Florida International University made a big splash in 2017 when they announced that they would become the first university in the US to offer a bachelor’s degree in the Internet of Things. At least, it made a big splash among people who knew what it meant. For everyone else, it set a flurry of people googling “What is the Internet of Things?” What do you do in an Internet of Things major? Are there Internet of Things jobs? How do we even get Internet of Things jobs?
Well, the Internet of Things is one of Value Colleges’ interests, because VC is all about finding the majors and careers that are most likely to pay off for students. And boy, will a major related to the Internet of Things pay off. Big time.
What is the Internet of Things?
Once you begin looking for Internet of Things examples, you quickly realize that the Internet of Things is all around us. Years ago, people made fun of the idea that your refrigerator might one day be connected to the Internet. Today, it’s not funny – it’s well on its way to becoming standard. Your smartphone? Part of the Internet of Things. Your smartwatch? Part of the Internet of Things. Your FitBit? Part of the Internet of Things. Your Amazon Echo. Part of the Internet of Things, big time – it’s not just an Internet thing, it controls all your Internet things.
They’re all examples of Internet of Things technology, because the definition of Internet of Things is, quite simply, things that are connected to the Internet. As Forbes wrote in 2014, “Anything that can be connected, will be connected,” and in just a few short years, that has not only come true, but made previous predictions look just a tad ridiculous – ridiculous in how conservative they were. Whereas at the turn of the century we were wondering whether people would be too afraid to use their real names online, nearly two decades on, we’re ready to install chips in our heads to control our devices. Want Google Translate installed directly in your brain? You can’t have it yet, but just wait a few years.
So what does the rise of the Internet of Things mean for education and the job market?
FIU is just in the vanguard – majors specializing in the Internet of Things have become more common around the world, and they’re almost certain to take off in the US. In the meantime, there are lots of opportunities for majoring in fields related to the Internet of Things, and they’re not all computer programming. In fact, the field is rich and diverse, and getting more interesting all the time.
Majors for Internet of Things Jobs
At the moment, there’s only the one degree program at FIU that’s explicitly marketed as an Internet of Things major (in the US, at least), but the skills students learn from the Internet of Things major can get learned in a lot of other majors. FIU’s program brings together hardware, software, communication, and cybersecurity to make a well-rounded interdisciplinary major, but it’s hardly the only way to learn those skills, and learn them together. There are plenty of majors directly related to the Internet of Things. Here are a few of the most important examples of Internet of Things majors.
The Internet of Things runs on data. In fact, virtually every example of Internet of Things devices you could name includes data collection as one of its main functions. That data is worthless if it can’t be put to use, and that is why Data Science degrees exist. Whether they’re called Big Data, data analysis, or something else, Data Science programs prepare students for careers gathering, organizing, storing, analyzing, and interpreting data to make it useful and profitable. Internet of Things jobs in Big Data are on the way up.
One of the most crucial fields to making the Internet of Things work is Human-Computer Interaction (HCI). Human-Computer Interaction – as well as related fields like User Experience (UX) and Human Factors (Ergonomics) – focuses on how people and technology work together. An HCI degree teaches students how to design better interfaces, how to use testing data to make improvements to products, and how to work and lead in an interdisciplinary team – one of the best ways to get into higher-level Internet of Things jobs.
All of the examples of Internet of Things technology have one thing in common – they have to be designed, and well-designed at that. If they’re not well-designed, they will not make it on the marketplace (Apple’s legacy won’t be its technology, but its design). Industrial and Product Design degree programs bring together art and design, technology and computer science, to teach students how to create products that not only work well, but look appealing. Without designers, there is no Internet of Things at all, and thus no Internet of Things jobs.
Just about every example of Internet of Things products either runs on a mobile app, or is at least associated with a mobile app. Mobile apps offer convenience, simple operation (if the UX designer has done their job), and affordability. Demand just keeps going up for professionals who can design mobile apps, so a major in mobile app development – or even just a certification – gives you a strong chance of getting into an Internet of Things job.
Ever heard of smart packaging? Well, that’s an example of Internet of Things technology too. Packaging is one of the biggest industries in the world, and packaging design is one of the unsung great career paths. Smart packaging means hooking packaging into the Internet of Things, for all kinds of different purposes – improving security, ensuring freshness, tracking the supply chain, and more. Internet of Things jobs in packaging design may not stay under the radar, so get in while the field isn’t quite so competitive.