Graduate Certificate Programs in Information Technology (IT) and IT Management - Online and Campus
Updated: February 25, 2022
Information technology (IT) and IT management graduate certificate programs provide college graduates and mid-career professionals who have at least a bachelor’s degree with practical training in contemporary IT systems and their design, implementation, and application. These programs are offered by accredited colleges and universities, typically through schools of business, computer science, information science, and professional studies, often by departments that also have master’s programs in one or more fields related to IT management.
Students in an IT graduate certificate program can prepare for careers in IT management by completing a relatively small cluster of courses (four or five is common) in roughly one year or less of part-time enrollment, which is roughly half the time it takes to earn a typical master’s degree in IT and IT management. For this reason, IT graduate certificate programs are also more affordable than master’s programs in the field. In addition, students who think they might want to pursue further studies in IT may be able to transfer some or all of the credits earned as part of a graduate certificate program to a master’s program in the field.
Note: Graduate certificates are different from professional certifications in the field of IT. Many companies and associations, such as Google, CompTIA, (ISC)², Microsoft, and ISACA offer certifications that professionals can pursue. Training for these certifications can occur through dedicated, company- or technology-specific computer training certification programs, or through IT bootcamps. While graduate certificate programs in IT may provide the training needed to seek professional certification in some fields, they are often broader in scope and less dedicated to a specific type of technology. Prospective students who are considering a professional certification versus a graduate certificate program should carefully evaluate their professional and academic goals before enrolling in either type of program.
Information Technology and IT Management Explained
Information Technology, or IT, refers to the computer hardware and software, databases, and communication systems used by businesses, government agencies, and other organizations and enterprises. IT management involves the design, analysis, implementation, and operation of these digital assets and networked systems, updating these technologies as required, and facilitating their use by relevant members of an organization. Working in IT requires specific technical skills and knowledge of hardware, software, databases, and communication systems that comprise an organization’s IT infrastructure, as well as an understanding of how organizations deploy IT systems and use specific technologies to improve daily operations, increase efficiency, and further strategic goals.
Thus, working in the field of IT and IT management requires a familiarity with common technological assets, an understanding of data storage and information transmission processes, and the practical skills to successfully integrate IT systems into an organization’s operational plans.
Identifying and Classifying Information Technology Graduate Certificate Programs
Graduate certificate programs are by definition non-degree, postbaccalaureate academic programs that require a bachelor’s degree (or master’s degree) and that culminate in the conferral of a certificate of completion rather than a degree. IT and IT management graduate certificate programs offer qualified students with a means of preparing for work and/or career advancement in the field of IT without the expense and time commitment associated with earning a full master’s degree. These programs are typically offered by colleges and universities that have master’s degree programs in IT and/or IT management, and many graduate certificate programs consist of courses that overlap with master’s program curricula. Finally, graduate certificate programs in IT are generally comprised of just four or five graduate courses that teach advanced skills that have direct practical applications in the field of IT and IT management.
Note: In addition to postbaccalaureate graduate certificates in IT and IT management, there are post-master’s certificates, which are graduate certificate programs that require a master’s degree for admission.
IT and IT Management Graduate Certificate Coursework
IT graduate certificate curricula vary by school and by program. However, there are some generalizations that can be made about common topics and areas of study that these programs cover in their coursework. For example, most IT graduate certificate programs include courses in business and/or organizational computer and communication networks, database design and data management, IT project governance and management, and IT systems analysis. Some programs may also offer courses in data security, IT systems breach response, business continuity planning, enterprise software design and implementation, and/or leadership skills for IT professionals.
The list of courses below provides a representative overview of the types of courses that are typically offered as part of a graduate certificate program in IT or IT management.
- Applied Database Systems
- Business Data Communication and Networks
- Database Design and Implementation for Business
- Enterprise and Infrastructure Protection
- Human-Centered IT Design
- Information Systems Analysis and Design
- Information Technology Ethics, Policy, and Security
- Information Technology Project Management
- Network-Based Application Development
- Software Systems Design and Implementation
- Technology Planning & Capital Budgeting
Online Graduate Certificate in Information Technology
A growing number of accredited colleges and universities are leveraging advances in distance learning technologies in order to offer graduate certificate programs, including IT graduate certificate programs, in fully and partially online formats. This gives students who would prefer not to commute to in-person classes a more convenient and flexible alternative to campus-based instruction, and it expands the reach of a school’s programs to students who do not live within commuting range of the school’s campus.
Online IT graduate certificate programs provide students with the same type and level of coursework and instruction as their campus-based counterparts. These programs deliver online lectures, virtual classes, and other instructional assignments to students via learning management systems (LMSs), which are integrated online instructional platforms that provide students with access to coursework through a secure internet connection. Live lectures and other types of online instructional activities that take place in real-time are classified as synchronous instruction. Pre-recorded lectures that can be accessed and streamed at a student’s convenience and other assignments that do not have a real-time component are classified as asynchronous instruction.
Some online programs utilize synchronous instruction for some of their required coursework, while others offer all of their coursework via asynchronous instruction. While all online programs have asynchronous elements, such as weekly readings that students complete on their own time, not all programs have live sessions students are required to attend. Understanding the difference between these two modes of online instruction can be helpful when exploring the options for earning a graduate certificate in IT through an online program. While both have been shown to be effective for online learning, some students may prefer live classes where they can interact with instructors and classmates. On the other hand, some students may need the flexibility of asynchronous instruction due to personal or professional obligations.
Another important variation among online programs concerns campus visits. Most graduate certificate programs in IT and IT management are offered in a fully online format and do not require students to attend any campus-based sessions. However, there are also programs that require a limited number of campus visits while offering the majority of their coursework online. GraduateCertificates.com classifies IT graduate certificate programs that require three or fewer campus visits per year as online programs. Programs that require four or more campus visits annually are classified as blended or hybrid programs. Programs that use a blended/hybrid format represent a more convenient and flexible alternative to fully campus-based programs, as students are typically only required to attend in-person courses three or four times per semester. However, they are typically not a practical option for students who do not live near enough to the school offering the program to commute to the school’s campus on a regular basis.
Examples of Online Graduate Certificate Programs in IT and IT Management
The schools listed below are among the accredited colleges and universities that have online graduate certificate programs in IT and IT Management. These programs are meant to provide a representative overview of the types of programs that are currently offered in a fully online format.
Boston University (BU) offers an online Information Technology Graduate Certificate program through its Metropolitan College. The 12-credit program consists of four graduate courses that cover topics in web technology, data communications, database systems, software design, and organizational communication and leadership. These courses draw on BU’s Master of Science (MS) in Computer Information Systems and students interested in pursuing the MS degree after completing the certificate program may be granted transfer credits for the courses they have already taken. The BU program is designed for students who hold a minimum of a bachelor’s degree and does not require any campus visits. For more information on the program, visit BU’s Metropolitan College at www.bu.edu.
The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) offers an Information Technology Management Graduate Certificate program through its Collat School of Business. The 15-credit program consists of five courses that cover managerial applications of technology in business, IT planning and budgeting, and the security and governance of IT systems. The UAB program is 100% online and does not require students to attend any campus-based sessions. It is designed for students who have bachelor’s or master’s degree from an accredited college or university. For more information on the program, visit UAB’s Collat School at www.uab.edu/business/.
The University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNC Charlotte) offers an online Graduate Certificate in Management of Information Technology program through its College of Computing and Informatics and its Department of Software and Information Systems. The 15-credit program consists of five courses that are drawn from a Master of Science in Information Technology (MSIT) program that is offered by UNC Charlotte. Students who successfully complete the IT graduate certificate program can apply to transfer into the MSIT program with their certificate credits intact, if and when they opt to pursue further graduate studies in the field. The certificate program has two required courses that cover topics in IT project management, policy, and security, after which students can choose three electives from the College of Computing and Informatics’ online graduate course offerings. The UNC Charlotte program does not require any campus visits and is designed for students who hold a minimum of a bachelor’s degree. For more information on the program, visit UNC Charlotte’s College of Computing and Informatics at cci.uncc.edu.
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