Information Systems

Forge the digital future as you connect technology and business.

What is Information Systems?

In a wired world, computer information systems link people and organizations of all sizes. From online banking to global shipping routes, e-commerce to car registration, modern life as we know it depends on the smooth flow of digital information.

Professionals in this wide-ranging field are busy designing, building and maintaining the digital structures that make the world go round. Working at the crossroads of technology and business, they analyze existing tools, optimize their performance, and strategize groundbreaking new approaches to technology.

Who Should Get an Information Systems Degree

As our daily lives become more digitized, demand for information systems professionals is on the upswing.

To gain a foothold in this field, you’ll generally need a bachelor’s degree. A credential in computer information systems can open up a wide variety of career options, including network systems administration, database design, technical writing, systems analysis and technical support roles.

Traits & Aptitudes

Can you dive into details but surface regularly to keep an eye on the big picture? Information systems professionals handle both the day-to-day computing needs of an organization, as well as long-term technology planning.

Analytical

Consider multiple angles as you investigate problems and select the best way to fix them.

Communicative

Clearly share ideas and approaches with colleagues and stakeholders—many of whom aren’t as tech-savvy as you.

Critical Thinker

Weigh options and synthesize data to choose the most effective business systems and tools.

Persistent

Uncover clues and solve puzzles as they arise in hardware, software and other computer applications.

Strategic

Keep a finger on the pulse of technology as you plan for your organization’s long-term success.

Analytical

Consider multiple angles as you investigate problems and select the best way to fix them.

Communicative

Clearly share ideas and approaches with colleagues and stakeholders—many of whom aren’t as tech-savvy as you.

Critical Thinker

Weigh options and synthesize data to choose the most effective business systems and tools.

Persistent

Uncover clues and solve puzzles as they arise in hardware, software and other computer applications.

Strategic

Keep a finger on the pulse of technology as you plan for your organization’s long-term success.

Degrees in Information Systems

The field of information systems is a natural fit for the online classroom. Students get first-hand experience with remote collaboration, technical problem-solving and virtual client interactions. As an online learner, you’ll practice responding to feedback and using it to improve your projects—an important skill in the workplace. The virtual classroom is a great place to develop this crucial skill set.

Online Degrees in Information Systems

School has changed a lot since the days of cavernous lecture halls and all-night cram sessions. Now offering year-round admissions, compressed class schedules and mobile apps, schools have adapted to the scheduling needs of busy adult learners.

An online program may be easier on your wallet, too. A 2015 study by the University of Massachusetts – Dartmouth showed that online courses at small and large institutions carry a significantly lower price tag than their brick-and-mortar counterparts.

But before you enroll in any school, check to see that it has received accreditation. This is your guarantee that the program meets outside standards for quality and rigor. Federal aid is only available to students enrolled in accredited schools.

There are several types of accreditation. Regional is the gold standard for all U.S. colleges and universities. For online degrees, two accrediting agencies are best known: the Distance Education Accrediting Commission and Accreditation Board for Engineering Systems. Some information systems degrees are accredited by agencies that evaluate business schools.

How It Works

Whether you’re data-mining on a laptop or downloading a lecture on your phone, you’ll find a lot of flexibility in an online information systems program. The course materials—including videos, lectures and assignments—are delivered via an online portal such as Blackboard, eCollege or Moodle. You’ll log in to attend lectures, post homework and interact with the instructor and other students.

It’s also very common for instructors to assign group projects in which you collaborate with teams of fellow degree-seekers. Concerned about lack of face time with the professor? Inquire about scheduled office hours in which you can check in on your progress and ask questions.

Benefits

An accredited online information systems degree matches its traditional counterparts in terms of quality, content and rigor. Whether you study online or in-person, the credential is the same (and your diploma won’t specific the delivery method). In fact, the same faculty often teach in both the virtual and face-to-face classrooms.

The online curriculum is just as challenging as the traditional degree path—and by some accounts, it’s more so. In a distance program, you won’t have the pressure to face your professor each week. The virtual path requires an extra helping of self-discipline and drive.

But what about employers? Are they down with online degrees? Consider this: The tech industry pioneered remote work setups. These employers are the most likely to be fans of online learning. They’re concerned with your mastery of the material and the accreditation of the school—not the delivery method. An online degree can even be a selling point in your interview. You’ve already proven your facility with remote collaboration in a virtual environment.

Why Get a Degree in Information Systems?

Potential Career Paths

You can take a degree in information systems in almost any direction that calls to you, from business consulting to healthcare administration, software publishing to data processing. Armed with a two-year degree or certificate, you might join an IT team as a support specialist or systems administrator. When you earn a higher degree, the career possibilities multiply to include web analytics, database architecture, business analysis, enterprise systems manager and much more.

Job Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2016-17 Occupational Outlook Handbook predicts a rosy future for computer and information systems managers, with demand for these professionals growing at 15 percent through 2024. The agency expects the need for network and computer systems administrators to expand by 8 percent through that same year.

Salary

These crucial roles in computing tend to command strong salaries. Here’s how the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2016-17 Occupational Outlook Handbook estimates the annual median pay for the following professions:

Network and computer systems administrators: $75,790

Computer systems analyst: $82,710

Computer and information systems managers: $127,640

Well-Rounded

An information systems pro doesn’t exist in a vacuum, staring at a screen all day. The work requires close collaboration with business colleagues, and a strategic approach to both troubleshooting and long-term technology planning.

Business-Minded

The IS degree equips you with more than just technological know-how. You’ll also study business, management and communications to learn how to creatively solve business problems with technology.

Educational Paths

Certificates

As you study for a degree think about earning an industry-specific credential even before you graduate.

Program Length

Depending on the topic and scope, certificate programs require nine to 18 months of study.

What You’ll Study

A certificate offers a laser focus on in-demand skills and can lay the groundwork for industry certification through big players such as Cisco, Microsoft and F5.

An IS certificate signals to a hiring manager that you’re willing to go the distance to get the job done. For instance, a certificate in networking could have you installing, configuring and operating LANS and WANS for a busy IT team. Or, you might find an entry-level role in desktop support or database administration.

If you’ve already logged a few years in the field, the right certificate can inject fresh energy into your career. From enterprise systems to emerging technologies, an advanced certificate in IS management adds new skills to your quiver—and shows your employer that you’re serious about success.

Remember that employers look for job candidates with college degrees; it’s best to pair a certificate with a full-fledged degree in information systems. Check with the school you’re considering to see if its certificates will count toward a degree.

Certificate topics in the information services field may include F5 Application Delivery Networking, Cisco Networking Fundamentals and CompTIA Network+ Technologies.

Associate’s

Gear up for an entry-level role in this dynamic field, where new challenges unfold every day.

Program Length

An associate’s degree in information systems usually requires two years to complete.

What You’ll Study

When you earn your associate’s degree in information systems, you’ll learn important business principles and get real-world skills in operating systems, cybersecurity, project management and more.

A two-year degree could land you a role as a network administrator or desktop support specialist. Entry-level positions will have you installing, configuring and maintaining computer systems in a large corporation, a small shop or somewhere in between.

Core associate’s classes typically include such topics as network security, IT audit and control, logic and computer programming and enterprise architecture.

Check with the school to see if the credits you earn for your associate’s degree will transfer to a bachelor’s program.

Bachelor’s

To qualify for higher-profile roles in information systems, you’ll need to earn your bachelor’s degree.

Program Length

A bachelor’s degree generally requires four years to complete. But if you’ve already snagged science, math or engineering credits at an accredited school, your time to earn a degree may be much shorter. Check with the school to see if your credits will transfer.

What You’ll Study

To qualify for higher-profile roles in information systems, you’ll need to earn a four-year credential. Bachelor’s coursework covers both the fundamentals of technology and business. Then you’ll move on to a specialty such as health information systems or web development.

As you delve into the digital degree, you’ll learn how computer information systems affect every aspect of corporate operations, from customer relations to corporate accounting.

The core courses for a bachelor’s degree in information systems generally include logic and design, structured analysis, systems evaluation, enterprise architecture and risk management and IT security.

Master’s

When you’re ready for a leadership role in information systems, it’s time to earn an advanced degree.

Program Length

Most people study part-time for an MIS, which requires about two and a half years to complete.

What You’ll Study

The master’s coursework investigates the full range of theories and applications in the field, from project management to marketing, enterprise models to emerging technologies. Advanced programs also integrate business management principles into the curriculum in order to prepare graduates to step into high-profile positions in government and business.

The MIS is a highly respected credential, and it can help usher you into senior-level positions such as Chief Information Officer, IT director, systems analyst, management consultant, infrastructure management and more.

Some schools allow you to earn certificates along the way to your master’s degree, so that you can apply new skills even before you graduate.

Core topics in the master’s coursework will include enterprise models, principles of programming, IT infrastructure, business strategies, CIS project management and strategic planning.

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