MBA in Information Technology
As business and the disciplines of information technology (IT) become more and more intertwined, an MBA in IT is becoming an increasingly important qualification for the industry as a whole. IT professionals speak a very different language to most people, especially those in management positions (for managers in any industry are also famous for speaking their own language).
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Being able to cross these linguistic boundaries will certainly go a long way towards helping technical specialists progress in their IT careers – and then there’s the added consideration that no matter how strong your technical skills are, there’s a whole other suite of soft and business skills necessary for leadership roles.
According to the QS TopMBA.com Jobs & Salary Trends 2014/15, IT jobs account for 13% of new MBA opportunities globally, after growing 8% in 2014. A further 12% growth is expected to follow over 2015.
Is an MBA necessary to be an IT manager?
While an MBA has not been necessary in the past to become a successful IT manager, the skills engendered by the MBA are becoming more and more essential as IT becomes increasingly ingrained across industries and business functions.
If you throw in all of new tech startups and IT based companies that have recently cropped up – and the potential ones waiting to be founded – then an MBA in IT begins to look like it has truly cemented its place in the pantheon of MBA specializations. Companies need flexible minds to deal with both the business and technical sides of the business coin.
IT courses and specializations
Though the skills taught during an MBA in IT program can be applied across a wide variety of careers that require managing IT specialists, the program itself is fairly specific. However, there are some further specializations that are either closely related to an MBA in IT, or available as a concentration area within it. Here are some examples:
- IT entrepreneurship
- Data, big data, and data mining
- Supply chain management
- New energy technology
MBA in IT vs MS in IT
An MBA in IT focuses more on the business and management side of the IT field, while an MS in IT focuses more on the technology side of things. While an MS in IT may include some business classes, the emphasis is much more on the technical aspects of software development, telecommunications, business information systems, and decision support systems. An MBA in IT on the other hand, will be 80-100% based on management skills.
MBA in IT vs MS in information management
Similarly, an information management master’s (MS in IM) also differs from an MBA in IT.
An MS in IM deals with the running of information systems and their related software and hardware, while an MBA in information technology is more about the management of the people who are looking over those systems (one can choose to focus on information management within an MBA in IT).
Most IT courses in an MBA program focus on IT management skills, but a select few schools, such as Berkeley Haas and Stanford GSB offer courses in programming to help less technically-minded MBAs familiarize themselves with the more technological side of things.
For the most part, the skills learned within an IT specialization are almost identical to the skills learned in any other MBA specialization; the principal difference being that IT courses focus on industry specific subjects, such as supply chain management, entrepreneurship in technology, technology concepts, data modeling and, of course, some programming – and perhaps more specific areas, such as biotechnology and bio design.
Top Schools for an MBA in IT
The 10 top schools for an MBA in IT, or information management, according to actively hiring MBA employers are:
- MIT Sloan
- Harvard Business School
- Stanford GSB
- IE Business School
- London Business School
- Wharton School
- Kellogg School of Management
- Columbia Business School
- Haas School of Business
Required IT skills and work experience
While a related undergraduate degree is not necessarily a prerequisite for all MBA in IT programs, previous experience and IT skills are important, on top of the usual MBA entrance criteria. Required previous work experience is between two and five years for most programs, either in IT or management.
Like all other MBA specializations, competency in - or an aptitude for - finance, communications, and strategy are assumed. IT-specific skills are diverse in themselves and include network management, programming, software development and data mining. An MBA graduate who knows coding has a leg up on graduation, says Julia Min Hwang, assistant dean of career management services and corporate engagement at Berkeley-Haas, one of the top schools for an MBA in information technology.
While MBA programs do not require a certain score in any particular section of the GMAT, students looking to go into IT fields tend to perform strongly on the quantitative section of the test.
Are programming skills necessary?
While programming skills are not necessary to manage members of an IT team, they can be beneficial when attempting to communicate with technical specialists. The more rounded your communication skills are, the more you and your career will benefit!
IT careers are many and varied, especially with an MBA. The multifaceted nature of the IT industry carries over into its management roles, which can range from project management in software design and development to network and systems management.
Common job roles
Careers for those in possession of an MBA in IT focus on the management of an IT team. Typical job roles include project management, cross-platform communication, business development, strategy and planning, product management, product and corporate marketing, supply chain management, and human resources.
IT manager salaries
According to the QS TopMBA.com Jobs & Salary Trends Report 2014/15, MBA salaries for those working in the IT sector in North America and Western Europe averaged US$89,600, supplemented by a bonus of US$29,200, taking total remuneration to US$118,800.
Startups vs large companies
As with any other specialized MBA, graduates of MBA in IT programs who opt for life with a startup will be required to put the full spectrum of their MBA skills to use, given the smaller employee base.
Roles will range from finance and HR responsibilities to more specified IT skills and tasks, such as network management and supply chain management. If you are managing a tech startup, then your role is likely to have far more in common with those available at large corporations, but with added responsibilities to the business.
Larger companies won’t look to a candidate’s finance or marketing skills quite so much, as they will have dedicated finance and marketing departments for specialists in these areas. Job roles at a large company might include working with IT teams and business teams in supply chain management, contacting vendors and other businesses, optimizing efficiency, detailing and optimizing costs, and project management.
Top Companies for MBA in IT graduates
According to Business Insider, 2014’s top 10 tech companies to work for were:
- F5 Networks
Google, Facebook, Amazon, Twitter, and many more tech companies all offer IT internships on a regular basis. An IT MBA can be a useful distinction to have if you are targeting a technologically-inclined business. Pretty much every company needs IT managers and IT MBAs are perfectly suited for those roles – be it as a hire or an intern.
Top Companies for IT internships
According to Glassdoor, the top paying companies for internships are dominated by technology companies and should therefore have procedures in place for IT internships:
(Read our interview with Amber Daniels, VMware’s university relations manager, to learn more about the internships on offer at the company.)
Popular locations for IT careers
Silicon Valley remains a clear hotspot for tech companies and startups alike, but there are plenty of other up-and-coming cities where technology companies are cropping up en masse. Forbes lists the top 10 cities creating the most technology jobs in the US:
- Austin, Texas
- Raleigh, North Carolina
- Houston, Texas
- Nashville, Tennessee
- San Francisco/Bay Area, California
- Salt Lake City, Utah
- Seattle, Washington
- San Antonio, Texas
- Indianapolis, Indiana
Internationally, there are plenty of options and cities to choose from if you are looking for IT careers. According to CNBC.com the top 15 surprising (perhaps not so surprising for those based outside of the US) international technology cities are:
- Zurich, Switzerland
- Stockholm, Sweden
- Oulu, Finland
- London, UK
- Amsterdam, Netherlands
- Copenhagen, Denmark
- Hong Kong
- Dublin, Ireland
- San Francisco, California (separated from the rest of Silicon Valley)
- Austin, Texas
- Nicosia, Cyprus
- Bangalore, India
- Mumbai, India
- Luxembourg City, Luxembourg
Returning to the US, SmartAsset also provides an interesting look at information technology’s move away from Silicon Valley with a list of the US’s top 10 cities to be a tech worker, which proves to be a bit more surprising than the Forbes list with its concentration of Midwestern cities and smaller cities:
- Omaha, Nebraska
- Colorado Springs, Colorado
- Huntsville, Alabama
- Dallas, Texas,
- Springfield, Illinois
- Charlotte, North Carolina
- Columbus, Ohio
- Cedar Rapids, Iowa
- Dubuque, Iowa
- Tampa, Florida