By Elizabeth Exline
Working in IT is like visiting an ice cream shop. There are many "flavors" when it comes to the jobs you can get with an IT degree. Where one person might envision working in cybersecurity for a large company, another might prefer developing apps or building websites.
This flexibility is burnished by still another advantage: ample opportunity. Employment in computer and information technology occupations is projected to grow by 13% between 2020 and 2030, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
While all of this sounds well and good — lots of options and even more opportunities — it can be hard to visualize what exactly happens after you earn that Bachelor of Science in Information Technology, Master of Information Systems or a related degree.
To illustrate potential answers to this question, two University of Phoenix (UOPX) alumni put practice into pictures (and words!) about where their IT training has taken them so far.
For Diego Rene Arriola, working in cybersecurity is about more than technology. Ask him what his favorite part about his job is, and he’ll tell you it’s the human element. He loves, he says, working with his team of committed, educated professionals.
So much for the stereotype that computer people aren’t good with other people.
As a supervisor, Arriola manages a team of 11 employees who oversee such IT responsibilities as vulnerability management, incident response and forensics, threat intelligence, systems monitoring and compliance.
Arriola also relishes the mentoring and managing he performs as a supervisor. But this role didn’t just fall into his lap. It was the result of his strategic planning and commitment to higher education.
Arriola earned his Master of Information Systems in 2014 from UOPX. Before he started the program, he carefully explored his options, looking for a school where he could pursue higher education while both parenting and working full time. Just as important as flexibility, however, was the school’s quality of education.
"I wanted to attend a well-known, accredited university, and [this was the] reason I chose to go to UOPX," Arriola explains.
Having a master’s degree, he adds, has taught him vital skills he uses every day, from knowing how to set up contracts with vendors and third parties to be able to create effective IT policies and procedures. It has formed the foundation of his professional growth — and a pathway to personal fulfillment.
"IT is a great career. I never planned to work in IT or even owned a computer before starting my career. But now, being in this field for more than nine years, I can say it has been the best choice I have ever made; I truly love it.
"I did technical work for about five years and then jumped to more of a leadership role and into management. They both have their pros and cons; you just have to decide what it is you want to do. But learning the technical aspect of the work has helped me in managing the different teams throughout my career, and [it gives] me an advantage [over] those [who] don’t start out on the technical side."
One of the best things about attending UOPX, according to Arriola, is the network of students and alumni.
"Having different resources, either to help with issues [or] talk about relevant technology items, ” has been helpful, he says.
UOPX also taught Arriola valuable skills for completing tasks effectively and efficiently. Those skills have, he says, "helped me manage different teams to be more efficient, produce positive results, [successfully] complete projects and implement new technologies."
What are the advantages of an advanced degree? For Arriola, that’s a long list that includes being responsible for establishing his organization’s cybersecurity standards and for developing plans for disaster recovery and business continuity. "My education has helped me tremendously in succeeding in my career."
For Dustin D. Cloos, earning his Master of Information Systems in 2015 was a strategic career move.
"Many of the senior positions I’ve filled over the years would not have even considered me a valid candidate to interview without my [master’s] degree," Cloos explains.
University of Phoenix was a natural choice for Cloos, who sought a school where he could attend graduate classes after the workday.
Not only were the logistics convenient, but the program offered the educational foundation he needed, as well. Today, he oversees business growth, marketing and IT for a defense contracting company based in San Antonio.
"The UOPX MIS degree provided me a phenomenal foundation [for] cybersecurity, business analytics and leadership to build my career and future upon. The confidence I gained from achieving my degree has pushed me to take on new challenges and positions that [otherwise] seemed out of reach."
"In business development, one of my main roles is designing, developing and recommending IT solutions to the U.S. government. The government then decides to purchase our services [or] solution after comparing them/it with [those of] other industry competitors. As the executive over our corporate IT department, I utilize knowledge gained in my MIS degree to recommend and implement various cybersecurity, collaboration and productivity platforms."
"I love the people I get to work with each and every day paired with the regular challenges we face strategizing the best ways to support our customers with IT and cyber solutions. … IT is an ever-evolving landscape, so [it’s important to] embrace change, keep learning and keep pushing yourself to grow."
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