IT Graduate Degree A Gateway to Industry for Career Changers
KENNESAW, Ga. (Mar 9, 2021) — Kennesaw State University alumni Juston Bryant, Tammara Johnson and Jose Laguardia came to the University with an array of backgrounds ranging from finance to organizational management to business administration.
They all left with one thing in common: They altered the trajectory of their careers by earning a Master of Science in Information Technology (MSIT) from Kennesaw State’s College of Computing and Software Engineering.
Nearly 50 percent of students in the MSIT program are what department officials considers to be career changers, or students who earned an undergraduate degree in a discipline outside of information technology before joining the field. Lei Li, MSIT program coordinator assistant chair of the Department of Information Technology, said the shift in attitudes toward IT is part of a larger trend nationwide. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, computer and information technology occupations are projected to grow by 11 percent between 2019 and 2029, adding more than a half million new jobs.
“Many of our graduate students already have jobs, but want careers,” Li said. “We work hard to ensure that anyone regardless of background has a gateway to that career through our program. An MSIT degree adds a great deal of value to their undergraduate degree and prior work experience.”
For students who enter the MSIT program without a computing background, KSU offers
foundational courses in programming, operating systems and networking, web development
and databases to help them develops skills necessary to complete the degree. In addition,
the program can be completed fully online, making it an attractive option for students
who work full time.
“For those looking to break into IT, this is a great way to get caught up and have the tools to enter the workforce immediately upon graduation,” Li said.
After landing his first corporate job at Coca-Cola as financial systems analyst, Bryant
said he started to notice how integrated information technology professionals were
into the company’s structure, causing him to reflect on opportunities for his own
“I felt like I had a choice to make,” he said. “I could either ignore the growing field of IT and have that linger over my career, or I could conquer it and really make it a part of my craft. I’m so glad I chose to do the latter.”
Bryant ultimately chose KSU’s MSIT program due to the flexibility in course delivery and the program’s reputation across the region. After updating his LinkedIn profile to reflect his enrollment at KSU, he was immediately contacted by companies in need of IT professionals, later joining Atlanta-based Veritiv Corporation as a senior financial analyst. With just a few classes under his belt, he already saw his studies translate into his work environment.
“I reached a point in the program that our company’s IT department was recruiting me to join their team while the finance department was fighting to keep me on theirs,” Bryant said. “It was a cool dilemma to have.”
Ultimately, Bryant missed his KSU graduation while he celebrated the competition of his orientation at Google, where he now works as a senior financial analyst drawing from his combined finance and information technology backgrounds.
Like Bryant, Johnson recalls feeling a sudden urge to pursue IT following Target’s massive data breach in 2013. After spending some time raising her first child as a stay-at-home mother, and with the encouragement of her family, she enrolled in the MSIT program and quickly took advantage of the plethora of resources the University offered, including resume-writing services and other workshops offered through KSU’s Department of Career Planning and Development.
Without a background in IT, she relied on her experience in her capstone project, in which she used low-cost equipment to measure Wi-Fi access points around campus. Toward the end of her time in the program, she learned of an opportunity at Deloitte, where she now works as a cyber risk advisor analyst.
“Throughout my interviews, all of the recruiters were most impressed when I began to talk about my capstone project,” she said. “At that point, it was the only experience I had in IT, but it demonstrated that I could explain a project from the beginning to the end, and that is such an important skill to have.”
Originally expecting to help his mother’s real estate business in Guatemala, Laguardia said knew his true passion was in technology. Already familiar with KSU and having a favorable experience through the Division of Global Affairs, he leapt at the opportunity to return to his second home. Upon graduating with this MSIT, he landed a job at Home Depot as a senior software developer.
“Both of my degrees make a really powerful combo,” said Laguardia, who has an undergraduate degree in management. “My undergraduate degree was an excellent way to build my soft skills and better understand the business environment. The MSIT was vital in that it gave me the technical skills to really succeed in the industry. Both of them together make me an well-rounded candidate.”
– Travis Highfield
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A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its nearly 43,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu.