The University of Louisiana at Lafayette is a step closer to offering its computing students the option to continue their studies and earn a master’s degree in informatics.

The university’s management board — the University of Louisiana System Board Of Supervisors — approved the proposal, which now awaits final approval from the Louisiana Board of Regents.

The program meets the demand of both students and the workforce as south Louisiana has attracted technology companies, said Michael Totaro, associate professor and former acting director of the university's School of Computing and Informatics.

A few years ago, the university revamped one of its undergraduate programs to offer a bachelor’s degree in informatics, and those students have asked for opportunities to advance their studies at the university, Totaro said.

Informatics is generally defined as the study of information technologies.

“Its timing is such that we’re leveraging the continued growth and strength of our new undergraduate (informatics) program,” Totaro said. “All along, students have continued to inquire about a potential master’s program. The demand is definitely there.”

About 55 students have graduated from the undergraduate informatics program, he said. If approved by the Board of Regents, Totaro said, it would take a year of planning before the program would start enrolling graduate students.

Lafayette has seen a growth in technology sector job opportunities, with companies like CGI and Enquero opening offices in the city. CGI is building its offices in UL-Lafayette’s Research Park but for now has set up a temporary location in downtown Lafayette.

“This program also supports and leverages the state’s strategic initiatives for workforce development in this area of technology,” Totaro said. “We made a case for how this program will contribute directly to the workforce needs of companies.”

In addition to CGI and Enquero, the university’s proposal cited several other tech companies that have located in Louisiana: a new IBM Technology Center in Baton Rouge, the headquarters expansion of CenturyLink in the Monroe area, and Perficient, a 245-job software development center planned for Lafayette.

In its proposal, the university estimated the program could enroll up to 10 graduate students within its first year and incrementally grow enrollment to 28 students within five years.

Editor's note: This story was updated on June 29, 2015, to correct Michael Totaro's title.

Follow Marsha Sills on Twitter, @Marsha_Sills.