You got into the information technology field because you enjoy the challenge and independence of working with technology. But now, you want to move your career forward by transitioning to management.
IT professionals who want to lead and are qualified for information technology management are rare. So rest assured, advancing to management is a smart career move. Let’s talk about what you’d need to get there.
How Do You Become an IT Manager?
There are four main things you need to do to become an IT manager.
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1. Have at least five years of IT work experience.
If you’re interested in IT management, you’re probably working in a specific area of IT (e.g. technical support, software or web development, systems analysis, IT security). This is a critical first step to becoming an IT manager. Through your work, you likely have gained a deep understanding of how an IT department functions and interacts with other business units.
How much experience do you need? Top candidates usually have five or more years of related work experience.
2. Earn a bachelor’s degree.
Some people enter the IT field with an associate degree or no degree at all. However, a college degree improves your chances of getting hired, boosts your salary, and helps you reach higher positions. In other words, the further up you climb, the more important a degree becomes.
According to Emsi, 46 percent of IT manager job postings from the past year required a bachelor’s degree. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states, “Computer and information systems managers normally must have a bachelor’s degree in a computer- or information science–related field. These degrees include courses in computer programming, software development, and mathematics.”
3. Make sure to take business courses, too.
Occupational research shows that employers look for candidates with business qualification. Because of this, management information systems programs should include business classes as well as tech ones. Recently, some computer science degree programs, such as University of Wisconsin’s online Applied Computing bachelor’s degree, have been designed with a dual “business plus tech” focus in mind. The UW curriculum covers necessary computer science subjects. It also incorporates courses that teach key skills for managers, such as professional communication, project management, risk management, strategic planning, and budget allocation.
4. Get real-world experience as an IT leader.
Demonstrated leadership ability is a must when applying for IT management positions. Of course, the more directly related to IT, the better. What’s the best way to get this? Look for opportunities at work to take on special projects or direct employees–anything that allows you to build management skills.
If you’re thinking about earning a bachelor’s degree, find one with a built-in internship experience, such as the capstone course in the UW Applied Computing curriculum. This course allows you to develop a project tailored to your own goals and interests–say, becoming an IT manager–and implement the project in a real workplace. If you are working full-time already, don’t worry. Many online students complete the capstone project at their current workplace, which can help them build a reputation as a capable project manager. Others complete it at a new organization, allowing them to make new professional connections as well as gain impressive IT experience for their resumes.
Take the Next Step
Interested in furthering your education so you can become an IT manager? Click here to start exploring the online, 61-credit UW Applied Computing bachelor’s degree completion program.