Educators prepare students for IT jobs

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COLUMBIA - The field of information technology is an ever-expanding field and local schools are doing their best to accommodate this trend.

Each year, more and more jobs are available for people wanting to work in the IT field and it's getting to a point where there's not enough people available for the positions in the industry.

"The opportunities in IT have grown because it's in everything that we do," said Dr. Dale Musser, director of MU's Informational Technology degree. "You can hardly imagine a business today that doesn't involve a computer or a network or the Internet in some fashion. People with IT degrees are notably going to find employment in a broad range of industries."

Musser says that his program has seen a large growth in the number of students over the past few years, and since 2008, the number of students in the program has doubled to over 200 students studying information technology.

"There's no doubt the demand for people in computing area has grown considerably. [After the tech crash] the industry regrew itself and there's been more demand".

Musser believes the IT world is has endless possibilities and says the trend of people working with computers is just starting.

"The range of employment that's available is huge," he said. "There is room for people with varying levels, skills and experience and we have not seen any indication in the letup of opportunity for our students."

At a recent College of Engineering Career fair, Musser said over 100 companies came to talk to prospective students about the IT field.

Just down Providence Road from MU is the Columbia Area Career Center, a place where high school students can go during their school day to learn about topics that aren't covered in the typical classroom. One of the classes taught is information technology.

Laura Estabrooks, a teacher of the IT class at the career center for six years, says the information learned in these classes help students out greatly.

"Computers are going to continue to be used in everything we do every day," Estabrooks said. "It's in marketing with researchers making purchases, IT, business. It's in agriculture, science, and everything we know and we do on a regular basis is computerized."

As well, Estabrooks thinks the IT field is an important one to learn about, and thinks her students are better prepared for the workforce after graduation.

"Everything we do is with a computer," she said. "Most of the students born this age that are studying IT, they probably had a computer in their crib. They had a monitoring system listening to everything they did from the time they were born until the time they were 17-18 years old."

Across Columbia more and more on-line and in-person IT certification classes are being taught. These classes give people the ability to earn a certificate in IT without attending a four-year institution, both saving money and time for them.

Estabrooks thinks these programs are fine.

"There are IT jobs that are not very specialized," she said. "An IT person is kind of like a doctor. You have that general practitioner, the guy that works on your heart, the guy that takes care of your ears. They have specialties and that's what you're seeing in IT."

Musser agrees as well, and thinks these certifications are important for people who may be switching careers at an older age or just want to learn a little more about technology.

"It's probably unrealistic for an individual in their mid-career to go back for a four-year degree. They're wanting to develop skills and gain certification so they can seek immediate employment and there are employers who want those people"

However, Musser believes that there is a difference in the quality of jobs one receives depending on if they get a certificate from a class or if they graduate from a four-year institution, and said some of his students make over $100,000 in their first year after graduation.

While he believes his program is beneficial to students wanting to work with computers, Musser believes the other parts of college are what's important about a college degree.

"Getting a degree is more than studying in one particular area. It's about developing a broad range of skills. What separates someone with a bachelor's degree from someone that just studied IT is that they have a broader foundation in knowledge and skills.