What is the pathway to becoming successful in the tech field?
I am a Junior attending High School in the Bay Area. I am currently in a college readiness class where I am exploring colleges and careers I might be interested in, in the future. I am interested in becoming an Information Technology major and was wondering how long it takes to get a master's, how costly it is, and if it will pay out in the future? What jobs can I get with this major and what are they like?
I suggest that you first acquire a job in the IT field before you pursue a graduate degree. This way, you will know for sure if pursuing a Masters in IT will be worth your money and time.
With an undergraduate degree in IT, you can have many IT jobs like Database Administration, Database Management, Systems Developer, Data Analyst, Data Scientist, Information Science, Programmer, etc.
Angel recommends the following next steps:
At this stage, my suggestion would be to complete your graduation in some good info systems majors like (e.g. computing, cloud, cyber security, AI/ML, etc), do some extra tech courses to develop some skills/interest and find a job in your interested area. You can find companies who offer free tech courses (e.g. Linkedin, Alison, etc) with free monthly trial or without. Build a couple of years of exp then you will be in the position to work out what Masters programme best suits to your interest and career path.
There are companies who have MBA programmes with universities so you may be lucky to enroll through the company which will save you the fortune. In general, I'd expect Masters should take a couple of years after your Bachelors. This is imp - what you dont want is to end up doing Masters immediately after Bachelors and without work exp as it wont do a fair job to this degree and you may not get best out of it.
IT is a fantastic field to get into, also a very broad one. As some of the other answers have highlighted, the options available to you are wide ranging and can require some very different skills, so getting started looking at different options now is fantastic and hopefully this research will help you determine what you'd be interested in for grad work.
To get a feel for what you are most passionate about within IT, I'd suggest engaging in as much self learning as possible. Below are a few of the methods I use to try and keep up to date that have helped me guide my own career pivots.
- Social Networks: I'm a huge believer in properly utilizing different social networks for different purposes. What I use Facebook for is much different than what I use Twitter for, as an example. Twitter is an awesome place to load your feed with innovators, high profile companies, start ups, and industry information all live. LinkedIn is a similar option letting you see influencers ideas and what they are reading to help keep you up to date.
- Reddit: I separated this one from Social Networks though really it could fall in as well. I love Reddit for technology discussions. r/Programming is a great place to start should you choose to follow a development path.
- News Apps & Aggregators: Flipboard is my go too, but any number of sources exist. Google News, Yahoo News, whatever your preference for an aggregator is a great option. You can tailor your interests to provide industry info to see where companies are moving and what is next on the horizon. Flipboard is cool because you can create your own 'magazine', and setting some goals to share X number of articles a day can help to hold you accountable to continue your learning.
- Finance Sources: For public companies, Google Finance is an awesome tool that gives you insight into where companies are spending their money. Often articles here will discuss what major initiatives and investments companies are making to report back to their investors. This a great source for tracking what you want to get involved in, and a fantastic source of information to bring up when you interview.
Ian recommends the following next steps:
Regardless of what you want to pursue as your primary major because you like the major today, consider what alternate majors you could pursue because you are actually good at them.
Then, find the courses that are common to each of the majors. Sign-up for those common classes and take the odd elective IT based class, plus a couple of classes from the other majors. This is nothing more than a delaying action to buy you time to decide what you really want. You may find that you have a preference for another field entirely. At that point, you haven't wasted a lot of time, as the bulk of those same classes should be common with each major, so you can change majors as you need.
A friend of mine wanted to pursue an IT Major but decided to change direction in his second year and went on to become a Musician because music is what truly made him happy. It just took a year for him to realize that. He has since moved to Europe and played in the Berlin Orchestra for a time. Because he stuck to the core "common" classes for each, he didn't really waste a lot of time.
I hope this helps!