Not every job in the tech world requires someone who spent their childhood taking apart computers and rebuilding them for fun. In fact, some of the best jobs need only a moderate level of tech geekiness. You'll find them in the field of management information systems (MIS).
A master's in information systems (MIS) prepares graduates for tech careers in areas like project management and information management. As an MIS professional, you'll deal more with business strategy, risk management, and decision making than the inner machinations of data science or software development.
This is a field that requires a higher education degree. It's possible to work in information systems with just a bachelor's degree—but career advancement often requires an MIS. In addition to traditional on-campus options, many online programs provide instruction to those pursuing a career in information systems management. Online learning is often the most feasible option for those who need to meet familial and work obligations alongside their coursework. Know, however, that not all online degrees are created equally.
In this article, we will detail how to find the best online MIS master's programs. Read on to learn:
Completing a management information systems program requires technical and interpersonal skills—with an emphasis on interpersonal skills. It's a management degree, which essentially means that you'll need to understand some technical aspects of your job, but not the fine print. It's more important to understand how to communicate with programmers than to know how to program.
A Master of Information Systems degree and a Master of Science in Information Systems (MSIS) are, essentially, identical degrees. In some instances, the MS may be slightly more technically focused. However, the differences in these degrees stem more from the conferring institutions' approach to the subject than to the actual degree designation.
The curricula of MIS and MSIS degree programs typically consist of a mix of core courses and electives. Most require 30 to 36 credit hours; many require students to complete a thesis or capstone project to graduate. Courses you are likely to take in these programs include:
Full-time students usually complete these programs in two years; part-times may take as many as five years. Most management information systems online students attend part-time, taking one or two classes per term. The MIS is one of many graduate programs that can be taught in an online setting. Some schools offer the MIS in a hybrid format that combines primarily online instruction with some in-person sessions.
You can also earn a Master of Business Administration (MBA) in information systems. These programs are typically through the school of business and have a heightened focus on management techniques.
The best candidate for an MIS has technical knowledge but focuses on big-picture issues. These professionals may not have all the computer science skills necessary to create programs that patch problems. Still, their knowledge is deep enough to identify the proper solutions and direct the right person to fix it.
Most applicants to MIS master's programs have at least a few years of work experience. An advanced degree is something that people generally earn once they have settled into the workforce for a few years and are looking for a new way to advance their careers.
Bachelor's degrees in MIS exist, but you likely won't be required to have one to work in the field or pursue advanced education. However, if you are still trying to decide what undergraduate degree you should earn, management information systems is a good choice. A study that appeared in the National Association of Colleges and Employers called it the top-paid business degree of 2015. Graduates earned an average salary of $58,526, which was almost $2,000 more than those with finance degrees—the next-top earners.
MIS professionals can work in a number of different sectors, including:
The kind of undergraduate degree you hold is less important in online Master of Science in MIS admissions decisions; a graduate from a college of business might be just as qualified as someone with a bachelor's degree in data analytics. Grades are more important. Top programs often look for students who had an undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or higher, glowing letters of recommendation, and good Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) scores. If you attend an MBA program, you may be asked to complete the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT). International students will likely be required to submit Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) scores.
Some information systems programs, such as the one at the University of Arizona, seek relevant work experience from their applicants. In this case, the university looks for candidates with two years of experience—not including an internship.
Alternatively, Drexel University has different requirements for students with relevant work experience than those without it. The school requires applicants to have an undergraduate GPA of 3.2 or higher unless they have work experience, in which case the GPA can be as low as 2.5.
While there isn't a single officially recognized school rankings list for online MIS programs, many reputable schools offer programs that are partly or entirely online. Each of the following schools has a computer science program that ranks on US News & World Report's top 100 list.
These programs may have slightly different titles, such as Master of Management Information Systems (MMIS), Master of Science in Management Information Systems (MSMIS), or even just information systems (IS). However, graduates typically compete for the same jobs.
You may also choose to complete an online MBA with an MIS concentration. Some of US News & World Report's top schools include:
According to PayScale, the average annual salary for those with an MIS is $86,000. The site also reports that the average IT manager earns $88,000, while the average business systems analyst earns an average of just over $69,000. The average Chief Information Officer (CIO) makes over $160,000 per year. Your earning potential with an MIS clearly covers a broad range.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median pay in 2019 for a computer and information services manager, whose duties are to "plan, coordinate, and direct computer-related activities in an organization," was over $146,000. The job outlook is excellent for these professionals. The BLS projects the field to grow by 11 percent between 2018 and 2028, which is faster than the total average growth of all other sectors—5 percent.
Some other jobs (and their respective salaries) that MIS graduates might qualify for include:
Earning an online MIS can set you up for long-term success—including a c-suite position, which often requires over a decade of experience and an advanced degree. However you end up using it, an online master's program is one of the most secure graduate school choices that you can make.
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