Black woman, White man in lab holding materials, work glasses, examining things

Interested in Tech? What You Need to Know About Institutes of Technology

Institutes of technology are highly specialized schools with a lot to offer all students. Here's why a tech institute could be the right choice for you.

One of the great things about the US higher education system is the variety of school types. Whatever your interests, chances are you can find a selection of colleges and universities that would be a good match for you. If you’re interested in pursuing a technology, engineering, applied science, or natural sciences field, the best choice might be an institute of technology, sometimes called a polytechnic institute. Here’s what you should know about institutes of technology, the benefits they offer, and how to determine if it’s the right type of school for you.

What is an institute of technology?

As the name implies, an institute of technology is a college that focuses primarily on technical programs and career fields. This sets them apart from other colleges and universities that have a more general approach to higher education. At a tech school, you’re more likely to major in Engineering, Chemistry, or Architecture than Art History or English Literature. However, the range of programs at technology institutes varies significantly. For instance, the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City is known primarily for Design, Fashion, Art, Communications, and Business, whereas Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, has programs in Engineering, Science, Architecture, and Management while also offering a School of Humanities, Arts & Social Sciences. 

Related: The Types of Higher Education Schools You Could Attend

The benefits of attending a tech institute

The tech institute difference goes deeper than just the kinds of programs offered, according to Lauren-Ann Graham, a student at Florida Institute of Technology. After earning her bachelor’s in Aerospace Engineering, she's now pursuing a graduate degree in Mechanical Engineering, also at Florida Tech. "When the university as a whole is geared toward a specific educational mission, there tends to be more passion, focus, and opportunity," she says. "It's easier to find help, make friends with similar goals and interests, and get involved in very specific career opportunities." Graham also adds that more niche topics tend to be covered at technical institutes, allowing you to dive deep into your interests.

Hands-on learning

The chance to learn about the latest tech developments is a definite plus for students who attend institutes of technology. “Students enjoy the highly specialized training offered in the STEM fields and the opportunity for hands-on learning through experiential education and co-op opportunities,” says Joseph Posillico, Vice President for Enrollment Management at New York Institute of Technology. For example, at New York Tech’s Entrepreneurship and Technology Innovation Center, students gain experience in building robots and completing other challenging projects. The school also provides real-life research opportunities. Through a partnership with NASA, students are building unique technology prototypes based on existing patents and creating professional marketing materials the space agency can use to commercialize the technology.  

Loveona Jones, who studied Applied Cybersecurity at SANS Technology Institute, found the chance to study an in-demand field especially attractive. She also liked the practical approach to academic life. “I enjoyed the real-world situations presented to us in the labs,” she says. “They felt so real.” While in the program, Jones was accepted for a prestigious internship with the US Department of State.

Career connections

Another benefit of technology institutes is that they typically offer great connections with employers. As students develop skills in their fields of study, businesses and other organizations find them to be good internship candidates or part-time employees—and often later as full-time employees. “The types of networking opportunities are unbeatable," Graham says. "Since [FIT is] a school that’s very well known for technology, businesses automatically know what type of institution you’re coming from and the type of rigor they require." This in turn tends to foster direct connections to industries where technology graduates are most valued. Graham further notes that because of this, many of her friends have gone on to incredible roles simply because of the connections they made at school.

Those kinds of advantages also paid off for Aaditya Bhatta as a student at Illinois Institute of Technology. “In choosing Computer Engineering for my major, I knew I could always fall back on finding software jobs if there were no hardware jobs available,” he says. After graduation, he landed a job as a web designer for a company that compiles profiles of well-known athletes.

Related: 8 Network and Etiquette Tips to Help You Find Internships

Is an institute of technology right for you?

Just as important as ability in the classroom is genuine interest in the kinds of subjects that technical institutes offer. If you’ve always been the curious type who wonders how things work, an institute of technology might be a smart choice for you. Posillico says that students who enroll in tech schools tend to know they want to study Engineering, Architecture, or Medicine because they’ve been exposed to related courses or research opportunities at the high school level.

When considering an institute of technology, don't just look at the types of programs offered, the hands-on opportunities, or the possible career connections. Also consider other ways the school might be a good fit for you. Is it affordable for your family? Does the location have good access to transportation? Do the services and activities offered outside the classroom mesh with your own personal interests? Answers to questions like these should be a big part of any evaluation of your college options. Also be sure that any school of interest is fully accredited. This can be a bit tricky, because some less reputable schools may claim to be accredited, but their accreditor doesn't meet the full standards expected for mainstream higher education. To be sure, check the college’s website and verify that it’s accredited by an agency approved by the US Department of Education. If that’s not clear, a career counselor or other education professional can help you determine what you need to know.

Related:  What Makes a Great STEM Student? 5 Ways to Become One

If you think an institute of technology is the right choice for your education, that’s great! From here, it only makes sense to take some basic steps in preparing for your future studies. “As much as possible, prepare for the rigors of college coursework at a polytechnic by completing four years of math and science [in high school],” Posillico advises. “And if you plan on applying to a program that requires a portfolio, work with your high school teachers now to start preparing it.”

Check out our featured science college lists to learn more about both institutes of technology and universities with great STEM programs that could be a great fit for you. You can also connect with the featured schools mentioned in this article:

Connect me with the Fashion Institute! Connect me with Florida Tech!

Like what you’re reading?

Join the CollegeXpress community! Create a free account and we’ll notify you about new articles, scholarship deadlines, and more.

Join Now

Join our community of
over 5 million students!

CollegeXpress has everything you need to simplify your college search, get connected to schools, and find your perfect fit.

Join CollegeXpress
Lydia Huth

Lydia Huth

Student, Campbell University; CollegeXpress Student Writer

I discovered CollegeXpress while embarking on my college search journey as an excited—but scared and way confused—high schooler without a counselor or college-bound sibling to give me advice. Let me tell you, I’m so glad that I stumbled on this community! CollegeXpress helped me find potential colleges and keep application deadlines straight. It gave me a great list of scholarships, and the blogs and emails made me feel like I wasn’t going it alone. Almost three years later and with freshman year of college down, I still love the CollegeXpress vibe so much that I’m writing for them. I’d recommend this site to anyone!

Makiyah Murray

Makiyah Murray

High School Class of 2021

The college application process has been a stressful one, but CollegeXpress has eased some of that stress with its readily available college resources. At the beginning of the process, I frequently used the college search feature, and now that I’m almost done applying, I’ve started using the scholarship search. Both of these resources have made it easier to find relevant information.

Ruth Aguilar

Ruth Aguilar

High School Class of 2021

CollegeXpress helped me by providing me with many scholarship opportunities and information about universities I want to attend. What I love about CollgeXpress is how it provides a variety of information, and as the first child attending a university next year, it has been very essential and helpful. I’m so grateful for this because the information provided by CollegeXpress has also helped me see that there are so many college opportunities, and it always informs me by email. In other words, CollegeXpress has been like a guide for me as a future college student.

Keaun Brown

Keaun Brown

$2,000 Community Service Scholarship Winner, 2020

As I transition to furthering my education, I can say with certainty that it simply wouldn’t be possible without the help of generous organizations such as CollegeXpress. Those who initially founded CX had no idea their platform would give a plethora of information to a first-generation homeless kid native to the ghettos of over half a dozen states. Everyone at CX and Carnegie Dartlet gave me a chance at a future when the statistics said I had none. And for that, I thank them.

Nazira Abdelkhalek

Nazira Abdelkhalek

$2,000 Community Service Scholarship Winner, 2014

I am very honored to be this year’s recipient of the Multicultural Student Community Service Scholarship! This scholarship is vital to helping me achieve and fulfill my dreams, and gives me confidence and motivation as I begin my college career. The CollegeXpress website has been invaluable over the past year as I planned my educational and professional goals. I highly recommend it to all students as they begin to focus on their college and career interests. The website is a wonderful guide to schools and scholarships.

College Matches
X

Colleges You May Be Interested In

University of Louisville

Louisville, KY

Hofstra University

Hempstead, NY

Monmouth University

West Long Branch, NJ