Dr Sanaa Kaddoura holds a PhD in computer science from Beirut Arab University, Lebanon. She is currently employed as an assistant professor of information security at the Department of Computing and Applied Technology, College of Technological Innovation, Zayed University, United Arab Emirates. She is a fellow of Higher Education Academy, Advance HE (FHEA) since 2019. In addition to her research interests in cybersecurity, social networks, machine learning, and natural language processing, she is an active researcher in higher education teaching and learning related to enhancing the quality of instructional delivery to facilitate students’ acquirement of skills and smooth transition to the workplace.
No one can deny that the digital revolution has changed our life. We can see information technology (IT) everywhere around us. Currently, we are living in a world full of the Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI). Our houses are automated, cars are self-driving, and intelligent software is filling our phones. Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic reinforced the role of information technology in our life. Education has shifted online, and e-learning is the new normal. All business sectors automated their services to permit customers to access them online. IT became an integral part of every business plan with all business sizes. Hence, IT is the backbone behind this technological life that we are living. So, to which extent should we encourage students to join an IT major? What are the IT paths in higher education? And what jobs can an IT graduate join?
The continuous growth of technologies implies a constant demand for IT professionals who will create, maintain and update these technological systems. The job market is currently demanding many IT experts to work in building such systems. According to the U.S. BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS, IT jobs are expected to grow by 11% from 2019 to 2029. This number is considered higher than the average of all other occupations in the job market. It is also expected that around 531 thousand IT jobs will be added to the market in the coming years. By looking at the salaries, IT jobs have high annual wages with a median of $88,240 in 2019. Comparing with other jobs in the market, whose average salaries is $39,810, IT jobs have no competitor.
Unlike other majors in higher education, IT has various concentrations that can fit all students’ interests. In Zayed University, for instance, the College of Technological Innovation prepares students for the information technology, information systems, and engineering market through two bachelor’s degrees: Bachelor of Science in Information Technology and Bachelor of Science in Information Systems and Technology Management. The college also has a master’s degree program in cybersecurity concentration where the student acquires the necessary skills to be an information security expert. The college will also announce a PhD program soon.
For the bachelor of science in Information technology, the student will graduate ready for significant IT positions. The available concentrations are Security and Network Technologies and Web and Mobile Application Development. If the student is interested in digging into IT’s technicalities, this major is the correct choice. Security & Network Technologies concentration prepares students to design and develop secure systems. Also, the students learn how to secure computer networks and telecommunication systems from cyberattacks. Ethical Hacking and Countermeasures is one of the courses that will prepare the students to be ethical hackers. They will learn hacking skills so that they can work later in the security department at any company. Another significant course the students can register in this major is Wireless Sensors Networks. In this course, the student learns about wireless environments and sensor-based applications. These applications are the base of the emerging IoT domain.
The other concentration of the bachelor of science in Information technology is Web and Mobile Application Development. It provides the students with the needed skills to develop user-focused interactive games, web and mobile applications.
A student graduating with a bachelor of science in Information technology can work as a computer networking specialist responsible for building and maintaining the computer networks in any business. Besides, the graduate can work as an IT support specialist. This employee is responsible for providing help to end-users in hardware and software areas. You can find this employee in every business. For example, in a school, whenever an IT problem happens in the lab with any student or teacher, an IT support specialist is contacted. An IT graduate can also work as a programmer, or developers, such as a web developer, a mobile applications developer, or a full-stack developer. A programmer is an employee who writes the code that produces the applications and websites we use daily. Game development is demanding in the market, especially with the rise of immersive and 3D technologies.
Another option for the students, who join Zayed University, is to graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Information Systems and Technology Management that is offered jointly with the College of Business. The student will be provided with both IT and business courses. If the student is interested in business and wants to follow IT’s market demand, this major will be a perfect fit. In this major, the student will acquire skills to apply IT to enterprises. A student graduating from this major can work as a system developer and business IT consultant. UAE job market is demanding professionals in these jobs. Three concentrations are available to the students in this program: Enterprise Systems, Management of Information Systems, Business Intelligence.
The Business Intelligence concentration prepares students to be data scientists. The students will acquire the necessary analytical skills to extract hidden patterns and knowledge from big data and make predictions and future forecasting from available data. A data scientist can perform real-time predictions on how a customer will react towards a product. This concentration is booming in the market. Google, Facebook, and Apple are leaders in data science. However, every company now is employing data scientists to learn more about the market and customer behaviour. The Management of Information Systems is another concentration that prepares students for IT management roles. The students will acquire skills on how to design and manage IT systems to provide strategic benefits. The third concentration is Enterprise Systems that focuses on IT systems for organizations with branches in different geographical locations. Students will take courses such as human-computer interaction and logistics and supply chain management.
IT graduates will have a great future in the market due to the job demand. Nevertheless, another compelling reason to encourage high school students to join an IT major is “race against the machine”. The digital revolution is disrupting the job market. Many jobs were automated, and human labour is no longer needed. Robots are taking over most of the jobs because they are more powerful than humans in automated jobs. To avoid unemployment, an IT major should be the choice of students so that they become the creators of the technology instead of being replaced by it.