Degrees in Information Systems
| ComputerScience.org Staff
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What Are Information Systems?
Information systems have existed for centuries. Some early examples — like Johannes Gutenberg’s printing press — simply used wood and metal components to record and store data. These revolutionary inventions paved the way for the first commercial computer in 1949. Today, systems professionals work with computer programs that log, analyze, and process information.
Information systems degrees share coursework in programming, software development, and database foundations with other computer science specialties. However, information systems graduates possess the unique perspective of applying computer science to business. Jobs that combine both fields include web development, systems architecture, and business analysis.
Over 585,000 tech businesses operate in the U.S., and the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects an 11% growth in computer and information technology occupations between 2019-2029.
Businesses across various industries store information digitally and therefore need information systems graduates. This job diversity draws many budding professionals with strong analytical, problem-solving, and programming skills. However, most businesses prefer information systems applicants to hold a bachelor’s degree or higher to ensure they can manage and protect valuable data.
Continual software evolution over the past several decades has created a growing demand for information systems degree-holders. Over 585,000 tech businesses operate in the U.S., and the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects an 11% growth in computer and information technology occupations between 2019-2029.
Why Get a Degree? | Types of Degrees | Job and Salary Outlook | Resources | FAQs
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Why Get a Degree in Information Systems?
A information systems degree can help launch careers in the booming $2 trillion tech industry. Students who enjoy programming, problem-solving, and analyzing data can succeed in this profession.
Despite steady advancement, the tech industry continues to need more information experts. Korn Ferry's 2018 report projects a 6-12 million tech worker deficit by 2030 in the U.S. alone. This high demand for tech employees suggests a bright future for aspiring information systems professionals.
Other benefits of studying information systems include the following:
- Competitive Pay
- According to the BLS, the annual median salary for computer and information technology positions reaches more than double the national median. Some career options include computer systems and information security analysts, with median annual salaries of $93,730 and $103,590, respectively.
- Diverse Work Environments
- Organizations such as government agencies, banks, hospitals, advertising firms, and retail stores rely on systems experts to improve client experience and build revenue. As such, information systems graduates can find jobs across a variety of industry sectors.
- Multiple Positions
- Information systems graduates can pursue various job opportunities. Professionals may apply their knowledge to improve applications, help a business move its data online, or create efficiency-improving technological tools.
- Positive Job Outlook
- CompTIA projects 245,500 new tech jobs and 12.4 million net tech employees in 2021. This impressive employment growth places the tech industry as the country's third-fastest-growing economic sector.
When Is an Information Systems Focus Better Than a General Computer Science Degree?
Information systems programs' emphasis on hands-on learning may appeal to degree-seekers who want to design effective systems. However, while general computer science courses provide an understanding of systems, students interested in practical business solutions may become frustrated with a theory-only focus.
An information systems specialization gives graduates invaluable business and technology expertise that may result in higher pay, even in entry-level jobs.
An information systems program may also provide specialization opportunities in health informatics, data science, and project management.
When Might a General Computer Science Degree Be Better Than Information Systems?
Many students may not wish to select a tech specialization immediately. Degree-seekers with a general interest in technology and programming might opt for a computer science degree to become familiar with the industry.
A broad computer science education provides a solid foundation for future tech specializations. Understanding computer-related theory, design, algorithms, and mathematics can prepare students for a master’s or doctoral degree in many desired technology fields.
Additionally, a general computer science degree prepares students for diverse tech jobs. For example, graduates can work in software engineering, full-stack development, and software quality assurance management.
What About Other Computer Science Specializations?
Technology continues to evolve, providing abundant jobs and degree paths. Before settling on information systems or a general computer science degree, students should explore other options in the field.
Individuals looking to enter the workforce immediately might consider shorter computer science bootcamps or an associate degree in web development. A bachelor’s or master’s in computer forensics or computer engineering may suit degree-seekers aiming for particularly lucrative careers.
For a broader look at computer science specializations, explore the following career options.
Types of Information Systems Degrees
Prospective information systems professionals should explore the various degree levels available. An associate degree may help graduates land jobs immediately, but individuals aiming for managerial or research positions must consider higher degrees.
Although a master’s or doctorate in information systems requires a higher investment, these credentials may lead to more job opportunities, higher salaries, and wider specialization options. We outlined the four information systems degree options below.
An associate degree in information systems typically comprises 60 credits and takes two years to complete. This shorter time frame allows students to save money and start their careers quickly. Associate degree-holders may qualify for entry-level positions in web design, computer support, and network administration. Graduates can often transfer credits to a bachelor's program.
A four-year bachelor’s degree offers a curriculum similar to an associate program but covers more topics within the 120 required credits. Any recent high school graduate or working professional seeking a new career may consider a bachelor’s in information systems. For more information on bachelor’s programs and possible careers, follow the link below.
Students with a bachelor’s degree in computer science or business may wish to pursue a master’s in information systems to secure more lucrative or niche positions. Master’s degree programs typically last about two years and allow students to choose a specialization. Popular options include data science, health informatics, and artificial intelligence.
After completing a master’s degree, professionals can apply to Ph.D. programs in information studies. This research-intensive degree prepares individuals for the most prestigious computer science positions. Programs may take 4-8 years to complete, depending on the school’s curriculum, the research requirements, and the student’s time commitment.
Information Systems Job and Salary Outlook for Graduates
Information systems jobs typically involve data and computer analysis. Information systems programs prepare graduates for lucrative positions by providing a strong computer science foundation, developing problem-solving capabilities, and building business expertise.
An information systems degree may qualify graduates for many high-paying careers. For example, the BLS reports that computer systems analysts earned a median annual salary of over $93,000 in 2020. BLS data also shows a median salary of over $150,000 for computer and information systems managers in the same year.
Information systems programs prepare graduates for lucrative positions by providing a strong computer science foundation, developing problem-solving capabilities, and building business expertise.
Since an information systems degree covers similar topics as a general computer science program, graduates may pursue diverse tech positions. For example, a systems professional can work as a web or software developer.
Individuals can improve their job prospects by pursuing further education. Research, management, and administrator positions often require a master’s degree. Employers often prefer additional certification for these high-level positions.
Systems analysts bridge the gap between the business and tech fields. They collaborate with businesses to review existing software; analyze, design, and test systems; and improve efficiency. Since many employers require a bachelor's degree, a systems analyst position may provide excellent, high-paying entry-level opportunities to recent graduates.
Required Education: Bachelor’s degree, master’s degree in business administration preferred
Job Outlook (2019-29): +7%
Median Annual Salary: $93,730
These professionals maintain and troubleshoot an organization's computer networks, help customers with computer issues, and provide software training. Associate or bachelor’s degree graduates can use this entry-level job to gain experience.
Required Education: Associate or bachelor’s degree
Job Outlook (2019-29): +8%
Median Annual Salary: $55,510
Companies depend on database administrators to safeguard their information. These professionals update, modify, and track storage software to ensure confidentiality and accurate record-keeping. Businesses continue to seek more effective database systems, driving high demand for administrators.
Required Education: Bachelor’s degree, but some employers prefer a master’s; certifications available from software companies
Job Outlook (2019-29): +10%
Median Annual Salary: $98,860
As a more lucrative career choice, information research positions often require higher education credentials. Professionals create new software systems and programming languages, improve current systems, and publish their research.
Required Education: Master’s or doctoral degree
Job Outlook (2019-29): +15%
Median Annual Salary: $126,830
Information systems managers typically advance into this role over time. Their experience in the field prepares managers to oversee a company’s tech projects, software maintenance, and network security. While other lucrative tech positions require a master’s or doctoral degree, individuals with a bachelor’s can often work toward this managerial position without completing another degree.
Required Education: Bachelor’s or master’s degree with up to 15 years of experience
Job Outlook (2019-29): +10%
Median Annual Salary: $151,150
Additional Resources for Information Systems Students
Accreditation for Information Systems Schools and Programs
A critical factor in selecting a college, accreditation ensures that a third-party agency reviewed a school's curricula and policies and gave its approval.
Attending an accredited school allows students to qualify for federal financial aid and ensures their credentials remain competitive in the job market. Most graduate programs also require applicants to hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution.
Institutional accrediting bodies fall into two categories: regional and national. Regional accrediting organizations oversee schools in specific geographical areas. Each body reports to the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, which provides additional quality assurance and accountability standards.
National accrediting bodies oversee trade schools across the country. Consequently, credits earned at nationally accredited schools typically cannot transfer to regionally accredited institutions.
Prospective students should also look for programmatic accreditation. For example, ABET offers accreditation for computer science programs — including information systems — through its Computing Accreditation Commission.
Paying for Your Information Systems Degree
Pursuing higher education often requires a substantial investment. Fortunately, financial aid can alleviate some of these concerns. Students must first complete the FAFSA form to assess their eligibility for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs.
For more information on financial aid, explore the link below.
Professional Organizations for Information Systems
The technology field continuously evolves with new advancements and standards emerging regularly. Professional computer science organizations help established and aspiring professionals stay on top of the latest tech developments through certifications, seminars, and educational materials. Additionally, these organizations offer extensive networking, leadership, mentoring, and career opportunities.
While any computer science organization may prove helpful, consider the four below dedicated specifically to the information systems field.
Frequently Asked Questions
Information systems comprise various components that store and process data. Most businesses use digitized systems to manage data. Some examples include office automation, decision support, and transaction processing systems.
An information system includes computer hardware, software, databases, and telecommunication networks. Companies also use human resources to oversee the entire process.
The BLS projects a 31% job growth for information security analysts from 2019-2029. Other in demand information systems jobs include software developers (with a 22% projected growth rate) and computer and information research scientists (with a 15% projected growth rate).
Information systems degrees cover business and technology topics, preparing graduates for various careers. Potential positions include business analyst, cybersecurity analyst, software engineer, IT consultant, applications developer, and web content manager.
Feature Image: Sabrina Bracher / iStock / Getty Images Plus
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