Information Technology

How Much Will You Earn with a Master’s in Information Systems?

How Much Will You Earn with a Master’s in Information Systems?
If you become a chief information officer (CIO), you could make $150,000 or more per year. Image from Unsplash
Christa Terry profile
Christa Terry February 4, 2020

Information systems is a broad category of computing, which is why graduates of information systems master's degree programs work in a variety of roles with very different salaries. Here's what your earning potential could look like if you get this degree.

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Businesses run on technology, but having more technology doesn’t necessarily ease business processes. In fact, having too much information stored in too many places can complicate data-gathering and decision-making. Addressing this problem is what information systems management is all about. Information systems managers not only streamline information administration but also tie disparate systems together so data from across systems can be used to their full potential.

Getting a master’s in information systems can open a lot of doors in this field. These challenging graduate programs cover a plethora of functions, including:

  • Application development
  • Database design
  • Information security
  • Project management
  • Systems design
  • Technology management

Surprisingly, while many people who earn this degree have a high level of computer and technical proficiency, they often don’t end up building systems or coding software. You’re more likely to find master’s in information systems graduates leveraging systems to accomplish specific business objectives in information technology auditing, information systems management, or network management.

Salaries for information systems master’s degree program graduates vary quite a bit because the degree name is typically less important than career trajectory when it comes to earning potential. Some mid-level jobs in information systems pay around $60,000, while others pay six figures. The only way to know whether your investment in this degree will pay off is to look at how much you will earn with a master’s degree in information systems. We discuss that in this article, which covers the following topics:

  • What is a master’s in information systems?
  • What will you study in an information systems master’s degree program?
  • Where can you earn a master’s in information systems?
  • What can you do with a master’s in information systems?
  • How much will you earn with a master’s in information systems?
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What is a master’s in information systems?

The master’s in information systems is a specialized degree designed to give students the technical knowledge and business skills necessary to design, launch, maintain and manage complex information systems for corporations, nonprofit organizations, and governments. New technologies pose daunting technical and budgetary challenges to organizations, which also must learn to manage and leverage increasingly large amounts of information.

In master’s in information systems programs, students study computer science, information management, and strategies for using technology to meet specific business goals. These programs allow students to choose concentrations like data science, business intelligence, and information security.

The master’s in information systems is one of those tricky programs that goes by many names. At one school, you might earn a Master of Science in Information Systems (MSIS). Another program might confer a Master of Science in Management Information Systems (MSMIS). Other names for this degree include:

  • Masters in Management Information Systems (MIS)
  • Master of Science in Information Systems Management (MS-ISM)
  • Master of Information Management and Systems
  • Master of Science in Information Systems and Technology Management
  • Master of Science in Information Systems Technology
  • Master of Science in Information Systems and Technology

Unfortunately, degree names won’t always give you insight into a given program. Just because a school includes the word ‘technology’ in the program name doesn’t necessarily mean that the curriculum offers more coursework focused on technology management than a general-sounding MIS program at another school. Similarly, don’t assume that you’ll be able to land higher-paying positions by earning the “right” information systems master’s degree. You’ll apply for the same kinds of jobs, whether you choose an MIS program or an MS-ISM program or an MSIS program.

Finally, you could choose to pursue an MBA with a concentration in information systems instead of a master’s in information systems. An MBA program provides a more in-depth look at business fundamentals (economics, finance, marketing, operations) but does not dig as deep into programming, computer science, and database management.

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“I’m Interested in Information Technology!”

I.T. encompasses a vast spectrum of systems and applications. They include common networks most of us use every day, such as telephone and point-of-sale systems. At the other end of the spectrum are comparatively obscure, poorly understood systems like blockchain, used in cryptocurrencies and other transactions. In between lie background systems such as databases and inventory management, crucial to businesses, corporations, and government agencies. (source)

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the computer and information technology job market should grow by 15 percent between 2021 and 2031, creating more than 682,000 new jobs. Earning a Master of Science in Information Technology builds skill sets in critical areas that include cloud computing, algorithms, big data, business intelligence, cybersecurity, data science, machine learning, and IT management, among others. (source)

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What will you study in an information systems master’s degree program?

The only way to know what kind of coursework you’ll be required to complete in a given master’s degree program is to check out the degree requirements. That said, most master’s in information systems do include coursework focused on such topics as:

  • Business problem-solving
  • Data analytics
  • Database creation
  • Database management
  • Information security policy and practice
  • IT technology
  • Network administration
  • Object-oriented programming
  • Project management
  • Strategic IT management
  • Virtualization and cloud computing
  • Web app development

Many master’s in information systems programs also touch on business fundamentals. Information systems professionals need to understand not only the technical challenges of their field but also the business priorities that frame their work. Some programs also allow students to choose a concentration or specialization area related to technology, management, or a particular industry. MIS concentrations include:

As you research the available programs, consider whether choosing a concentration related to your career aspirations might boost your earning potential. Being able to demonstrate expertise in a specific area of information systems management might give you additional leverage when you’re applying for open positions. On the other hand, specializing may also pigeonhole you, limiting your options in the future. If you are uncertain of your long-term career plans, a general master’s in information systems degree may better suit your needs.

Where can you earn a master’s in information systems?

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

What can you do with a master’s in information systems?

A master’s in information systems prepares you for various jobs in tech and management. Finding a job after graduation will probably be relatively easy—at least, according to Forbes, which put information systems in the sixth-best spot on its list of the best and worst master’s degrees for job seekers. Here are just some of the roles you can fill with this degree along with how much you’ll earn:

  • Information Systems Analyst:__ This can be an entry-level IT position, but experienced information systems analysts can earn $78,000 or more. The top-earning 10 percent of information systems analysts make about $95,000.
  • Information Systems Manager:__ These professionals oversee the architecture and installation of information systems and coordinate the work of systems analysts, information security specialists, and programmers. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the median pay for information systems managers is about $143,000.
  • Information Systems Director: This executive-level position is responsible for defining an organization’s technology needs relating to information storage and retrieval, designing an information systems strategy, and overseeing all work related to information systems management. The average salary for information systems directors is about $187,000.
  • Information Security Analyst: In this role, you’ll be responsible for protecting your organization’s information assets—a job that’s more important than ever before, given the amount of sensitive information businesses collect. The BLS reports that the median pay for information security analysts is about $98,000, though analysts in computer systems design and related services can make more.
  • Enterprise Architecture Manager: These professionals oversee the configuration of integrated information system architecture and any upgrades made to the system. When issues arise, they manage the analysts who support the organization’s information architecture. The average enterprise architecture manager salary is about $170,000.
  • Virtual Systems Architect: The information-systems needs of organizations increasingly involve more than hardware-linked OSes. As a vArchitect, you’ll help your company leverage virtualized systems like VMWare and distributed OSes, and earn about $164,000.
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How much will you earn with a master’s in information systems?

According to PayScale, the average salary for master’s in information systems holders is about $86,000. If you’re earning close to that now because of your professional experience, you might earn more with a master’s degree. According to one study conducted by Georgetown University, professionals with a master’s in information systems make about $16,000 more per year than those with a bachelor’s degree. You could potentially make even more by moving to New York City, Chicago, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Seattle, or Boston after graduation—all of which are on Forbes’ list of the top-paying cities for tech jobs. Not coincidentally, the cost of living in all these cities is relatively high as well.

One more thing to consider is that the jobs listed above don’t necessarily represent the top rung of the career ladder for master’s in information systems graduates. If, for instance, you become a chief information officer (CIO), you could make $150,000 or more. If you specialize in security and work your way up to become a chief information security officer (CISO) , you could earn more than $260,000.

There are, of course, no guarantees that any master’s degree will boost your earning potential, but if you’re tech-savvy and business-minded and your goal is to earn as much as possible, this degree can probably help you meet that objective.

(Last Updated on February 26, 2024)

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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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I.T. Degree Programs You Should Consider

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