Work Experience as Part of a College IT Education

Students learn important theoretical and practical concepts in the classroom as a part of a college-level degree in information technology. Work experience can supplement this education providing industry-specific skills and access to the type of environment they may work in after graduation. There are several common ways IT students get work experience while they are still students, including internships, part-time jobs and capstone classes.


There are many companies, organizations and government agencies that offer internships to students in technical fields. A student will need a level of skill typically obtained through a few semesters of IT coursework. Internships may occur during summer or in place of a semester. In IT, students usually receive payment for their work as an intern. College credit, however, may also be an option at some institutions. The student should intern at the type of place they are most interested in eventually working at so they can decide if they like it.

Part-time Job

Students in IT may have many options for part-time technical jobs they can do during the school year in addition to taking classes. Jobs can include on-campus positions working for specific departments, professors or units. Off-campus jobs with local companies are another option. As there is great demand for IT work, companies close to universities often will hire students to work part-time.

Capstone Classes

As a part of some college IT curriculums, there is a required capstone class. This can give students the opportunity to do work for real companies as part of a structured course. Often, students work in teams on projects and learn how to interact effectively with a client. The students receive credit and grades in the course and can include it on their resume as a project they worked on.

Practical work experience while in school can help a student figure out what kind of IT career they want to pursue. It helps them stand out when applying for jobs after graduation and gives them valuable skills that will help them succeed in a future workplace.

Are you a student interested in a career working on IBM Power Systems? If so, learn more about the opportunities the COMMON Education Foundation offers.

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.


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.


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.

Should IT Career Professionals Worry about Generation Z?

If you have IT skills, you’re likely in a pretty cushy position right now. You can find work just about anywhere in the developed world, and you can demand a decent salary even when you’re just starting out. If you have skills in some of the top programming languages like Ruby on Rails, you might find yourself earning six figures in less than two years, (after starting out at over $70,000 per year). That’s nothing to sneeze at. The IT industry is one of the highest paid there is in the marketplace today.

However, there are some key reasons for this:

  • Almost no one understands what you do
  • Everyone needs you to keep their technology running and safe
  • Everyone needs you to explain their technology
  • Almost every business needs you to thrive and keep pace with the competition
  • People who do understand what you do are either older, seasoned technology professionals, secure in a career path headed for retirement or Millennials enjoying the gig economy and the freedom it affords them

Generation ZHowever, more research is starting to show that Generation Z members are quite different than their predecessors:

  • Unlike Millennials, they are looking for secure jobs and long-term careers
  • Like Millennials, they don’t remember life without modern technology – they understand it (this means many of them will be able to do what you do)

In addition, Generation Z expects technology to work on demand. They watch whatever TV seasons they want when they want without commercials. They download albums in just a few minutes. They want customer service and networking to primarily occur over social media. They will demand the most from technology and strive to make it happen. They are more modern, yet at the same time when it comes to money and work, they’re traditional.

If you’re sitting comfortably in the IT industry, you would do well to learn some additional programming languages and do all you can to ensure your IT career or at least your financial future is secure. It might not be a bad idea to start a second business while you have cash flow coming in. You might want to work much harder for that position on the management team. You might also want to consider entering the field of higher education at least part-time in case you have to transition later.

There are many ways to start preparing for financial security. Now might be the time for you to find the right one for you. Five or ten years from now might be too late.

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.

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

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.

2017 Annual Meeting Venue: Loews Sapphire Falls Resort in Orlando

May 7-10 will be a great time of year to visit Universal Orlando™. Loews Sapphire Falls Resort opened in July 2016 as the fifth hotel within the massive entertainment complex. With a Caribbean theme, the hotel offers 1,000 rooms and the largest hotel pool within the theme park, complete with water slides. The hotel also offers waterfront dining at the Amatista Cookhouse and, like all good Caribbean resorts, is home to both a poolside bar and a rum lounge.

Each hotel room has a mini-fridge to stow away any leftovers and in-room WiFi is also included at no additional charge. Rooms range in size from 529 square feet to 1,353 square feet. Universal theme park characters often make appearances in the hotel and their voices are used for wake-up calls in the hotel.

Russ Dagon, Vice President and Executive Project Director of Universal Creative, describes the hotel as follows: “it’s a different place, so we wanted to make sure we provided that respite from the theme park, but, at the same time, embrace the fact that we are so close to the theme park.”

From the hotel there are three easy and free connectors to Universal theme parks and Universal CityWalk™ – water taxi, shuttle and a short walking path. Guests at the hotel receive a one-hour-early admission benefit at Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida™. Hotel guests also have resort-wide charging privileges to their rooms, complimentary delivery of merchandise purchased throughout the resort and complimentary shuttle service to SeaWorld® and Aquatica™.

Our conference room rate of $190 is valid from May 1st through 17th. We look forward to seeing you in May and hope you can stay for a few extra days of vacation.

Learn More about the 2017 Annual Meeting and Exposition.

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.

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.