Information Systems Graduate Programs present students with the theoretical, practical, and applied concepts in computer information systems (CIS), and IT management. Curricula often span courses in technical business areas so students might stack leadership skills onto their current computer knowhow. Electives in topics such as security and information assurance, business intelligence and analytics, or IT strategy round out many programs.
Students could look for Information Systems graduate programs at all levels – Masters, Doctorate, and Certificate. At each of these levels, a degree in information systems could cover five key components that together, add value to an organization.
These key components are:
Information systems graduate programs that study the first three tend to be oriented to those who want to combine technical skills in IS technology with knowledge of managerial issues. Programs that place less weight on the tech-work focus more on business and administrative processes. Students could therefore choose the academic path that mirrors their strengths and might support professional goals. Which degree in information systems catches your interest?
Graduate degrees in Information Systems encompass management information systems (MIS) and computer information systems (CIS) programs. While they do sound similar, and might have some overlap in terms of courses (e.g. databases), each is a focused area of study within the information technology field.
DID YOU KNOW?
When surveyed, 14 percent of Information Systems Managers reported they had a graduate degree.i
Some coursework in Computer Information Systems
Graduate programs (CIS) may overlap with that of traditional computer science. CIS programs often aim to provide students with the numerical, analytical and technical skills to solve problems with current and emergent technologies. Students might therefore learn to diagnose system errors; create and update hardware, software, and databases; or optimize security.
Additionally, some programs might tie in skills for how to manage a specific IT department or support decision-makers with innovation. While by no means a complete list, the five course topics below might be covered in a CIS program curriculum. Please refer to individual schools for more details.
While CIS focuses on all things computer and the technical side of an organization, MIS degree programs often appeal to tech professionals with management goals. Students who pursue a management information systems degree therefore often study supply chain, business intelligence and data analytics. In other words, they glean information generated by technology and see how to use it to make tech-savvy decisions to improve a company’s bottom line or support its policies. Since coursework differs in each school, the four topics below are examples you might use to get an idea of what an MIS curriculum might offer. Please refer to individual schools for more details.
Masters in Information Systems programs could award either a Master of Science (MS) or Master of Business Administration (MBA). MS in Management Information Systems (MS in MIS) and MS in Computer Information Systems (CIS) programs are commonly awarded. These often include some of the features outlined above, but since each university defines degree requirements, always refer to an individual school syllabus.
Importantly, MS programs are typically built to provide advanced tech skills in information sciences. By contrast, the MBA is a professional masters degree that might explore the leadership skills needed by managers in high technology settings.
Applicants to an MSIS degree program typically hold a bachelors degree or its equal from an accredited institution. Those who do not have a BS in Information Technology, Information Systems, Computer Science, or a similar technology degree might need to take prerequisites before they apply. Aside from transcripts and a minimum GPA, applicants might need to submit a current CV, letters of reference, and GRE scores. By comparison, applicants to an MBA program may need to submit GMAT scores and do not necessarily need a bachelors degree from a technical field.
A Master of Science in Information Systems (MSIS) program is often planned-out to prepare students for leadership in information technology (IT). Most MSIS curricula balance theory with practical skills and some type of capstone project, thesis or internship in about 36 to 48 credits. Students who work towards a MSIS degree on a full-time basis might complete the requirements in about two years.
The courses in an MSIS program often revolve around a business core, a functional core, and IS electives. Business courses could cover basics such as decision models, statistics and operations. Students might therefore study how to integrate IT and business, communicate effectively, lead ethically and plan strategically. Functional courses could help students expand technical skills and gain a more in-depth grasp of how to design and develop desktop, mobile and web applications. These courses could cover data analytics, cloud computing and internet systems. Electives are usually drawn from a list of approved courses, which students might use to tailor their studies. Some examples are Cybersecurity, Global Supply Chain Management and Leadership.
In some universities, students who work toward a MS in Information Systems also choose an area of emphasis. These focused areas entail further courses and do vary between schools.
Information Assurance: Students who focus on information assurance take courses in security to the next level. Aside from coursework in telecommunications and network security, learners could study secure enterprise design, computer forensics and risk management. In some programs, students might gain experience in operating system installation and setup and network mapping through hands-on activities.
Technology Management: Students who pursue a technology management degree typically build skills and knowledge in system analysis, modeling, and design. Course topics could highlight how to manage IT projects and make executive decisions. In some programs, students could also learn the leadership and managerial principles used in health care informatics.
A Master of Business Administration (MBA) with a focus in information systems could provide students with overall business and managerial skills and knowledge. The concentration in information systems explores how business, technology and people intersect. MBA programs might entail about 30 to 36 credits and typically require a capstone. Many students work towards an MBA on a part-time basis although full-time programs could take about two years to complete.
Typically, MBA students begin with a series of core business courses before they tackle their area of focused study. Business courses tend to span many functional areas. Students could therefore be exposed to courses in statistics, human resources, marketing, operations, corporate finance and business law. The remainder of courses then usually fall into the area of emphasis and supportive electives.
Doctorate in Information Systems programs are terminal degrees. Students could choose to follow the path of research through a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Technology. Or, pursue a practice doctorate such as the Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) or Doctor of Computer Science (DCS). Each of these degrees weighs the same from an academic point of view, but requires specific things from its candidates.
Admission Requirements to Doctorate level information systems graduate programs varies. In some universities, PhD and DCS degree seekers may need to have earned a Masters degree from an accredited institution.
A PhD in Information Systems program typically requires students to develop both breadth of knowledge as well as to make a unique scholarly contribution to their area of interest. Consequently, students might anchor their research interests in information systems, while—at the same time—advancing their knowledge in areas such as technology and innovation management.
Some PhD programs in information systems programs entail the completion of about 60 credits of coursework but this does not necessarily include the courses needed for dissertation research. Candidates typically take a series of core courses, research methods and design. Core courses could cover topics such as technology policy and strategy, databases and business intelligence. Other courses could target statistics for technology applications, risk, security and computer networks. For the area of emphasis in information systems, students might tackle advanced theories and concepts in systems analysis, decision support, and cloud computing. Leadership courses could cover IT projects as well as how to reuse organizational knowledge.
A Doctor of Computer Science in Information Systems is a professional doctorate. It is often built for computer science professionals who want to pursue leadership roles in the design, implementation and management of complex data systems. Consequently, candidates could gain technical skills and knowledge along with the ability to communicate with non-technical professionals in enterprises.
Some DCS programs consist of about 96 credits. Core courses could cover topics such as business intelligence, strategy, governance and enterprise technology architecture. Candidates also take courses in writing and research methods to prepare for their dissertation. The research component often results in a broad overview in a student’s area of emphasis. This puts the research into a specific context and might help focus independent inquiry.
By contrast to PhD research, students in a Doctor of Computer Science program might complete a literature review and a research proposal. The research proposal may address how to solve a current issue through computer science and information systems tools.
A Graduate Certificate in Information Systems provides students with the opportunity to explore graduate studies within a targeted field. Some certificates might be suitable for applicants with a bachelors degree who want extra credentials. However, others are designed for applicants who have already earned a graduate degree and want to refine specific skills.
To this point, some certificates are quite focused, and students only need to complete about four courses. For instance, students who pursue a Certificate in Information Systems Management might be introduced to key IS technologies, IT strategy, project management and IT management that apply to the entire system life cycle.
Are you a learner who prefers to take part in live lectures, walk to classes, make use of computer labs, and network with faculty and peers? Or, do you love all these things, but need or prefer the convenience of computer-based coursework and interaction? Either way, you're covered because Information Systems Graduate Programs are often available in both campus and online formats. Sometimes they provide the same content, but differ in their method of delivery. Look for graduate schools with MIS and CIS programs by location, or earn an information systems degree online.
The fact that technology is organic makes a compelling argument for those on the fence about a graduate degree in computer information systems or management information systems. Yesterday’s tools may not solve tomorrow’ problems, so for those who seek advancement, one of the ingredients could be new insights and current methods. Per the Bureau of Labor Statistics, opportunities (for computer and information systems managers) should be best for the who have extensive work experience and knowledge of the newest technology.ii
Most computer and information research scientists need a Ph.D. in computer science or a related field, such as computer engineering. The projected growth in employment is 11 percent to 2024. Meanwhile, the median Annual Wage in May 2016 was $111,840.iii
Many information systems managers have graduate degrees as well. Their projected growth in employment is 15 percent to 2024, and the median Annual Wage in May 2016 came in at $135,800.
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[i] onetonline.org/link/summary/11-3021.00 | [ii] bls.gov/ooh/management/computer-and-information-systems-managers.htm | [iii] bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/computer-and-information-research-scientists.htm