Is a Master of Science in Information Management Worth It?

Is a Master of Science in Information Management Worth It?
Well-rounded information leaders know how to straddle both the business and information technology fields to make data-driven decisions that spur positive organizational changes. Image from Pexels
Angela Miller profile
Angela Miller August 23, 2022

A master's in information management provides a grounding in database management, business intelligence, cybersecurity, project management, and much more.

Cybersecurity and I.T. Degree Programs You Should Consider

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The days of “what does your gut say?” decision-making in business are over. In the modern business environment, data drives nearly every important decision. According to Harvard Business School, data-driven decision-making bolsters confidence, proactivity, and cost savings. That’s a powerful triple threat.

Success in this complex information age requires more than basic data analysis and risk management skills. Great information managers know how to extract value from data, transforming it into actionable insights. Leaders unable to harness the full potential of information risk underperforming and, in the worst cases, critical failure. They also open their businesses to the vulnerabilities associated with the misuse of data. The data tell a cautionary tale: Verizon’s 2022 Data Breach Investigations report found that 82 percent of breaches were caused by the mishandling of information.

Well-rounded information leaders know how to straddle both the business and information technology fields to make data-driven decisions that spur positive organizational changes. In “12 CIO Personas: The Digital CIO’s Situational Leadership Practices,” Pearl Zhu emphasizes: “The value of information management is never for its own sake, but to provide insight and catalyze information.”

Clearly, information management represents a promising career path in today’s—and tomorrow’s—business world. But what training do you need to succeed? Is a Master of Science in Information Management worth it? We explore that question in this article and also discuss:

  • What is information management?
  • What is a Master of Science in Information Management?
  • MSIM careers
  • Earning an MSIM online

What is information management?

Information management comprises the collection, storage, organization, preservation, and delivery of information. Business leaders use information management to leverage and protect their data while streamlining processes.

Information managers are strategic problem solvers at heart. They oversee and integrate their company’s information systems, ensuring smooth operations and implementing positive change. Daily responsibilities of an information manager can include:

  • Curating and assessing data. Information managers apply a managerial lens to the collection and organization of data. They also use IT management practices to drive policy and organizational decisions.
  • Consulting with stakeholders. Information managers present data-driven insights to business leaders and stakeholders to help streamline their processes and spur positive change.
  • Solving organizational challenges. Information managers assess an organization’s information systems, and determine whether there are gaps or outstanding technological needs. They make recommendations on how to address them.
  • Implementing change. Information managers lead various departments and teams through changes in priorities and processes.
  • Maintaining legal and economic standards. Information managers leverage cybersecurity best practices to avoid issues surrounding data privacy and security.
  • Monitoring project progress. Information managers ensure all team members are aware of expectations and that goals are being met.

It’s not unusual to see the terms information systems (IS), information management systems, and management information systems (MIS) used interchangeably. They all refer to types of information technology infrastructure.

  • An information system can refer to any of the components involved in collecting, processing, and storing raw data.
  • Information management systems refer specifically to those systems used to organize, visualize, and analyze that data.
  • Management information systems are specialized IT systems that generate useful information that corporate managers and executives use to make strategic business decisions.

It’s probably more appropriate to treat information systems and information management systems as equivalent and to treat MIS as one distinct element of IS.

While it’s possible to differentiate between these terms in a relatively concrete way, colleges and universities often treat them as identical when naming degrees.

(Written by Christa Terry)



University and Program Name Learn More

What is a Master of Science in Information Management?

A Master of Science in Information Management (MSIM) degree program prepares information technology leaders to leverage data as a competitive tool and a means to implement strategic change within an organization. Through this graduate degree program, information leaders learn how to use data to drive actionable results within their organizations.

MSIM learning objectives

Well-rounded information management programs encourage their students to explore the relationships among information, technology, and people. MSIM programs teach students to improve business processes by applying information technology concepts and practices. In essence, the primary objective of information management is to explore how people and organizations work with digital information and how this impacts an organization’s decision-making process.

MSIM curriculum

Required courses in a Master of Science in Information Management program emphasize data management, information visualization, IT infrastructure, informatics, data analytics, and organizational leadership.

Elective courses may cover cybersecurity, project management, information systems analysis and design, software development, healthcare technology, and information management and consulting practices.

Some graduate programs even offer the opportunity to specialize in high-demand areas. The University of Washington Information School, for instance, encourages students in their MS in Information Management program to tailor their coursework to their career goals. Students can specialize in:

  • Business intelligence
  • Data science
  • Information and cybersecurity
  • Information architecture
  • Program/product management and consulting
  • User experience

MSIM program length

Master’s-level graduate degree programs typically take around two years to complete on a full-time basis, longer for part-time students. Some colleges and universities offer accelerated MSIM options allowing students to finish in one year or less.

MSIM admissions requirements

Admissions requirements vary by institution, but prospective students may need to submit the following:

  • Transcripts for bachelor’s degree or higher education level from an accredited institution
  • Official GRE (or GMAT) scores
  • Relevant professional or work experience
  • A minimum GPA requirement
  • Letters of recommendation
  • An essay or statement of purpose

The average cost of a master’s in information management systems degree is about $30,000. The average price of tuition doesn’t tell the whole story, however. That figure typically doesn’t include fees, materials, and incidentals. It’s also possible to earn an information systems management degree for just over $10,000 at a public institution if you’re paying in-state tuition. On the other end of the spectrum, there are high-profile 16-month MSIM programs that cost more than $100,000. Carnegie Mellon’s 16-month MSIM, for instance, costs about $118,000.

(Written by Christa Terry)

While your information management specialization can significantly impact your career prospects, no choice you make in graduate school predetermines your future. Much depends on your other skills, the program’s core courses, and employer needs. Even so, it makes sense to carefully consider your options before choosing a pathway.

The nationally ranked master’s program at University of Washington offers six areas of specialization on-campus (the online program offers three). Students may complete two during their time in the program. Here is a little bit about each, including relevant job prospects.

Business intelligence

Business intelligence coursework covers the necessary techniques to manage and create strategies with information. Though it doesn’t focus on technical skills as much as other concentrations, this pathway includes data warehousing and business analytics coursework. To qualify for the specialization, you need existing experience in data management plus an understanding of SQL. The curriculum includes Introduction to Data Science, Foundations of Strategic and Managerial Business Intelligence, and Business Intelligence Systems.

Earning this degree may set you up for a mid to upper-level information management position. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, computer and information system managers earn a median annual income of nearly $160,000. You may also step into a consulting role to help businesses improve their decision-making. Per Glassdoor numbers, the average business intelligence analyst consultant earns nearly $110,000 per year; senior professionals can earn far more.

Data science

To qualify for the data science track, you need an understanding of statistics and a data science background. UW offers a pre-program foundation courses to help underprepared students catch up. Once you start master’s work, you’ll learn to analyze big data using both computational and quantitative skills through three courses: Data Science I: Theoretical Foundations, Data Science II: Machine Learning and Econometrics, and Data Science III: Scaling, Applications, and Ethics.

You can pursue many careers with a data science background, such as senior data analyst. These professionals gather and interpret data. They typically earn over $95,000, according to Glassdoor. As a data science manager, you’ll oversee a team of data scientists and work with business leaders to establish goals. You can expect to earn more than $135,000 per year in this position.

User experience

Through this specialization’s required courses Design Methods for Interactive Systems, Visualization Design (or Interactive Information Visualization), and Designing Information Experiences, you’ll learn how to improve the interface through which users engage applications. The courses address every part of the process, including the requisite creativity.

UX design professionals earn on average over $90,000 per year, according to Glassdoor. As a UX manager, you can earn over $130,000 annually.

Program/product management and consulting

This specialization prepares students to lead teams and plot business strategy for individual programs and products. Program/product management and consulting students must complete the following courses: Consulting Practices, Enterprise Systems Analysis and Design, and Project Management.

Glassdoor reports that data science project managers earn over $100,000 annually. You’ll earn a similar amount as a professional services consultant working to improve businesses.

Information architecture

One of the more technical specializations, information architecture provides the skills to evaluate and build information structuring systems. You’ll take Organization of Information Resources, Introduction to Information Architecture, and Information Structures Using XML. The program encourages students in this field to explore metadata, indexing languages, and database management through elective courses.

Information architects earn an average yearly salary of over $140,000, according to Glassdoor. In this role, you’ll create data infrastructure to enable analysts and others to access, organize, and interpret large data sets.

Information and cyber security

Cybersecurity is a massive and growing field. In this specialization, you’ll focus on protecting computer networks and the information they access. Courses include Foundations of Cybersecurity, Leading and Managing Enterprise Information Security, Cybersecurity Functions and Trends. Graduates with this specialization understand the technology side of the field, but these courses also deal extensively with leadership.

Information security risk managers evaluate risks and plan responses; they earn over $140,000 annually, per Glassdoor. Cybersecurity architects design defense processes (often in collaboration with management). They earn over $145,000.

A master’s degree may help you immediately after graduation, but such degrees often yield their greatest benefits in later career opportunities. According to University of Washington, graduates can land upper-level management positions like Chief Technology Officer and Chief Information Officer. These c-suite positions typically come with impressive salaries plus significant incentive pay. For instance, CTOs earn over $220,000 (salary and incentives combined) and CIOs earn close to $210,000. Professionals at top companies can earn far more.

(Written by Lucien Formichella)

Information management offers numerous career pathways, with as many educational opportunities to master the necessary skills. No single course will teach all there is to know. That’s where electives fit in. They focus your strengths and make room for continued development within this emerging discipline.

The electives available to prospective students depend on the type of master’s program. For instance, some MSIM or MSIS programs live within the information technology school, while others exist within business schools. The former likely offer a broader slate of tech electives; the latter, a wider range of management and strategy classes.

For example, the Master of Science in Information Systems program at Indiana University is within the Kelley School of Business, offering students the option to take electives from their top-ranked business school. Their degree program provides three concentrations:

  • Business Intelligence and Analytics: Provides students with an understanding of making analytical decisions from available data. This concentration also teaches essential skills in “Big Data,” data management, and business analytics.
  • Digital Enterprise Systems: Blends in-depth business understanding with analytical thinking and provides discussions on new technologies, including artificial intelligence and more.
  • Enterprise Security & Risk Management: This concentration focuses on the importance of cybersecurity and infrastructure security to mitigate risk.

The online MSIM program at the University of Washington, housed in their information school, offers the following electives:

  • Enterprise Information Systems Analysis and Design
  • Foundations of Cybersecurity
  • Principles of Information Project Management
  • Internship in Information Management
  • Consulting Practices

A highly sought-after MISM program, the Heinz College of Information Systems and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University has a STEM-designated focus with five pathways: MISM 16-Month, MISM 12-Month, Business Intelligence & Data Analytics (BIDA), BIDA 12-Month, and Global. The MISM 16-month option has the most flexibility in elective coursework of the five pathways available. Sample electives include:

  • Big Data and Large Scale Computing
  • Digital Marketing Analytics
  • Exploring and Visualizing Data
  • Machine Learning
  • Measurement and Analysis of Social Media
  • Privacy in the Digital Age

Whether you’re interested in strategic and business administration courses or curious about supply chain management and the analytics behind it, you’ll find a degree program offering electives to build your skills and knowledge in your intended area of specialization.

(Written by Courtney Eiland)

MSIM careers

Earning your Master of Science in Information Management can widen your pool of opportunities with many information technology leadership roles, including:


Senior data analyst

  • Median annual salary: $99,000
  • Job description: Senior data analysts implement actionable plans for businesses to solve problems. They specialize in data mining, organizing data, and analyzing information. They report their findings so stakeholders can make informed decisions.

Business intelligence analyst

  • Median annual salary: $67,000
  • Job description: Business intelligence analysts use data and other information to empower executives with accurate, real-time reports. They create visualizations, dashboards, and metrics that drive data-informed decisions and strategic planning. They use querying languages like SQL, scripting languages like R or Python, and other tools like Tableau or Excel to deliver impactful business advice.

Security analyst

  • Median annual salary: $102,600
  • Job description: Cybersecurity threats have increased over time as technology usage grows and hackers become more advanced. Security analysts combat these threats. They monitor their organizational infrastructure to detect security breaches and inform users on ways to protect sensitive information through mandatory company training. Occasionally, some analysts may work outside of regular business hours in case of emergency. Most employers prefer applicants to have at least five years of experience, a bachelor’s degree in a computer science field, and, at times, professional certifications.

Senior business systems analyst

  • Median annual salary: $97,500
  • Job description: Senior business systems analysts leverage business and technology tools to examine a company’s operating system, procedures, and design improvements. They help companies operate more efficiently by defining organizational scope and objectives.

Professional services consultant

  • Median annual salary: $72,000
  • Job description: Professional services consultants provide advice and support regarding business decisions and technical topics. They assess client needs and assist in the implementation of technical systems, software, hardware, advisory risk consulting, or other relevant solutions.


Data science manager

  • Median annual salary: $148,000
  • Job description: Data science managers focus on impact by setting the right goals, metrics, and processes to measure and track performance. They manage the daily activities of teams responsible for identifying business trends and issues through data analysis. They also implement big data solutions for organizations and guide data scientists’ approaches to using various technologies.

Program manager

  • Median annual salary: $142,000
  • Job description: Program managers supervise the coordination of larger organizational goals. They monitor the scheduling, pricing, and technical performance of a company’s programs. They also develop new business and expand product lines; generate solutions to program problems; and ensure projects are completed on time and within budget.

IT service manager

  • Median annual salary: $96,000
  • Job description: IT service managers oversee information technology tasks and staff, establish relationships with external clients, and service computer systems and software. They prepare, maintain, and monitor plans for user training, disaster recovery, virus protection, data backup, compliance, and network security.

Manager of business systems

  • Median annual salary: $98,000
  • Job description: Business systems managers monitor an organization’s technical solutions. They liaise between internal departments and outside vendors during the installation, modification, and training of software. They provide project leadership in the planning, design, and implementation of new systems within their company.

Business intelligence engineer

  • Median annual salary: $71,500
  • Job description: A business intelligence engineer, also known as a business intelligence analyst or specialist, analyzes data and communicates their findings to company leaders, providing strategic oversight and recommendations. This role requires strong management, leadership, presentation, and problem-solving skills. Many employers require several years of professional experience for this role.

Systems engineer

  • Median annual salary: $122,000
  • Job description: Systems engineers are deeply involved in the development of computer and information systems. For example, engineers must ensure that proper firewall protections are up-to-date and troubleshoot any problems. As a result, a bachelor’s degree in engineering, computer science, or information technology is critical to performing the job functions of a systems engineer.


Chief technology officer

  • Median annual salary: $260,000
  • Job description: Chief technology officers supervise the entire information technology department. They establish technology standards and communicate technical information to an organization. They oversee the long-term direction of an organization’s technology infrastructure. They also direct strategic design, acquisition, management, and implementation of enterprise-wide technology infrastructure. CTOs monitor and analyze technology and trends that could improve a company’s products and performance.

Chief information officer

  • Median annual salary: $130,000
  • Job description: Chief information officers manage the day-to-day operations of an IT department. They oversee the people, processes, and technologies within a company’s IT organization to ensure deliverables are met and that company goals are supported. CIOs work with a business’s leadership team in the setting of long-term strategic objectives while providing the management necessary to achieve profits, growth, and other goals of the company.

Director of strategic initiatives

  • Median annual salary: $205,000
  • Job description: Strategic initiatives directors support an organization’s long-term growth plans and profitability goals. They oversee organizational reviews, communicate results to top management, and develop strategies based on those reviews. They analyze emerging industry trends and expansion opportunities, including mergers and acquisitions. They also assess competitive threats, the viability of outside business partners, venture capital sources, internal business performance, and business process improvement.


Information architecture analyst

  • Median annual salary: $98,000
  • Job description: These professionals make it easier to access data and are the go-to people when there are network system and configuration problems.

Information architecture manager

  • Median annual salary: $100,000
  • Job description: In this role, you’ll supervise system audits, identify the best emerging technologies, and recommend strategic IS solutions.

Information architecture director

  • Median annual salary: $174,000
  • Job description: These IS professionals design the layout of information systems and networks to optimize data retrieval and the user experience.

Earning an MSIM online

Many colleges and universities offer online master’s degree programs in information systems. It’s less common to find an online master’s in information management program. Dominican University, the University of Wisconsin, and the University of Washington Information School all offer online MSIM options. University of Washington’s Master of Science in Information Management program offers three degree tracks and various high-demand specializations.

Online student experience

Online master’s degree programs typically offer similar courses and experiences to those offered on campus. Many offer round-the-clock technical support as well as online academic and career advising. Students also gain access to the larger school network and opportunities to connect with their peers. The University of Washington iSchool’s online program offers capstone and research projects for students to delve into solving real-world issues.

An advanced degree is not a requirement for most IM jobs, but such credentials do give an added boost to have a competitive advantage in the workplace.

Some individuals seek professional development opportunities through membership-based associations. There’s an association for almost every occupation, and information management is no exception. The association world encourages networking and connections among industry professionals of all experience levels, from early career to industry veterans. Information management associations include:

Even though associations are beneficial for networking, certifications, and other opportunities, they don’t take the place of a master’s degree, which can help you identify your niche through specialized tracks and internship or capstone projects. These hands-on learning and personalized experiences can be invaluable.

(Written by Courtney Eiland)

So, is a Master of Science in Information Management worth it? If you want to implement processes to make information work for your business, yes. If you want to leverage data to level up in your career, yes. If you want to make a strategic impact and lead with purpose, yes. Determine what your career goals are and if leading in a complex, data-driven environment is one of them, this may be the path for you.

(Updated on July 15, 2024)

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About the Editor

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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Cybersecurity and I.T. Degree Programs You Should Consider


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