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Computing and information technology

There’s no doubt that information technology is a vital part of our lives. Commerce, industry, government, education and even entertainment, recreation and communication all depend on it. If you want to study in this field, you might need to give some thought to identifying which aspect of it is most important and interesting to you.Browse Computing and information technology courses by state
For more information about careers and courses in computing, check out the Australian Computer Society website.Other fields of study likely to appeal to someone interested in computing and information technology are business and management, engineering and technology and sciences.
VET study in computing and information technology
Courses and specialisations
Computing and IT courses in the VET sector range from certificate I through to advanced diploma level. Certificate I, II and III courses will generally provide basic computer skills for users, rather than skills to equip students for professional or paraprofessional roles in the field. From certificate IV level upwards, VET courses provide skills for those who want to gain skills in the industry. Specialisations include computer systems engineering, computing, digital animation and visual effects, multimedia, networking, programming, software development and website design, but other specialisations may be available. You will also find that many of these courses can act as a pathway to further study at higher education level, which may allow you to complete different specialisations or study at a more advanced level.
Where to study
Courses in this field are widely available at both TAFE institutes and private VET providers, although the courses delivered (and their focuses) will vary so it's worth doing your research. This is a field where course equipment can be a deal-breaker, so keep an eye out when at open days or information sessions to ensure that your institution offers up-to-date computers and software.
Career opportunities
VET graduates in this field have a number of different career goals. In some cases, their primary career outcome will be the improvement of basic information technology skills required in a non-IT role. More advanced graduates have a range of computing and IT career options. This includes animation and visual effects, computer systems engineering, database design and administration, IT support, multimedia, programming, website design... and the list just goes on. Graduates with higher-level VET qualifications are able to work independently as ICT professionals and are eligible for associate membership of the Australian Computer Society (ACS). For example, an advanced diploma in computer systems engineering provides the high-level ICT, process improvement and business skills to enable an individual to be effective in senior roles within organisations. See the Career Search for more information about your career options.
Undergraduate study in computing and information technology
Courses and specialisations
The following are just some of the majors you can study in this field:
  • Artificial intelligence
  • Business programming
  • Computer systems
  • Database management
  • Games design and development
  • Mobile computing
  • Network engineering
  • Software engineering
  • Technical and user support
  • Web computing
As new technology develops and extends its reach through businesses, homes, other organisations and all aspects of life, the list of specialisations in the field keeps growing. Depending on the course and specialisations you choose, you could wind up going in one of a few different directions within the very large information and communications technology sector. You might find that you’re more interested in the hands-on stuff to do with hardware and networking. Alternatively, you might want to develop systems and programs, whether for databases or web. Another option is to work towards an information technology operations or management role. There are also roles that demand a creative flair, such as desktop publishing and interactive multimedia, or you could sample something from one of the field’s newest niches — such as cloud computing.Courses in applied science, information technology, computer science or informatics may all include relevant specialisations: everything from computer systems, networking, software engineering, programming and web computing, to the more obscure artificial intelligence. Some courses have specific titles that indicate an exclusive focus on one specialisation. Other courses are more closely related to business or engineering, including business information systems or computer engineering degrees (check out the profiles of these fields). Double degrees are quite common too and can give you a good backup in case of a downturn in the industry, equipping you with what might be seen as an alternate skill set. Before you worry too much about your long-term prospects in this field, remember that information technology covers many different roles in a wide range of sectors and businesses — they are not all vulnerable to shifting employment trends.As for majors, expect to find fields such as artificial intelligence, business programming, cloud computing, computer games programming, computer science, computer systems, database management, games design and development, graphics programming, information technology, mobile computing, network engineering, programming, records management, software development, software engineering, systems analysis, technical and user support, and web computing.So, what should you look for in a course? Many people have argued that computing and information technology courses could be improved by a greater focus on ‘soft skills’, such as communication, as well as more input from employers. There has also been discussion about the potential threat that offshoring might pose to the employment prospects of graduates who have only technical skills, as opposed to those with additional business or project management skills. Remember that these are all secondary considerations. The most important thing is to choose something that interests you, whether it be technical, theoretical or business-oriented. You need to make sure that you don’t enrol in a course that is either too practical or too theoretical if your interests are at the opposite end of the spectrum. As for what's happening in the field, academics and industry groups have expressed concern over the continuing decline in demand for information technology courses. The ACS has called for more research to determine why students are not choosing IT as a career and improved coordination between government, industry and research. It has also expressed concern about technologies not being introduced as a learning area in the Australian Curriculum until Year 9 level, believing this places students at a disadvantage globally.The number of women working in the information technology sector remains low, and businesses and government are working on strategies (such as introducing flexible work hours) to encourage more women to enter and remain in the profession. Initiatives such as the formation of the ACS Women’s Board (ACSW) are also working to promote careers for women in ICT.
Where to study
Undergraduate courses are available at universities, private providers and TAFE institutes, so you'll be spoilt for choice. The only thing is to choose a specialisation that suits you. As you’re looking around, be sure to ask about the equipment available at campuses of interest, as some institutions may have trouble keeping up with industry-standard hardware. One way to know what you’re getting is to look for courses that are accredited by the ACS. To get this stamp of approval, institutions have to cover ‘core’ curriculum and maintain their equipment to a certain standard.After a big jump some years ago, student numbers in this field have dipped in recent years. Given this softening demand for places, you will not have much trouble getting into a course. Many are near the bottom of the cut-off scale, but subjects such as maths and physics are often required or recommended for entry. There are also some ‘co-op’ courses incorporating paid industry placements, which are tougher to get into.See Degree costs and loans for more information about paying for your degree.To find out how each institution performs in your field of study, see our Ratings section.
Career opportunities
Skills in the information technology field are required in a huge range of organisations in both the private and the public sectors. Like other graduates, those in this field are vulnerable to changes and slumps in the industry. A far cry from the excellent graduate employment rates of decades past, the industry has seen a turn for the worse in recent years. In 2014, 39 per cent of graduates were still looking for work four months after course completion. That said, those who did succeed in getting a job were well rewarded, with good starting salaries averaging at $54,382.See the Career Search for more information about your career options.
Postgraduate study in computing and information technology
Courses and specialisations
Some programs are aimed at graduates or professionals without computing expertise, but there is also a relatively high proportion of upgrade programs for those who want to advance their existing skills. If you are new to the field, you have a huge range of options to sift through. There is a rough-and-ready distinction to be drawn between programs in the computer science family (more likely to be available at the older universities) and programs in information systems and various kinds of applied computing (mainly offered by the newer institutions). You might find that you’re more interested in the hands-on work with hardware and networking. Alternatively, you might want to develop skills in working with software, systems or programs.
Where to study
It hardly needs to be said that this field has grown exponentially over the last decade or two. Computing courses are offered at countless university campuses and private colleges. Although undergraduate numbers have plateaued, demand for postgraduate study has risen as tough competition in the labour market and constantly evolving technology forces many graduates to upgrade their skills.When researching your options, it's important to look into the specifics of both your course and institution and how these match what you want to get out of the course. If you are contemplating a research degree, you should not assume that all institutions that teach in the field are going to be good at research and research training. First of all, this is a field with distinct areas of specialty, some of which are applied and some of which are abstract, like artificial intelligence and cloud computing. Some faculties and departments can do a great job of teaching and researching in applied computing, but lack the expertise in the more abstract areas that interest many postgraduate researchers. It’s not only important to check out the focus of the department, but also your potential supervisors and (most importantly) the technology and facilities available.To find out how each institution performs in your field of study, see our Ratings section.
Career opportunities
Those who have completed postgraduate programs in this field are not overly impressed with their experience according to the national Course Experience Questionnaire survey, rating the teaching quality, the skills they gained and their overall experience poorly. Computing graduates enjoyed a boom in demand during the 1980s and 90s, but have been experiencing tougher times over the last decade. Although around 40 per cent of graduates were still seeking work four months after completing their course, predictions such as those of the ACS suggest a brighter future for graduates. Those who did gain jobs enjoyed strong salaries, at an average of $88,204 per year. See the Career Search for more information about your career options.
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