Postgrad Study: Precursor to Success

Postgraduate education is a great predecessor to a thriving career in IT. And when it comes to the current crop of postgrad IT courses, the key word is "flexibility"

IT moves so rapidly that today's professionals constantly need to keep themselves up to date. There are a range of postgraduate options available to IT workers looking to boost their salary or switch careers, ranging from self-directed study to short, certification-based courses to more formal academic courses.

Postgraduate education within the realm of IT - in the form of graduate certificates, graduate diplomas or coursework masters - generally falls into two camps: traditional courses and research degrees (masters and PhDs) designed for people who already hold an undergraduate degree in IT and are looking to extend that knowledge to an expert level, and what are commonly referred to in academic circles as "conversion programs", courses which cater to people who are graduates of other disciplines but are interested in switching to IT, or wish to add IT skills to their existing knowledge base.

In each case, the approaches to learning and the disciplines involved are quite different, with some courses focussing on the more technical aspects of IT, like business information systems or telecommunications networks, whereas others are more focused on how to manage the IT function within an organization.

Master's: the Traditional Degree

Degrees such as the Master's in Information Systems Management are aimed squarely at professionals intent on climbing the managerial ranks within IT.

At Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne's eastern suburbs, for example, the advanced master's program for existing professionals - the Master of Information Technology - offers specializations in three distinct areas:

1) Reliable Software Systems, which focuses on software engineering principles for developing complex systems; 2) Information Systems, which covers the whole IS lifecycle, from conceptualization and design to deployment within a business or other organization; and 3) Web Application Development, which is currently the university's most popular discipline.

Similar programs are offered by the School of Computer Science at the University of New South Wales, located in the Sydney suburb of Kensington. UNSW offers two streams of postgraduate courses: a Graduate Certificate in Advanced Computing (4 courses, 1 semester full time) and a Master of Information Technology (8 courses, 2 semesters full time), both of which are intended for students who have "a substantial and broad computing background, [and] who want to deepen their knowledge of IT and extend it in new directions", according to Dr Eric Martin, senior lecturer at UNSW's School of Computer Science and Engineering.

"Few disciplines evolve as fast as IT, and it is important to keep pace with technological changes, and completing well-chosen courses at CSE is a good way of achieving that aim," Martin says.

"Also many people want to do a different job at some point in their life; they want to take up new challenges, and IT is particularly suitable to making such a change possible thanks to its breadth, the fact that it is more and more entwined with other disciplines, and the fact that software becomes a component of so many of the new devices that appear on the market," Martin says.

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