Courtesy Steve Yingling, Western Nevada College
Individuals may enter the Computer Information Technology program at Western Nevada College with the single-minded goal of creating a video game.
Or maybe they want to help a company make better use of their network of computers.
Perhaps they want to pursue a career where they can use their computer savviness to help businesses organize their data to operate more efficiently.
WNC provides many directions for individuals interested in the morphing world of computer technology.
“We’re a broad program in that IT bridges many areas of the economy. Pretty much everything rides on IT today,” said WNC CIT Instructor Dave Riske. “The program is designed to support as many avenues as possible. We aren’t focusing on just health care, manufacturing, retail or transportation, because IT encompasses everybody.”
Whatever direction they go, students can take comfort in knowing that job opportunities are readily available and they will be compensated well.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for a computer programmer or a systems/network administrator in Nevada is $38 an hour, or $79,840 annually.
“A majority of our students will work for the state,” Riske said. “Some work for Carson Tahoe Hospital and others become Cisco instructors or work for FedEx … a small number work for mom-and-pop shops providing various levels of support.”
WNC’s computer technology program offers students access to the rapidly changing and growing opportunities in the computer and information technology career field. By preparing students to work in many different fields, those who earn a degree are prepared to support technological systems, networks and programming efforts that the world now relies upon to drive the economy. Whether they become programmers, system analysts, support specialists, database administrators, Web developers or software developers, they have a well-rounded background from their varied courses at WNC.
“We teach students how to put together the network systems that connect our world, how to use and control the operating systems that allow us to share data with each other, and how to extract and use data, turning it into information that can help their employers and themselves,” Riske said. “It’s a constantly changing environment that demands a student that is willing and able to adapt.”
In addition to well-rounded technology training, Riske gives students the opportunity to arm themselves with industry credentials that provide them with instant credibility with future employers.
“I’ve patterned most of the coursework after prominent industry certifications. Cisco and Microsoft are clearly the two big ones,” Riske said. “When a student leaves here, they don’t leave with just a degree; they have portable, industry worldwide recognizable certifications. Which is critical in this industry because there is so much variation.”
Students can earn up to seven industry certifications by the time they graduate. Microsoft and Cisco (CCNP and CCNA) are the most recognizable certifications they will receive, but they’ll also be fortified with CompTIA, (A+, Network+, Security+, Project Plus, Linux+) certifications.
Michael King, who graduated from WNC with an Associate of Applied Science in Computer Networking Technology and earned a Certificate in Cisco System, recommends that students get as much hands-on experience as possible.
“The hands-on experience from WNC was crucial to my understanding and confidence,” he said. “Lab is where you get the greatest benefit from your class. It is with the marrying of theoretical learning and real-world experience that the college graduate’s learning matures. If lab is not for you, consider intern or volunteer work.”
King said it’s also important for students to network.
“Learn relationship networking,” he said. “College gives the advantage of being with like-minded individuals to share knowledge, experience and opportunities. Endeavor toward honest relationships, even if you don’t think you’ll see someone after the semester ends. That person may refer (or interview) you for your next job.”
Riske continues to make changes to the program to give students as much knowledge as possible and help them better decide where their interests are.
Last year, Riske implemented the Network Computing Lab that teaches students how to problem solve through coding and 3-D modeling courses. Many of these principles are reinforced for students by creating robots that must follow detailed commands to make it through a maze.
Starting in the fall, area high school students will become part of the program through WNC’s Jump Start College. They will take up to five core courses.
“This will help them decide which track they want to pursue, and if they fully embrace Jump Start, these students could easily complete a year of coursework before high school graduation,” he said.
What’s next, one might wonder in this world of ever-changing technology?
In response to industry demands and Gov. Brian Sandoval’s request for an office of Cyber Defense Coordination, WNC is developing a cyber security pathway.
On May 26, the Nevada Senate unanimously approved Assembly Bill 471, which creates the Nevada Office of Cyber Defense Coordination.
Students interested in computer information technology may contact WNC’s Career and Technical Education division at 775-445-4272. Registration for the fall semester is happening now.