Online Information Systems (IS) Graduate Programs

Online Information Systems Graduate programs could provide a broad outlook of IT issues in strategy, security, computer programming and business processes. Curricula often helps students add leadership on top of managerial knowledge. Web-based students with busy lives might choose to earn their information systems degree online since the courses are just as rigorous as their brick-and-mortar counterparts. Online classes could help students learn to collaborate with peers to solve problems, and then design, analyze, implement, deploy and evaluate computer systems that are vital to the modern enterprise.

Information Systems Online Degrees written by Rana Waxman

Online Information Systems Graduate Programs: Overview

An information system is an umbrella term for the people, systems, and tools used to design, create, store, interpret and organize data of all types. Degree seekers could find online Information Systems Graduate programs at the Masters, Doctoral, and Certificate levels. Students who pursue an online information systems (IS) graduate degree often explore the links between the methods used to manage information systems and the technology that drives their activities.

Online Information Systems Degree Coursework

Information Systems Graduate programs might therefore provide courses in three main topics:

  1. Information technology
  2. Information theory
  3. Management

Consequently, graduates may be able to connect the dots between technical and operational methods.

As today’s systems are largely computer-based models, many systems have hardware, software and network components. As a result, several schools offer information technology management degree programs that also cover IS courses.

Fundamentals of information Systems: In this type of course, students might look at theories of how businesses use information systems to maximize results.

Databases and

Programming: Students could learn how users are able to store and retrieve information and the computer program development used for specific tasks.

Network Fundamentals: Learners might study concepts of network design, network hardware, network configuration, and the basic architecture of local area networks (LANs) and wide area networks (WANs).

Data Management: A course in data management could focus on analytics and how to use data in decisions. Other concepts could discuss visualization and business intelligence.

Leadership: Topics in innovation, leadership and ethics could explore ways to leverage technology, work with partners, and envision ways IT could foster new business strategy. Students might also learn how to apply key frameworks, models, and managerial tactics to facilitate IT strategies, system implementations, and operations.

Online MIS Degree vs. Online CIS Degree

Two of the many facets of information technology include Management Information Systems (MIS) and Computer Information Systems (CIS). Students could therefore look for a graduate level online MIS degree or online CIS degree, which may sound alike at first glance. However, they each play a different role, and each could thus present a course syllabus that weighs more heavily in a certain direction.

Management Information Systems (MIS)

A Management Information Systems online degree program could focus on how computer information could be used in business decisions by enterprise managers. Course topics therefore tend to cover things like data analytics and strategy. One might also find classes in business communication and leadership, since managers need to grasp the value of business data, then assess it and act upon what they find. Below are a few examples of possible MIS topics.

  • Communication
  • IT Global Enterprise Systems
  • Leadership
  • Systems and Security
  • Knowledge Management


“Computer and information research scientists must communicate well with programmers and managers and be able to clearly explain their conclusions to people with no technical background.” i

Computer Information Systems (CIS)

A Computer Information Systems online degree program could resemble the traditional study of computer science in that it highlights all the technical aspects of IS, for instance: the hardware, software, network infrastructure and databases. One might also find classes in information assurance since cybersecurity is a key issue. That said, one could certainly find courses in leadership and project management, just perhaps more weight on the computer aspects of information systems than the administrative ones. Here are a few examples of possible CIS topics.

  • Database systems
  • Software engineering
  • Software security
  • Algorithm analysis

Online Masters in Information Systems Programs

Online Masters in Information Systems programs could help students gain a wide grasp of key subjects like data analytics, network administration, information security and database management, as well as software development, computer science and other areas. Many online masters programs culminate in a capstone course, which could allow students to synthesize the skills and knowledge they have developed in a final research project, and some entail an externship.

Admission to some online MIS degree programs could allow students to have a bachelors degree in any major as long as it is from an accredited institution. By contrast, admission to a more technical CIS online program could require applicants to have a bachelors in computer science, or a related field. Other requirements for both could include minimum GPA, transcripts, letters of reference, CV, statement and possible interview.

Online Master of Science in Information Systems (MS MIS)

An online Master of Science in Management Information Systems (MS MIS) is sometimes offered through a university’s school of business and technology. Consequently, online students in a general online MS MIS degree program could learn how to align IT goals with business goals as well as manage people and IT projects.

While the specifics of an MS MIS degree vary by university, students could be required to complete about 36 to 48 credits. Some universities may provide an executive format where students could arrange to take fewer courses in exchange for work experience. Or, for those who lack some of the technical background, a format that rolls some basic courses into the core topics.

Foundational courses often cover IS basics, networks, databases and programming. Other required courses could explore areas in analytics and data management to help learners explore how to use data to drive decisions. Further courses could cover leadership theory and planning. Students might therefore learn to apply concepts to real-time business cases that need creative technology solutions and strategies.

Electives usually help to tailor an online Masters in Information Systems degree to a student’s own aims and interests. For instance, someone who wanted to pursue a career in the health-care industry might want to explore coursework in health informatics. In some schools, students might need to select an area of emphasis as well. Possible focused areas of study might include the following..

  • Information Assurance (e.g. network security, forensics, risk management)
  • Technology Management (e.g. business simulation, modeling, decision-making)

Online Master of Science in Computer Information Systems (MS CIS)

An online Master of Science in Computer Information Systems (MS CIS) degree program could help students gain the analytic and technical skills needed to solve problems with technology. Often, applicants need to have undergrad coursework in algorithm analysis, computer security, discrete math, calculus and other computational methods. Therefore, to some extent, an MS CIS program could provide more advanced work in these areas.

Some online CIS programs entail about 30 credits, of which about half could be electives. In their core courses, students could learn to design, build and maintain complex systems with present and emergent technologies. Electives could cover areas such as data mining, numerical analysis and artificial intelligence. The applied nature of an online MS CIS degree program could also give students the opportunity opportunity to work with faculty on individual projects and research.

Online Master of Science in Technology-Information Systems 

An online Master of Science in Technology and Innovation Management (MSTIM) could help students learn how to plan strategic integration of new ideas and technologies into current organizations.

Students may be required to complete about 30 credits, including core courses in IT plus emphasis courses in IS. Core courses typically cover topics such as mobile computing, business intelligence, risk and security. Emphasis courses could give students a chance to learn how to manage IT projects, design and analyze systems, create and manage data warehouses.

Online Doctorate in Information Systems Programs

Online Doctorate in Information Systems programs offer the highest level of graduate degree, and might build upon prior masters degree skill sets whether in management or computer science. Most programs include advanced courses in which students could build research skills as they work towards a final dissertation.

Online Doctor of Computer Science (DCS) in Information Systems

An online Doctor of Computer Science is a terminal degree in computer science, therefore is thought of as a practitioner doctorate. Typically, online students who pursue a DCS degree choose an area of computer science in which to apply themselves. One such area is enterprise information systems.

This area of emphasis is usually aimed at computer science professionals who want to pursue leadership roles as they pertain to the design, application, and management of complex databases and large scale systems – both local and global. Therefore, coursework could be spiced with subjects such as enterprise technology architecture, and IT service management. Other core courses often discuss business intelligence, strategy, governance, and ethics.

Along with intensive coursework, students also take classes to help them build qualitative and quantitative research skills. Graduates might therefore gain a solid grasp of theory, current trends, and how to apply their research to various issues in their field.

Online PhD in Information Systems

An online Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Information Systems is a terminal research degree in technology information management. It is often designed for students who want to look deeply at how computers effectively work together to maintain, store, and process information.

The coursework in an online PhD often aims to develop both breadth and depth of students’ knowledge in business, technology management, and one focused area. Thus, candidates may take a variety of core technical courses in computer networks, mobile computing, databases and business intelligence. Other required courses could cover technology policy and strategy, risk, and privacy. Along with this course load, students also take courses to help them learn various research methods and prepare to write a dissertation manuscript.

For their emphasis courses, students often have some freedom to choose from approved topics. These could include systems analysis, cloud computing and cybersecurity management among others.The research into these areas could help students form their own theories and contribute new findings to their field of study.

Online Information Systems Graduate Certificate

An online Graduate Certificate in Information Systems program could help at-work adults refine their skills and know-how with graduate level instruction. Some certificates are designed as post-masters programs, and may be used to prepare for a doctoral degree. Others may be a stand-alone award that shows a student has fresh insight and proficiency.

Some online certificates entail a series of about four courses. Therefore, while they might not go as in-depth as a full masters degree, a certificate usually targets a single topic through key topics. For example, students might take courses in analytics, databases, management, and security. 

Why Earn an Information Systems Degree Online?

Online Information Systems Graduate programs offer a flexible, easily accessible alternative to traditional on-campus education. Students usually take their classes through a web platform that is also used to download course lectures and readings. Some universities may also have some customized features such as a virtual lab environment where learning might be ‘hands-on’.

If you worry about interaction, the online portal has multiple uses. It is generally where students take part in virtual discussions with peers, submit written assignments, take exams, and communicate with their professors. Current technology also enables students to study away from their home computer if they have a laptop, tablet, smartphone, or other WiFi-friendly mobile devices.

What Might I Do with an Online Information Systems Degree?

Those who graduate with an online degree in information systems and technology may be prepared to pursue a wide range of professional career paths. Tech and research-oriented students might pursue roles as computer and information research scientists, a path which typically requires a PhD.ii Business-minded students might pursue a career as an MIS director or continue to climb the ladder towards chief technology officer (CTO).ii

Take the Next Step

The next step is to review Online Information Systems Graduate programs. We make it easy to choose an online information systems degree in two easy steps. First, filter by Masters, Doctorate or Certificate levels to review sponsored programs. Second, contact schools right away with the on-page form.

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