Is a Master of Science in Information Management Worth It?
September 07, 2022
A master's in information management provides a grounding in database management, business intelligence, cybersecurity, project management, and much more.
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.
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.
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
Earning your Master of Science in Information Management can widen your pool of opportunities with many information technology leadership roles, including:
Analysts and consultants
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.
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, or 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.
- 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.
Strategic oversight positions
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.
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.
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.
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