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.

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 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.

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.