Many online information technology (IT) pathway certificates are available, and students can complete most entirely online, watching video lectures and downloading course materials as their schedules permit. Other schools offer hybrid formats of on-campus and online courses. Students need a high school diploma or GED certificate to enroll, as well as specific plug-ins to successfully complete coursework.
These programs are designed to give beginning students a solid foundation in IT. They usually consist of approximately four to six courses. Students get a general overview of information systems and learn about programming, networking, the Web, and operating systems. Some programs allow students to specialize by choosing electives in a particular area, such as multimedia or LAN/WAN technologies.
Graduates of a certificate program should be knowledgeable in computer troubleshooting, website development, database concepts, and systems analysis. Many times, students can transfer credits earned in a certificate program to an associate's or bachelor's degree program in information technology.
Information Technology Pathway Certificate
An online information technology pathway certificate program introduces students to the various aspects of information technology, including implementation, network planning, computer programming, and software development. Additional areas of study might include website development, IT business operations, relational database concepts, microcomputer operating systems, and systems analysis. Graduates should be able to troubleshoot various computer problems. They also should be well-versed in the terminology and concepts used in an information technology environment.
Program Information and Requirements
While many information technology programs can be completed entirely online, some programs offer students the opportunity to combine campus-based and online courses. Ranging from 12-20 credits, online information technology certificate programs typically allow students to access course materials at their convenience. These programs generally use such online learning platforms as Blackboard, where students can access course materials, take part in discussion forums and submit assignments. Online classes are commonly delivered via streaming Web video. Students also typically have access to a wealth of online resources, including library materials such as databases and online academic advising.
Computer requirements include an operating system such as Windows XP or MAC OS 10.2, an updated Web browser, a printer, Microsoft Office, a sound card, and a reliable Internet connection. Students may also be required to obtain free plug-ins, such as QuickTime Player, Flash Player, and Adobe Reader.
A certificate-level information technology curriculum focuses on equipping students with basic information technology skills and knowledge.
A Web design and development course covers a variety of Web applications through the use of HTML, cascading style sheets, and XHTML. Emphasis is often placed on areas such as platform standards, website construction, interface design, table creation, and multimedia incorporation.
A course focusing on the design and development of databases focuses on the storage and evaluation of data. The course might cover data models, filters, data display, and reports.
This course introduces the fundamentals of computer programming, including the use of languages such as VisualBasic and C++. Programming concepts covered include language syntax, computer logic, program flow, and user interfaces.
Not all companies require a degree for computer support personnel. Therefore, an information technology pathway certificate program often prepares graduates for entry-level IT employment. Information technology certificate programs are also useful for degree holders looking to change careers. Areas of employment might include quality assurance, sales, insurance, healthcare, and systems analysis. Potential job titles include customer service representative, computer clerk, technical support specialist, computer operator, or help-desk technician.
Graduates also often move on to more specialized degree or certificate programs, with credits earned during an information technology certificate program typically transferring toward an associate or bachelor's degree program. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for computer support specialists was expected to increase by 12% between 2014-2024. The BLS also reported that computer support specialists had median annual earnings of $48,620 in May 2015 (www.bls.gov).
Fully and partially online certificates in information technology are widely available to students with minimal prerequisites. Programs offer many options for specialization to prepare graduates for work in a number of different fields, as well as transfer credit into undergraduate degrees.