Meeting

As a former Board Member, on behalf of COMMON, I want to thank you for choosing to attend the upcoming 2017 Annual Meeting and Exposition at the amazing Loews Sapphire Falls Resort at Universal Orlando. The fact that you are investing in yourself and your future by attending says a lot about you. COMMON is committed to ensuring your return on this investment by providing the best possible conference. Try and make sure you take advantage of everything the conference offers.

I’ve been attending COMMON conferences for what seems like decades, both as an attendee and as a volunteer. Here, I want to share tips that have resulted in great conference experiences.

  1. Dress comfortably for the conference and wear comfortable shoes. Bring a light jacket (or a long-sleeve shirt) as session rooms can be chilly at times. Remember, the typical dress code is business casual for the conference. You will do more walking than you realize, so I can’t stress comfortable shoes enough.
  2. COMMON will provide a backpack at registration that can be used to carry the items you need with you each day. If possible, register on Saturday so you can go back to your room, read everything inside the backpack and then fill it with some of the items below.
  3. Don’t forget your phone charger. You’ll find that your battery is drained by the end of each day. If you have a portable charging unit, they are great as well.
  4. Bring a few breakfast bars with you so you will always have a bite to eat if the day gets a little hectic or if you can’t find a quick lunch.
  5. Go online to www.common.org/sessions and create your session grid before leaving for Orlando. This gives you plenty of time to map out which sessions are interesting to you. I always choose two sessions for each period so I have a primary and a backup session. Then, I can decide the day of the conference which sessions I am going to attend. Sometimes I make my decision by the speaker, by the topic or just what I feel like.
  6. Even if it’s not your first time to the Annual Meeting, stop by the First Timer’s Session on Saturday evening from 6:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. Trevor Perry leads this very informative session. You’ll get great nuggets of information to enhance your conference experience. It’s also a great way to start making friends that will explore Universal with you afterwards.
  7. Put your phone on vibrate during sessions so you will not be the person everyone looks at when the phone starts ringing, interrupting the speaker.
  8. Arrive to sessions 7 to 10 minutes early to find a good seat and to settle in before the speaker starts. This is also a great time to start a conversation with others since they are interested in learning about the same subject. You already know you have something in common. Also, once the speaker is prepared, it can be a great time to ask a question.
  9. Bring business cards with you to exchange contact information with your peers and experts. Plus, some vendors have raffles that you can throw your cards into.
  10. Take advantage of the Exposition and learn about the latest products and solutions in the industry. If you want to receive additional information, just have your badge scanned. It’s a quick and easy way to connect with exhibitors.
  11. Before going to the Exposition on Sunday and Monday nights, I like to go back to my room, drop off my backpack and then return to wander the expo. I find it easier to walk the expo without my bag, but the drawback is not having it available to put things into. Another option is to just lighten your bag in your room and then come back down. Perhaps leave your PC or tablet safely secured in the in-room safe.
  12. Try to get a good breakfast before Opening Session on Sunday morning where Jeff Carey, our President, will kick-off the conference promptly at 9:00 a.m. I recommend getting there no later than 8:45 a.m. to get a seat. Make sure you stop at the restroom beforehand as this session goes until 10:30 a.m. Lunch is not provided on Sunday, so those breakfast bars come in handy. Otherwise, you have 45 minutes to get a little something during the midday break. The Welcome Reception starts at 5:00 p.m. in the Exposition on Sunday and will include food and drinks. Come hungry and thirsty. There is enough there for dinner.
  13. On Monday and Tuesday, lunch is served in the Exposition. It’s a good lunch. Arrive early, eat quickly and then spend the remaining time walking the expo. Make a friend or two at your table and ask if they want to walk around the expo. They wanted to ask you the same thing but were too shy.
  14. After the sessions are done each day, don’t just go up to your room and stay there. Take part in the evening events. These are great opportunities to continue your learning by getting one-on-one time with the experts and your peers. It’s amazing how much you can learn by just talking to your fellow attendees. If you are a little shy, don’t worry. Everyone is friendly and just as shy. They want to talk with you just as much as you want to talk with them. Take the first step. Walk up, introduce yourself and tell them what you do. In fact, go to the Exposition on Monday night and meet up with people you saw in your sessions. Take advantage of the many restaurants and bars at Universal’s CityWalk afterwards with your new friends.
  15. Be sure to attend the CEF Closing Reception on Wednesday night. The evening starts with dinner at Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville. (Don’t forget to bring your island/beach inspired apparel to wear.) This will be followed by dessert, rides and entertainment in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade. Explore Hogsmeade and don’t forget to try some of the butterbeer (don’t worry it is non-alcoholic). We will be able to ride attractions like Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, Dragon Challenge and Flight of the Hippogriff without the daytime lines! While in Hogsmeade, don’t forget to stop at Ollivander’s Wand Shop, which will be open for your wizarding needs. Remember, the wand chooses the wizard. You will have a great night relaxing and having fun after four days of learning. It’s a memorable way to end the conference.
  16. The COMMON staff will wear shirts with the COMMON logo on them. If you have a question, they can help you. Just ask. The COMMON Board of Directors will have purple ribbons on their badge holders. Don’t hesitate to tell them what you need to make COMMON more effective for you.
  17. On Wednesday is the Meeting of the Members, held at 12:45 p.m. Get your lunch beforehand and then come listen to what your association is doing for you. This session is all about what COMMON is doing now and where it is going.
  18. Have a piece of paper available to jot down notes regarding things you learned at each session. When you get back to the office, talk with your management to show them what you learned and how it will help the company. This is your ticket to the 2018 Annual Meeting in San Antonio.

Remember, these are just a few of my own personal tips on how to get the most out of your investment and have a kick-ass conference. The goal is for you to learn new things, expand your horizon, meet new people and have fun.

Thank you, and I look forward to seeing you in Orlando. Safe travels.

Pete Massiello

About the Author

Pete Massiello

Pete Massiello

Pete has been working with the AS/400, iSeries, IBM i since 1989, focusing on systems management and technical support. He has held numerous technical positions through out his career. Pete is the President of iTech Solutions Group, an IBM Premier Business Partner delivering solutions and services to IBM i shops throughout the world. He is a member of IBM’s certification test writing team, an IBM Certified Systems Expert with certifications in IBM i Design, Administration, LPAR, Virtualization, Implementation, and HMC management. Pete has a BS in Computer Science from Hofstra University, and an MBA from the University of New Haven. He was President of COMMON from 2010 to 2012, and again in 2014. He is a COMMON Hall of Fame speaker and a frequent speaker at user groups all over the world. In 2011, IBM established the Champions award for Power Systems. Pete was one of the first recipients. Recently, Pete was re-nominated as a Power Systems Champion in 2016.

Spreading the MAGIC of IBM i

MAGICOne of the newest Power Systems/IBM i users’ groups is the Mid-Atlantic Group of IBM i Collaborators – or MAGIC for short. Serving Virginia Beach and the Chesapeake Bay area, MAGIC brings education and networking to this community. To learn more about MAGIC, visit www.magic-ug.org.

Thank you to Laura Hamway for answering a few questions regarding the group.

Why do Power Systems and IBM i users need MAGIC now?

MAGIC and all user groups are needed to help assist the user base with the latest offerings in the IBM i world. Currently many users are not aware of technologies available on the i. For example, open source, PHP etc. Even the advancements in RPG, utilizing RDi. These developments play a significant role in staying current. Also, user groups are great for networking. The knowledge you can learn from your peers is tremendous, and these groups bring people together to share what they have done and what issues/challenges they may face.

What gives MAGIC it’s “magic”?

MAGIC is made up of very enthusiastic IBM i users, and they want to see the platform succeed and expand. We want to educate and bring more IBM i users together. Additionally, we want to share with everyone what a great platform this is and that the IBM i can do everything other platforms can do.

What are the most important IT issues facing MAGIC members?

Currently staffing is a huge concern for IBM i shops. The user group provides a place to learn new techniques on the IBM i, and in return, this opens up the talent pool. Taking advantage of PHP, .Net and other technologies means these IBM i shops do not need to only look for RPG talent. For individuals currently on the IBM i, this means you do not have to just work in RPG. You have an opportunity to learn and utilize other great technologies and enhance your skill level.

MAGIC covers a wide geographic area. How will the organization bring its members together?

Most meetings will be online with several satellite locations. All meetings will utilize webcam. The use of the webcam will make the meetings more personable. Attendees agree that watching a presenter while they are speaking is more engaging then just watching a screen and hearing a voice. We also utilize a webcam at the satellite locations so the presenters can see how the audience is reacting and if people have questions. This method has proven to be more interactive. With this methodology, we can reach a wider audience. If you are able to attend one of the satellite meetings – that is great. You get to network with your fellow IBM i peers. If you cannot make it to a satellite location, then you can participate online. Our focus is to get the most information out to all that want to participate.

Can you share a fun or inspiring story from one of your first events?

MAGIC ConferenceOur first annual event was in Virginia Beach, a two-day conference. The challenge was getting the word out. We were new and didn’t have a name yet, but we knew there were users that would benefit. Usually Virginia Beach is beautiful with fall weather temperatures in the 70s. We thought…what a great place to come for a conference, a small beach town. A hotel right on the beach! We confirmed Charlie Guarino as a speaker at the conference. He was excited to stay in the area with the beach and sunshine. Mike Larsen even extended his trip through the weekend to take in all the sites of Virginia Beach. Well, then Hurricane Matthew decided to threaten the area. The weather was horrible! It was windy with rain the entire time. Charlie luckily got out after the conference. I think Lee Paul was stuck due to weather, and Mike got to spend the weekend in a flooded hotel! It was a conference to remember!

Besides the weather, with some cancelling due to the storm, we had a great turn out. The event was a success, and the users were fired up about all the possibilities on the i. They couldn’t wait to start a new user group. During the conference, we had a competition to see who could come up with the name for the group. Tom Rainey suggested MAGIC – Mid-Atlantic Group of IBM i Collaborators.

MAGIC is holding a Modernization Seminar on March 30, 2017. Click here to learn more.

Student Innovation Award – Recognizing “Innovation” in Information Systems and Technology

At the end of October in 2016, COMMON wrapped up its annual Fall Conference. It was there that we saw nearly 300 attendees, including 31 students and eight educators from eight different colleges getting top-notch education on a wide range of topics related to IBM i and Linux.

For the students and their educators, this experience allows them to get hands-on education and networking opportunities that they can’t get in a classroom.  But for the COMMON community, we recognize the great potential in the students as our future professionals. As such, we want our relationship with them to extend beyond the confines of the Conference through to the halls of their schools and continue throughout their education and well on into their careers.

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Last year’s Student Innovation Award winner Liam Allen with Michelle August from the COMMON Education Foundation.

One of the ways COMMON seeks to engage students, and ultimately help them succeed is by offering a Student Innovation Award each year. Now in its third year, the Student Innovation Award recognizes an academic-related information system project that is considered “Innovative”. Projects can include anything that improves a process, increases performance, improves productivity or even the development of a new tool or application.  Open to all students and recent graduates enrolled in an undergraduate or graduate program focused on Information Systems, Enterprise Computing, Computer Science, Information Technology or a related concentration, the Grand Prize winner receives an expense paid trip to COMMON’s 2017 Annual Meeting and Exposition. COMMON’s Annual Meeting and Exposition is a premier industry event, where students can have access to four full days of IT education from authorities in the industry.

The 2016 Student Innovation Award Winner was Liam Allen. At the time, Liam was a student at Fareham College in Hampshire, England. He built Project Alexis, a stack-based virtual machine that dynamically retrieves data from a physical file as a character without the need to declare any variables for functions. Liam’s project and subsequent exposure to key people and vendors resulted in him landing a full-time job within the industry. He can be seen regularly doing speaking engagements at numerous IBM i conferences.

The Student Innovation Award represents a unique opportunity for students to demonstrate their skillset and be recognized for their accomplishments. Winning can provide them with exposure to the key people that can launch their career in the right direction. If you are a student or a recent graduate with an innovation you’d like to share, consider submitting your project for the Student Innovation Award. More information on the award, its prizes and submission requirements can be found on our Student Innovation Award page.

The Lifelong Benefits of Continuing Education

Why Continuing Education?

Many college grads initially consider their bachelor’s degree as a means to an end.  A degree they needed before they start their “real life”. With time, many come to realize that education is actually a lifelong pursuit. Continuing one’s education is not just a way to potentially have a career advantage, but can actually be a source of great personal enrichment.

IT is Dynamic

The field of information technology will never be a static field. Anyone who has worked in the field for just a relatively short time knows that it is incredibly dynamic. In truth, it can be difficult to even keep abreast of the constant evolution of ideas and concepts and their practical application in both the software and hardware arenas. By continuing one’s education, it shows your employer that you understand how critical it is for professionals to constantly engage in their field, even outside the workplace. One can learn a great deal about technology while on the job.  However, without participating in learning opportunities independent of your particular company, over time, the tendency for your knowledge and skills to become company-specific increases.

Personal Growth

On a more personal level, those working in IT are typically goal-oriented individuals. They actually perform better, both personally and professionally, when they are pursuing and achieving goals. Continuing education offers these types of individuals a natural outlet for their innate need for advancement and progress. From a financial perspective, since many companies offer as part of their benefit package, at least partial or perhaps even full reimbursement for tuition costs, it is a very wise move to take advantage of free educational opportunities.

Other Benefits

Lastly, the more obvious advantage of pursuing additional education comes into play when employees are bargaining for a higher salary and/or benefits. Employers typically will recognize the accomplishments of those with additional degrees and pay accordingly.

Early Exposure Makes All the Difference

This week, December 5th – 11th, marks the 8th annual Computer Science Education Week (CSEdWeek). Originally launched in 2009 by the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), CSEdWeek is an annual program dedicated to inspiring K-12 students to take interest in computer science. From students in the classroom to their teachers and administrators, all the way to corporate professionals in any industry, CSEdWeek is designed to spark an interest and engage people both from within and outside of the computing community. In 2013, CSEdWeek launched the Hour of Code initiative. A success out of the gate, the Hour of Code introduces people to their first hour of computer science. Aimed specifically at students, the Hour of Code is now a global movement that reaches students in mchildren-593313_1920ore than 180 countries, but truthfully anyone can do it. Hour of Code tutorials include content featuring the latest trends. From using Javascript to code in Minecraft to using Scratch to form a glitch in the Amazing World of Gumball, tutorials, offered in 45 languages, are a perfect introduction to coding for any age, young or old.

Initiatives like the Hour of Code expose today’s youth to computer science at an early age, generating an initial interest that could turn into a lifelong career. And since technology drives everything from medicine to agriculture, it’s vital to attract and engage the next generation of professionals to keep the overall industry flourishing. For places like the COMMON Education Foundation (CEF), where fostering the development and growth of future IT professionals is their mission, general industry recognition programs like CSEdWeek are incredibly beneficial in attracting the demographic they’ll potentially serve in the future. This year, to mark CSEdWeek and the development of future IT professionals, the COMMON Education Foundation would like to ask for your help. We have year-round initiatives that provide financial assistance to both students and educators in the Information Technology field. Financial assistance comes in the form of tuition scholarships for students as well as financial assistance for both students and faculty members to attend COMMON Conferences. As millions this week will be exposed to computer science through the Hour of Code, we’d like to ask for your support in donating to one of the CEF’s many initiatives. You can help in one of two ways, you can donate through the COMMON Education Foundation’s site or you can participate by donating through Amazon Smile.  Your donation, no matter the size, can help provide a solid foundation for the future of computer science.