Information management integrates computer science, information technology, and business strategy, resulting in a potent mix of management and tech skills. Recruiters in nearly every field, including healthcare, business, and education, seek out candidates with such cross-disciplinary prowess.
Earning a Master of Science in Information Management (MSIM) can lead to high-paying careers in consulting, technical roles, and even the c-suite. The tough part—with the possible exception of the challenging coursework—is deciding which career goals to pursue. The specialization you choose during your degree has a significant impact on your post-graduation prospects.
This article covers some of the most popular Master of Science in Information Management specializations and discusses:
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
MSIM programs typically blend computer science and information technology coursework with business topics. Alternatively, you may decide to pursue a related degree like Master of Science in Information Systems or Master of Science in Computer Information Systems. These degree programs offer similar courses and can lead to the same careers.
Most MSIM curricula focus on data analytics and database management. You'll also learn IT management and computer science procedures, including network administration, visualization and cloud computing, web app development, and information organization. These degrees also teach traditional business management skills, including project management and leadership. You'll also learn about laws and ethical constructs related to information management. Finally, most programs require a capstone project, which enables you to apply what you've learned to a real-world scenario.
Different schools have different requirements. One program may be more management-focused, while another has more technical goals. Technically focused programs may even house their information management program in the engineering department rather than the business school or information school.
You can reasonably expect to complete an MSIM in two years of full-time study. Part-time programs take longer. Students who qualify for advanced standing can complete the degree in as little as a year.
The admissions process depends on your chosen school. Many graduate programs look for experienced applicants; you should have at least a few years of relevant experience before applying to a program. University of Washington offers a mid-career track for applicants with at least five years of experience. It also offers early career tracks, which do not require work experience.
Other common admissions requirements include Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) or Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) scores (unless the program is test-optional), letters of recommendation, a personal essay(s), official transcripts (your program may have minimum undergraduate GPA requirements), and the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) test for international students. Again, be sure to look at your chosen school's requirements. Depending on the focus, a program may require applicants to have a relevant bachelor's degree (like business or computer science). That said, programs can admit students without the proper background who agree to complete bridge coursework.
Schools with top schools for a master in information systems include:
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