Dr. Roger Watkins knew it was time for San Jacinto College to offer a cloud computing degree when job listings began exploding.
"When you're seeing that many jobs out there, it is a growing area," said Watkins, South Campus department chair of business and computer technology services.
To prepare students for this expanding tech field, San Jac is launching a cloud computing Associate of Applied Science degree program this fall at the South Campus.
Students can earn the degree affordably within two years, equipping them to enter an exciting and rewarding career field.
Welcome to the cloud
Cloud computing has taken off in the last several years. While 2020 didn't introduce telecommuting, the explosion of remote work in the COVID-19 era has gone hand in hand with cloud technology.
Computer storage has progressed from floppy discs and hard drives to localized servers with hard-wired connections. Now cloud technology removes the physical connection.
"[Cloud computing] is taking that to another level, where all this is remote and you don't need an IT staff to manage it," Watkins said.
Rather than installing and maintaining IT infrastructure on site, many companies now rely on cloud services platforms like Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure. Employees access servers, data storage, applications, and other resources on demand from these providers.
Watkins compares it to direct depositing money into a bank. While you could stash money under your mattress, the bank offers added protection, allowing you to access what you need when you need it.
Solid intro to profitable field
San Jac's cloud computing program will train students to become cloud support technicians who can securely support and manage infrastructure and workloads on cloud platforms.
"This is a great opportunity to learn something that will be around for a while," Watkins said. "The beauty of the IT industry is once you start getting experience and exposure to things you can spend your whole career building on what you know and learning new things."
While computer background is helpful, it is not required. Students can come straight from high school or from non-tech industries.
The program covers essential networking, security, implementation, and support skills:
Instructors will likely teach classes in several modalities, including face-to-face, hybrid, and online. The program will also offer a practicum option for students already working IT jobs or a capstone course for those who are still job searching.
And the field is definitely lucrative for motivated graduates. Starting jobs can draw around $75,000 a year, while computer network architects earn around $108,000 a year in the Gulf Coast region.
According to Watkins, tech employers focus on candidates' work ethic more than personality, looking for people who are reliable, hard-working, and willing to stay late or work flexible hours when urgent issues crop up.
Students who knock on doors, market themselves well, and show entry-level experience can often beat out those who hold higher degrees.
"Book knowledge is one thing," he said. "Getting the work done is another."
Get schooled in cloud computing
Enroll in the 60-credit-hour cloud computing AAS degree program full time or part time. After completing the program, you can test for marketable industry certifications.