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Online Master's Programs in Management Information Systems

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Updated on: 10/04/2018

Employees in information technology often return to school to pursue advanced management positions, and many working professionals going back to school choose online master’s programs.Online master’s in management programs help workers with backgrounds in computer systems use organizational tools to develop management techniques. Once learners acquire these skills, they attract employers looking for thought-leaders to guide their organizations.

What Can I Learn in an Online Master’s in Management Information Systems Program?

Surprisingly, some online master’s in management information systems programs do not require students to hold an undergraduate degree in computer systems, or even know how to code. However, they do require a couple years’ experience working in computer technology. Information systems programs teach students about the overall management process, and how it applies to information technology. By the end of their master’s program, students know how to manage different IT professionals and evaluate their teams to make hiring and firing decisions. Most master’s programs take two years of full-time study to complete, while accelerated programs take 10 months (with multiple start date options during the year). Usually, learners need 30 to 40 credits to obtain their degree, though some online programs require fewer credits and do not require any in-person meetings.

What’s the difference between a master’s in management information systems and an MBA in management information systems?

A master’s degree in business administration (MBA) differs from an online master’s in management information systems in a few respects. The MBA curriculum focuses on general business topics, like human resources and marketing. In these programs, students receive a broad overview how each department functions within a company. In contrast, an information systems program specializes in the technology industry. Students develop skills to assist team members with their duties, and their curriculum highlights each occupation within an IT team, so managers can properly delegate tasks and manage projects.

What common courses are offered in a master’s in management information systems program?

Management information systems courses cover a wide range of topics, merging management and information technology. Course names may differ by school, but the learning outcomes and objectives usually remain the same. See below a sample information systems management curriculum, and a brief description of each course’s focus.

Organizational Theory and Behavior

This course draws inspiration from organizational psychology to explain work culture in a post-industrial, global society. Students explore the effects of technology on the workforce, and decision-making within multicultural environments. The class focuses on two basic concepts, organizational theory and behavior, while covering a variety of topics.

Information Systems for Managers

Learners without technical experience in computer and information systems often take this course, in which students use basic computer skills to analyze hardware and software systems. They also study how organizations apply hardware and software to their systems. Students assess systems from a managerial perspective to identify issues.

Information Technology, CIO, and Organizational Transformation

Students assume the role of CEO to develop techniques for improving information technology policies and procedures. They also brianstorm how information technology affects the direction of an organization. This course esesntially addresses upper management and its relationship with technology.

Decision Support Systems and Expert Systems

This class highlights how computer applications managers perform their duties. Learners investigate decision support systems and expert systems, along with advanced applications, like neural networks. Integration and implementation play major roles in systems applications. Students also discuss organizational factors that influence system performance.

Financial Decision Making for Managers

Before students take this course, they must have a fundamental understanding of finance and economics, and particularly opportunity cost and the time value of money. Instructors expect students to apply their financial knowledge to basic managerial decisions, namely project analysis and budgeting.

What exams or projects should I expect?

Capstone projects allow students to demonstrate their understanding of the topics covered in the online master’s in management information systems curriculum. A capstone in information systems management focuses on strategization. Most schools create a capstone course for graduate students to enroll in and work on their project. To receive credit, students must conduct research, in which they examine industry portfolios and their competition. Instructors encourage students to perform case study analyses and review course materials to find adequate information. Learners develop strategies and implementation methods for corporations. After completing their projects, students present them to their instructors.

What specializations are available in a master’s in management information systems program?

Depending on the school, students can select a specialization or concentration for their online master’s degree in management information systems. Certain institutions offer information systems as a concentration within a general management major. In these instances, learners take major-related courses and electives that focus on information systems principles. Areas of focus within a management information systems program may include:

Social and Ethical Issues of the Internet

Learners examine the ethical and organizational issues that arise when using networked computers. They also explore other perceived complications from a social and cultural standpoint. Students read and conduct research on computer networks and systems.

Project Management

Students explore knowledge areas of project management and process groups, usually including scope, time, cost, and quality. Learners also study how to apply certain skills to management. This concentration develops analytical skills and teaches students to use software tools and techniques.

Business Intelligence

This concentration centers on data warehouses, and specifically their design and implementation. It covers data modeling principles, data extraction, and transformation. With this concentration, students discover the technical and strategic issues managers address using data warehouses. Learners increase their business intelligence by developing key performance indicators.

What Can I Do With a Master’s in Management Information Systems Degree?

An online master’s in management information systems opens many doors for professionals in the computer and information technology industries. The subsequent list provides some insight into the careers a college graduate can pursue with a degree in information systems management. Occupations range from employee-focused to individual-based. Keep in mind that certain occupations require additional certification. Some programs offer certification courses that enable students to graduate with special credentials, and others prepare students to take different licensing exams. Students can always refer to an adviser to find out if their school offers certification courses.

Information Security Analyst

Security analysts implement safety measures for company computer networks and systems. Analysts test networks for weaknesses and security breaches, and fix them before hackers can attack the system. They also write reports chronicling their findings. Companies rely on analysts to develop new security standards for their networks and stay up-to-date with the latest information technology security trends. Analysts recommend changes to IT staffers and management to improve key security features.

Computer and Information Systems Managers

These managers, also called IT project managers, take a big-picture approach to managing computer-related activities. They supervise information security analysts, software developers, and other IT personnel. Working with their team, they assess companies’ current technology and suggest upgrades. They also work with other company managers to conduct cost-benefits analysis of new projects. They assist security analysts with putting systems in place to protect the company’s data.

Computer Systems Analysts

Systems Analysts can choose to specialize in certain networks, such as financial systems. They help managers define roles for IT systems in their company, and work on hardware and software configuration. Analysts run tests to find the storage and memory capacities of hardware devices. Systems analysts can work as software quality assurance analysts and programmer analysts. Software analysts design and test systems, while programmer analysts debug systems.

Network and Computer Systems Administrators

Systems administrators service desktops, mobile equipment, and computer servers. They install local area networks, wide area networks, intranets, and network systems. Administrators constantly evaluate network performance and upgrade systems as needed. During the onboarding process for new workers, systems administrators assign credentials to give them access to the company’s network. They also train employees to use software systems and hardware. Depending on the organization, administrators handle telecommunication systems and assist network architects to create system models.

Database Administrators

Database administrators organize software to help companies easily access datasets. Administrators constantly monitor databases to ensure they work properly and their information is secure. They also help companies transmit data between systems. After transferring data, administrators employ backup servers to store data in case the system shuts down. System database administrators upgrade systems and fix errors, while application administrators write applications to use with different databases.

Professional Organizations

Joining a professional organization allows students to network with each other and with experienced professionals. Many organizations hold conferences and other events to foster relationships between members. They also provide career services to help members secure job placements and educational training.

Association for Computing Machinery

The association prides itself on being the world’s largest computing organization. It connects educators, workers, and policy makers in computing to promote their causes.

Association for Information Systems

The International Conference on Information Systems connects academics and research practitioners to discuss the latest advancements in information technology. The association also hosts conferences in Asia, Europe, and Africa.

Information Resources Management Association

The IRMA community collects scholarly journals, papers, books, and other publications that discuss information systems management and technology. It also publishes its own journal.

Society for Information Management

SIM aims to be a resource to its members, many of whom work in senior-level IT positions. SIM promotes networking through chapter meetings, and hosts webinars and webcasts for online learning.

Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Computer Society

This large international association sponsors nearly 200 conferences dedicated to IT professionals, software engineers, and researchers interested in discussing industry trends and sharing their knowledge.

How Much Can I Make with a Career in Management Information Systems?

An online master’s in management information systems degree greatly increases your chances of earning a high-paying job in this field. However, it does not necessarily qualify students for every job in the information technology industry. Some jobs require advanced certifications or licensure. Graduates may also need to acquire additional skills like computer programming and engineering. Even so, graduates can usually work their way up to highly skilled positions.

Job Title Lowest 10% Earned Annually Median Annual Salary Highest 10% Earned Annually Job Growth 2016-2026
Computer and Information Systems Managers Less than $83,860 $139,220 More than $208,000 +12%
Computer Systems Analysts Less than $53,750 $88,270 More than $139,850 +9%
Network and Computer Systems Administrators Less than $49,830 $81,100 More than $130,200 +6%
Database Administrators Less than $48,480 $87,020 More than $132,420 +11%
Information Security Analysts Less than $55,560 $95,510 More than $153,090 +28%

Source: BLS 2018

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 13% growth in computer and information technology jobs within the next decade. These numbers prove this industry offers a variety of career paths for people interested in technology. Whether professionals want hands-on work experience or a managerial role, they can find the right position for their skillset and education level. Employees in this industry earn higher salaries than the average worker, with many making six figures.

The above chart lists salary ranges based on occupation, but degree level also affects pay rates. Learners with an advanced degree, such as a master’s degree or higher, earn higher salaries greater than employees with only an undergraduate degree. The Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce published a report detailing salaries for various degrees. According to this report, computer and information systems majors make $60,000 to $100,000 at the bachelor’s level. The number increases as they advance their education.

Online Master’s in Management Information Systems Program Accreditation

Accreditation places a school in a certain league apart from other institutions. Accredited schools undergo a rigorous evaluation process that allows accrediting bodies to interview faculty members and comb through each program’s curriculum. Each body sets its own standards for academic excellence, which schools must meet to earn approval. Once schools pass the accreditation process, they receive national recognition and funding from the federal government. Regional accreditation is considered more prestigious than national accreditation, and allows students to easily transfer credits between institutions. Students should look for accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business and the Accreditation Council or Business Schools and Programs.

How to Pay for a Master’s in Management Information Systems Degree

Most students pay for college using gift aid and loan aid. Gift aid, such as that from scholarships and grants, does not have to be repaid. Organizations award scholarships based on merit, while grants are distributed on a need basis. Loans are funds that must be repaid after the recipient graduates. Typically, students receive a six-month grace period after graduation before they must repay loans.

  • Federal Financial Aid

    Students qualify to receive federal funding once they complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The federal student aid department considers a student’s income, tax returns, and other factors to determine their eligibility status. Once approved, students qualify for grants, scholarships, and loans to cover tuition and other costs.

  • Center for Cyber Security and Education

    The center awards scholarships to graduate students pursuing degrees in cybersecurity or information assurance. Applicants can receive up to $5,000 to continue their studies. To apply for this scholarship, graduates must maintain a 3.5 or higher GPA, and submit a letter of recommendation, resume, transcripts, and a statement of purpose.

  • Center for the Management of Information

    Started in the 1980s at the University of Arizona, the center has received millions of dollars in grant money to conduct research in knowledge management and other areas. Students can work with faculty researchers and apply for fellowships to cover their living expenses.