Careers in Information Technology Security

February 7th, 2017 by

In a world with rapid globalization and interconnectivity through the internet, security is a growing concern for both personal computer users and large organizations. This means the need for information security experts to help protect user information is also growing exponentially.


imagesA career in information security starts with a bachelor’s degree in computer science or a related major, which will take about four years to complete and will provide you with a well-rounded education in the computer and security field. As this field develops, many schools are beginning to offer information security-specific programs.

Employers sometimes prefer applicants that hold a master’s degree, which will take an additional two years after completing your undergraduate degree and allows for future career advancement.

Over the course of your education, it will be useful to pursue internships in the field. Having real-world experience will give you a leg up in the industry when you enter the workforce.  

You’ll also want to consider receiving an information security certification, in addition to a degree. There are general certifications such as the Certified Information Systems Security Profession (CISSP), as well as more specific certifications in areas such as systems auditing and penetration testing.


Information security analysts are responsible for protecting computer networks from hacking and cyber attacks. Through testing, they determine a computer systems weaknesses and carry out a plan to improve an organization’s security. They’ll conduct penetration testing to see how difficult (or easy) it is to break through a networks defenses and then create a plan to improve any insecurities.

Salary and Job Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average salary for an Information security analyst is $90,120, with some variation in salary depending on the specific department you work in. The field is also expected to grow by 18 percent over the next decade, much faster than the average for all occupations.

Interested in Information Technology Security? Learn more by taking Next Step Academy’s NEW course!


5 Work Friendly Gift Ideas

December 20th, 2016 by

From practical to fun, there are plenty of great work-friendly gift ideas out there. Whether you’re looking for something small for a coworker or a stocking stuffer for a family member, here are seven gifts the desk jobbers in your life will love.


Touchscreen gloves. One of the best holiday gifts you can give your tech-inclined coworker is touchscreen gloves. No more will they need to freeze their fingers off to use their smartphone or tablet.

Travel keyboard. This is the perfect gift for your friend who works remotely or a coworker who travels a lot. There are also several options to choose from. On the lower end of the scale, you can get a rubber keyboard that rolls up nicely in a backpack. On the higher end, there’s this laser projector keyboard.

Anything shaped like an animal. You can choose something simple, like pencils and erasers, or you can go bigger like with this USB-powered humidifier shaped like an elephant. Don’t forget this purrrrrfect mug for your cat obsessed manager.

Portable speaker. There are a wide range of options when it comes to portable speakers. Most portable speakers use Bluetooth to connect to a device, but some use the headphone port. Just make sure the speaker you choose will be compatible with the receiver’s current devices.

Goofy office supplies. From these “Crap” and “More Crap” notepads to office folders that don the phrase “Useless documents to provide the appearance of importance in meetings,” there is no end to the amount of silly (and possibly crude) office supplies for your coworker with a sense of humor.


Tips for Getting Through Finals

December 13th, 2016 by

Before you can officially enjoy the holiday season, you have to get through the dreaded finals week. Whether you’re cramming in the last bit of studying or frantically finishing a report, stress levels tend to rise at the end of the semester. Make sure you are taking care of both your physical and mental health during finals. Here are four tips for getting through finals and preventing burnout.

Snack smart. It’s tempting to reach for energy drinks and potato chips during late night work sessions. However, a high caffeine and sugar intake will actually cause you to burn out faster and junk food can make you feel bloated and sluggish. Instead, choose healthier alternatives to boost your energy. You can drink caffeine, but choose something like tea that provides a much lower dose than coffee or energy drinks. As for snacks, fruit and nuts will fill you up and give you a positive energy boost.

6359780403164185121342282463_finals-babyTake breaks. Working non-stop until you pass out at your desk isn’t healthy for your physical or mental health. Make sure you take frequent breaks to nap, shower or watch an episode of your favorite Netflix show (but just one episode!) If it helps, find a time management technique to provide yourself with some structure. Time management methods such as the Pomodoro Technique emphasize frequent short breaks and intermittent long breaks to keep yourself refreshed and productive during your work session.

With the Pomodoro Technique, you work for a solid 25 minutes, then take a short 5-minute break. After doing this four times, you take a longer break instead, typically 15-45 minutes. So essentially you work for 2 hours, with short intermittent breaks, before taking a longer break.

Get enough sleep. I’m not going to lie, I’ve pulled my fair share of all-nighters. But ultimately, this is the worst thing you can do during finals week. If you study all night, it’s likely your fatigued mind isn’t going to retain any of the information anyway. A good sleep the night before an exam is going to more beneficial than those extra hours of re-reading notes.

Stay off social. Checking your feed during a scheduled break is fine, but don’t leave your social media accounts open when you’re trying to work. The temptation of checking your recent notifications will split your focus and distract you from your work. You may say you’ll only check one post, but that can easily turn into an hour of wasted time scrolling through your feed. Resist the temptation by simply closing the pages when it’s time to work.


Careers in Web Development

December 8th, 2016 by

Web developers are responsible for designing and creating websites. This field is growing rapidly and is will continue to grow as the world becomes more mobile and focuses more heavily on e-commerce.


A bachelor’s degree in information technology or a related field is recommended for aspiring web developers. A bachelor’s will typically take you four years to complete and you’ll take classes that focus on programming languages. However, you’ll need to stay updated on new computer languages and updates to languages throughout your career, meaning you’ll never truly stop learning.

Employers prefer hiring graduates that already have some experience in graphic design, so you’ll want to take some design or website layout classes as well.


programuotojaiWeb designers are in charge of the site’s appearance, performance, capacity and sometimes website content. Website development can be split into three main jobs: back-end developers, front-end developers and webmasters. Some companies hire one person for each job or they may hire one person in charge of all three areas of development.

Back-end developers create the framework for the site and are in charge of the technical construction of the site. They write the code for the site, typically using computer languages such as HTML and XML, though other languages may be necessary as well.

Front-end developers create the site’s layout, design and applications. They are in charge of integrating graphics, audio and video into the site.

Webmasters maintain websites after they are completed. They monitor site traffic, keep the site updated and test functions for errors, keeping the website working properly.

As mobility becomes increasingly important, web developers need to create sites that accommodate multiple screen sizes, such as smartphones and tablets in addition to desktops.

Salary and Job Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the average annual salary for web developers as $64,970 in 2014. Web development is expected to grow 27 percent by 2024, 15 percent faster than the average of all IT occupations.

Take Next Step Academy’s “Careers in Web Development” course to learn more about this professional path!


How to Be Confident Even When You Aren’t

December 1st, 2016 by

Confidence is the key to career success. People who exude confidence tend to be viewed as more competent and influential. However, there are many times when you may not feel confident. Perhaps while talking in front of a crowd, meeting a new person or having a one-on-one conversation with an intimidating coworker, you might have a hard time finding your confidence

By focusing on your physical presence, you can show confidence, even when you aren’t quite feeling it.

Natural beauty portrait of young business woman

Stand up straight. Don’t lean or rest on the podium or wall. Stand up straight and tall, showing that you are actively engaged and interested in the conversation.

Maintain eye contact. Letting your eyes wander will make it seem like you’re disinterested. Don’t let yourself get distracted by your phone or other items in your surroundings. Focusing your attention on the person you’re talking to will make them feel important and respect you.

Nail that handshake. Make sure you are the one to initiate the handshake and make it a good one. Firm, but not too hard. A good strong handshake will show your intent to say hello and that you are focused on them. (Check out the “Common Courtesy” course for a tutorial on how to shake a hand.)

Touch their shoulder. When you go in for the handshake, lightly touch the other person’s shoulder with your other hand. Touch is powerful and a brief touch on the shoulder can show warmth and leadership while also putting the other person at ease.

Take up space. Don’t just stand passively when speaking, use gestures. Take up space with your arms, the more space the more confident you’ll look. Just make sure your gestures aren’t too extreme. Take up space, but also remain professional.


Keeping Your Health On Track During Winter

November 29th, 2016 by

Thanksgiving is behind us and now the major  holiday season looms ahead. With frost covering the ground and the prospect of snow no longer being a prospect for some regions, it can be hard to stay motivated to exercise — especially when it’s cold and there’s still leftover stuffing in the fridge. Here are six ways to stay motivated and keep your health on track this winter.

Find a friend. Having a workout buddy who will commit to joining you for morning jogs is a great way to stay motivated. You’ll be able to hold each other accountable and knowing someone is waiting for can be exactly what you need to get out of bed and into shape.

Warm up. Set your heater on a timer so it’s start warming your house before you wake up. If the temperature outside the covers is comfortable, you’ll be more likely to throw off the duvet and put on your running shoes.

how-to-stay-motivated-to-runPrepare ahead of time. This can be wearing workout clothes to bed or placing your sneakers next to your slippers. The easier it is to get ready, the more likely you’ll follow through. If you’re going outside, make sure your hat and gloves are ready too.

Take advantage of social. Exclaiming your dedication on Facebook, Twitter or your blog can help strengthen your commitment. You’ll be more likely to follow through if you’re telling your friends and family your fitness goals. Running and fitness apps also allow you to stay accountable — and the accolades from your friends won’t hurt either!

Find an exercise you love. Winter can be the perfect time to try out all of the classes you didn’t bother with over the summer. Look at your local gym or rec center for yoga, kickboxing, Zumba or pilates. Try different things until you find something you love to do.

Lastly, don’t let yourself feel guilty. Fitness isn’t about being perfect. Remind yourself that it’s okay to skip a workout and have some hot cocoa instead once in awhile. Life is about balance. Let go of guilt and enjoy yourself this holiday season.

To learn more about personal wellness check out Next Step Academy’s “Fitness” course!


In the News: The Makerspace Movement

October 28th, 2016 by

In 2014, the White House hosted the first Maker Faire, a festival dedicated to creativity and invention. The festival sparked an interest in hands-on learning, creating the makerspace movement which has since spread to schools and libraries around the country.

The basic principle of a makerspace is to put learning in the hands of the student. It gives teachers a new way to inspire students and help them develop their critical thinking skills.

16155735298_affa3a9540_bThere is no specific plan in a makerspace, the main focus is on hands-on experimentation, exploration, building and collaboration. Any amount of technology can be provided, the only criteria is students are involved and interested. Activities can range from building robots out of boxes, 3D printing circuit boards or using virtual reality (VR) technology to explore the globe.

Makerspaces get kids interested in exploring STEM fields. They incorporate technology into a school’s curriculum in a way that helps kids develop their critical thinking skills. A makerspace is flexible and teaches students using project-based learning which is proving to be more effective at motivating students to learn than any other system. The flexibility of a makerspace gives students the time to think critically and understand what they are learning. Students can take apart computers and put them back together like puzzle pieces and learn to code in a way that makes sense to them.

Letting kids work in makerspaces seems to be the best thing schools can do to teach them invaluable skills for jobs that likely don’t exist yet. By changing the way kids learn today and turning them into “makers,” makerspaces potentially will change the way they’ll live and work in the future.

Want to brush up on your critical thinking skills? Next Step Academy just released a NEW course! “Introduction to Critical Thinking


Careers in Hospitality: Restaurant & Hotel Management

October 26th, 2016 by

A career devoted to hospitality can take you all over the world, literally. With lodging and food establishments being the pillar of communities and tourist locations all around the world, you will always be able to find a job. If you enjoy being a leader and want to spend your career helping people, then this might be the career path for you.


A career in hospitality management starts with an associate’s degree, which typically takes about two years to complete. An associate’s degree provides a strong understanding of the business and managerial aspects of running a restaurant or a hotel. Over the course of this degree you will learn management, safety and sanitation, event planning and accounting.8230196669_bcc2216f9d_b

You may want to consider going for additional education and completing a bachelor’s degree to help you with future job growth, however this isn’t necessary to have a successful career in hospitality.

A certification is not required to become a hotel or restaurant manager, but employers look favorably upon those who complete one. The American Hotel and Lodging Educational Institute (AHLEI) offers certifications in multiple fields of hospitality and completing a certification will demonstrate your knowledge and commitment to service.


Hospitality management comes in a spectrum of work environments. From restaurants and hotels, to bars, catering services, resorts, theme parks and more. Day-to-day tasks will vary based on the industry you choose to work in, but typically include accounting, hiring and managing staff, planning events and providing excellent customer service. Overall, your job is to provide a positive experience for guests and patrons to ensure they have the best time possible at your establishment.

Salary and Job Outlook

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the average salary of hotel managers as $49,720 in 2015 and the average salary of food service managers as $48,690.

Growth in the hospitality field is average at 5 percent growth over the next decade. While the field isn’t growing rapidly there continues to be a high demand for professionals in the industry.

Want some more information on careers in hospitality? Take Next Step Academy’s “Careers in Hospitality: Restaurant & Hotel Management” course!


Showing Gratitude in Business

October 24th, 2016 by

There will be many times over the course of your professional development where it is respectful and useful to send a thank you letter to show gratitude. This could be to a potential employer after an interview, at the completion of an internship, to a teacher who has been a significant role model or to someone who has agreed to write you a reference. There is no downside when it comes to taking the time to be thankful for opportunities and guidance.

thank-you-515514_960_720The value of saying thanks. Sending a thank you letter, first and foremost, will make you stand out. If you’re trying to gain employment, an interviewer will look more favorably upon the candidates that chose to reach out and say thanks over those who didn’t. Thank you notes can also help build and maintain strong connections. Upon leaving an internship, a thank note could ensure you are asked back as a permanent employee in the future. Regardless of the circumstances, people respond well to being thanked and are more likely to give you opportunities if they know you are grateful for their help.

Make it personal. This starts by addressing the letter appropriately, especially if you are writing a post-interview thank you note. Don’t just address the note “To whom it may concern,” learn the name of who interviewed you and address them specifically, “Dear Mr/Mrs last name.” You should also avoid generic phrases. Give specific details highlighting what you’re thankful for, why you are thankful and how their time will help you grow in the future.

Choose the right medium. A handwritten letter is more personal and shows that you put a lot of thought into the process of saying thank you. In most cases, this should be your first choice. However, there are exceptions. If you have exceptionally bad handwriting, a word processed letter may be a better option. Sometimes you may not have a physical address, especially with a professor, in which case email is an acceptable choice. Email is also acceptable if most of your prior communication has occurred via email.

Proofread. This cannot be stressed enough. Even if you are typing your thank you letter or emailing it, proofread it several times before you send your final draft. Autocorrect doesn’t catch everything and one small mistake could ruin the effect of the letter. It always helps to have a second pair of eyes, so consider asking a friend or colleague to proofread your letter as well.

Send a gift. While inappropriate in certain situations, such as a post-interview thank you, a gift can be a little something extra to show how much you appreciate the time someone spent helping you. It doesn’t have to be huge, just something small to show the person you value them. For example, a gift card to the campus coffee shop for a professor, or offering to take a business reference out to dinner. A small gesture to accompany your letter can show your genuine appreciation.

Need some help proofreading? Next Step Academy’s “Basic Grammar/Writing Toolkit” for useful tips and editing advice.


In the News: Are MOOCs the Key to Lifelong Learning?

July 8th, 2016 by

With the digital world presenting new opportunities and constant change, education can no longer end with a formal college degree but rather continue throughout a person’s life. MOOCs offered through institutions such as Coursera are likely the future of lifelong learning.

computer-1185637_960_720MOOCs — massive open online courses — are programs offered by a university, available to people worldwide via the internet. MOOCs are free, with some offering the option to pay a small fee in exchange for graded coursework and a certificate or credit upon completion. Courses are short and engaging, consisting of videos, readings, problems to solve and forums to facilitate discussion between students.

The skill sets required for jobs in the digital age change faster than Apple releases a new iPhone. That’s where MOOCs come in. Institutions like Coursera partner with colleges and universities to offer courses that teach both hard and soft skills. You can learn a new programming language or how to improve your interpersonal communication skills. There is also the opportunity to deviate from skill development and simply learn more about topics of interest like history or music.

In addition to career development, MOOCs make higher level education available to people who previously may not have had access. Higher level learning is no longer a privilege of the financially stable, but available to people from all socioeconomic backgrounds.

MOOCs also promote general education to people on a global scale. A MOOC course provider called edX has developed a program called Open edX which allows countries to use the edX platform to launch their own MOOCs. Countries like Saudi Arabia have used Open edX to launch education campaigns with the goal of helping women gain access to education.

Next Step Academy offers similar online courses, offering learners of any age and background knowledge about careers-in, life skills and professional development. Courses are quick, mobile and informative. To find out more about Next Step Academy, register and start taking courses, visit


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