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IT and Computing – Subject Guide

Information technology (IT) is one of the fastest-growing industries in the world today. It’s also one of the most diverse fields, with the possibility of finding work in a whole host of different industries. 

Studying an IT subject can lead to a range of career paths, from game design and development to social media, virtual reality, government and business. A postgraduate degree in IT and computing can give you the chance to be creative and branch out into other areas, as well as to develop a skillset that will be unique to you.

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Why study IT?

IT and Computer Science CoursesOnce you graduate, studying a computing or IT subject at postgraduate level is a great way to expand on your skills. IT is consistently ranked among the best-paid and fastest-growing industries, making it one of the most likely fields for graduates to find jobs after finishing university. Additionally, IT is ranked among the top five best career fields by the likes of Forbes and The Guardian.

Software, technology, data and computer networks exist in most facets of everyday life. The modern world runs on technology, and the demand for qualified professionals who know how to interpret, create and manage these systems is ever-expanding. This alone is one of the biggest reasons to study an IT subject. 

IT subject areas

As an incredibly broad field of study, IT and computing subjects tend to focus on specific areas of specialisation, such as business or security. Within these areas, it is possible to narrow your focus even further if you want to, or simply learn the skills necessary to work in one of several emerging or well-established industries.

Here are some of the most commonly studied IT subjects:

  • Business information technology
  • Computing
  • Cyber security
  • Software engineering
  • Computer science
  • Computer networking
  • Data processing
  • Medical computing
  • Computer games technology
  • Informatics
  • Artificial intelligence


Let’s take a look at some of these areas in a bit more detail. 

Business information technology

Business information technology is concerned with the use of computers and computer systems to solve issue that occur. This includes computer hardware and software as well as data processing, the design and development of procedures and the documentation of the people who work within a business.

Studying business information technology will give you the expertise and knowledge of computers that can be directly applied to business-related IT fields, including e-commerce, information systems and computer consultancy.

Study modules of a business information technology masters are likely to include:

  • Software engineering
  • IT system design & development
  • Data management
  • Business strategy
  • E-commerce
  • Project management


A business information technology masters degree will lead to a variety of careers in the world of business and finance as well as within government agencies, such as defence and IT divisions.

The skills learnt during the postgraduate program will enable the student to take on key management roles within large organisations as they will have the knowledge of computing essential to keep a business running efficiently and effectively.

This course provides students with the ability to combine computer skills with people skills, thereby preparing them with a unique skillset in the workplace.

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Computing

Computing is concerned with all computer-related areas of study and a masters degree in computing will equip the student with the knowledge and skills to work in any computer-related role.

Because this is a general area of study, students are likely to be able to choose from a wide range of modules, although some courses will offer students the chance to choose a specific area of computing to specialise in as the course progresses.

Modules of study on a computing masters will include:

  • Programming
  • Data management
  • Database systems
  • Network security
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Game design
  • Prototyping
  • User experience
  • Emerging technologies
  • Robotics
  • Cloud computing


Studying computing will lead to a strong set of skills and knowledge that can be applied it the workplace, especially within the IT sector. By covering such a wide range of topics, students may also find that they want to expand their knowledge in one specific area even more and progress to PhD study in this subject area.

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Cyber security courses

Cyber security

This area of IT is all about protecting digital information. Students will learn how to create safe systems, build network defence mechanisms, and cryptography, or the study of online encryption. Some courses also include modules on cyber crime and how to counter or prevent it.

Cyber security also includes computer forensics, an area that includes how to conduct digital investigations of computer systems and networks, as well as how to present your findings and conclusions to others.

The University of Surrey offers an MSc in Security Information which combines fundamental theory with state-of-the-art applications and also offers students a year-long industry placement.

A masters in cyber security is likely to include the option to study some of the following modules:

  • Database systems
  • Cryptography
  • Information security
  • Cloud computing
  • Network security
  • Computer systems
  • Computer forensics


By studying a masters in cyber security the skills gained could lead to careers in a large-scale organisation or a government body as a cyber security expert, a chief information security officer, a systems analyst or another security-related role in this field.

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Game design

A popular field of specialisation due to the ever-growing popularity of computer games, game design masters degrees utilise computer and IT skills such as programming languages, 3D modelling, digital or computer animation and software engineering to create multi-level, multiplatform interactive games and animations.

This area also includes designing for mobile applications, better known as ‘Apps’. Due to the rise of the smartphone and the tablet, Apps are more in demand than ever, and games in this format, for example Angry Birds and Temple Run have seen steady success.

Masters courses are offered in game design specifically, as well as in mobile computing, a course that covers the development of applications for smartphones and tablets more broadly.

Postgraduate courses in games design are likely to include the following modules:

  • Games development
  • Games design
  • 3D graphics
  • Animation
  • Industrial programming


Masters degrees, Postgraduate Diplomas and Postgraduate Certificates are all offered as postgraduate qualifications. PhD courses in Game Design are seemingly rarer, but it may be possible to specialise on a broader PhD course in computer science.

By studying a postgraduate course in games design you should be able to enter an exciting career in the game design industry.

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Software engineering

Software engineering is the design and development of computer software. It is a fascinating field to study as it is creative, analytical and theoretical.

Masters degrees in software engineering will give students the skills and knowledge to understand computer software, hardware and communication technologies. It will give students the skills to become a professional developer of high-quality computer software, focusing on large-scale software systems.

Courses in software engineering are likely to include the following modules:

  • Information systems
  • Programming
  • Computation
  • Data modelling
  • Software architecture
  • Software design
  • Computer systems


Software engineers will create and maintain computer systems as required to ensure they work efficiently and this will be done applying scientific and mathematical principles. Due to continuous technological advances, a career in this field will be constantly evolving and very stimulating, as you will need to adapt to be able to understand new needs and demands on computer hardware and software.

Software engineers will write diagnostic programs and code for operating systems and computer software, they will also need to assess future technological developments and make any necessary recommendations.

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Computer science

Computer science focuses on the development, testing and implementation of computer software and systems.

A masters degree in computer science will give the student a theoretical knowledge of computer science, with a focus on software development, programming, networks and data analysis.

This a broad area of study and masters degrees in this field will often give the student the opportunity to specialise in an area of particular interest.

Modules are likely to include:

  • Software development
  • Database systems
  • Operating systems
  • Software engineering
  • Programming
  • Cyber security
  • Data analytics
  • Data modelling
  • Cloud computing
  • Artificial intelligence


As a graduate of a computer science masters you will have the knowledge for a wide range of careers in a variety of sectors from technology to banking. Roles for specialists in this field include software development, IT consultancy and software engineers.

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Computer networking

Computer networking is all about the interconnection of computers and devices to exchange data and share resources using communication protocols.

Modules on a computer networking degree will include:

  • Network security
  • Computer security
  • IP networking
  • Programming
  • Software engineering


Studying a masters degree in computer networking will lead to a fulfilling career in business, finance and other major organisations. There is also the potential to go onto further postgraduate study such as a PhD.

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Artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence is intelligence displayed by machines, as opposed to natural intelligence which is the intelligence displayed by human beings, animals and living creatures in general.

Artificial intelligence results in computer systems performing actions such as visual perception, speech recognition, language translation and even decision-making.

A masters degree in artificial intelligence is likely to include the following modules:

  • Machine learning
  • Computational intelligence
  • Programming
  • Data mining
  • Data security
  • Software engineering
  • Knowledge representation
  • Robotics


Artificial intelligence is a cutting-edge subject with the ability to transform the way we live in the world today and enhance our lives in immeasurable ways. By studying this subject, you could go on to have a career in a wide range of sectors and industries, for example working with robotics to help people in the home and workplace, or you could choose to pursue the development of self-drive cars.

There is also the chance to study AI at a higher level by taking a doctorate in the subject – by choosing this path you could expand on your masters project and potentially change the world with your research.

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Types of IT programs

Types of IT programIT programs can be studied at masters and doctorate levels as well as postgraduate certificates and postgraduate diplomas.

Masters degrees

Masters degrees in IT and computing are primarily taught courses consisting of theoretical learning together with a practical element where students create projects as part of their coursework. Research-based masters courses are also available however, and these take a primarily theoretical approach with a research project or thesis rather than an applied demonstration.

Many postgraduate courses also include an internship that may be optional or mandatory to give students opportunities to work outside the classroom and apply their new-found knowledge to the workplace.

Masters degrees in IT usually take one year of full-time study or two years of part-time study. There are several types of masters courses to choose from – these are:

MSc – an MSc (Master of Science) in IT will predominantly include taught-based module work. Students will have to study some core modules and then will be able to choose from some optional modules. They will also have to undertake a dissertation which go towards around 30% of their final grade.

MRes – an MRes (Master of Research) in IT is a more research-based masters degree, with approximately 90% of the research project contributing towards the final grade. Studying an MRes in IT will involve a lot of self-motivated, independent study but your work will be overseen by a supervisor.

MPhil – an MPhil (Master of Philosophy) is the highest level of masters degree that you can study. Students often undertake an MPhil in advance of studying a doctorate degree (PhD), and sometimes MPhils are integrated postgraduate courses that seamlessly lead to studying a PhD. This is a great option for those considering further research in IT rather than wanting to enter a career in a specific field.

PhD courses

PhD courses in IT are more theoretically based and research oriented, with a more specific focus on a particular area of specialisation. A PhD will take three years of full-time study and up to six years of part-time study, and is the final step in academic study after the completion of a masters degree, enabling students to undertake their research at an even more in-depth level.

There are plenty of options when it comes to studying a PhD (Doctor of Philosophy) in IT, with top UK universities offering a great range of specialisms for research in this field.

Studying a PhD in IT can lead to a fulfilling academic career, alternatively, upon the completion of the PhD, students can head out into the workplace as highly specialised experts in their area of research.

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IT careers

IT career paths

IT and computing graduates have a variety of career options open to them.

Corporations and large organisations often hire IT professionals to build and maintain internal networks, sort, manage and analyse data, and create digital products.

At the other end of the scale, start-up companies looking to develop their own brands may want software developers and designers who can create and promote their brand digitally.

Companies that might surprise you such as Domino’s and Kraft, the makers of the Trident Vitality chewing gum, have released highly successful apps, as part of an emerging trend that combines corporate sponsorship and interactivity. Students looking to develop innovative and creative new ideas may find work at well-established companies as application developers.

As you can see, the career options open to IT postgraduates are mostly technically orientated roles, including:

  • Net developer
  • Software programmer
  • Database manager
  • Information systems analyst
  • Cloud architect
  • Data security analyst
  • Mobile apps developer
  • Software engineer
  • Product manager
  • Artificial Intelligence engineer


Let’s take a look at some of the most popular career paths for IT graduates in more detail.

Net developer – specialises in building software platforms for computer networks.

Software programmer – turns designs created by software developers/engineers into instructions that a computer can follow, by writing and modifying computer code.

Database manager – develops and maintains the database of large organisations to ensure that the storage, security and data retrieval all work effectively and efficiently. Their role is to ensure that company databases and electronic files are both accessible and secure.

Information systems analyst – improves a company’s growth and efficiency by implementing appropriate IT systems. Excellent analytical skills are essential for this role.

Cloud architect – designs and implements cloud computing systems, including the cloud security for a business or government organisation.

Data security analyst – protects company networks and computer systems from hackers, viruses and other security breaches.

Mobile apps developer – designs, creates, tests and launches applications (apps) on mobile devices including phones and tablets. This is done using programming and development skills.

Software engineer – designs, develops, maintains and tests computer software using programming skills.

Product manager – identifies the need for a product and then coordinates a team to bring that product into the marketplace.

Artificial Intelligence engineer – combines machine learning knowledge and engineering to develop machines with problem-solving abilities, such as self-drive cars and automated household vacuum cleaners.

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Entry requirements for IT subjects

Entry requirements for IT programsStudying an IT subject at postgraduate level will generally require you to have completed an undergraduate degree in computing, computer science or IT (information technology). 

As the postgraduate courses are usually specialised, students are often not required to have studied a subject in that specific area before. For example, an undergraduate degree in human/computer interaction is not necessary to study this subject at the postgraduate level, however, a degree based in IT and/or computer science is necessary.

The exact eligibility requirements will vary depending on the level of qualification, the university and the course. Be sure to check the admissions details before you apply. 

Fees & funding

Average masters fees range from around £8,000 to £10,000 in UK for home students and from around £15,000 and over for EU and International students. Tuition fees will vary depending on the location of the course, its length and its duration.

The most common way for UK students to fund their IT postgraduate program is with postgraduate government loan of up to £11,836.

Self-funding as also an option and students can fund their course with their savings or by working part-time for the duration of their studies.

Scholarships and bursaries exist at both the masters and PhD levels for specific areas of study, including our Postgrad Solutions Study Bursaries worth £500 each.

You may also want to consider applying for research grants if your course is heavily research-based.

Opportunities to specialise in areas of IT & computing

Because of the pervasiveness of computers, software, networks and digital information, there are many opportunities available to students in a variety of areas, including arts, maths and sciences.

You can incorporate a love of drawing, design, biology or statistics, or take a theoretical approach as part of a masters degree or PhD course designed to prepare you for further research. IT and computing students will leave with a skillset that can be applied across a range of careers, but are specialised enough to gain them entry into niche markets.

Universities known for their science and technology programs will often appear to be the best choice for students interested in IT and computing, but depending on how you want to focus your studies, universities known for arts and humanities can also offer unique opportunities, especially if your interest is more creatively focussed, such as game design.

Student case study

David Hurst studied an MSc in Software Systems at the University of Bath and now works as an Infrastructure Engineer at a software company based in Exeter. His work varies from day to day, but his primary responsibility includes researching new technologies to incorporate into the business, with a focus on cloud computing.

Talking about his masters course, David explains, “I chose the MSc Software Systems course at Bath because I wanted to expand on the experience and knowledge I had from undergraduate level while challenging myself to go that one step further. I knew a masters would give me a direct route to the career I wanted to pursue. Bath’s postgraduate course had units that were very appealing to me and were a high demand skill in my field. Some of my favourite subjects were Safety Critical Systems and Intelligent Control and Cognitive systems.”

He continues, “I firmly believe that the skills you will learn during a postgraduate degree are applicable to almost any job, and I feel that even if I were to change careers, the skills learnt during the masters course were crucial to my professional development. Indeed, I learnt many technical skills and was very proud of some of the work I did at Bath, but I was surprised at how much I had grown in terms of ‘soft’ skills. Skills such as time management, communication and teamwork are often overlooked in technical roles, but they are an absolute necessity in a modern workplace.”

Speaking about his decision to undertake postgraduate study, David says, “I was originally unsure about pursuing a masters, but I’m glad I went for it. A masters is not easy by any means, but if you persevere and stick with it, you will learn a lot about yourself. Plus, the feeling of completing the degree was phenomenal. It's definitely worth the investment!”

Read David’s full story here.

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