Information Technology

Online MS MIS Programs Offer an Interdisciplinary Approach to Data

Online MS MIS Programs Offer an Interdisciplinary Approach to Data
Management information systems can be used to meet the needs of a diverse range of stakeholders, functional areas, and departments. Image from Unsplash
Christa Terry profile
Christa Terry May 27, 2020

This MBA/IT hybrid serves those who want to learn to leverage information technology to improve business practices. Online Master of Science in Management Information Systems programs make it easier for working professionals to pursue this degree.

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Data scientists aren’t the only professionals who use information technology to solve business challenges. Another group of experts utilizes information systems and the data they generate to do everything from analyzing company processes to making projections about future performance. The tools they use are management information systems, or MIS, specialized information systems that can be used to increase business value.

What MIS professionals do is hugely important, even if it isn’t always as glamorous as data science. It’s all too easy for companies to end up with a vast gulf between their technical teams and their executive teams. MIS directors and other specialists in this space bridge that gulf. That’s why master’s degree programs in management information systems often look like a cross between a master’s degree in computer science and an MBA. In these programs, students who hail from both sides of the divide study the implementation and administration of technology to derive the most value from personnel, processes, equipment, and investments. Graduates are prepared to become leaders in corporate data management and utilization.

Earning an online master’s degree in management information systems may just be the least disruptive way of joining the ranks of MIS directors and other MIS specialists. When you pursue this degree online, you can continue working and meeting your personal obligations while gaining the knowledge and technical skills necessary to launch a career in MIS administration.

In this article about earning an online master’s degree in management information systems, we cover:

  • What are management information systems?
  • Are there different types of management information systems master’s degrees?
  • What do students in management information systems master’s programs study?
  • Which schools have the best online master’s degree in management information systems programs?
  • Why do some MIS students choose to earn their master’s degrees online?
  • What can I do after earning an online master’s degree in management information systems?
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What are management information systems?

It’s not entirely clear how management information systems (MIS) differ from information systems (IS) or information management systems. The simplest explanation is that information systems encompass any and all of the hardware and software used to collect, store, and process raw data. In contrast, information management systems are the components and frameworks used to organize, visualize, and analyze that data. Many people and corporations, however, use these terms interchangeably to describe the systems that perform all of those processes.

A management information system is one type of IS used by businesses to generate data that can be used to drive strategic decision-making. Management information systems can be used to meet the needs of a diverse range of stakeholders, functional areas, and departments like:

  • Accounting
  • Finance
  • Human resources
  • IT
  • Marketing
  • Operations
  • Sales

These systems include:

  • Accounting information systems
  • Customer relationship management (CRM) systems
  • Decision support systems (DSS)
  • Enterprise resource planning (ERP) software
  • Executive information systems (EIS)
  • Human resource management systems
  • Knowledge management systems (KMS)
  • Local managerial databases
  • Marketing information systems
  • Supply chain management (SCM) systems
  • Office automation systems (OAS)

If you’re thinking that MIS as a discipline sounds a lot like data analytics, you’re not wrong. Both involve using information to solve business problems. However, management information systems as a specialty is a lot less technical. Master’s degree programs in management information systems tend to have fewer programming classes and more courses related to business communications, IT management, and the applications of database systems.

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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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Are there different types of management information systems master’s degrees?

Yes, naming conventions in this discipline can be frustratingly vague. If you search for programs in management information systems, you’ll find a handful of Master’s in Management Information Systems programs and Master of Science in Management Information Systems programs. There are, however, many other master’s degrees that can prepare you for a career working with management information systems. These include the:

  • Master of Information Management and Systems
  • Master of Information System Management
  • Master of Science in Information Systems (MSIS)
  • Master of Science in Information Systems and Technology
  • Master of Science in Information Systems and Technology Management
  • Master of Science in Information Systems Management (MS ISM)
  • Master of Science in Information Systems Technology
  • Master’s in Information Systems

You should also explore MBA in Information Systems programs and MBA in MIS degree programs.

Read program guides carefully. Some MBA in Information Systems programs are virtually identical to Master’s in Management Information Systems programs. Others devote the majority of credit hours to business fundamentals like economics, finance, marketing, and operations and spend very little time on information technology.

What do students in management information systems master’s programs study?

MS MIS and related programs tend to be dual-discipline programs that give students a firm foundation in both technical information systems and the ways they can be used to satisfy the needs of stakeholders, specific departments, managers, and customers. The curriculum in these programs is designed to teach students how to collect and collate data and how to translate that data into solutions to specific business problems. Consequently, data analytics and business intelligence are two concentration and elective options you’ll see offered as part of these programs.

Students pursuing management information systems master’s degrees dive into the technical side of information management but primarily in the context of business perspectives and priorities. Some programs require students to do more coding than others, but you may be surprised at how little class time is devoted to programming in most MIS programs. You’ll probably spend more time studying leadership, data analysis, project management, and business theory. Courses in graduate-level MIS programs include:

  • Advanced Database Management
  • Business Communications
  • Business Data Communications
  • Business Foundations for IT
  • Corporate Information Planning
  • Data Warehousing
  • Economic Forecasting
  • Enterprise Data Management
  • Information Retrieval and Analysis
  • Information Systems Analysis & Design
  • Information Systems Design and Development
  • IT Strategy and Policy
  • MIS Project Management
  • Web Mining & Analytics
  • Systems Analysis and Design

Which schools have the best online master’s degree in management information systems programs?

The term best is subjective, but some of the top online MIS programs can be found at the following schools:

What the above colleges and universities have in common is that they have created online programs that are broadly focused on enhancing students’ tech skills while also preparing them to step into leadership roles. These programs also typically require students to complete a thesis, an internship, a capstone project, or a practicum to graduate—all of which can lead to valuable connections that make finding a job after graduation easier.

Why do some MIS students choose to earn their master’s degrees online?

First, let’s clear up a common misconception. Online master’s degree in management information systems programs are every bit as rigorous as traditional on-campus programs—and every bit as respected. Very few employers discriminate against a job applicant who earned a master’s degree online. That can only happen if that applicant indicates that they attended a program for distance learners. The vast majority of colleges and universities award the same degrees whether students study online or on campus, so there’s no reason potential employers will know you attended an online program unless you choose to share that information.

Given that, you might decide an online master’s in management information systems program is the right choice because it offers the flexibility you need to continue working or to continue attending to other commitments. Studying online is also an excellent choice for students who want to attend a specific program but don’t live within commuting range. And finally, some students just prefer or are more comfortable taking classes online for whatever reason.

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What can I do after earning an online master’s degree in management information systems?

MIS professionals have the skills and knowledge necessary to create information systems for data management, manage information systems, monitor information security, and deliver business insights. They’re qualified to step into positions like:

Some of these roles pay six figures, although the average salary for MS MIS graduates is about $86,000. Whether you earn more than that after earning a master’s degree in management information systems will depend on several factors. The first is your location. As is the case in most professions, you’ll probably earn more working in a large city than you would in a small suburb.

Where you work will also play a role in determining your pay. A small tech startup will likely pay its IS manager less than a large healthcare network. Finally, the industry you work in will also impact your earning potential. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that MIS professionals in information, systems design, finance, and insurance earn the most. The good news is that these also happen to be some of the industries that employ the most information system managers.

What you almost certainly won’t do after earning an online master’s degree in management information systems is become a developer. As one commenter put it in a Quora thread about the difference between MSMIS and Big Data programs: “The MIS masters is really an MBA in disguise. It is a business degree for technical people who didn’t like programming or programmers who want to go into management.” Chances are that if you’re researching online master’s degree in management information systems programs, your ultimate goal is to transition into a non-technical, managerial role. You can definitely do that with this degree, regardless of how you choose to earn it.

Questions or feedback? Email editor@noodle.com

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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