Information Technology

What You Need to Know About the Best MIS Programs

What You Need to Know About the Best MIS Programs
Getting a degree doesn't guarantee you'll land a high-paying position in information systems management. Still, enrolling in one of the best MIS programs can boost your chances of not only getting a job but also maxing out your lifetime earning potential in IS roles. Image from Unsplash
Christa Terry profile
Christa Terry June 8, 2020

Information systems (IS) occupy the intersection of business and technology. If these both appeal to you, you should look into these Master of Information Systems programs.

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Technology is evolving more quickly than ever, and that can be bad news for businesses that aren’t prepared to change with the times. To compete, companies have to adapt to every new hardware and software system that hits the scene—or make the tough call to stick with an older system. They also have to store, manage, and analyze daunting amounts of data, and they have to do it while providing whatever products or services they specialize in.

That’s where information systems professionals come in. These experts in computer systems and information management help companies across industries get the most value out of both existing information technology and new systems. To work in this role, you’ll need a Master of Information Systems (MIS) or a related degree.

Pursuing a master’s degree can require a significant investment in both time and money, but in this case, it will almost certainly pay off. Forbes put information systems in the sixth-best spot on its list of the best and worst master’s degrees for job seekers. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs for information systems managers will grow much faster than the entire labor market over the next decade.

Getting a degree doesn’t guarantee you’ll land a high-paying position in information systems management. Still, enrolling in one of the best MIS programs can boost your chances of not only getting a job but also maxing out your lifetime earning potential in IS roles. That’s because some colleges and universities are better than others when it comes to delivering hands-on learning experiences, networking opportunities, and post-graduation support.

In this article about the best MIS programs (Master of Information Systems), we cover:

  • What is a master’s in information systems?
  • What do students in Master of Information Systems programs study?
  • Which schools have the best information systems master’s degree programs?
  • Which schools have the best MIS programs (Master of Information Systems, specifically)?
  • Is it possible to earn an MIS degree online from a top school?
  • What can I do with a Master of Information Systems degree?
  • Will enrolling in one of the best MIS programs boost my earning potential?

What is a master’s in information systems?

Finding the right master’s degree program when you work in information systems can be challenging because colleges and universities have widely divergent naming conventions when it comes to IS degrees. There are Master of Science in Information Systems (MSIS) programs and Master of Science in Information Systems Management (MS-ISM) programs. You might also pursue a:

  • Master of Information Management and Systems
  • Master of Science in Information Systems and Technology
  • Master of Science in Information Systems and Technology Management
  • Master of Science in Information Systems Technology

There are even Master of Science in Management Information Systems programs that are virtually identical to Master of Information Systems programs, even though management information systems are generally considered to be a subset of IS.

All the above degree pathways can provide the technical knowledge and business skills necessary to design, launch, maintain, and manage complex information systems. Still, if you want to go all-in on IS, it’s worth looking at Master of Information Systems and Master of Science in Information Systems programs first. These programs tend to be offered by a college or university’s business school and tend to devote somewhat more time to business and management concepts than to the theories underlying information systems or topics related to computer science. As the program guide for Virginia Commonwealth University‘s MIS program states, these programs prepare students to step into “specialized, senior-level positions in information technology management.”

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What do students in Master of Information Systems programs study?

The core courses found in almost all MIS programs include data communications, database design, systems analysis, and systems design. Students also study leadership and management concepts, as well as business problem-solving theory and practice. Other topics covered in most Master of Information Systems programs include:

  • Basic programming
  • Data analytics
  • Database management
  • Information technology strategy
  • Information technology tools
  • Management fundamentals
  • Network administration

Students also complete coursework related to project management, marketing, finance, operations, and other disciplines with specific information technology needs. Upon graduation, they are prepared to take on the development and management of software projects in various departments and industries.

In some MIS programs, the curriculum is guided by the concentration or specialization track a student chooses. Master of Information Systems concentrations include:

Which schools have the best information systems master’s degree programs?

According to US News & World Report, you can find some of the best information systems graduate programs at the following colleges and universities:

Be aware, however, that the US News & World Report rankings don’t differentiate between different types of information systems master’s degrees. In their list of colleges and universities that offer master’s degrees in information systems, you’ll find some MIS programs, along with lots of related degree options.

Which schools have the best MIS programs (Master of Information Systems, specifically)?

What sets Master of Information Systems and Master of Science in Information Systems programs apart from those that confer other information management and information technology degrees is that MIS programs tend to devote more credit hours to the study of the business applications of data and the tools that people and organizations use to collect, filter, store, process, and distribute data. You can find some of the top-rated Master of Information Systems and Master of Science in Information Systems programs at:

Is it possible to earn an MIS degree online from a top school?

There’s not a lot of overlap between lists of the top MIS programs offered on campus and the top MIS programs offered online, but don’t let that deter you from choosing a distance learning program if studying online makes the most sense. The best Master of Information Systems program for you may very well be one delivered virtually, if you need to continue working or attending to other commitments. An online program might also be the best choice if you want to attend a specific program but don’t live within commuting range. And finally, there may be an online master’s degree in information systems program out there that offers the exact concentration, courses, or student support you’re looking for.

There are highly-rated online MIS programs at:

What can I do with a Master of Information Systems degree?

Information systems professionals work in corporations, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies in business-technology-oriented roles like:

Will enrolling in one of the best MIS programs boost my earning potential?

Salaries for MIS degree program graduates can vary considerably based on position, location, and other factors. According to PayScale, the average salary for MIS holders is about $86,000. However, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that information systems managers typically earn about $146,000 per year. It’s possible to earn well over six figures in almost all the positions listed above, and if you advance into a Chief Technology Officer position at a large corporation, you could easily earn seven figures after bonuses and other compensation.

There’s no telling how much you’ll earn after graduating with a Master of Information Systems, but it’s almost certain that you’ll make more than you would without one. According to a study conducted by Georgetown University, professionals with a master’s in information systems earn about $16,000 more per year than those working with just a bachelor’s degree. There’s also no way to predict whether you’ll make more after graduating from a top MIS program versus a lower-profile program, but there’s a good chance you will if you choose one of the programs above. Those are the Master of Information Systems programs most likely to give you the knowledge you need to identify and leverage state-of-the-art technologies and help you make the kinds of professional connections that lead to lucrative opportunities later on in your career.

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Tom Meltzer spent over 20 years writing and teaching for The Princeton Review, where he was lead author of the company's popular guide to colleges, before joining Noodle.

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