Course Selection Made Easy

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If you’re an IT student headed back to school, here’s a bit of good news for you: By the time you graduate, the job market could be significantly friendlier.

According to various reports, the demand for IT professionals is growing. Forrester Research recently advised that vendors “get prepared for a strong tech recovery in late 2009 and 2010,” while an ITPro article reported a 25 percent increase in demand for IT professionals in July. The same ITPro article also cited a 27 percent decline in the amount of applications for each opening, “which CV Screen claimed showed that IT pros were securing jobs faster,” according to the article.

Within the field of IT, there are certain areas that are particularly “hot” right now. These are specialties you may want to consider as you select courses for the upcoming school year.

One such area is health care. As CertMag reported in March, a doctor at Oregon Health and Science University found in a 2008 study that “the U.S. will need at least 40,000 additional health care IT professionals” to maximize investments from the most recent economic stimulus bill, while The Buffalo News reported that the bill would “create tens of thousands of jobs in information technology, informatics and other computer-related industries.” If this is an area you can see yourself working in, you may want to sign up for related classes and aim for the Certified Professional in Healthcare Information and Management Systems (CPHIMS) credential.

Another big market in IT right now is virtualization. Virtualization technology typically falls into one of four categories: Virtual LANs (VLANs), platform virtualization, application virtualization and storage virtualization. VLANs refer to one or more switches that act as multiple networks. Platform virtualization essentially allows multiple virtual servers to run on a single piece of hardware. Application virtualization refers mainly to cloud computing, whereby software is never actually installed on a computer but offered over the Internet as a service — a la Gmail. And storage virtualization allows companies to store data remotely and electronically, freeing up space.

To get a better idea of what virtualization technologies really do, and which certifications might be relevant, check out this CertMag article. Also, this is a subject you might want to take coursework in regardless of your area of interest; many tech professionals predict virtualization is the way of the future.

Other skills that are expected to come in handy in the IT world over the next few years include experience with PHP, Linux and SharePoint, according to the ITPro article. PHP is a general-purpose scripting language widely used in Web development; Linux is an operating system; and SharePoint is a Microsoft server application.

Once you’ve narrowed down the areas that interest you, it’s time to select courses. You want to make sure you’re scheduling the right classes at the right time and are considering the big picture. If it’s your first year of school, you’ll want to do a little more research. Check out these tipsthese from from and

IT students at all levels also should consider the following when selecting courses:

1. Before you pick a major, “consider taking a few related classes or even doing an early internship to make sure it’s actually something you want to do,” as advised by in this helpful article. You don’t need to commit to a specialty just yet.

2. Supplement your course load with free online classes. Thanks to a new program run by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology called OpenCourseWare, students everywhere have free online access to almost all of the school’s course materials. The Web site offers a wealth of knowledge for would-be IT professionals. Check out courses listed by department here.

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