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Information Systems Technology - FAQ

Will the Information Systems Technology courses I take at NOVA transfer to other universities?

IST classes taken at NOVA will transfer to George Mason University and University of Mary Washington.

Classes that transfer to George Mason University's Baccalaureate of Science in Information Technology Degree can be found at:

University of Mary Washington will accept all credits from the NOVA IST specializations. The students will transfer in with a junior status, for more information go to:

Transfer IST classes to other colleges and universities.

What degree programs are available in the Information Systems Technology degree program?

An Associate in Applied Science degree in Information Systems Technology with specializations in Application Development, Microcomputer and Networking. This curriculum is designed for students who seek employment upon completion of the two-year degree and for individuals presently in the field who desire to increase their knowledge and update their skills. Information Systems Technology focuses on the application of computer-based information systems to solve the practical problems of business and government.

Two of the degree specializations will be updated for the Fall 2001 semester. The Application Development specialization will be updated to the Software Development specialization. The Networking Specialization will be updated to the Network Administration Specialization.

One new degree specialization will be offered during the Fall 2001 semester. A Network Engineering Specialization will be offered during the Fall 2001 semester. The Network Engineering Specialization will include the Cisco courses.

See your faculty advisor or a counselor for information about the new specializations.

What certificates are offered in the Information Systems Technology department?

Career Studies Certificates in Information Systems Technology, Microcomputer Usage and Web Design Specialist are offered through the Information Systems Technology department.

The Career Studies Certificate in Information Systems Technology provides those students already employed with increased information technology and operating system skills and knowledge.

The Career Studies Certificate in Microcomputer Usage provides those students already employed with the necessary microcomputer background needed to adapt to their field's increasing use of and dependency on microcomputers.

The Career Studies Certificate in Web Design Specialist provides students with the aesthetic and technical knowledge required for the creation of well-designed and organized World Wide Web sites.

One new Career Studies Certificate will be offered during the Fall 2001 semester. A Career Studies Certificate in Network Security will be offered during the Fall 2001 semester. This specialization will be offered at NOVA's Woodbridge, Annandale and Manassas Campuses.

See your faculty advisor or a counselor for information about the new Career Studies Certificate.

What is the difference between a Career Studies Certificate and a Degree in Information Systems Technology?

A Career Studies Certificate a one-year program in a specific area. The classes in a Career Studies Certificate focus primarily on the Information Systems Technology courses.

Can I earn more than one degree or certificate?

You can receive more than one degree or certificate. The classes that you have taken to earn one degree or certificate can be applied towards another degree or certificate.

What is program placement?

Once you have decided that you want to major in a specific area, you need to become program placed through the Counseling Center. The program placement will determine which degree requirements you need to complete. Once you have been program placed, you are given 7 years to graduate under the degree requirements that were published in the catalog when you became program placed.

How does the Associates in Applied Science Degree in Information Systems Technology differ from an Associates in Science Degree in Computer Science?

The Associates in Applied Science Degree in Information Systems Technology is a two-year degree for students that want to seek employment in the computer field after they graduate or for those who are presently in the field and who desire to increase their knowledge and update their skills and for those who must augment their abilities in other fields with their knowledge and skills regarding computer information systems.

The Associates in Science Degree in Computer Science degree is designed primarily for students who wish to transfer to a four-year college or university to complete the baccalaureate degree in Computer Science. The curriculum emphasizes the study of science, computing and the use of computing in a scientific setting.

What are the differences between the three Information Systems Technology specializations?
  1. Application Development (Programming) involves the writing and maintaining of detailed programs that list the steps computers must follow to perform their functions. The programs tell the computer what to do, which information to identify and access, how to process it, and what equipment to use. You may apply for entry-level positions as a programmer or programmer/analyst.
  2. The Microcomputer specialization involves working with end-users (the employees of the company or organization) to troubleshoot problems they have in the day to day application of software and hardware. You may work at a help desk or an information center as a microcomputer support specialist.
  3. Networking involves working with telecommunications. More specifically, it researches how computers and communications work together to provide businesses with the information they need to operate successfully. It allows resources, such as printers, to be shared by many people at different locations and allows sharing of network drives from separate Personal Computer (PC) stations. Data such as e-mail and word processing documents can be quickly and easily shared. This allows businesses and governments to respond quickly to changing circumstances and to disseminate information efficiently. Some employers seek applicants with a combination of experience and academic degrees, as well as technical certification. Graduates in the program, without experience, may work as computer support specialists at a help desk or information center to gain on the job experience.
Are computer classes difficult? Will I be successful in these classes?

Computer classes are very challenging and it depends on the skills and aptitudes that you bring with you into the classroom. It is important that you take prerequisites before enrolling in advanced computer classes. Many students who believe they have the background to enroll in higher level classes may find course material too difficult. A detailed description of each course (Course Content Summary) can be printed from the Curriculum and Enrollment Services Web Page Information Systems Technology 100, Introduction to Information Systems; Information Systems Technology 117, Introduction to Microcomputer Software; and Information Systems Technology 153, Computer Program Design are prerequisites for upper level courses in the major. Information Systems Technology 153 requires a prerequisite or co requisite of Math 151. For all other Information Systems Technology courses, please check individual course prerequisites listed under course descriptions in the College catalog.

Consider taking English 111, College Composition I, either before enrolling in computer classes or at the same time. You will encounter highly technical terminology in Information Systems Technology classes and you will be required to write technical papers and reports.

Although Math 151 is the required math class for the degree, you should plan on taking advanced mathematics courses, including calculus, if you plan on earning a bachelor’s degree or higher. Higher-level math courses are essential for anyone interested in transferring to computer science and computer engineering.

Can I receive credit for my previous work experience?

If you did not receive college credit for your work experience, then you can not directly apply your work experience to the degree. NOVA has different programs that will allow you to use the knowledge you have gained during your work experience to receive college credit.

PLACE is a course that is offered on the Alexandria and Annandale campuses through the Counseling Center. PLACE is also offered through the Extended Learning Institute (ELI). In the PLACE course, the students will learn how to develop a portfolio documenting their knowledge in a specific topic area. The portfolio is graded by an instructor that teaches the class. If the information in portfolio is equivalent to the content of course, then the student is awarded credit for the course.

A College Level Examination Program (CLEP) exam is available for the Information Systems Technology 100 course. If the student passes the CLEP exam, then they will be awarded credit for the class. CLEP exams are given on the Alexandria campus. 

Can I use industry computer training classes to substitute for my Information Systems Technology classes?

Some training centers offer college credit for their courses. To find out if the you can receive college credit for the course that you completed, have a copy of your transcripts sent to the Admissions and Records Office of your home campus.

How can I obtain my Information Systems Technology degree in less than two years?

Information Systems Technology classes are offered using different formats. You can take Information Systems Technology classes on campus in condensed formats and through the Extended Learning Institute (ELI). The Information Systems Technology courses taken through the Extended Learning Institute (ELI) are offered over the Internet. Students register for the courses at any time during the semester. Once the student registers for the course, they will be given a beginning enrollment date and an end of enrollment date. The students may be able to finish the course as soon as they can. Individual instructors may limit the number of assignments a student can submit each week.

Students can also use previous work experience to receive credit through the PLACE program. 

Students can also receive credit by taking a CLEP exam. The only Information Systems Technology course that is available through CLEP is Information Systems Technology 100. 

What is the difference between the courses offered over the Internet on the campus and the Extended Learning Institute classes?

The Information Systems Technology courses offered on the campus can be a combination of on-campus class sessions and Internet based class sessions. If on-campus class sessions are required, a message will be printed in the course schedule. The courses offered on campus will be offered in the regular 16 week (Fall and Spring) or 12 week (Summer) semester format.

After my transcripts were evaluated I received Information Systems Technology Elective? What does that mean?

When classes are received from other colleges and universities, the course descriptions are compared to the course descriptions for the NOVA classes. If there is an exact match between the course description and the number of credits, then you are awarded credit for a NOVA course. If there is no direct course description and course credit match or the course is taken is above a 200 level, then you are awarded Information Systems Technology Elective credit.

If the course you received Information Systems Technology Elective for is equivalent to a NOVA course, then a Course Substitution and Waiver form must be filled out by our faculty advisor. You will need to provide your faculty advisor with additional documentation about the course. This documentation may include a course syllabus or course content summary from the college or university where you completed the course.

What are employers looking for in today’s job market? What other skills do I need to be competitive?

Employers are looking at your potential for becoming an Information Technology professional. In order of importance, employers are seeking individuals with the following skills:

  1. Excellent communication skills, both written and oral. Individuals who can communicate, present ideas, and persuade others have a distinct advantage in climbing the ladder in any organization. Employers will seek out students who demonstrate ability in writing and in public speaking.
  2. Team players: Working in the computer field is no longer an isolated position. It requires the ability to participate in a team environment. Solutions to problems require the interaction of everyone on the computer team.
  3. Technical skills: A demonstrated knowledge of information technology is required. This may be demonstrated by earning a degree, by gaining experience on the job, or by achieving certification as a computer professional. Many employers seek individuals who have a combination of these credentials.
  4. Experience: Many employers require that applicants for technology positions have experience in the field. You may gain experience by applying for internships, both on and off campus. Internships may be paid or volunteer opportunities; they are a valuable way to establish contacts in the workplace.
  5. Critical thinking skills. Employers seek individuals who think "outside the box," finding creative solutions to complex problems. They value employees who take initiative, work autonomously, and contribute to team projects.
Will I need training beyond the two-year degree?

Yes! Keep on studying. The Associate degree is only the beginning. The computer field is in a constant state of change. Fifty to sixty percent of what you learn today will be obsolete within two years. Most software programs change at least once a year. Computer hardware changes on an average of every six to nine months.

Continue to build your skills by taking seminars and courses, by reading trade magazines and by pursuing technical certification. Attend conferences on computer technology.

Does NOVA provide training in technical certification?

Yes. In addition to the credit academic program, NOVA offers non-credit technical certification training courses in (MCSE, CNE, A+ Technician, etc.) through the Office of Continuing Education. Many employers require a degree in addition to technical certification.

What are my options if I decide to further my academic studies after earning the Associates in Applied Science Degree in Information Systems Technology?

NOVA has articulation agreements with a number of four-year colleges and universities in the area that accept the credits you earn in the Information Systems Technology degree programs. NOVA has formal agreements for transfer to the Baccalaureate in Science in Management at National Louis University, the Baccalaureate in Science in Occupational and Technical Studies at Old Dominion University "TELETECHNET", the Baccalaureate in Science in Computer Information Systems at Strayer University, and the Baccalaureate in Science in Business Education at Virginia Tech. Please consult with a counselor to find out what alternatives are available to you.

Individual Information Systems Technology courses may transfer to other colleges and universities; you need to check with the transfer college or university for transfer information.

Another option is to continue taking courses at NOVA in one of the degree programs designed for transfer in the computer field, the Associates in Science in Business Administration, Computer Science and Electrical Engineering.

What information will I need for an interview in the Information Systems Technology field?

When applying for positions, send a professional resume to potential employers. Take workshops in resume writing and in interviewing skills through the Keys to Success Workshops at NOVA. Check with the Counseling Office for dates and times for the workshops. Be prepared for the interview, you may be asked technical questions and to take an exam.