Today's accelerated digital age of data and technology has given rise to a new professional field called information management (IM). As technology usage continues to grow in both the personal and professional realms, IM professionals ensure these large amounts of data are appropriately stored, managed, analyzed, and, perhaps most importantly, protected. The constant evolution of technology into such emerging areas as artificial intelligence (AI), non-fungible tokens (NFTs), algorithms, and the world of "Big Data" creates additional opportunities in IM.
Professionals in this multidisciplinary field may need expertise in software engineering, information security, and business analytics skills. Not everyone needs such a broad-based skill set, however; the field offers various career opportunities to those with more focused skills. When you need a skill upgrade, you'll find opportunities to enhance your professional development through training, certifications, or a graduate degree program that offers specializations to fine-tune your skills.
Data never sleeps. Therefore, continuing education opportunities to stay current with new developments and trends could be critical in this career. Is a Master of Science in Information Management (MSIM) the next step to advance this ever-changing industry? This article explores that question and the following:
We'll also discuss the core curriculum and specializations available through an MSIM program so you can tailor your graduate-level IM degree to your career goals.
The job outlook for computer and information systems managers is growing faster than average. If you're looking to gain an advantage in the hot job market, negotiate a higher salary, or climb up the corporate ladder into a senior-level position, a Master of Science in Information Management (MSIM) may be the missing component. For instance, many leadership roles in information management require applicants to have five or more years of related work experience, including additional years of supervisory experience.
Additionally, some positions indicate the need for ongoing education, primarily in business intelligence, data analytics, strategic oversight, and information technology (IT) management for those in a high-level capacity. Examples of those roles include:
Strategic oversight roles tend to be longer-term career goals for professionals with their eyes set on a corner office. Candidates for such roles can benefit from an advanced credential like an MSIM, also known as a Master of Science in Information Systems (MSIS) or Master of Science in Information Systems Management (MS-ISM).
There's much to learn as an information management professional, whether you're an early career, mid-career, or highly experienced professional. Master of Science in Information Management programs frequently refresh their curricula to cater to the constantly evolving technology landscape.
For instance, with the increased risks to personal and company data, cybersecurity fundamentals are a standard course for prospective students. As information systems continuously incorporate new features, programs retool instruction in database management and ways to improve the user experience. New research into the way datasets can inadvertently reinforce old biases has spurred the need to train professionals to identify such instances; this work has substantial ramifications in business, healthcare, and government. That's why business intelligence and data analytics concentrations are prevalent in many MSIM programs.
With the varied career opportunities available in this growing discipline, graduate programs, in return, aim to keep up with the demand by providing advanced knowledge to help create or leverage opportunities for prospective students. Many programs require internships or capstone projects to develop management and analytical skills to prepare future information leaders, especially for early-career students enrolling right after their bachelor's degree.
The coursework you'll complete will depend on the program; some are primarily STEM-focused while others merge business and tactical strategies. However, most master's degree programs have similar core courses or prerequisites before advancing into your more targeted area of interest. Example core topics include:
While technical skills provide a great foundation, some MSIM or MSIS programs offer strategic oversight, leadership, and communication courses to cater to the mid-career IM professionals on the fast track to the C-suite. For example, the Master of Science in Information Systems program at Indiana University's Kelley School of Business provides electives through its Master of Business Administration (MBA) program to sharpen presentation, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills.
There are also ample elective courses that students can add to their curriculum to align more with their career trajectory. Most students who enroll in these programs tend to have a prior background or undergraduate degree in STEM fields such as computer science, information technology, computer engineering, mathematics, or statistics. As a result, they may be able to bypass some of the core curriculum and take electives or specialization courses earlier in the program.
Information management is a complex field; one role can't absorb all the knowledge entailed. That's where specializations come in handy. They enable professionals to sharpen their skills and focus on a particular expertise. IM professionals should have foundational knowledge of information technology, computer science, and data analytics. Those learning principles apply to most, if not all, aspects of IM, no matter the role.
More strategic roles offer a degree pathway that includes specializations related to business intelligence and analytics, as these roles regularly communicate and provide insights to senior-level decision-makers. On the other hand, those with more behind-the-scenes roles, such as engineers or UX designers, may specialize in a systems-based track. Programs accommodate the varied career paths within IM by offering specializations and electives that cater to the interests and strengths of prospective students. Example specializations include:
Opportunities are endless in an emerging discipline that shows no sign of slowing down. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects about 42,400 job openings for computer and information systems managers each year through 2030. Data and technology will continue to evolve and impact everything we do. Therefore, staying current on the latest innovations and trends is essential for IM professionals, which is reflected in the graduate programs that provide this education.
Fortunately, many master's degree programs have flexible options, including online learning. The online option better accommodates full-time working professionals and provides opportunities for prospective students, including international students, to enroll in top-tier programs without enduring the costs associated with housing and relocating.
Admission requirements are similar whether you apply for online or residential (on-campus) learning. However, depending on years of experience in the information management profession, it is possible to qualify for exemption from some requirements. For example, the online MSIM program at the University of Washington provides three flexible pathways for prospective students: early-career, early-career accelerated, or mid-career. Standard requirements include:
Online students also benefit from the ability to choose between a self-paced or accelerated program. This option allows students to access and complete their coursework more conveniently whether enrolled part-time or full-time. Accelerated programs provide the opportunity to finish quickly through more concentrated coursework. It can take as few as four terms to complete—a perk for mid-career professionals who already have work experience and can build out their curriculum with electives and specializations.
Yes, there is a lot to learn about this emerging discipline. But, there's plenty of education out there to absorb. Whether you choose to enroll in an MSIM or MSIS program or obtain certifications to maximize your expertise, flexible and affordable options are abundant. As job growth in this field continues to move full steam ahead, now is the prime time to equip yourself with relevant knowledge to keep up with the demand and help you land the position of your dreams.
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