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The 6 Most Useful Classes to Take to Jumpstart Your IT Career

The 6 Most Useful Classes to Take to Jumpstart Your IT Career

Wednesday, September 07, 2016/Categories: business-tips

If you’re an IT or computer science major, your course load will probably include plenty of classes like…

Computer courses are the building blocks of any solid IT career, but there are plenty of non-IT classes that help prepare you for a tech profession. Keep reading to learn how business, ethics, and improv classes can boost your skillset.

1. Business

If you want to run your own tech business one day, the IT insiders we spoke to agree that business classes can prepare you for the demands of:

  • Writing business plans.
  • Making presentations.
  • Understanding how to effectively communicate.

“When we think about IT majors, I want to make sure that students also take courses in general business,” says Jill Klein (@Prof_JKlein), assistant dean for digital initiatives and new programs at the (@KogodBiz) at American University (@AmericanU). “Getting the language of business I think is really helpful.”

“For a student who wants to be successful with their own company, they need not only the technology skills to build what they’re selling, but the entrepreneurship skills to do that effectively,” adds Jodi Rosenshein Atkin (@ChooseACollege), an independent college admissions professional.

Pro tip: Several colleges even offer classes that combine tech and business. For example, Georgia Tech launched CREATE-X (@GT_CREATE_X) in 2014, which combines elements from their engineering and entrepreneurship programs.

“CREATE-X is a three-semester program,” says Cedric Stallworth, assistant dean for outreach, enrollment, and community at (@GeorgiaTech). “One semester students learn how to do market research and vet their ideas; another semester they learn how to actually build those ideas into prototypes and think about production. If they apply for the summer program, they get to take on interns and work on their idea. And you don’t have to have a business background – you could be a freshman with an idea and not know anything about entrepreneurship.”

2. Ethics

After business classes, there is no consensus on one particular class that can most benefit an IT major, but our experts agree that it is important to take a variety of classes in order to be well rounded.

“Elective courses are good ways to explore areas of interest, just as working on projects or getting a work experience can be,” says Michael Powell, director of the at the Cockrell School of Engineering (@CockrellSchool), University of Texas at Austin (@UTAustin). “If a student thinks they may be interested in a particular area, taking a course will help them explore and determine if there is true interest while also giving them important knowledge and skills.”

Pro tip: One elective class Stallworth thinks can be particularly beneficial to IT students?

“I think students need to at least get into ethics,” says Stallworth. “Ethics are very important. Just because you can build it, doesn’t mean you should.”

Anyone who saw “The Terminator” or “Ex Machina” would probably agree with that statement.

3. Improvisational Acting

We did a little light cyber stalking on online forums like Quora to get a sense of what classes current or former IT and computer science majors recommend to their peers. Believe it or not, acting made the cut.

An improv class can help you sharpen your public speaking skills and get you comfortable speaking on the fly. It can also help you think about the kind of rhetoric and delivery that yields the intended response from an audience – a very handy skill to have when you need to make a presentation.

Pro tip: An improv background is also important if you want to take on a management role because it can boost your confidence. Confident people are often perceived as more competent, so that ego boost can help you get promoted faster.

4. Philosophy

There are a lot of takeaways from classes in philosophy for tech majors, ranging from strategic thinking to how to approach problems creatively.

Pro tip: Philosophy courses can also expand your worldview, which may come in handy when you run a business primed for global takeover.

5. Cognitive Psychology

Courses in psychology offer insight into how the mind works. Cognitive psychology is often tied to advances in artificial intelligence and data mining, so it can be especially valuable if you plan on a career in one of those disciplines.

Pro tip: This class might even teach you how to analyze your friends. Not a bad party trick!

6. Stress Management & Healthy Living

Working in tech can definitely be stressful, and classes like this will teach you the importance of incorporating good nutrition and exercise in your life to help reduce stress levels.

Pro tip: At first glance, this kind of class might seem too far from your educational focus, but that's the beauty of college. You can use the time to refine or expand your interests, so take advantage of it! (Plus, think of all the tech opportunities in the world of health and fitness data!)

Beyond College

Education doesn’t stop in the classroom. Check out our top picks for continuing education classes that can benefit you long after you’ve said sayonara to higher learning in “3 Ways Continuing Education Classes Offer Real-World Benefits for IT Business Owners.”

If you don’t have the time or resources to go back to school, you can still keep up with your professional development in other ways, like following thought leaders online. Read “5 More Twitter Accounts to Follow for IT Professional Development” for some suggestions.

About the Contributors

Jill Klein

Professor Jill Klein brings more than 30 years of IT and banking management experience to the classroom. She serves as the assistant dean for digital initiatives and new programs at the Kogod School of Business. She is passionate about exploiting information technology to enhance student learning and business outcomes. She sits on Cornell University’s President's Council of Cornell Women and the Pitzer College Board of Trustees. She was previously CIO of Riggs Bank, account executive at IBM, and she managed her own IT consulting firm.

Michael Powell

Michael Powell is the director of the Engineering Career Assistance Center at the University of Texas at Austin, Cockrell School of Engineering. Michael received his master’s degree in counseling psychology in 1994 from The University of Texas at Austin. He joined the Engineering Career Assistance Center in 1997 as a career counselor, became an assistant director in 1999, and then director in 2005. As ECAC director, Michael works with students, faculty, and recruiters in the job search and recruiting process.

Jodi Rosenshein Atkin

Jodi Rosenshein Atkin, MA, LLC has a BA and MA from the University of Rochester in Psychology. She has over 20 years of experience in educational and clinical settings, allowing her to recognize the factors that will contribute to a best college fit for each student. Jodi has provided strategies and support to dozens of students throughout the United States, assisting them to achieve successful admission opportunities through Early Decision, Early Action, and Regular Decision channels. Visit her website at www.bestfitcollegechoice.com.

Cedric Stallworth

Cedric Stallworth has been an administrator of educational programs at Georgia Tech for the past 20 years. He presently serves as assistant dean in the College of Computing for outreach, enrollment, and community. In this role, he addresses the national shortage of computing talent by creating a sustainable pipeline of talented students that extends from elementary school to Georgia Tech Alumni.

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