Just about every industry that generates or collects data uses information systems to store and sort that data, and to turn it into useful insights. It sounds like a relatively simple task—one that a computer program should handle—until you consider how much information is being generated and collected. In 2018, more than 2.5 quintillion bytes of data were created every day. Now that number is likely even higher, as are the stakes. Companies that can make use of that data succeed. Those that can’t fall behind or fail.
That’s where information management professionals come in. They’re the IT pros who specialize in finding the best ways to deal with raw data. Without them, companies wouldn’t be able to do much with all the information generated when customers make purchases, doctors treat patients, internet users launch queries, and bankers move money around.
Becoming an information management systems specialist can mean earning any number of degrees that can be classified as a master’s in information management systems. From the MSIS to the MS-ISM to the Master of Information System Management and the Master of Information Management and Systems, there are a lot of degree pathways open to information management pros.
In this article, we answer the question what is a master’s in information management systems? by covering the following:
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.
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 (more on this below).
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. (
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. ( )
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There’s a misconception that only hardcore programmers pursue degrees in information management systems. However, the reality is that programming makes up only a small part of the curriculum in most information systems programs. Information management is a lot less technical and a lot less math-focused than the computer science programs people associate with IS.
Master’s in information management systems are typically administered by business schools and have more of a people, process, and analysis focus. Most students who pursue graduate degrees in information management systems are in these programs because they’re passionate about how information architecture, database design, and systems analysis can overcome obstacles and meet objectives in corporate settings. It’s a good degree option for people who are comfortable with technology but want to advance into leadership roles in which they are responsible for managing the design and development of information technology for specific business applications.
Master’s in information management systems degrees go by many names, which can make finding the right program difficult. All the following degrees will give you a solid foundation in information management systems:
There’s no way to tell what topics a given program prioritizes merely by looking at degree names. Yyou’ll need to dig deeper into individual programs to find those that are a good fit for your interests and career aspirations. Also, there’s no one “right” information management systems degree that will make you more likely to earn your dream job. You should also look into Master’s in Management Information Systems (MIS) and Master of Science in Management Information Systems programs, which often cover the same topics as the degrees above.
You should always look at what kinds of student support, alumni services, and other features a program offers before applying. The best master’s in information systems management programs are those with high post-graduation employment rates, strong tech industry connections, and plenty of support systems in place for alumni. Sometimes who you know is a lot more important than the letters on your diploma.
Students in information management systems master’s degree programs study the systems (both hardware and software) and the processes used to collect, process, and disseminate data in organizations. Coursework typically touches on both the technical side of information management and the business priorities that drive how data is used. Students in IS and MIS graduate programs dive deep into topics like:
Many master’s in information management systems programs have an internship or practicum requirement—or strongly encourage students to find a relevant internship placement. These hands-on experiences in corporate, academic, government, and non-profit allow students to test their newly acquired skills on real-world information management challenges.
Earning a master’s in information management systems can take anywhere from one year to three years or more, depending on which program you choose and whether you’re able to commit to full-time study. While information management systems programs typically take two years to complete, there are quite a few one-year MISM and 16-month MISM programs. The one-year and 16-month programs at Carnegie Mellon University‘s Heinz College are arguably some of the best around, despite being accelerated, but they are also incredibly exclusive. If Carnegie Mellon University is out of reach, there are plenty of high-quality one-year programs in information systems management at schools like the University of Washington.
According to US News & World Report, you can find some of the best information systems graduate programs at the following colleges and universities:
It’s worth noting that you can pursue this degree online as well as on-campus. Excellent online degree options in this field include:
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.
Because information systems are used in so many fields and for so many applications, earning a master’s in this field can take your career in many directions. Information management professionals can often be found in business analyst, system analyst, database management, and network administration positions. Some of the best-paying positions you’ll be qualified to step into after earning a Master of Information Management and Systems or similar degree are:
You can also step into roles like:
IS specialists are in demand, and master’s in information systems salaries reflect that. You may be able to earn even more after graduating from an information management systems program if you search for jobs with enterprise in the title. For example, you might earn more as an enterprise architecture manager than you would in an information architecture manager position. It’s definitely worth keeping your job search terms as broad as possible.
The most important thing you should know about pursuing a master’s in information management system is that programs are often a lot less technical than students assume they’ll be. That’s because information systems management is, to some extent, a business-focused discipline. IS professionals are the intermediaries who bridge the gap between the hardcore IT and data science people and all the stakeholders who need the insights that can be extracted from data but don’t know anything about extracting it themselves. Before you commit to pursuing this degree, make sure you’re as comfortable working closely with programmers as you are hobnobbing with top executives.
If you are, pursuing a master’s in information management systems can set you up for a secure and lucrative career. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, median pay for information systems managers was about $146,000 in 2019. Jobs for information management professionals are expected to continue growing at a faster-than-average rate through at least 2028.
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